Remember Me reviewed

Capcom's game has many memorable moments!

7.1 Surround Sound for the masses

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

DayZ: a new approach to survival horror

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

Best of the worst bad habits in gaming

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

Thursday, April 28, 2011

This Generation's Top Ten Game Trailers

Over the years I must have sat through hundreds of trailers for upcoming games, eyes glued, ears pricked, for a brief glimpse of the undoubted perfect slice of gaming Nirvana that would be in my controller wielding palms before I knew it. This current generation more than any other has mastered the art of the game trailer, creating a few brief minutes of exhilaration or curiosity that leave us wanting and needing more. If gamers have some hidden button labelled 'need' then the trailers know how to push it every time. By marrying visual magnificence and perfectly placed music they deliver something truly special, something that will live long in the recesses of your mind. The music within the trailers here, for me at least, has now become synonymous with the sequences below. As soon as the first few bars kick in my mind paints pictures of explosions, zombies, assassins, warfare and worlds a million miles away from my own.

Few of the games on show here lived up to my dizzying expectations, expectations that had been built skyscraper high by a few flashy, hi-tempo, explosion riddled, action packed and compulsive minutes screened into my living room for that exact purpose. But what each one did, and spectacularly so, was they made me not just want the game on show, but need it. Like some modern age games obsessed Gollum the words 'my precious' may even have unwittingly escaped my lips as my eyes became transfixed by the images. Surprisingly some of the games actually did touch upon the gaming greatness I'd eagerly anticipated, the others....well typically, not quite.

Below are the 10 from this generation that have found set up home in my mind, and a very happy home it is too. Enjoy.


10. Mafia II
A trailer that encapsulates everything that I love about this game. Great dialogue, wonderful voice acting, depth of characters, blazing tommy guns and a soundtrack to die for, it made me an offer I couldn't refuse.




9. Crysis 2
No action from the games' hero here, rather a superb setting of the scene and more genius use of music. A wonderfully played out trailer.




8. Uncharted 2: Among Thieves
It's only right that one of the greatest games ever to grace our screens also provides one of the greatest trailers. PS3 owners everywhere drooled in eager anticipation of Nathan Drakes' return, and here's why.




7. Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2

Hitting like the perfect trailer for the MTV generation, quick snapshots of stunning action and set pieces had the CoD brigade on excitement overload.




6. Halo:Reach
Wonderfully produced live action trailer, another perfect mesh of sound and vision, and to be honest we expect nothing less from the Halo universe.




5. Assassins Creed
To be honest it might just be me that loves this trailer, it's short and gives only the briefest of glimpses of the game to come, but it's all made so very sweet by the inspired choice of Massive Attacks' 'Teardrop' as the backing track.




4. Halo 3
No action at all in this one, just hand painted models amidst a scene of war, evocative piano soundtrack and your own imagination. Beautifully done.




3. Dead Space
Twinkle Twinkle Little Star will never seem the same again. Utterly amazing trailer, packs more tension and atmosphere into a trailer than most games manage in the full release. I'd take my hat to it if I wasn't hiding behind the settee.




2. Dead Island
I don't know if it's due to the fact that I'm a father but this is by far the most emotionally affecting trailer in the list. It has the power to bring an entire room to silence as everyone sits and stares at the unfolding madness on screen. A powerful, hard hitting trailer.




1. Gears of War
An inspired choice of song elevated this trailer for Gears above all else, it set the tone immaculately and was perfectly married to the visuals, whenever I hear the song, that was number 1 for some time, all I see is Gears of War, and for Epic that's mission accomplished.




So there you have it, granted you probably disagree with most of the choices or at least the order in which I've placed them, but that's part of the beauty of gamers, we're all individuals, we know what we like and we definitely know what we don't.

(Photo credit: Matt Brett)

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Golden eras of gaming: Master System

Ah, the Master System - Sega's 8-bit answer to the Nintendo Entertainment System... Just as ugly as Nintendo's offering and home to loads of fantastic gaming moments!

First making an appearance in 1986, the cartridge-based console was also capable of playing games from thin memory cards (although these proved fairly rare). The games library was vast, and sported some of the greatest 8-bit titles including Afterburner, Hang On and Alex Kidd. Wikipedia lists some 318 games for the system.

While it never saw the same success as the NES in Japan or the US, it was a huge hit in Europe and sold well throughout its decade-long lifespan. Here is the first instalment of Megabits' pick of the system's Top 10 games...


10. Alex Kidd in Miracle World
Back in the early days of the console before Sonic, SEGA really needed an equivalent to Nintendo's Mario. It needed a mascot who could star in loads of titles and appeal to spotty gamers around the world. Alex Kidd was the answer - and Miracle World was arguably one of his best outings. What's more, it was preloaded with some versions of the Master System console. Platforming, swimming, shopping and paper, scissors, stone mini games - what more could you want from a little boy with a haircut that makes him look like a monkey?



9. Spy vs Spy
Based on comic books, Spy vs Spy was (at the time - 1986) an uber violent game that encouraged players to lay elaborate traps to kill their opponent. It was one of the first split screen games I remember playing and it worked really well. The game was set in the confines of a building, allowing you to place traps behind doors, picture frames and in cupboards. Sequels included the jungle and the arctic - but the original was definitely its best outing.



8. Michael Jackson's Moonwalker
At arguably the height of his fame, the King of Pop made an appearance not just in the movies but on the Master System. The plot involved wandering around the numerous level, strutting your stuff to some rockin' tracks and hunting down lost children. The game was peppered with classic music from the man himself and featured some of his trademark moves and spins. It was a must for fans and a pretty great game in its own right.



7. New Zealand Story
Just like Megabits' favourite Bubble Bobble, New Zealand Story was a cutesy game from Taito (although the cuteness factor was quickly forgotten when you realised how tough this game was). You played as a tiny yellow kiwi charged with tracking down and rescuing his kidnapped friends. Bizarre but brilliant!



6. Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade
Our rope-jumping, Fedora-wearing hero leapt onto SEGA's console and provided a really enjoyable romp. The graphics were pretty respectable and the gameplay tricky enough to add longevity but addictive enough not to have you slamming down the control pad in frustration. Granted, the graphics and environments look a little brown and uninspiring nowadays but compared with many Master System titles, it looked absolutely fantastic.



Part II and the Top 5 to follow...

(Photo credit: Fujoshi)

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Review: Crysis 2

“Welcome to the future, son, welcome to the war”

Even staunch console gamers will be vaguely aware of the supercomputer-style technical specs required if your PC was to stand the remotest chance of running the original Crysis. Crytek themselves have even given a cheeky nod towards Crysis 2’s uber-powered predecessor. One of the first achievements you’ll unlock humours the now infamous question in PC gaming circles - “Can it run Crysis?”.

Thankfully, this time around, the experience isn’t strictly reserved for those with futuristically advanced hardware. With the help of the Cryengine 3, console players now get the chance to adorn the multipurpose nanosuit, without powering down the national grid in the process.

Let’s make this perfectly clear from the off, although the narrative works efficiently and the scripting and voice acting are perfectly up to scratch, this game is all about the aforementioned nanosuit. What starts as a fairly confusing sci-fi storyline, soon winds its way into familiar ‘repel the alien invasion’ territory. You’re not out in the sticks anymore. This is the urban jungle, and it's a crippled and crumbling New York City that needs saving.

As the faceless protagonist, Alcatraz, you’ll predominantly be taking orders from various sources of authority (a ‘should I trust them? Mmm, probably not’ mindset will be in play perpetually) and carrying them out. Get from point A to B and kill everything in-between will be the most common occurrence here. Now although it sounds like your standard cookie-cutter FPS procedure, thanks to the nanosuit, Crysis 2 feels different enough to affirm its own identity.

The suit comes equipped with four modes that subsequently constitute your tactical options. Stealth, armour, nanovision (read - thermal imaging) and sprinting/jumping. Where your standard Call of Duty affair would revolve around the ‘duck and cover’ mechanic and little else, Crysis 2 is promoting a multi-tactical approach. All of the abilities mentioned require a certain amount suit power to effectuate, meaning that you’ll have to pick and choose the most beneficial moments to utilize them.

While stealth will install a temporary cloak, it will drain much of the suit’s power whilst on the move. This is good for darting from place to place and performing silent kills, but the swift power drain means it has its obvious disadvantages when caught in the open. Armour sets up a hardened shell around Alcatraz, meaning that normally lethal hails of bullets bounce off for as long as the mode remains powered up. A sort of walking tank if you will.

Sprinting and large suit-driven jumps are beautifully smooth and fluid. This results in a true feeling of futuristic empowerment. Jumping from rooftop to rooftop and shifting in and out of cloak mode to assassinate enemies is where Crysis 2 really lives up to its billing; this is where it plays to its strengths and pulls it off with a seemingly effortless ease.

As you move through the game you’ll gain access to various suit upgrades that elaborate on its base traits. This could be reduced sound from your footsteps in stealth mode or taking less damage from falls while employing the armoured shell. Combine this with a decent (if a little unambitious) arsenal of guns and Crysis 2 embodies its “be the weapon” tagline.

Of course all this is well and good, but if your limited to narrow corridors and tight spaces all the time, having all these tactical options is somewhat redundant. Thankfully, in the same vein as its predecessor, Crysis 2’s set-pieces predominantly take place in open environments. This means that although you’ll still be trying to get from here to there, there’s a multitude of routes to take to your destination. Wade headlong into the alien hordes all guns blazing, or take a quieter, conspicuous route through the sewer tunnels?

Although this is welcome approach considering the often linear level design of FPS’s, it can be detrimental to the experience in some cases. It’s often far to simple to stealth your way through large enemy infested sections. This still requires a certain amount of skill, but it’s a boring method which by and large goes unpunished. It means that should you choose to play this way, parts of the game that were intended to be epic Hollywood-style battles are instead bypassed fairy easily without penalty.

There are some scenarios where you’ll have no choice but to take out your enemies (whom are unfortunately rather lacking in variety), but others where the player is allowed to get away scott-free with simply hiding, shuffling on, and reaching their goal. You could call this a design flaw, but it’s certainly not how the game should be played. In fact, you’ll feel that you owe it to yourself to man-up and experience Crysis 2 in the right fashion.

This is largely due to the fact (alongside the enjoyment of experimenting with the nanosuit) that the game looks absolutely phenomenal. The Cryengine 3 pulls no punches and your senses will be constantly bombarded from the outset. Whether it’s huge explosions, vast toppling buildings, lashing rain or beautifully realised lighting effects, Crysis 2 is quite possibly the best looking title out there (at least on console).

The attention to detail is stunning, as you’ll take a virtual tour around the alien-ravaged heart of New York, battling alongside some of the city’s most iconic landmarks. Regrettably there’s a slight lull mid-way through where you’ll be forced into a dark underground section, but it doesn’t last so long as to stagnate the overall campaign. Before long you’ll be up on the streets again and firmly back into jaw-dropping territory.

Crysis 2 does have some other minor niggles. Occasional AI bugs stick out like a sore thumb when they do occur, and the cover system seems a bit like a tacked-on inclusion rather than a genuine gameplay aid. However, if you go about it the right way - playing as to intake the game’s undeniable strengths - the nanosuit-inspired single player is an exhilarating and visually exquisite experience.

And so we move on to the inevitable multiplayer. It’s a fast paced and frenetic affair that turns out to be a real blast. The science fictional nature of the nanosuit, but in the hands of every human player, creates a chaotic battleground, and one that feels different to your run-of-the-mill military shooter. Equipping a cloaking device, sneaking up behind an enemy and unloading a shotgun at point blank range is as grin-inducing as you’d expect.

Just a quick word of warning, though; it may take you a while to get your head around the pathetically weak melee attack, whereas it’s usually a guaranteed one hit kill in other shooters.

