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.

Friday, August 31, 2012

Megabits of News: Weekly Roundup (w/e 31 Aug)

Megabits of Gaming trawls the web for the tastiest morsels of news, so you don't have to... Don't forget to follow us on Facebook and subscribe to Megabits' newsfeed to receive all our latest articles.

Get your move on! 
Sony’s answer to Nintendo’s Wii Sports franchise, Sports Champions 2, will be launched on 31 October. The game, which includes skiing, boxing and golf, will hopefully allow Playstation 3 owners to finally use their Move controllers on a decent game.

Who will play Solid Snake? 
Solid Snake will have his work cut out to stay out of sight on the big screen, after it was announced Metal Gear Solid will become a movie. Columbia Pictures will be bringing the film to cinema and gaming lovers alike. See Joystiq for more details.

Sisters are skating it for themselves 
EA Sports latest ice hockey title, NHL 13, will include female athletes… well, at least two female athletes - Olympic hockey stars Angela Ruggiero and Hayley Wickenheiser. In fact, this will be the first time ever that female athletes will be added as playable characters in a professional sports video game, says CVG.

Team Kojima reveals new Metal Gear Solid game 
More Metal Gear Sold news as Team Kojima announced a new title in the series. Metal Gear Sold: Ground Zeroes – is reported to offer open world gameplay action and real-time cut-scenes. As Konami has imposed certain restrictions on reporting on the game, not much is yet known. One thing is for sure. IT WILL BE AWESOME!

Guild Wars 2 sales surpass 1m mark pre launch
MCV says massively multiplayer online game Guild Wars 2, out now on PC, sold over 1m copies before its launch. Developers ArenaNet said the enthusiasm from fans was “truly amazing”.

Bits and Bytes: The cake is NOT a lie

What better way for a gamer to celebrate their birthday than to combine two great loves: your favourite console and cake!?! Megabits stumbled upon this awesome site, Pink Cake Box, which custom makes creations that seem almost too good to eat. Check some of these photos out... and take a look at the video below for the ultimate PS3 cake!

Atari 2600 video game console cake with joysticks

Video Game System 360 Grooms  Cake

Nintendo Grooms Cake

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Top Ten Video Game "Realities" (part two)

Missed Part One??? Then click here.

5) Power-ups (Mario, Sonic)
Whether it’s Mario’s mushrooms or Sonics super sneakers, most games make use of one powerup or another, usually hidden or difficult to find. In real life, however, the closest we can get to a power-up is a cup of strong coffee, and even then that only last from 7-11am. Granted, some other substances could be called power-ups, but there’s a cost with those, which brings me onto my next point...

4) Lack of consequences (GTA, Postal)
If GTA were anything like real life, I’d be a multi-lifer locked up for the shameless murder of hundreds of innocent civilians, mass property damage, thievery, extortion, prostitution, blackmail... You name it. Thankfully, in the game world if I do anything like that I get put back on the streets, down a few quid, and immediately gun down the nearest old lady to steal her mobility scooter.
Real life, however, is a little less blasé about genocide.

3) Survivability (Battlefield, COD)
“Is this guy bulletproof?!” This is one of my stock exclamations when some guy online ignores the two shotgun rounds I’ve just pumped into his brain. And yes, he basically is. From Zelda to COD, games have perpetrated the myth that you can take a sword blow to the neck, or fifteen rounds from an assault rifle and keep on running. Reality tells a different tale. Get hit by a broadsword and you will suffer maiming. Don’t even get me started on how easy it is to survive a helicopter crash in Battlefield 3...

2) Quick save/Quick load
It would be nice, wouldn’t it, to be able to hit F8 before you make a life-altering decision, so that if it all goes to pot you can hit F9 and reappear before you split up with your partner/took that job/ate the dangerously out-of-date tuna sandwich/dabbled in voodoo. Sadly, unlike almost every game ever made, real life can’t quick-save and quick-load, so your mistakes will stay just that. Bummer. Shouldn’t of bought those shares in that Greek company.

