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.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

VIDEO: GTA IV revisited

Judging from our recent stats, there seems to be some renewed interest in Grant Theft Auto IV and the adventures of Niko Bellic lately... perhaps it's all that speculation about GTA V???

Nevertheless, Megabits always likes to give its cherished readers exactly what they want so we've uncovered a couple of awesome videos that should help to fill the hole until the inevitable sequel finally emerges.

We stumbled across this first one (thanks Kotaku), which showcases the graphical loveliness of GTA IV, and the way you get drawn into the city. Using a tilt shift technique, it makes the game look even more realistic with people going about their day to day business - completely unaware of the destruction and devastation Niko is leaving in his wake...

This next one's a little old now but as we love this montage and haven't featured it before, we hope you enjoy! Skip ahead to 4:20mins for some GTA bloopers, and 7:20mins to see some awesome stunts...

Now come on GTA V... where are you???

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Sonic celebrates his 20th anniversary

Remember 1991? It was a very special year in gaming terms. You may recall that the very first web site emerged or that the SNES was launched to great acclaim... equally important, however, was the arrival of one of gaming's greatest, and most iconic, characters.

Sonic the Hedgehog is 20 today - and Megabits salutes you! Happy anniversary!

No sooner had the call of SAY-GA come from on the speakers all those years ago, than everyone’s favourite spiky blue Echinacea burst on to our screens, wagging his finger and winking knowingly. Even on his debut, he knew he’d give the moustachioed Mario a run for his money.

The past two decades years have sped by almost as fast as those trademark sneakers attached to Sonic’s spindly legs. And he’s been a busy lad in recent years too, amassing over 70m game sales and appearing not only in his typical platform fare but turning his hand to kart racing, competing at the Winter Olympics, hoverboarding, pinball and countless other spinoffs.

That’s not to say he hasn’t appeared in some absolute stinkers, mind. However, there have been suggestions of a return to form lately with Sonic Colours on the Wii and Sonic the Hedgehog: Episode 4 on the PS3 and 360. Fans are hopeful the upcoming Sonic Generations – due later this year – will live up to expectations and take us back to those halcyon days.

Sonic's debut all those years ago was awe-inspiring. Amazing graphics, great tunes and rocket-fast gameplay. And isn't it fantastic that even at his ripe old age, he's showing no signs of slowing down and taking it easy? Happy birthday, old timer!

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Review: LEGO Pirates

Just as the latest Pirates of the Caribbean movie hits the big screen, Traveller's Tales works its magic once again and a LEGO version hits the small screen. But with the market already awash with LEGO titles, the question is whether this iteration can "build" on the success of the previous games...

First impressions are positive - largely because there are few surprises in store for those who have already experienced one of the plethora of LEGO games in recent years. It sticks to the same old formula - and that's just fine. Like those that came before it, LEGO Pirates oozes charm and wit, and although it's clearly aimed at a younger audience, it proves instantly accessible to all.

Importantly, the developers have managed to transfer the style and swagger of Johnny Depp's Captain Jack Sparrow and capture the essence of around 70 other key characters from the movies. The plots from all four films are neatly bundled in this package over more than 20 levels, providing many hours of swashbuckling, treasure hunting and yo-ho-hoing.

Each playable character has their own abilities - the idea being to switch between them to overcome various obstacles and challenges. Sparrow, for example, has a compass that can highlight buried treasures, whereas others are handy with tools, flexible enough to get through confined spaces or adept with pistols.

A myriad of cut scenes punctuate the various chapters, the mute yellow-headed caricatures acting out the various plotlines before throwing you into the action. And there's plenty of action to be had, from sword fights to puzzle solving, collecting trinkets and enlisting the help of others to help you on your quest. A dock area acts as the mission select screen, while also holding a few secrets of its own for the intrepid explorer.

And there's plenty to explore in this absolutely vast LEGO world. During a playthrough, you'll no doubt accrue a tidy sum of coins but there will be plenty of treasures missed along the way. The free play option is therefore extremely welcome and offers the opportunity to discover all those hidden areas. Your coin stash can also be used to buy cheats and modifiers that will change your gaming experience... and help you on the way to that elusive 100% completion.

As ever, a second player can leap into the proceedings at any given time to help solve those occasionally taxing puzzles. There's nothing too tricky in the game but there may be a few occasions where plenty of headscratching will ensue. Even early in the game, you'll have to fathom how to get a dozy donkey to pull his cart by enticing him with an apple, or how to wake a compatriot by filling a bucket with water and dumping the contents all over him. It's all very amusing and never tough enough to prove frustrating.

Nevertheless, some may be irked by the signposting in the game, which isn't always clear. The correct path you have to take sometimes isn't apparent - not a problem if you're remotely familiar with the films but newcomers to the series may struggle.

Ultimately, however, there's very good reason why there aren't collective groans when yet another LEGO game hits the shelves, and that's because they're damn good fun. It's rare that movie tie-ins are actually any good - LEGO Pirates is not only great but it's arguably the best LEGO title yet!