Multiplayer effectively forces the excitement of the best adrenaline-fuelled single player moments into a compact, competitive situation. While the base traits of your nanosuit still exist (stealth, armour etc), you’ll be able to gear it up with modules, which are, in more basic terms, perks. This could be carrying an extra ammo clip, scrambling enemy radars, or reducing your suit’s power drain in armour mode.

Whilst this starts off as an exercise in trial and error - mixing and matching modules with contrasting fortunes - you’ll eventually figure out which work most effectively on which maps, giving you a tactical advantage and offering a deeper side to play. The usual multiplayer modes return in all but name (capture the relay instead of capture the flag for example) but shine due to Crysis 2's futuristic slant on proceedings. Unlockables, upgrades, collectibles and customisation options are enough to keep you coming back for more; the sci-fi premise being a sure-fire deal breaker for those who’ve grown disillusioned with more conventional multiplayer frag-fests.

Crysis 2 isn’t the complete package. It borders on greatness but doesn’t quite reach those lofty heights due to minor niggles that could possibly have been avoided. That said, though, it’s still an absolute riot. The nanosuit is the star of the show if utilized to its full potential and the visuals are as close to ‘next-gen’ as we’re likely to see until a new era of systems is finally ushered in. There’s a little room for improvement, undoubtedly, but Crysis 2 is an all round solid shooter with an identity of its own.

*Reviewed on Xbox 360

Megabits of news: weekly roundup

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


PS3 Network down
At time of writing, the PlayStation Network was down for the fourth successive day of "maintenance". The company confirmed that the outage - which has stopped millions of gamers from playing games online over the Easter weekend - was due to hackers.

The Cube coming to consoles
We're pretty smart here at Megabits... so our seemingly random article about great TV gameshows that should make an appearance on our consoles now seems fairly astute following news that quiz show The Cube is to be developed.

360 & PS3 successors some way off
New consoles unlikely until 2014 for Microsoft and Sony, apparently.

Experia Play hands-on
The Guardian's Games Blog puts Sony's new smartphone, Xperia Play, through its paces.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Classics that MUST be remade for Move

We’re not fanboys here at Megabits (although many of us do have our preferences) and we’re all too aware that Microsoft’s Kinect has been getting more of its fair share of coverage lately. So for fear of sounding overwhelmingly biased, on this occasion we’re turning our attention to Sony’s Move. Critics may argue that it’s simply an updated version of the Wiimote and brings little innovation to the party. Some go as far as suggesting that the little black wand with its accompanying colour-changing orb would give a certain feminine pleasure product some serious competition. But not us. Megabits has spent some time playing with the aforementioned device (Move, not a Rampant Rabbit) and is pretty impressed by what it’s seen.

Certainly, Move is a fantastic looking bit of kit – sleek, well manufactured, comfortable to hold and, most importantly, it does exactly what it’s meant to; clearly, it’s the most accurate and effective motion controller on the market today. It also integrates fairly well with the system overall and Sony has already updated previously released games to make them compatible.
Sadly, that doesn’t mean it necessarily captures the imagination and will be a success. Where’s the real innovation Sony? Where’s the must have factor? Nintendo brought something incredibly similar to the shelves years ago…

As a discerning gamer, I want my new gadgetry to make me sit back in wonderment and ensure I’m first in the queue to get my hands on it. At least Kinect – its flaws aside – offers something different and new!
The cost of Move is pretty restrictive too. Although Sony fanboys argue that it’s cheaper than Kinect, the fact you have to purchase multiple wands and the accompanying controller for several players to join in the fun quickly empties your wallet. Not only that, but there are only a few games right now that are really worth having.

We’ve already considered which games from yesteryear would best make use of Kinect’s technology so we’ve donned our thinking caps once again and come up with several titles that would be ideal with Move functionality.



Arcade Pool
A favourite from Team 17 and responsible for countless lost hours. Big, bold graphics, addictive gameplay and loads of rules and game modes made this an absolute classic… but imagine being able to use the Move wand as a virtual cue. Its accuracy would work perfectly and you could adjust your stance and posture just as if you were holding the real thing in some smoky, dimly-lit pool hall.




Ghostbusters

The classic 1980s movie made an appearance on our consoles not too long ago but wouldn’t it be cool if they re-released this classic 8-bit title that could incorporate Move motion control? You could roam the haunted hallways actually holding your proton gun, wave it around the place and capture the ghouls – just don’t cross the beams!!!




Operation Wolf

You can keep your Time Crisis… Operation Wolf and it’s follow up Operation Thunderbolt deserve a remake. As a soldier armed to the back teeth, progress past an onslaught of guntoting bad guys, but this time actually aiming accurately.




EA Ice Hockey

Although the latest games are fantastic , it was those halcyon days of the SEGA Megadrive that saw this series peak. If the EA Ice Hockey of years gone by could be combined with the souped-up graphics and effects of today, I’d be a happy man. But why couldn’t EA throw in an option to hold the Move like a hockey stick and finally get some of that close stick control we’ve all been craving. Imagine one on ones and the Face Off – every swish of the wand taking chunks out of your opponents’ legs. Brilliant.



Soul Blade (aka Soul Edge)
Way back in 1995 Namco released this cracking alternative to Tekken and Virtua Fighter - a 3D beat 'em up with swords, scantily-clad female warriors and some seriously cool arenas. What about a Move update, eh? Hold your wand as you would a massive sword and swing it about the room trying to chop your opponents into submission.



The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion
Even now it looks fantastic and gamers still love it. There's also loads of time before Skyrim makes an appearance so what about some kind of patch or update to make Oblivion Move compatible? Imagine actually waving your magic wand or big-bladed sword about the place...



Afterburner II
An absolute classic on the computers and consoles of old - but what if you could use your Move controller instead of one of those expensive arcade flight sticks? Accurate movement allowing your to pitch and roll about the skies... bring it on!



Empire Total War
Perhaps with accuracy of Sony's Move, PC strategy games that are heavily reliant on mouse controls and intricate movement could now be ported over successfully? Who wouldn't love a bit of Total War on their console?