1) Respawning
In real life, there are no do-overs. Dead is dead. No respawns, no spawn killing (thankfully!) and no chances to try again. In gaming, mortality is merely an inconvenience, in reality, it’s the be-all and end-all.

Honourable mentions:
Immense, incalculable knowledge about everything from guns to computer hacking
Scientists/soldiers (Gordon Freeman, Issac Clarke)
Magic (Any fantasy title)

Top Ten Video Game "Realities" (part one)

Naturally, the game world exists entirely separate from the real world, but if you’re anything like me, you’ve come out of a job interview and wanted to hit ‘quick load’ and try it again, or wondered why the massive bruise on your leg from that night you got pissed and fell into a bush hasn’t healed instantly.

Yes, it’s our Top Ten: Videogaming traits that would never work in real life.

10) Double jumping (Devil May Cry, Super Mario)
Dante, the half-demon, wisecracking hero of Devil May Cry, is a great example of how this videogaming staple would never work in real life. I can jump, certainly, despite being a white guy – but Dante can literally jump, land – on thin air – and power himself up again like a flying bloody squirrel. That’s just not feasible!

9) Fast travel (Skyrim, Fallout)
Anyone whose ever had to commute into central London, or endured one of the USA’s interminable train journeys (I once sat on a train going from New York to Vermont – it took eight hours!) has wanted to be able to fast-travel to their destination. Whether it be teleportation, or simply fast-forwarding time, fast-travel is one of gaming’s staples that would be very valuable – and time-saving - in real life.

8) Inventories (Half Life, RPGs/JRPGs)
I have pockets, game characters have inventories  - and most of them can hold the contents of a small cargo ship without leaving a bulge in the cut of their black trench-coats/hazard suits/backpacks/horses/robotic dogs. While Zone of the Enders tried to explain Jehuty’s massive storage capabilities through the use of a ‘vector trap’ - a literal pocket dimension – most games just overlook this impossibility. That said, it would certainly make doing the shopping easier...

7) Cheat codes (GTA)
Up, up, down, down, left, left, right, right, start. Oh look, I’ve given myself a million pounds, time to go buy that small Mediterranean island I’ve always wanted. And that nuclear bomb to blow it up with. Down, down, down, up, start. And an Aston Martin to drive myself to Heathrow in... If only.

6) Skill trees (Final Fantasy, Deus Ex)
This one does sort of exist in the real world – as the ‘skills matrix’ managers create when they’re looking at who to make redundant. That’s me speaking from experience... That said, gaming’s obsession with XP, upgrades, praxis kits and skill trees et al is something that simply doesn’t equate in reality. You either have a skill, or you don’t – and learning them is hard bloody work, nothing so simple as killing 30 undead zombie mutant vampire mushroom men and getting some XP for it. Cloud Strife had it so easy! Other than the amnesiac, murderous, clone, daddy-issues thing.

Friday, August 24, 2012

Review: New Super Mario Bros 2

Written by Xav Perez

Back in 2006, Nintendo released New Super Mario Bros (NSMB) for the Nintendo DS, it was the first original 2D Mario title since Super Mario World on the SNES - which is what fans hoped for but never got during the GameBoy Advance era. The game didn't exactly reach the dizzy heights of Super Mario Bros 3 or Super Mario World but was an enjoyable return to Mario's 2D roots. It went on to become a mega success, closing in on 30 million units sold worldwide - and this isn't even a hardware bundled title.

Its success led to New Super Mario Bros Wii  which basically took the original DS game, improved it with more interesting level design and threw in a 4-player co-op mode. The reception was generally positive and it also saw similar success. Another sequel was pretty much only a matter of time.

New Super Mario Bros 2 is the latest title in what now appears to be it's own sub series within the Mario franchise and while there isn't anything particularly wrong with it, the use of the word "New" in the title is a straight up lie by this point.