*Reviewed on Xbox 360

Monday, June 20, 2011

E3 2011: After The Dust Has Settled

As the dust begins to settle on E3 2011 and the masses who made the journey to L.A. for the three day event return to the normality of everyday life, which to be fair, having followed the adventures of a number of these lucky folk via Twitter for the last few months is probably far from normal, either that or they're in possession of vivid imaginations with which to embellish the everyday humdrumness (is that a is now!)...where was I? Ahhh yes, as the dust settles and the fervour is gently diminished let's take a look back at the big announcements and see what future delights Sony, Microsoft, Nintendo and co have in store... Then we can all update Twitter about our alligator wrestling and naked bungee jumping sessions.

The biggest talking point at this year's E3 came courtesy of Nintendo with the announcement of their new Wii U console and it's revolutionary controller. Wii U is to be the successor to the massive success story that has been the Wii and despite not giving too much away about the machine's innards and performance, and despite the fact that the 3rd party games coming to the Wii-U were shown running on the PS3 & 360, Nintendo still managed to get the gathered tongues wagging. Upon unveiling the now much discussed controller they managed to pique the curiosity of all and sundry. What became apparent with regards this weird and wonderful controller was the fact that Nintendo are still the company that will push the boundaries of design and ideas in gaming. The controller seems to have more in common with a handheld gaming machine or tablet looks wise, and boasts a 6 inch touch screen.

To be brutally honest, as nice as the new Wii-U controller looks and although it's undeniably another great example of Nintendo thinking outside the box, it's the console itself that I yearn to know about not the controller and unfortunately there wasn't a great deal of information forthcoming in that respect. It will be HD, Nintendo's first HD console to be exact, so that's a bonus. It'll be backwards compatible with Wii games and possibly Gamecube too, and will also be happy to accommodate Wii-motes, and'll walk the dog, I'm grasping for anything here!

I imagine it'll be more powerful than both the 360 and PS3 but I would also expect it to be surpassed once the next gen Microsoft and Sony beasts are released. At the end of the day a console is only as good as its games and I'm certainly going to be watching closely to see if Nintendo will continue along the Wii route of a more family orientated experience or turn tail and once again attempt to grab the waned attentions of more serious gamers - well, of gamers after a more serious experience at least.

Time will tell but early signs are promising as Nintendo did highlight a few core third party titles destined for its new baby (Ghost Recon, Batman Arkham City, Assassins Creed etc...) as I mentioned earlier but, in my opinion it's going to take some serious work to persuade anyone to ditch either Sony or MS in favour of them. Even taking them seriously as a competitor in terms of what I myself look for in a game won't be an easy feat. But as ever, I, and hopefully the majority will embrace the next chapter in Nintendo's life with an open mind.

Nintendo also showed off a number of first party 3DS titles such as Star Fox 64 3D, Mario Kart, Kid Icarus: Uprising and Luigi's Mansion 2 but it was the announcement of Wii's successor that had people talking and will undoubtedly continue to keep them talking for some time yet.

To be honest most of the titles on show at this year's event had already been the subject of much drooling and had their first glimpses scrutinised and pondered over by gamers worldwide, thus rendering the offerings at E3 a little underwhelming to say the least.

The games on show, by and large, look stunning and give me the belief that we have now reached the pinnacle of this generations power. Unfortunately, there's little we gamers not fortunate enough to have had a hands on with the mouth watering titles due to release over the next few months can honestly ascertain from a brief trailer or gameplay vid. In the same way a deeply average footballer can be made to seem like the next Maradona or Messi via a few well selected You Tube minutes, a game can be made to appear like the must have title of the year or the biggest adrenaline rush in console history thanks to clever use of in your face marketing and fleeting snap shots of the game in action.

So, while E3 certainly whets the gamers whistle for future titles and is also a great platform for developers to generate massive interest and excitement in their wares, it's also true that for most of us this excitement and anticipation is all we really take from the event. We haven't been served up any new demos on the marketplace for a quick hands on of our own and until we do get our mitts on a game there's little judgement that can be realistically made.

The newest installment of Tomb Raider manages to look both classic and fresh at the same time, and I live in perpetual hope that the series may find a little of the magic that cemented it's place in gaming folklore in the first place. Certainly Square Enix and Crystal Dynamics appear to be heading in the right direction if the trailer and gameplay demo are anything to go by, it's not a lot to go by of course but it's all we've got right now.

The game looks superb, the fire and water effects are quite spellbinding, there's a great attention to detail and wonderful use of shadow and colour during the demo. In a perfect world the latest adventure in Lara Crofts life will be good enough to slug it out toe to toe with Uncharted 3, a big ask I know, but if there's anyway Tomb Raider can achieve this then we the gamers can look forward to two of, potentially, the most epic and thrilling adventure games ever to grace our consoles. Come on guys, don't let me down, the Tomb Raider franchise has long needed a shot in the arm and just maybe it's finally going to get one.