L.A. Noire looks worthy of the hype

It’s very rare these days I become excited to get my hands on a new game. I think this has stemmed from years as an avid gamer of being disappointed after finally playing a title which I have waited months of hype for. However, when detective thriller L.A. Noire was announced (which arrives for PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 on 17 May in North America and 20 May in Europe), I almost instantaneously returned to my naive youth – anticipating what could be the game of the year.And this time I think my excitement is justified. This game looks like it will live up to the hype.

L.A. Noire, set in post-war Hollywood during its golden age, sees you take the position of Cole Phelps, a young LAPD detective looking to crack down on corruption, murder, drug dealing, arson attacks and racketeering, at the same time as trying to climb the ranks of his own department.

However, you'd be wrong to think that the game sees you simply search for clues, chase down suspects, interrogate witnesses and solve the case – bish bash bosh – become the commissioner.

This game seems to be offering so much more – especially in its level design detail and scale, storyline, character creation and animation. On top of the fact that you get to do real detective work – which from my memory I cannot remember any game ever really succeeding at.

The game has also incorporated groundbreaking new animation technology to capture every movement of an actor's facial performance in detail – meaning that players will have to look at character’s expressions to guess if they are telling porkie pies or not.

It’s not that my excitement was based purely on what I have seen in the teaser trailers or read either, the game has heavyweight backing.

Developed by Australian independent third-party game developer, Team Bondi, in conjunction with Rockstar Games (which of course brought us the world changing Grand Theft Auto series) this new franchise is pushing real muscle in terms of gaming pedigree.

For those who may not know, Team Bondi was founded by Brendan McNamara, writer and director of gangster romp The Getaway, and the former director of development for Sony Computer Entertainment’s Team Soho Studio in London. The Getaway, although linear and at times a little boring on the gameplay front, had a well produced, albeit dark and violent storyline, gripping cinematic cut scenes - all set in a visually impressive re-creation of London.

If the Team Bondi/Rockstar partnership works, it bodes well for what we can expect in L.A. Noire – original and interesting storylines, in-depth character creation, fantastic visuals, massive and detailed maps and hours of entertaining action.

I hope for the young me that this game isn’t another hyped up disappointment; but from what has been shown so far and the credentials backing its creation, L.A Noire looks set to be a classic.


Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Gamerscore Challenge: My Best Bits...

The Gamerscore Challenge is over, for me at least, and soon it will be time to get back to writing reviews, lists and features. But before letting it go completely, I thought I'd have a quick reminisce about the best and worst achievements, the most satisfying points and the most generous game in the challenge.

Most satisfying achievement: Fight Night Champion 25GS Just Doing my Jab
The two main contenders for this one both came from the same game, Fight Night Champion, which doled out 100GS for defeating every fighter in the game (A Fist For Every Face) and 25GS for throwing 10,000 jabs (Just Doing My Jab). Both of which are big enough to be a challenge without being so big that they become a grind. After some consideration, Just Doing My Jab gets it. Watching classy boxers working from behind a long jab is one of sport's most poetic pleasures, and replicating it in Fight Night Champion lets you briefly kid yourself that you could be as nimble, creative and skilfully destructive.


Least satisfying achievement: Need For Speed 25GS Festival of Speed
You get this for competing in 10 online races. Or for leaving your Xbox running while you answer the phone and sitting motionless on the start line for ten races. Oh well, its not like it’s a sparklingly inventive achievement anyway.

Most entertaining achievement: Medal of Honour 10G It Takes a Village...Out
I know, I know, the now de rigeur vehicular firepower sections in first person shooters generally combine awesome destructive capabilities on your part with distance and peashooters on theirs, so there’s no real challenge in completing them. But so what? They’re fun, and none more so in the Gamerscore Challenge than It Takes a Village ...Out, in which your helicopter gunner is tasked with destroying 30 buildings in the course of a flyby. As you rain down fire from the heavens it’s hard not to start feeling a little Old Testament about things.


Hardest achievement: Split/Second Velocity 20GS Hero to Zero
Using a Route Changer explosion to go from eighth to first place is harder than it sounds and, frankly, worth more than 20GS if you ask me. Essentially, you need time enough for all your drafting and drifting to fill your power meter, whilst not allowing so much time to pass that the bunch spreads out too much for a Route Changer to affect them all. You’ve also go to hope no one else triggers all the Route Changers before you do. And you’ve got to maintain last place whilst drifting and drafting efficiently enough to fill your power meter, a level of quality driving that normally ensures some overtaking. It’s a whole mess of variables that have to be brought together in one perfect moment, and it took me forever to get it right.


Easiest achievement: Nail’d 80GS Golden Guy
Nail’d will dish out 80GS if you manage to get a Gold Medal in every tournament. Sounds tough, doesn’t it? Except Nail’d is so easy that you won’t even break a sweat getting a gold medal on practically every single event that make up the tournaments. With the exception of one woodland timetrial, I got Gold in every event on the first or (very occasionally) second try, making the 80GS little more than a side effect to finishing the game.

Most grinding achievement: Conan 20GS Death Grip
Clunky and clumsy, Conan is the sort of game only a fan of Robert E Howard’s wandering rogue could enjoy. Fortunately, I am such a fan, and was revelling in my Hyborean hack and slash adventure, until I realised that most of the achievements would require three or four playthroughs or some serious level-grinding. The 20 GS obtained for scoring 250 grapple kills is a case in point. Despite relying heavily on grapple moves throughout the entire game, I was still forced to load up the giant squid boss battle and repeat the same B+B+Y+X combo non-stop for over an hour just to get the achievement. Naturally, I didn’t bother going for any more bodycount achievements after that.


Cheap dirty points award: Harms Way
This was a tough one. Fight Night Round 3 dished out a grand simply for completeing the game, which feels a little like cheating, but in the end I settled on Harms Way instead. It’s great fun, completely free and dishes out all 200 of its points in barely half an hour.

Worst game in the challenge: Bayonetta
Anyone who’s been following the Gamerscore Challenge will know that I was fibally convinced to give Bayonetta a go, and that I found the cut scenes incomprehensible, the dialogue excruciating, the fanservice shameful and the gameplay moronic. That this tripe won so many GOTY’s says almost as worrying things about gamers and the games industry as Rapelay or No Russian.