This is pretty much your textbook Mario game so as per usual the princess is kidnapped, you play as Mario running to the right of the screen while jumping on enemies and avoiding falling to your death until you reach the flag pole at the end. 

Along the way you'll have access to some familiar power ups to help Mario in his never-ending quest to save Princess Peach. Old favourites return such as Fire Mario that allows you to shoot fireballs and Raccoon Mario which lets you tail swipe enemies in addition to floating gently in mid air -or even fly if you manage to build up enough running speed. More recent additions seen in NSMB such as giant and tiny Mario also make a return though neither really play a big role. In fact I finished the game without ever encountering the giant Mario power up at all.

The big gimmick, so to speak, of New Super Mario Bros 2 is coins; these things are everywhere though maybe not as much as the box art would have you believe. The game now keeps track of your coin total and ideally, Nintendo would like you to keep playing until you collect one million coins as they've hidden away a little surprise for you. I'm not going to spoil the reward but to call it extremely disappointing is probably the nicest way I can put it.

Should you decide to take on the million coin challenge you'll sometimes spot gold rings that turn enemies into gold so when you defeat them you'll be rewarded with coins as opposed to points. Gold blocks appear when you hit a 10-coin block over ten times, grab it and Mario will have a gold block on his head that is constantly feeding him coins as you keep moving. My personal favourite is gold Mario. Just imagine fireball Mario but everything you shoot turns into gold coins.

Despite these power ups, the core game within New Super Mario Bros 2 feels too familiar and nothing really changes the game in any meaningful way. One could argue that if it ain't broke don't fix and that's exactly what New Super Mario Bros 2 does; unfortunately it sticks to the core formula a little too close right down to the visuals and sound.

The original New Super Mario Bros was a vibrant smooth colourful title, the Wii sequel retained the same look but looked downright embarrassing next to Donkey Kong Country Returns and Kirby's Epic Yarn. The return to a handheld system means visually it's acceptable but it's not pushing the 3DS in any way and features the worst use of 3D I've ever seen.

That may have sounded a little harsh but the 3D mode in New Super Mario Bros 2 consists of simply bluring the hell out of the background objects whilst slightly separating it from the foreground. The whole thing is a complete waste and it's odd seeing Nintendo straight up ignore one of the 3DS's selling points even though last year's Super Mario 3D Land did such a great job showcasing it.

Nintendo could have easily borrowed the jumping in-between foreground and backgrounds from Donkey Kong Country Returns to make use of the 3D here but instead settled for a tub of Vaseline on your screen. Super Mario 3D Land is the reason your 3D slider goes up, New Super Mario Bros 2 is the reason why it also thankfully slides too down too.

In terms of soundtrack, it's basically what you'd expect - generally happy musical melodies that might as well be called a remix of the original NSMB soundtrack.

While this review might seem a little negative so far there is plenty to enjoy in New Super Mario Bros 2. Yes, it sticks a little too closely to what we've already seen but it's not a bad game by any means. It's still one of the better platformers money can buy and a very fun experience even if your first playthrough will clock in at just over four hours with little challenge.

Level design is well done and there are plenty of secrets hidden within them should you decide to explore a little. Mario controls fantastically thanks the 3DS circle pad and unlike other platformers on the market this game feels just right which is very important for a genre that is very focused on mechanics. Mario has a sense of weight to him and even if you're new to the series you'll be judging jumps like second nature in no time. Failing in New Super Mario Bros 2 is purely the fault of the player not the game.

As mentioned before the game can be completed in around four hours for most players but there are incentives to keep playing long after the initial playthrough. For starters there are an extra two worlds that can be unlocked if you manage to find an alternative exit to the world before it.

Coin Rush mode is also on offer and tasks you with finishing three random levels from a world under a strict time limit but rewards you kindly should you manage to get to the end without dying. This mode is also Street Pass compatible so you're able to challenge the scores that other players set, beat these and you'll get all the coins they collected on their run in addition to what you collected making that one million coin challenge a tad easier. Remember, the reward for doing so is awful... it's seriously not worth it.