The other games that impressed most were by and large the usual suspects, the ones we'd already spent time admiring, games like Bioshock: Infinite which still looks utterly incredible and manages to stretch the imagination to previously unknown limits. I personally felt a little let down by Bioshock 2 but on first impressions Bioshock: Infinite could be a game to even surpass 2K's first venture into Rapture.

Battlefield 3 continues to look fantastic and this time around it may even wield the power to dethrone Call of Duty from it's position as King of the FPS, but it's also now at a point for me were I don't need or want to see any more videos and I don't want to read any more about the game, I just want to play it and make up my own mind. Optimism's high for this one, please let it deliver.

Halo 4 was announced by MS of course, along with a brief trailer, forgive me for being less than enthusiastic but after ploughing through all the previous Halo titles and feeling an overwhelming sense of deja-vu each time. I'll wait and see what's being served up here before getting amped up for it.

Uncharted 3, Forza 4 (with added Kinect), Skyrim, SSX.....the list goes on and on, games that look like they hold the key to new realms of splendour and enchantment but again until we get up close and personal with them there's little solid we can actually say about them. 2011 looks to have a lot of quality in store but equally there's a lot of hype to live upto, and we all know how hard that can be.

Elsewhere Sony announced the new name and pricing details for it's follow up to the PSP and PSP Go. Introducing PSVita, retailing at a fairly reasonable £229 for the wi-fi version and £279 for the 3G model, it's sure to be top of many gamers must have list. No official release date has been set as yet but it'll almost certainly be on Japanese shelves before the end of 2011 with other territories not too far behind. Of course, that's just me speculating.

The other Sony announcement that particularly grabbed my attention was that of the new and exclusive game Dust 514. The game is classic FPS fare but also crosses over into the massive world of EVE online, quite how it'll all come together remains to be seen but it's certainly one to watch and it's a bold move by CCP to make it PS3 exclusive. A beta is expected to hit before the end of the year in anticipation of a Spring 2012 release.

What I Wanted To See
The only thing I really wanted to see become a reality at E3 2011 was Microsoft giving me a few good reasons to feel happy to own Kinect...It didn't happen.

Star Wars Kinect, Dance Central 2, Kinect support for a few core titles and voice activated internet search... well, colour me disappointed. I honestly couldn't care less for voice activated 360 features, it wasn't what I shelled out my hard earned for, I was hoping for new and intriguing gaming experiences, what I got was the equivalent of a Wii add on for my Xbox... and after E3 this shows no signs of changing anytime soon.

That just about wraps E3 2011 up and pops a neat little bow on top to boot. I'm sure everyone had their own highlights and low points of the event but all in all for myself the 2011 vintage was just a little bland and sterile, particularly in terms of Earth shattering new announcements. Roll on 2012!

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Free PS3 games cost too much time

We here at Megabits are big fans of Sony and the PS3, and despite the lengthy outage that saw our consoles gather dust for over a month after hackers put its online service out of action, we couldn’t help but feel grateful when the Japanese firm apologized with free games and perks.

Picking two games from five pretty great - albeit old titles - and offering a 30-day trial to its premium PlayStation Plus service, seemed a nice gesture. Afterall, Sony's service means many of us can play online for free so we weren't out of pocket - and not being able to download demos or play co-op games temporarily wasn't too much of a hardship.

So when the PSN came back, I for one was quick to add countless freebies to my download queue and rub my hands together in eager anticipation! Problem was, I was still sat there three hours later.

“Cannot perform background download” was the message that had been emblazoned on my screen. And this was just the first game (I opted for Burnout Paradise, then my freebies - Infamous and Wipeout in the end, the latter coming with a free bonus pack). Fortunately, I’d stopped rubbing my hands together some time earlier, otherwise I’d have worked my way through to the bone!

My internet connection is by no means slow and provides more than adequate speeds with no lag or slowdown. But whenever a PS3 download starts up, it moves at an absolute crawl.
I got so bored, I booted up my 360 and decided to solve a couple of lengthy cases in L.A Noire – switching between the Cole’s escapades and my PS3 menu screen to check its progress every now and again.

Finally, Burnout had left the queue and leapt across to my games list. L.A Noire and the 360 were promptly turned off. Paradise here I come. Alas, as always, I forgot about the PS3's insistence on having to install the damn thing. Not too lengthy a process but a minor annoyance. Done. Now to play...

Nope. Another screen pops up to tell me that I need five hefty updates (equivalent to downloading the entire game again). “Cannot perform background download” appeared on my screen once again. Sort it out Sony!

Why is it that when 360 games need updating it takes only a few minutes at most – but with the PS3, hours of valuable gaming time can be wasted? It completely wrecks the PSN proposition for me and highlights why Xbox Live is my preferred service. Forget any other arguments about reliability, connections, time outs and matchmaking, Sony first needs to get this issue sorted to really compete.