Best game in the challenge Bioshock 2
This was a close one between Alan Wake’s enjoyable gameplay, gorgeous environments and brilliant evocation of Twin Peaks and Bioshock 2’s enjoyable gameplay, gorgeous environments and brilliant evocation of what an inhuman (not to mention hypocritical) nutbag Ayn Rand was. In the end, Bioshock wins it-the choice of tonics, plasmids, traps and weapons adds just a little more nuance to the gameplay, and from an achievements point of view it’s generous and challenging without being frustrating.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Gamerscore Challenge 2011: First Past The Post

Victory is mine! I must admit, however, that it’s a slightly hollow victory, this triumph in the Megabits 2011 Gamerscore Challenge. My fellow competitors are holding down jobs, raising children and attaining degrees. Due to a regrettable lack of employment, the biggest demand on my time is the ironing, and I’m getting to be pretty swift at that.

Nevertheless, I’ve cracked it, first to our chosen magic number of 7691GS, and all false modesty aside, I bet my weekly playtime total doesn’t significantly exceed that of our dreaded blogmaster Bojeeva. Of course, I don’t spend as much time crocked as he does either, he’s the Robin Van Persie of gaming journalism.

Anyway, I must admit I’m glad it’s ‘over’. The quote marks are there as I’m being encouraged to try and break the 10K mark before our end of May deadline. I might have a crack at that, but for now I just want to enjoy playing some games without even thinking about achievements, just the way I used to. The worst thing about the Gamerscore Challenge is that you start to treat the games as a lesser adjunct to the achievements. The best thing, of course, is that the need to be playing during every scrap of free time forces you to play games you wouldn’t normally consider, which has led me to some unexpected crackers (Split/Second: Velocity) and some utter stinkers (Bayonetta).

The final points charge breaks down this way:

Transformers: War for Cybertron: 70G
I only made it through two levels of this disappointing game. To be fair, it is a perfectly serviceable third person shooter, but the high concept genius of Transformers is “Giant super-powered robots fighting a war on tiny, fragile Earth.” What we need is an approximate merging of the destructible environments of Red Faction Guerilla, the open world driving and shooting mix of Grand Theft Auto, and the free flowing melee combat of Batman Arkham Asylum, strung together on a plot that nods towards the best storylines of the 1980s comics and cartoon. To get instead a generic third person shooter with robots on a planet where everything is to scale was too much of a letdown to carry on with.

Left 4 Dead 2: 95G
Making a welcome return to my playlist, Left 4Dead remains the most enjoyable multi-player game there is, due to the conflict between the need for teamwork and the gameplans of the individuals on the team. I’ve always slightly preferred the darker campaigns of the first game to the tongue in cheek amusement parks and rock concerts of the second, but now that the DLC packs are bringing the Left 4 Dead campaigns to Left 4 Dead 2, this is pretty much the perfect multiplayer package.

Crackdown 2: 120G
I’m currently undecided about Crackdown 2. The gameplay is pretty much identical to the first game, which is good, but it already feels samey, and the lack of structure is deeply annoying. In Crackdown you dismantled the supply, manpower and transport arms of various organisations in order to weaken their bosses enough for the final fight, which gave the game a simple, compelling structure. In my limited playtime with Crackdown 2, that structure seems to be missing. Still, from an achievements point of view, it dished out 120 points in about forty minutes, making it one of the most generous games for point hunters that I’ve come across.

Call of Duty: World at War: 235G
It remains a minority opinion, but I’d happily play World at War ten times over if it meant not having to pick up either Modern Warfare or CoD:Blops again. The script and characters are nowhere near as annoying, the locales are more interesting, and the action is more visceral than the hectic, tinny combat of both Modern Warfares. Granted 235 GS isn’t particularly generous, but the game was good enough to make me forget the relentless hunt for points for a day or two.

Star Wars: The Force Unleashed II: 110G
Wow, now this is a short and repetitive game. The first 110 points I got from it were enough to get me across the finish line in the Gamerscore Challenge, but I got another 280 out of it soon after. A single day of dedicated play could probably net you an easy 600 points. It’s not a bad game either- there are no wow moments and the action is repetitive, but the sword flailing acrobatics that comprise the bulk of the gameplay are entertaining enough to keep you playing. Shame about that annoying Spire sequence though-if I liked platform games I’d still be using an NES, eh?

Also contributing to the score were some games I started last month:

Silent Hill Homecoming: 30G
This time last month I wasloving this slice of old fashioned survival horror. Sadly, it’s old-fashioned enough that if you’re a little reckless with your save files, it’s perfectly possible to come to a grinding halt. I found myself facing a boss battles with two bullets and a sliver of health, and not one of my three save files would have changed the situation appreciably. After dozens of attempts, I’ve been forced to put this aside to be restarted from scratch at a later date. Still a cracking game though.

Vanquish: 270G
This speedy little 3PS dished out 275 points last month and 270 this time, and while it was never hugely innovative or original, not once was it dull or frustrating either.

Fight Night Champion: 95G
I got another 95 out of this on top last month’s 375, and would have had a fair few more if my online pass hadn’t expired. The worrying realisation that you’ve played long enough to have thrown 10,000 jabs is slightly mollified by the 25GS you get for it.

Coming soon, our pick of the best, worst, cheapest and most satisfying achievements of the 2011 Gamerscore Challenge.

Monday, April 18, 2011

TV gameshows ideal for Kinect/Move

Motion control seems to be here to stay - and frankly, some of the current titles for Microsoft's Kinect and Sony's Move have been a little disappointing to say the least. That's why we at Megabits of Gaming have racked our brains to come up with a few suggestions based around TV gameshows - both old and new - that could be transferred onto our favourite consoles.

Some of those listed below are absolute classics - and may bring a tear of nostalgia to your eye. Some, however, were admittedly pretty dismal - but we think that they could prove to be pretty good fun if they were handled correctly and the more fun elements represented in a video game. From the ridiculous gesticulating and posing necessitated in Japanese classic Hole in the Wall to the creative mini-games of the Crystal Maze and The Cube, there might be some great ideas for a new Xbox or PS3 title enhanced by Kinect or Move.