The three giant gold coins scattered and sometimes hidden in every level are likely to be what appeals to most players. A level never truly feels complete until you've collected all three so if anything to going to keep you coming back, it's likely this. 

Co-op mode is rubbish and almost not worth mentioning, with a wonky frame rate and camera that stays focused on Mario at all times even though both players have their own screen. Oh and players still bounce off each other for some reason but at least it's less annoying with two players than the four in New Super Mario Bros Wii.

New Super Mario Bros 2 is a somewhat odd title to judge because despite not even attempting to do anything new, it's still a good game overall. It was great to see Mario return to his 2D roots in 2006 and again in 2009 but by 2012 it's just looking uninspired. It's not so much that 2D Mario is getting old, rather it's in desperate need of some fresh ideas and concepts to to compliment the classic gameplay.

Some of the best games in the Mario series are the ones that embrace the past yet have plenty of their own original ideas that help them stand out. The Super Mario Galaxy titles did this perfectly by tipping their hat to what came before, while making their own mark in the series.

What makes New Super Mario Bros 2 really disappointing is that we've already had the superior Mario game a mere 9 months ago and it's called Super Mario 3D Land. 

If you're a long time Mario fan then New Super Mario Bros 2 isn't going to impress but it's worth noting that to younger players who maybe have not played every game in the series this could very well be their "Super Mario Bros 3" experience. To everyone else, however, New Super Mario Bros 2 is only worth considering after you've finished Super Mario 3D Land. 

Reviewed on 3DS

Bits and Bytes: Rare game selling for $50,000

In these tough economic times, us gamers have to carefully weigh up what we spend our hard-earned money on. At time of writing this, it seems that 101 people don't seem to share our concerns...

Check out this item for sale on ebay - a rare copy of Final Fantasy II on the NES with an asking price of $50,000!!! As it stands, there are 101 offers for the little lump of plastic. According to this article on the Guardian online, this could become one of the most expensive game purchases ever.

Remind me never to moan about the cost of FIFA or Modern Warfare again!

Megabits of News: Weekly Roundup (w/e 23 Aug)

Megabits of Gaming trawls the web for the tastiest morsels of news, so you don't have to... Don't forget to follow us on Facebook and subscribe to Megabits' newsfeed to receive all our latest articles.

European rock training available next month 
VG24/7 says Rocksmith, which helps gamers learn how to play the guitar and bass for real, will be released in European stores on the PS3 and Xbox 360 on 27 September, and on the PC on 18 October. Rocksmith was launched in the US last October, meaning budding rock stars across the pond have a head start

Price of Kinect drops in the US 
The price of the Xbox 360’s Kinect has dropped $40 to $109.99 in the US, says Joystiq. The price also dropped, but by an unspecified price, in Latin America and in Asia Pacific regions, while lucky Australian and New Zealand gamers will see costs fall in October. Unfortunately, for anyone in Europe, the Middle East, Africa, or Japan, no price change has been hinted.

Pay as you go Sky now available on Xbox 360 
The game console is now king of home entertainment. A Sky Now TV app has launched on Xbox 360, allowing gamers who want a rest from button bashing to watch a new pay as you go service offering Sky Movies on demand. It is understood that Sky Sports will soon follow – all you need now is a comfy sofa. See CVG for more.

Sony to close its Liverpool studio after 28 years 
Sony Liverpool, which was responsible for classics such as Wipeout and Destruction Derby, has been closed, following a review of operations by SCE Worldwide Studios. CVG says staff at Liverpool Studio are expected to be relocated other parts of the business. Sony Liverpool formed in 1984 as Psygnosis, before it was bought by the Japanese company in 1993. See our comment for more.