Thanks for welcoming me back, Sony. Problem is, I think most of that 30-day PlayStation Plus trial will be spent waiting for my download queue to clear.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Virtual reality becomes reality for racers

What self respecting gamer hasn’t dreamt of transferring the skills he’s honed in front of his TV to real life? Who hasn’t wanted to emulate their virtual selves and go covert like in Splinter Cell, or examine gruesome crime scenes and track down the guilty as they would in L.A Noire? Come on, admit that you’ve often thought how cool it would be to go behind enemy lines and swipe vital intel just as you have in Call of Duty?

Well, kudos to two previously unknown gamers who
people around the world now recognize as prospective racing champions. Both Spain’s Lucas Ordonez and US-based Bryan Heitkotter have taken part in an online racing competition in the past few years, pitting their wits against thousands of participants in the GT Academy.

Their prize was to swap their couch for a real driver’s seat to see whether they could recreate their virtual feats.
Judging by the fact that Ordonez is has just competed in the 2011 Le Mans 24-hour race, while Heitkotter has just earned his place on the Nissan racing team, there’s hope for all of us…

Me? I’m hoping to give Infamous 2 a whirl tonight. Who knows, give it a few years and I might be shooting electricity from my fingertips and helping to fight crime in real life?!?!

Review: Super StreetFighter IV 3D

Super Street Fighter 4 3D Edition (SSF43D) is here on the Nintendo 3DS and it is exactly what it says on the box, Super Street Fighter IV in 3D. The game contains all 35 characters from the home console versions, all the moves and all the stages, with most of the character animations fully recreated for Nintendo's latest portable game system.

The game runs smoothly and although some reviewers have noticed slowdown, for some reason I have yet to see any. The 3D screen is what sets the 3DS apart from all other consoles and SSF43D looks great. You can clearly see depth to each stage and Capcom has introduced an over-the-shoulder view, which shows even more depth but essentially it's just a gimmick and after two rounds I reverted to the traditional view.

Graphically it's excellent and perhaps the best looking game from the batch of launch games, but its not quite on par with its console versions running on a decent sized 1080p screen. Although most of the details and animations of the characters have made it onto the 3DS, the background animations are absent. It makes playing the game like you're in a world where everyone is on pause except the two fighters - it's not a big deal though, and perhaps a small price to pay.

The gameplay is all here so if you love the fighting mechanics of StreetFighter, you're in for a treat. But if you are a purist, the type which enters StreetFighting competitions and when you hear the word God, think about Japan's Daigo (known as the best StreetFighter in history) rather than a man with a white beard, then you will be disappointed. This is because SSF43D has been slightly modified for the Nintendo 3DS hardware.

StreetFighter is famously known for its six button mechanics, three punches and three kicks, just like Tekken has four buttons, a button per limb. The 3DS version has enough buttons for three buttons and three kicks but it also has a touch screen. The touch screen can be divided into four buttons which can be a button itself such as a punch or a kick, but it can also be turned into a special move, super move, or ultra move. You do not have to use this touch screen function of course, but it's there for anyone who wants to use it and I think many people do.

I've played console versions of StreetFighter since the Super Nintendo and played hundreds, if not thousands, of matches and I have never seen so many Super and Ultra moves being used. The touch screen one button combo is simply too attractive to ignore and when you're in a corner and about to be beaten you cannot help but use the touch screen and pull of an Ultra move to turn the tide.
This does not bother me one bit because although it's easier for me, it is not necessarily an advantage since my opponents have the touch screen too. But what changes is the way you play the game. You'll think more about strategy rather than the inputting of combos or special moves. You can be more confident that when Bison zooms across the screen with psycho power you will counter it with a dragon punch rather than either fumbling to punch or block. The touch screen simply makes the game much more accessible and fun to play.

But there is a caveat during online play... characters such as Guile, Chun Li, Vega and Bison, for example, really benefit because they no longer need to charge by using the touch screen. This does make the game a little less balanced but not to any extent to ruin the experience.

Online play is fairly well implemented and battling a stranger online is easy. You can also set up matches to match your skill or play with a friend on your contact list. It’s all fine, but there is a tendency for some players to flip their WIFI switch off towards the end of a match when they are losing. This happens more than I expected, and in such a case no one wins or loses any points; Capcom perhaps should have awarded whoever was winning the points. On the whole, however, it’s an excellent port and well worth the money.

*Reviewed on 3DS

Thursday, June 09, 2011

Wii U - Is Portability The Future?

Nintendo is set to release the successor to its hugely successful Wii console in 2012. It will reportedly be full HD and be backwards compatible with Nintendo Wii and GameCube titles.

If that’s not enough to tickle your gaming taste buds, then it’s because I missed out the best bit: the Wii U will also have a HD touch screen controller in the shape of a tablet.

Those words again: a HD touch screen controller in the shape of a tablet.

In a move that is set to revolutionise the gaming industry, Nintendo will make the controller a mini-console in itself by including a rechargeable battery pack and a camera for interactivity. It will measure 6.8” across, making it as portable and accessible as the game-changing tablets that are currently dominating the market.