For the more sporty amongst you, we've included a snooker and darts gameshow, for the lonely out there, what about a dating show? Our personal favourite, however, is Knightmare - an absolute classic from yesteryear but a concept that could lend itself particularly to Kinect.

Any others we've missed? Leave your suggestions below...

Hole in the Wall
Sure, there's a UK version but it's the Japanese contestants that seem to sum up the sheer madness of the gameshow. Contort yourself into all manner of shapes to fit through an approaching wall.



The Cube
Proving fairly popular in the UK, this primetime gameshow sees contestants entering a huge cube where they have to complete various challenges - all of which look incredibly easy but never are! What's more, you only get a few chances to complete the games... failure to do so and you lose all your winnings.



Wipeout
Many of us have played Doritos Crash Course on Xbox Live but we reckon a virtual version of Wipeout would be an absolute hit. Watch the video below from the US show. We're not exactly sure how this could be transferred to your console but hey, we're not the developers. If it could be done, it could be quite entertaining - and videos of all your failed attempts could be uploaded so everyone could have a laugh at your expense...



Krypton Factor
A classic show dating back to the 1980s that's been given several facelifts over the years. It's basically a group of people who compete in various games of agility, memory and mental awareness. It's pretty tricky at times but who knows, it could be Microsoft's next 1 vs 100?



Knightmare
An absolute classic that left many kids in the late eighties desperate to take part (I was one of them!). Don a helmet and enter a mysterious world full of elves, goblins and puzzles. There are traps to avoid, enemies to battle and dungeons to navigate.



Crystal Maze
A group of like-minded individuals get together and make there way through several themed zones, each full of games and challenges. Complete a task and accrue time for a final challenge that could see you win a big prize... or leave empty handed.



Bullseye
Motion control could be pretty well-suited for this. It's so much more than just throwing some darts - it combined the popular sport with an actual quiz show, peppered with questions, challenge rounds and a talking animated bull as co-host!



Family Fortunes
Gather your friends and family around your television and compete against another group of people desperate to test their general knowledge. Could be a good party game - you competing with the best from around the world?



Big Break
Not just a game of snooker but a series of timed challenges and trick shots could make this a great title for motion controllers. Potentially a fantastic online multiplayer game.



Blind Date
A dating game on a console? It could work? But an online dating game where you speak to other contestants around the globe, and respond with witty answers that show off your charm could be popular with some - and may even lead to some relationships being forged??? Mmmm, maybe not.


Sunday, April 17, 2011

Gears of War 3 beta - first impressions

As of tomorrow, Monday 18th April, all those gamers shrewd enough to have grabbed themselves a copy of Bulletstorms' Epic Edition (if you haven't picked it up yet, do it, it's a great game in it's own right) will be enjoying a first taste of the Gears of War multiplayer beta and discovering just what Epic have in store for us in the final part of the Gears trilogy. It's one of the most highly anticipated beta tests in gaming history, in fact there's that much electricity in the air you could be forgiven for thinking the 18th heralds the full games' launch.

Well, here at Megabits we're lucky enough to have spent the weekend revving those chainsaws and getting our frags out as the real world took a backseat and the world of Marcus Fenix stepped back into the limelight. Here's a quick rundown of how it went and what's in store.

First things first then and a lot of fans are going to want to know if Epic has managed to get the two vital pieces of the Gears jigsaw to fit. Piece one, gameplay? Piece two, graphics? Well, cast your fears aside and worry no more because going off the hours I've already spent exploring this beta they've slotted those two pieces in perfectly.

The gameplay is exactly what it should be, fast, frantic, bloody, tense and within two minutes you'll be subject to more fun than most games can muster within two hours. It's classic Gears at it's best, the three game modes on offer may come at it from differing angles but at it's core it's the same ranged shootouts from cover combined with close quarters shotgun madness. Many heads will be lost and limbs severed and we wouldn't have it any other way.

Graphically the first thing that hit me was how much more vibrant everything looks, the over-riding brooding darkness we expect from a Gears title is still evident but it's been dashed with a smattering of colour and looks all the better for it. The attention to detail is superb as ever and both characters and surroundings look stunning. Considering we're still months away from being served the finished article it's already an incredible looking game, I fully expect to hear the sound of a million jaws dropping come September and a completely polished Gears 3 hitting our consoles.

Graphics and gameplay aside Epic have certainly served up a beta chock full of goodness, there's plenty to see and do thanks to the inclusion of four maps, three game modes and a number of unlocks.

Map wise the four on view here are by and large exceptional. Old Town, my own personal favourite, places us into a beautifully picturesque seaside town, it looks so good you can almost feel the sea breeze in your hair and taste the saltwater on your lips, just watch you don't get your head blown off while breathing it all in. The map is superb for teamwork and has a good number of key areas that a strong and cohesive side could use to their advantage.

Trenches is the dust and sandblown setting that to be fair at first glance seems maybe a little bland, but don't judge a map by it's cover because once the sandstorm hits, and believe me it hits hard, the whole place and the way the games being played change dramatically. Visibility is reduced to a few feet and under the cover of dust and sand it's time to get up close and personal and time to introduce the enemy to my little friend, Mr. Shotgun. It's a brilliant feature on an otherwise bog standard map and elevates it to wonderful highs.

Thrashball brings the combat into the stadium, except the once grand cathedral of sport is now a crumbling ruin. The playing field is littered with cover points and an old scoreboard hangs by a thread above the centre, a few well placed shots can bring it crashing to earth and if luck is on your side straight onto the head of an unsuspecting opponent. Thrashball offers a decent mix of ranged and head to head action and there's never a dull moment within it's arena.

The final map in the beta is Checkout and to be honest although I've done my weekly shop in worse looking supermarkets it's the only one of the four I don't relish playing on. It's the most full on and in your face battle wise but there never seems to be a place to get adequate cover to protect yourself and as a player that never ever shone in the Gears world cover is vital to my existence. Having said that I'm positive there will still be a lot of love shown to Checkouts' madness.