Konami’s PES 2013 will hold 150 licenses  
MCV says Konami is trying to reign in on FIFA dominance, after capturing 150 licenses for PES 2013. The licenses include the entire Spanish league, every team in Italy’s Serie A, and the UEFA Champions League, as well as a number of other European club teams. However, it has missed out on most teams in the Premier League. Let’s hope the gameplay makes up for the loss.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

The untimely demise of Psygnosis

What on earth is going on in the videogaming industry? First Popcap starts cutting staff, then THQ, then OnLive gets snapped up after filing for bankruptcy – and then then there are rumours that EA might even be up for sale.

What’s gone wrong? The fact that EA – one of the world’s biggest videogame publishers – may be quietly looking for a buyer is a very worrying development. That company’s got Mass Effect, FIFA and SimCity under its belt – as well as Battlefield 3 – so what’s wrong with this picture? 

While some developers have blamed the used games industry, or online piracy, nobody seems to be able to offer a definitive answer – and if the management does not get their acts together, this could be a very slippery slope. Plus, while my experience as a top-level executive is (admittedly) limited, one has to question how a company with a massive stable of titles like EA could be in trouble... 

So, in the midst of this financial hurricane, you could be forgiven for missing that Sony Liverpool – the studio once known as Psygnosis, the makers of (most famously) WipeOut – has been shut down.

It would be easy to ignore this little bit of news, if it wasn’t Psygnosis – the company which coloured my (and many other 20-something’s) adolescent years with a raft of great titles. Remember G-Police, Colony Wars and WipeOut? How about Rollcage? Or Overboard – hell, they even did Lemmings. Lemmings! Everyone’s played Lemmings.

In fact, back in my formative years (the 90s) about 1/3 of the Playstation games I owned had Psygnosis’ little ‘owl’ symbol on the box, and they were a huge influence on the next decade’s games – so for such a stalwart development studio to fall by the wayside is a little galling.

T’was always the case, of course – the smaller studios attempt to eke out a little profit for themselves, only to find the massive corporate juggernaut of Sony, EA or Microshaft step in, offer the CEO an obscene amount of money to the management, and get taken over – then promptly get asset-stripped and abandoned when things get tough.
Monopolies don’t work – look at GAME’s nightmare earlier this year – and now the big developers and publishers could be playing the price for such perfidy. It’s just a shame that the likes of Psygnosis have to take the fall.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Megabits of News: Weekly Roundup (w/e 17 Aug)

Megabits of Gaming trawls the web for the tastiest morsels of news, so you don't have to... Don't forget to follow us on Facebook and subscribe to Megabits' newsfeed to receive all our latest articles.

Vergil returns in new Devil May Cry 
Capcom’s newest hack and slash beat 'em up title DmC: Devil May Cry will see Dante’s brother Vergil return as a main character. VG24/7 says Vergil and Dante this time will be teaming up to save the world from a demon takeover. I just hope mankind knows how lucky it is.

Olympic gold medallists to feature in NBA 2K13 
Joystiq says basketball game NBA 2K13 will include the US team that won gold at the London 2012 Olympics and the “Dream Team” that achieved the same feat in Barcelona in 1992, which featured legends Michael Jordan, Magic Johnson and Charles Barkley. The game’s executive producer Jay-Z said it would give fans the chance to play as two of the best teams ever assembled in sporting history.

Castle Crashers to be released on PC 
Castle Crashers will be released on PC via Steam. Developed by The Behemoth, it will feature local and online multiplayer and Steam Cloud support. See CVG for more.

Minecraft’s sandbox-building see sales building
Sales of Minecraft on the PC have surpassed the seven-million mark, says CVG. The business developer of Mogang, which was behind the independent sandbox-building video game, announced the milestone in a tweet. Expect the number of sales to continue to climb.

EA putting itself on the market - reports
According to MCV, gaming giant EA is in the early stage of preparing to put itself up for sale. The New York Post has reported that discussions with private equity firms have begun.

Bits and Bytes: Mario as a First Person Shooter

Sick of the tired old side-scrolling Mario? Fancy something a little more modern? Perhaps something a little trendier? Then what about playing Mario as a First Person Shooter????