The question that immediately springs to mind is, ‘will this be the future of the gaming industry?’ Well, if the not-too-distant past is anything to go by, then the answer is surely a categorical yes. Microsoft, in effect, copied and developed the motion sensor technology of the first Wii with the hands-free Kinect for the Xbox 360. Sony soon followed suit, but bafflingly kept the controller, with the PlayStation Move for the PlayStation 3.

So, if the Wii U – or Project CafĂ© – is anything near the hit that it promises to be, then Microsoft and Sony would be daft not to try to go one better.

The future is looking decidedly portable, even if Nintendo falls flat on its backside with the Wii 2, since everybody else will then be presented with the perfect opportunity to outclass them with a world-beater of their own.

Sony is reportedly already working on a successor to the PlayStation Portable, which will have a 5” screen and will be released later this year, but the beauty of the Wii’s successor is that it will be two consoles in one.

The controller will add another dimension to in-home console gaming – a bit like having the extra screen on the Nintendo 3DS – whilst doubling up as a gaming machine all on its own. Users will essentially get the 3DS and the iPad in one, but it will be altogether more powerful.

It is, of course, only a matter of time until the hand-held consoles that speed up long, tedious journeys for so many people become just as, if not more, powerful as the HD in-home consoles that lamentably speed up our short-lived weekends off work.

This time next year, you could be walking around with a PlayStation 3 in your pocket and a Nintendo Wii in your workbag.

*This article was submitted to Megabits on behalf of

Tuesday, June 07, 2011

Review: Brink

Set in the not too distant future, Brink takes us to a vast utopian city known as The Ark, a floating man-made island built to show we can all live sustainably. Sadly, it was only a matter of time before this perfect land was tainted by corruption and crime, violence and vindication. The result was a burgeoning population that faced civil war, with two rival factions fighting for supremacy. You get to play as the “Resistance" or "Security" forces as they strive to gain the upper hand and gain control of the island.

Brink has been on Megabits' wishlist for some time and we were frankly quite excited by the prospect of this new IP. So it came as some surprise that its launch was greeted with a mixture of indifference and criticism. Sure, it was yet another first person shooter but this one claimed to boast some of the most advanced customization options ever seen, great sounding co-operative play and an inventive plot... and it looked pretty nice aesthetically too.

Sure, it does contain all of these elements but after a thorough playthrough, you can't help but feel like this is a bit of a missed opportunity by Bethesda and Splash Damage.

Both looks and gameplay-wise, it’s more than a little reminiscent of Team Fortress 2, with a hint of Borderlands thrown in for good measure - cartoony, cel-shaded, bold and brightly-coloured. And that's certainly a good thing, don't get us wrong. But perhaps it could look a little sharper and be a little prettier in places.

Nevertheless, it's the unique character models that steal the show, and the multitude of customisation options meaning there are literally millions of variations - everything from tattoos and facial hair to build, skin colouring and clothing. Even more clobber can be unlocked as you progress thanks to the XP you accrue along the way. Chances are you'll spend just as much time making your character your own as you will actually playing the game.
There are plenty of new abilities and upgrades to earn, as well as numerous guns to choose from - although there appears to be little difference between them, apart from the appearance and size of the clip. Enemies can take a fair bit of punishment no matter how many bullets you unload or which weapon you use too, which takes some getting used to and can prove a little frustrating.

Once your protagonist is suited and booted, you can opt for online play or the campaign - which are both fairly similar at the end of the day. Missions and maps can be played in pretty much any order, your allegiance to either side can be swapped midgame, along with your class - be it a soldier armed to the teeth or a medic patching up those caught in the crossfire. What this basically means is that after only a short period of play, you've actually seen all there is to see except for some of the unlockable abilities. A shame, as it detracts a little from the game's longevity. Nonetheless, the drop in/drop out element is cool with up to seven friends able to jump in to the game while you’re playing to offer some much needed support.

It’s a steep learning curve too and you’re dropped in the deep end from the start, with little explanation about what you’ve got to do or how to go about it. Anyone with any FPS experience though, will soon get to grips with it and quickly get into the game. Sub missions can be selected while playing, which adds a bit of variety and tension to the proceedings.
Clearly, this is a game with a strong focus on online play and is best attempted with a few friends. This is largely due to the stupidity of the AI bots who fill the vacant player slots, and who display ineptitude when having to carry out the simplest of tasks. As a result, the AI is sometimes more of a hindrance than a help. Chuck a few friends into the equation, however, and tactics can be employed and much fun can be had. During our gametime, we noticed no lag and the whole experience of matchmaking and so on was seamless.

Each mission is punctuated by a brief intro video putting across the plight of your chosen side. After that though there's little mention of the overall plot that holds the entire game together. Still, the cut scenes are lovely looking and capture the essence of the rival sides.

Besides the character customisation, the most innovative aspect of the game is the inclusion of the rather unique SMART system – aka Smooth Movement Across Random Terrain - that uses a context-sensitive button press to send your character seamlessly skipping over obstacles, climbing onto ledges and generally bounding about the place with aplomb. It’s parkour made simple, and is actually pretty effective - and would be a welcome addition to future titles. It certainly takes some of the complexity out of a new game as you don't have to fathom a load of button presses.