The three game modes vying for your attention are Team Deathmatch, Capture the Leader and King of the Hill. With Team Deathmatch it's as though Epic have answered my prayers for a deathmatch game with added respawns. Each team starts the match with a set number of respawns and when those are gone it's jangly nerves time as when your gone, your gone. The winning team is the one that depletes the others' respawns first and it's the most beautiful slice of edge of the seat fun I've ever had playing a Gears of War game, in fact I'm having slight withdrawal symptoms as I type this.

Capture the Leader is an entertaining little mode, entertaining that is unless you've been randomly chosen to be the leader or are the one foolis...erm brave enough to grab the leader of the opposition. The former of those scenarios generally means camping like your at Glastonbury weekend and the latter involves holding the leader as a meatshield and moving snail like while trying to hold off the enemy with your pistol.

Lastly King of the Hill is the same old KotH we know and love, battle for the ring, defend the ring and then repeat as said ring moves around the map, it's a mode that lends itself well to the Gears world and there's a heap of thrills and spills to be had here.

Of the new weapons on show particular standouts are the sawn-off, a one shot kill very close range shotgun with a very long reload, miss the first shot and you're in trouble and the retro lancer, the chainsaw gone, replaced now by the bayonet and believe me getting a bayonet kill is both bloody and deeply satisfying. There are other newcomers to the Gears arsenal here as well but I don't want to spoil everything so I'll let you get the pleasure of discovering them and witnessing their devastating impact first hand.

One very nice added touch in the Gears beta is the inclusion of a ranking system and the much sought after unlockables. All the unlockables from the beta can be carried over into the full retail version of the game when it arrives as long as certain criteria are met. For example playing 50 matches in the beta will unlock Thrashball Cole as a playable character but you'll need to play another 10 with him to carry the unlock over with you. Other unlocks include weapon skins, more characters and a very desirable Gold Lancer, seek and ye shall find is the rule here, all the unlocks are attainable so long as you mix up your game modes and gun use during the beta test.

As a final word I'll just say this, if Gears 2 left many fans disappointed and disillusioned then the early signs are that Gears 3 will not only rectify that it'll smash any uncertainty into a thousand pieces and rebuild them into a tower of gaming greatness. Roll on September!

Friday, April 15, 2011

Megabits of news: weekly roundup

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


3DS sales to soar
A study from Screen Digest predicts that sales of Nintendo's 3DS will total 11.6m this year, says MCV. A great feat but still below the 13.1m the DS sold in its first year.

World's biggest Pac-Man game
How's this for an idea? Some bright sparks have decided to give the cult classic Pac-Man a new lease of life and create the biggest ever version of the game. It's playable too - and combines hundreds of fan-made levels - all to show off the power of Internet Explorer 9 and HTML 5!

SNES handheld incoming
Dust off your old SNES games... a new handheld console is imminent. The Supaboy gadget from Hyperkin is pegged for a summer launch in the US.

Sony outlook positive...
Jack Tretton, Sony PlayStation CEO, is positive that the PS3 is "just hitting its stride" - and remains confident that the offerings from Microsoft and Nintendo pose little threat to Sony's technology.

...and Sony racks up 50m sales
According to the games giant, its PS3 had sold 50m units worldwide by March 29. Its Move controller totalled a very respectable 8m units sold.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Megabits column: Uncharted 3

Megabits of Gaming contributes 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 April 2011 issue. For more about the magazine, check out its Facebook page after the jump.



Even before Lara Croft and her pistol-adorned thighs leapt onto the SEGA Saturn in 1996, gamers had been pretty partial to a bit of adventuring and treasure hunting. The Tomb Raider developers, Core Design, had already brought the pint-sized protagonist, Rick Dangerous, to our 8-bit screens back in 1989 to whet our appetite for archaeology and ancient civilizations.

Heavily influenced by the Hollywood blockbuster movies and subsequent games starring the fedora wearing, whip-wielding Indiana Jones, Lara and Rick are among the many to have helped pave the way for one of the most anticipated games of 2011. Uncharted 3: Drake’s Deception is coming...

In a matter of months, fan favourite Nathan Drake (Nate to his friends) makes a welcome return to Sony’s PS3 for the third in the series of Naughty Dog’s Uncharted games. Details are scant at present but the press releases promise that pretty much every aspect of the previous games will be improved upon.

This time the arid landscape of the Rub’al Khali desert will be among the settings as Nate goes in search of a lost city Ubar, dubbed the ‘Atlantis of the Sands’. Once again, he’ll be accompanied by friend and mentor, Victor “Sully” Sullivan, as well as journalist – and love interest - Elena Fisher.

Unlike most sequels, I’ll wager that few of us will actually want much of an overhaul for the latest edition of the action adventure series; we have, afterall, grown to love the humour and plotlines, and marvelled at the graphics and sound – particularly the sublime voice acting of Nolan North. The old mantra, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it should certainly be applied in this case.

There has been mention, however, of an improved fighting system (with hand-to-hand combat, contextual melee attacks and the ability to take on multiple opponents) and that the online multiplayer component is set to be enhanced – both of which would be welcome improvements. What’s more, there are apparently “new innovations in sand, fire, smoke, and water dynamics and effects”.

The Uncharted series is as cinematic as they come and Nate is to the PS3 what Sonic was to the Megadrive and Mario to the NES - a mascot in all but name for Sony’s flagship machine. There is plenty of talk about the increasing emphasis on storytelling in video games nowadays – largely thanks to Quantic Dream’s 2010 murder mystery epic Heavy Rain – and Uncharted certainly provided a story fit for the big screen. No surprise then that the success of the series looks likely to spawn a movie version sometime soon.

The original 2007 game saw our hero – a descendant of 16th century privateer Sir Francis Drake – pursuing the lost treasure of El Dorado. His trademark wit and likeability made Nate an instant hit and it was inevitable that a follow up would hit the shelves. In October 2009 our intrepid adventurer returned for the sequel that saw him set off to the Himilayas in search of the fabled Cintamani Stone, a wish-granting jewel that plenty of unscrupulous souls understandably wanted to get their hands on. Just for good measure both co-operative and competitive game modes were included this time round.