This awesome little video has already clocked up a staggering 17m views... Maybe Nintendo should take note - there would probably be plenty of people willing to buy a copy!

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Can Music Make or Break a Game?

Written by Debbie Lloyd

The importance of music in a video game is often overlooked. We all have our favourite tracks from our favourite games, but how does music really add to our gaming experience? With the exception of games like LIMBO, I believe it has a massive impact on how we experience each game world. 

The music of Tetris and Pacman is something that will remain with many gamers. Play these in a room full of people, and it’s guaranteed that most of them will know what these little midi files are from, and they will even be able to hum along to it. The music is part of the nostalgia for some gamers, part of the playing experience and each game may perhaps not have enjoyed as much fame as they did without these iconic sounds.

Video game music has become a lot more complex since the early days of arcade machines though. With composers like Nobuo Uematsu, famous for the Final Fantasy series, Koji Kondo, the genius behind The Legend of Zelda soundtracks, or Shoji Meguro, a more obscure composer famed with composing some unique music for the Persona franchise, video games are a land filled with magnificent composition. Of course the magic of video game music is not just limited to JRPGs. The Halo franchise boasts a fan base with a passion for the orchestral music contained within, and Metal Gear Solid fans sing praise to each instalments soundtrack. 

Even action games like Devil May Cry and Bayonetta have a certain something about their battle tracks that are designed to get you pumped up. I bet you never thought that a version of Fly Me To The Moon could get your adrenaline rushing in order for you to kick some angel butt, but it really works. In typical Devil May Cry style, the main battle music is written and performed by the lead vocalist to heavy rock band, Hyonogaja, and really gets you in a button bashing mood. Without these key songs would you really have had as much desire to pummel those enemies and finish off the game? Perhaps not.

Fallout 3 is a rare example where older songs are used for the soundtrack, and Galaxy News Radio is a pure stroke of genius that left me riveted with every song, no matter how often they were replayed. Fallout New Vegas featured a similar soundtrack, but for some reason it just didn’t hit the same chords for me. 

The true test of video game music though, is when you decide whether you want to listen to it outside of their game worlds. The music of Final Fantasy has its very own concert touring the world at the moment; Distant Worlds. The giant Halo series has even had a concert hosted in its honour, with fans flocking to listen to the live soundtrack and relive some of their favourite moments. If that doesn’t tell you the quality of what we are caressing our eardrums with, then I don’t know what will.

I can personally spend hours playing Persona 3 and not get bored of the battle music. I even listen to the soundtrack in my iTunes library when I start to get a bit of withdrawal. There are however some games that demand you mute them and create your own soundtrack. The music in Blue Dragon was one of these games. Every boss battle had the same annoying heavy rock track on an endless loop. There was no way I could sit through that, so I had to make my own amusement. I also did the same with World of Warcraft whenever I got stuck into a day-long session on the epic MMORPG because chirping birds does get a bit boring after a while.

MTV has dished out awards for the best video game soundtracks in the past, and of course the BAFTAs have recognized the medium of the game soundtrack in their annual video game awards. Music is just as important in games as it in film and television it would seem.

My point is without the music, gaming may not be what it is today. Without background ditties to hum along to and dramatic battle sounds, games might feel static and lifeless. Sure, some hit the mark where others fall short, but let us take a moment to appreciate what we so often forget is a vital cog in the gaming machine.

Riffing on World of Warcraft and MMORPGs

Written by StefanB

Its February 11th, 2005. Its a Friday. I took the day off. Nervously I'm pacing up and down in my study. Its 11am already and all I got was a text message from a friend, saying “OMG! I got it! Its installing right now! I'm so excited!”. I'm excited too. Excited waiting for my preordered World of Warcraft Collector's Edition to arrive.