Overall, we really liked Brink - but it kind of falls a little short of our high expectations. Initially, you'll have no idea what's going on or how best to play, but when it all falls into place it proves to be great fun. Give it a few weeks and some solid play, however, and you'll probably get distracted and turn to something else for your FPS action. The concept is solid, the team play can be great fun and the controls and customisation deserve praise... other than that, it's a bit of a run of the mill shooter with some questionable AI and limited replayability. We'd recommend a rental.

*Reviewed on PS3

Monday, June 06, 2011

COMPETITION: Win E3 goodies with Raptr!

To mark the launch of its new social news site, Raptr has announced a "Summer of Raptr" promotion, which will give users the opportunity to win more than $25,000 of gaming goodies and gadgets!

Our friends over at Raptr have put plenty of prizes up for grabs, including the grand prize of a copy of each of the 20 most talked about games from this year's E3 event (which kicks off today) and three - yes, three - consoles!

Also on offer is a custom built gaming Desktop PC, upcoming game releases and the latest hardware such as the 3DS, NGP, Alienware PC, Astro Gaming headsets, Logitech and Gunnar shades...

All you have to do is log into your Raptr account and “follow” the eligible topics for a chance to win. New topics will be posted every week from June 2-August 31. Every topic you follow is another chance to win one of the prizes.

For more details, take a trip to the Summer of Raptr event page after the jump.

Megabits of Gaming was approached to become an official launch partner for Raptr’s new initiative – so visit the site, search for us and click Follow to get the latest news, views and commentary!

We need you, our avid readers, to take a trip to Raptr and submit your favourite Megabits stories so others out there can enjoy us too!

Just head to Raptr, submit the link and make sure you tag it with “Megabits of Gaming". You can also follow us on our very own page (after the jump).

Five reasons I'm dreading Modern Warfare 3

1. The deluge of hype and ‘news’ prior to release

As time tentatively ticks towards its release and the MW3 juggernaut gathers pace, websites and news feeds seem to offer little besides 24 hour Call of Duty coverage. We’re not talking drips and drabs here either. No. This is remorseless “grenades-from-Heart-of-the-Reich-on-veteran” style super-spamming. Campaign plot details and multiplayer necessities are forgivable, but recycled HD screenshot galleries comparing and contrasting weapon recoil? Thanks, but no thanks.

No franchise does hype quite like Activision’s behemoth, and there’s no shortage of fanatics to lap it up and churn it back out. I’m well aware that I’m going to sound like a gaming snob here, but what the hell... My theory is that there are gamers, and then there are COD players. All the hardcore COD players I know are far from dedicated gamers and all the dedicated gamers I know only dabble in Call of Duty sporadically between other titles.

My resentment towards the COD crowd is probably just a by-product of my general cynicism as a person, but still; sometimes I want to scream “there’s more to videogames than Call of Duty!” angrily in their collective ear. However, I fear it would be drowned out by a hail of AC-130 gunfire and teeth-clenching, rage filled outbursts.

The point is this: it seems that when a new COD rolls into town that it automatically renders everything else redundant. The hype develops into an all consuming war machine; advancing, gaining territory, crushing everything. Activision rubs its hands. The fan base consumes and grows, and suddenly “There’s nothing more to videogames than Call of Duty!”.

2. The sad fact that I’ll still spend £44.99 on it (possibly shortly after 12AM on a freezing November night)

Yes, I know, I’m contradicting myself, but I can’t help it. I’m a feeble, weak person. As much as my dislike for Call of Duty grows year on year, it’s still inevitable that I’ll buy each incarnation. I went to the midnight release of MW2 (*mood - fairly indifferent towards the franchise), the following year in a bitterly cold North London I trudged to Black Ops’ early morning opening (*mood - starting to really resent the franchise). A midnight trek to pick up MW3? (*predicted mood based on current high resentment level - seething hatred towards the franchise). Hmmm, as of yet I’m undecided, but one way or another it’ll have marched headlong into my collection within one week of release. Guaranteed.

And yes, I know I don’t have to. No one’s holding me down, duct taping my hands to the controller and forcing me to play. After all I’m not a COD player right? I love playing low key, cult releases and acting like I’m all hardcore and knowledgeable of niche markets, but truth be told, I’m also a sucker for the occasional Triple-A blockbuster. And let’s face facts, they don’t come much more Triple-A blockbuster, shiny lights, bells, whistles and all the trimmings as Modern Warfare 3.

We all know it won’t be a bad game either. A decent 7-8 hour campaign full of “cinematic action sequences” (if a single review of the game concludes without mentioning that phrase I’ll eat my own hat collection), gruff, macho characters and more bullets than you could shake an M21 EBR at. But it will be more of the same. The same but with an increased amount of “cinematic action sequences”.

And I’ll be sitting there, my brain slowly leaking out of my ear as my index finger spasmodically hammers the right trigger - a true Call of Duty automaton. I will have become what I fear the most! I just couldn’t help myself…

And then? Well then there’s the accursed multiplayer.