Last September, the stats showed that Uncharted 2 had racked up around 4m sales with over 125m matches played online. Add all the rave reviews and Game Of The Year awards to the mix and there were plenty of reasons why Xbox 360 owners may have contemplated defecting to Sony’s machine to give treasure hunting a try.

The first in the series – Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune – accrued 88% from score aggregating website Metacritic – although this paled in comparison with Uncharted 2: Among Thieves, which achieved an impressive 96%. With Naughty Dog’s pedigree, these highs could surely be surpassed come November?



Sunday, April 10, 2011

I am the hype machine....hear me roar!

Hype has set up home in the videogame household. It's kicked off it's shoes, fired up the kettle and now hogs the remote. Flicking the TV from one game trailer to the next, it smiles knowingly as the spark of excitement grips us and begins the first flames of what will become a raging inferno of need by release. The sort of hype generated for videogames these days is matched only by blockbuster movies and huge sporting events, but do we as gamers do ourselves any favours by buying into it?

Game trailers are generally a wonderful thing, capturing our imaginations, assaulting the senses, often leaving us with more questions than answers and giving a slight taste of the glorious banquet to come, it's just disappointing when you're expecting Michelin star and end up with McDonalds. Of course the trailers are only a small component of the hype machine. The real buzz picks up within forums as gamers whip each other up into a frenzy, developer interviews littered with soundbites, in-game footage, magazine articles describing in rich detail just how amazing game X is going to be.

The problem with hyping games to the max is the fact that so few can live up to it. Games that are still fantastic in their own right have left me disappointed purely down to the fact I was led to believe it would deliver so much more. Take the original Fable for example, thanks to the hype machine and the words of the wise one, Peter Molyneux, I was expecting a living breathing world in which every action would have a reaction and characters would have previously unseen depth and interaction. What I got was an excellent action adventure/RPG game but one I didn't really appreciate until going back to it a few months after release because initially, post hype, it had left me deflated. In recent times one of the games that had me most excited in the build up to it hitting the shelves was Heavy Rain.

Fantastic trailers again played their part as did the other cogs in the machine. Importantly though I was already a big fan of Fahrenheit, Quantic Dreams' earlier and very similar title. I was fully expecting greatness from Heavy Rain, it surely wouldn't let me down would it? Sadly it did.



Again it isn't a bad game by any means, in fact it's a wonderful game it's just that as with Fable, it took me going back to it before I truly appreciated the fact. The pre-release hype had dragged me in and built my expectations ridiculously high, as it turned out too high. Interestingly Fahrenheit, a game I knew next to nothing about before deciding to purchase it solely on the strength of the games cover totally blew me away.

I seem to remember quite clearly (which is impressive for me) the first time I was gripped by hype for a game. The game in question was Way of the Exploding Fist, a very tasty fighting title of it's time, laughable by today's standards but back then I spent hour upon hour trying to perfect my roundhouse kick and engrossed in the action, the game had delivered and all was well. But seriously, have a little think now about which games have managed to live up to your own expectations of them and which have fallen short. In recent years titles such as Assassins Creed, Alan Wake, GTA IV, CoD: Black Ops, Halo 3, Halo: Reach and many more have failed, at least for me, in delivering what I was hoping. Akin to a child at Christmas waiting in excited anticipation for the present they expect is a shiny new Millennium Falcon and the later deflation when they open a Scout Walker, it's still great and will still entertain but it's fallen short of your expectations.

Funnily enough the games for me that have delivered way above my hopes are the ones I hadn't really seen or read much about, the ones that had flown way under my own personal games radar. Singularity, Mafia II, MotoGP and suchlike hadn't built any real hype that I'd seen but delivered wonderful gaming experiences and had exceeding my low expectations by miles.

Now obviously the hype machine is here to stay, it holds the key to big money for the games companies as excited gamers make the titles fly off the shelves fuelled by hype driven excitement, and it's not a bad thing, it's great getting built up for a new triple A release, wonderful watching trailers such as the Halo:Reach and latest Battlefield 3 offerings and reading the multitude of interviews with folks working on the various games. I just hope we can start to see games delivering more regularly.

As I write this we've already had a few big hitting games reach the shelves this year, Bulletstorm, Crysis 2, Homefront. All three are excellent and entertaining blasts of fun and suspense, and all three also fall short on the hype they generated, only just mind you. As 2011 progresses we'll see the hype machine working it's magic again, titles like LA Noire, Elder Scrolls: Skyrim, Gears of War 3, Battlefield3, Uncharted 3 and a new CoD to name but a few will be subject to massive media campaigns and no doubt I'll be subject to a massive bout of excitement, but you know what, with the way things tend to go with hyped games these days, I'll be happy if just one of those titles lives up to the billing, delighted in fact. If one manages to actually deliver above and beyond the rest and realise my dizzying expectations, well, I'll be smiling for the rest of the year.

I hope it's Elder Scrolls: Skyrim!!

Megabits of news: weekly roundup

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


The 3DS headache claims
There have been plenty of sensationalist stories over the course of the past week in The Sun newspaper that Nintendo's newly-launched 3DS handheld is leaving gamers feeling sick and dizzy.

The C64 makes a comeback

Commodore's cult C64 home computer is making a welcome return - almost three decades after the original took the market by storm! This time the beige computer is packed full of Windows 7 goodness but it will also include an emulator so you can replay all those gaming classics. There's more info on the BBC website after the jump.




European console users top 150m Data from IDG and GameStop (via MCV) shows that there are a massive 153m console users in Europe - 114m of them are current gen consoles! The Nintendo Wii leads the way, totalling almost the same as Xbox 360 and PS3 users combined.

Several games cancelled, including The Agency

Sony Online Entertainment closes some studios, which means the that the much anticipated spy shooter MMO, The Agency, will no longer be released, according to the Guardian Games Blog.