3. That within half an hour of playing online, the crushing realisation will dawn on me that I’m utterly useless at it

I never wanted to be a COD player. I’m a GAMER first and foremost I tell you! But you know, a little dabble in online combat wouldn’t hurt, right?

I’m actually pretty good at the single player campaigns. I’ve completed Modern Warfare, MW2 and Black Ops on the hardest difficulty which isn’t a bad effort (my World at War march to glory was predictably halted by “grenades-from-Heart-of-the-Reich-on-veteran“), but competitive play is a different kettle of fish. I’m starting to think that this is where my deep seeded problem with the series stemmed from; the fact that I wilt pathetically when challenged by human opposition. Hence, I’ve turned against its player base (99.99% of which are infinitely better than me) and therefore Call of Duty as a whole. Perhaps I should visit a psychiatrist…

It would be perfectly rational of you now to ask “but if you dislike this player base so much: A) why even get involved in the first place, and B) If you criticise them from your high horse, why allow it to irritate you when they beat you at their own game?"

These are both valid questions and can be responded to with one simple answer: I don’t like losing. What gamer does though? The vast majority of videogames are governed by success or fail states; the overarching goal being to succeed - to win. Losing equals failing and no-one wants to consider themselves a failure, especially when you’re up against openly mocking human foes. So that answers question B, but what about A? If you don’t want to be comprehensively beaten, don’t put yourself in the position to be in the first place. Again, it essentially boils down to the fact that I don’t want to consider myself a 'failure'. By being ceremoniously humbled annually by the online COD community, it only validates that label further.

“This year,” I vow to myself, “I will show them what I’m capable of. I will demonstrate that I can play many other games except Call of Duty, and I can beat those who play it religiously. I will do it for the greater good of videogames.”

And so, 30 minutes later my yearly epic fail rolls around once more and my bitterness becomes, well, err… bitterer. If at first you don’t succeed, get shot, shot and shot again…

4. That I’ll trade it in sooner or later for a quarter of the price I paid for it

I’m not clamouring for sympathy here, trust me. It’s all my fault and I know it. That said, we all hate to have to resort to the dreaded trade-in, but when the purse strings are tight and we need the latest releases in our lives, sometimes getting mugged off by a high street chain is the only way to keep up to date. Black Ops suffered such a fate.

I didn’t necessarily want to trade it in, but it was relatively new and I figured that I could get slightly more than a stained, crumpled five pound note for it which is the typical return. I had around five or six relatively new games, Black Ops included, and had to weigh up the pros and cons of each.

Which did I enjoy the most? How much replay value would each present? How original and memorable was each experience? For me, Black Ops (being a standard COD affair) just couldn’t compete with the likes of Halo Reach or AC Brotherhood and had to go. So the main point here may be that I’m too poor to afford all these shiny new games that I feel that I need to buy, and therefore shouldn’t complain anyway. But you know what it’s like, right?

I felt like I had to get the new Call of Duty. And, to scrape some funds together to put towards Dead Space 2 and Bulletstorm, I subsequently had to trade it in - monetary loss of over 50% included. I can easily envisage the same scenario occurring with Modern Warfare 3.

I’ll have queued up in the middle of the night (maybe), spent my £45, beaten the campaign, got humiliated online and will trudge despondently along to Gamestation or CEX Exchange in the near future to hand it over. As I said earlier, this is entirely of my own doing. I know it’s ridiculous and I seem to never learn from the previous year. I tell myself in vain that I’ll change, but who am I kidding?

I’ll get swept away in the tidal wave of hype and find myself washed up in my local games shop with a copy of Modern Warfare 3 in my hand. Two months later I’ll be doing exactly the same thing - minus the tidal wave. Except this time, the game will be going back over the counter the other way, the cash transaction will be considerably less, and I’ll shuffle out as they slap a large £40 sticker on my pre-owned copy and sling it back on the shelf. Fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me.

5. In 2012 it will happen all over again…or will it?

Right, this foolishness ends with Modern Warfare 3. I’ll buy Modern Warfare 3 and that’s it. No more I tell you! 2012 will herald a new me. I’ll be a changed man. Call of Duty I’m done with you and your damn “20 million a day" player base! Our tempestuous relationship has finally come to an end…

Wait, what’s this? Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare is in the works? Advanced Warfare you say. Futuristic COD, as in, COD set in the future. Hmmm, sounds intriguing. Maybe if I just briefly check the Activision website…

GOD NO - It’s happening AGAIN…!

Saturday, June 04, 2011

Growing up in LA: have games come of age?

By now, the vast majority of us have at least dabbled in Rockstar’s latest addition to their stellar roster, almost exclusively comprised of open world games. We’d already embarked on epic ascendancies up the criminal ladder of America. We’d adorned our stetsons, saddled up, and rode off into the sunset. But no matter how urban or rural our surroundings, we went about our business with a decidedly uncomfortable trigger finger. So itchy in fact, that the spiralling body-count left in our wake was more comparable to mass genocide than your run-of-the-mill case of ‘survival of the fittest’.

Essentially, both Belic and Marston were typical antiheroes. Although their moral compasses were undoubtedly askew, deep down, they were supposedly acting in the interest of the greater good. Albeit, by shooting first and asking questions later (an ingrained mentality in the world of the overtly violent videogame protagonist). LA Noire’s Cole Phelps concerns himself with the reversal of that mantra. Make no mistake, ex-marine Phelps can still spray bullets with the best of them if need be, but asking questions certainly takes precedence over sharp shooting.

He’s straight laced (though perhaps not so in the marital sense) and law abiding - The All Round Good Guy. Rather than becoming embroiled in the seedy world of corruption and criminality, his morality governs his outlook and his actions. He only kills if threatened and does so solely in the wider interest of a better society. The same could not be said of Phelps’ Rockstar stable mates, but, as almost every LA Noire review we’ve read has swiftly pointed out, this is not Grand Theft Auto.

Exactly what LA Noire is then has bought about a degree of speculation. Some have drawn parallels with old point-and-click adventure games, others with the methodical pacing of titles like Heavy Rain and Deadly Premonition. However, although certain similarities can be noted and comparisons made between LA Noire and other games, this dark 1940’s crime-thriller is certainly unique. Where point-and-click adventures were often heavily laced with a dose of humour and fantasy or Deadly Premonition wallowed in it’s own obscurity, LA Noire’s adult themes and macabre undertones offer the player something we rarely see in videogames - maturity.

A common criticism that has been levelled at the game is that there isn’t an abundance of action. Sure, there’s intermittent shoot-outs and car chases, but the emphasis is very much on hunting for clues, interrogating suspects and meandering from location to location. This is at the heart of LA Noire, with sporadic gunplay or foot-to-the-floor pursuits most certainly playing second fiddle. It’s a game that makes no apologies for its non-combatant approach; offering an action-skip option if Phelps dies more than a couple of times in a given fire-fight, with street crimes being entirely optional and avoidable all together. The combat system now feels fairly tried and tested to say the least, but in a game that regards it merely as a means of tying the real content - the cases - together, a cutting edge mechanic simply isn‘t needed. LA Noire’s refusal to swagger along the Hollywood blockbuster route, and instead, lurk down the shadowy thriller path is a testament to its maturity as a game and to the source of its inspiration.

GTA's Liberty City is a lovingly created replication of modern day New York, while the sparsely-populated western frontier of RDR offered a licence for creativity. In LA Noire, however, we get an authentic historical representation that captures not only the look, but the mood and feel of the era. In Liberty City’s case, the source material is close to home and still reasonably easy to reference. Not to detract from the achievement of its creation, but in terms of re-imagining modern American culture and that from six-and-a-half decades ago, the latter truly embodies the painstaking amount of research and work which must have been conducted.

From the detailed street layout (so we hear that there may be some inaccuracies here and there but we’ll give the devs the benefit of the doubt) to the iconic vehicles, landmarks and songs of the time, LA Noire is as close as you can come in any medium to actually living and breathing US 1940’s culture. This dedication to authenticity is indicative of the extent of games have grown since their humble beginnings; from crude representations of fantastical space battles to the meticulous rebuilding of iconic cultural periods.

Of course, one of the main talking points regarding LA Noire is the motion capture technology it employs. This is where we can talk about its maturity in a literal sense. LA Noire already approaches its subject matter with careful consideration and sheds the typical gung-ho attitude of many other videogames, but its most groundbreaking feature can be seen at face value (seriously - no pun intended). Faces have always been an area where videogames have never quite got it right. With bodily motion capture we’ve been given realistic representations of gesture and limb movement for quite some time now. But faces? Well, the old uncanny valley has been more like a gaping canyon until now, with unconvincing expressions and questionable displays of ‘emotion‘ from our characters.

At first it’s rather disconcerting. We’ve become so used to robotic, featureless facial animations that anything other than the established norm feels almost worrying in its lifelikeness. Admittedly many of the captured expressions are over exaggerated - especially during the early cases - with lies literally plastered all over a conniving criminal’s face. But that’s beside the point. The level of detail here is unlike anything we’ve ever seen before, and how MotionScan recognizes the finest and subtlest nuances in movement sets the benchmark for future releases. LA Noire’s technical advancements tell just as much of a story as the maturity of its content.

However, it’s is far from the perfect game, and the point of this piece is not to review it (find that here) but to take a look at it in a wider context. There are plenty of negatives: the arguably repetitive gameplay, the lack of interaction with the city around you etc... but for every fault we can highlight, there’s an abundance positives.

These reflect not only how the approach to the development and experience of videogames has changed, but how the medium itself has come of age. Hopefully, given time, titles like LA Noire will alter the perception of games from those who reject their value as a part of modern mainstream culture. Cole Phelps’ escapade through the seedy world of 1940s LA takes us back to the past, and simultaneously shows us what the present and future of games is capable of.