In the end I had to wait until Saturday afternoon before I received it, and spent another day installing it (I had quite the slow internet connection back then). But after that... it was pure heaven! For the first 48 hours I didn't sleep at all. The brief breaks I took from the game were when I unfortunately had to visit the bathroom or pay the pizza delivery guy. World of Warcraft (henceforth called WoW) was the best game I've ever played (at least that’s what I thought at that moment) and I spent soo much time with it. I was so obsessed, I actually planned my day around it. I literally lived on fast food because I had no time to cook anymore.

Eventually I got pulled away from it about two months later by my work schedule, as I had to travel outside the country for half a year. When I returned my euphoria was gone and I reduced my playtime to about 1-2 hours a day. After about another year I realized, that something had changed: I wasn’t playing to explore the vast world and discover new things anymore; I wasn’t admiring the occasional (in a rudimentary way) beautiful vistas, reading the quest descriptions or doing any fun stuff anymore. I was working! I was min-maxing my stats by equipping the most hideous equipment, doing only the most rewarding quests, leaving the other ones aside. I wasn’t crafting funny stuff, but I was building an armor production industry to raise my crafting skill. At that point I decided I had to quit WoW. I got my fair share of fun and excitement out of it, but now it was just work. And work I had enough in my real life.

About half a year later the first add-on “Burning Crusade” was released. My friend was quite excited about it and so I thought I'd give it another try. We started from scratch with new characters and were following a quest guide until we reached the areas with the new add-on content. During that phase, WoW was more of a social game to me than an actual role-playing game. I was chatting with my friend for some hours every day, while I was blindly following his character from quest hub to quest hub with the use of the auto-follow option. When we reached the endgame, we found ourselves in a similar situation as half a year before: everybody was min-maxing, nobody had anymore fun. And because we were only casual players, with casual equipment, no one wanted us in their group. So it was dumbed down to daily-questing and reputation-farming.

And after half a year of playing the add-on I quit because of the same no-fun reasons I quit the main game before.When the second add-on, Wrath of the Lich King, was released we were halfhearted from the beginning. We anticipated the same motivation degression as before. But we still tried it out. After about a month of rather inconsistent play time we quit. 

During the Cataclysm we stopped by for about two weeks to see if anything had changed. It hadn't. So we quit again.

I think this shows quite well, how my interest in WoW diminished over the years. This degradation in interest is only natural and nothing unexpected. And although the WoW fanbase has diminished to a “meagre” 10-something million, its still one of the most popular online games for PC.

But I am honestly wondering, if Blizzard doesn’t shoot itself in its own foot with the release of the Pandaria add-on. When I first heard about it I was checking the calendar to see if it was an April's fool joke. As fun as the Pandaren Brewmaster was in the original Warcraft 3, I always found him misplaced. And to this point there never existed any lore in the Warcraft universe pointing to this race (at least not to my knowledge), and it seems Blizzard forces them into WoW just for the sake of producing another add-on.

Some of the features, such as the whole new pet stuff, sound fun, but overall its just more of the same. And I honestly don't think Blizzard will earn as much money with this add-on as they have spent developing it. I for sure won't go back to WoW again. Maybe one day when its free-to-play, but not on a monthly subscription fee.

So is this the reason then? Is it the subscription model that made WoW lose its followers? So many other subscription based MMOs have gone free-to-play in the past years, to keep their followers, there must be something to it. Well, yes and no. Lets take a look at why other games didn’t succeed with the subscription fee:

When WoW was released, it was a huge hit. And that’s because of three reasons:
  1. The genre was quite new (in fact I can only think of Everquest as another game of this genre in the western hemisphere);
  2. The game was developed by Blizzard (who by then had a flawless reputation for developing hit-titles) what lead to quite a hype; and
  3. The game design was done really well (and so allowed even beginners to easily get into it).

Every other western MMORPG that came after that, failed in all these three points:
  1. The genre was overflown with these games as everybody wanted to share Blizzards success;
  2. No matter how well renown the developing studio was, it's game was always compared to Blizzard's WoW as a copycat; and
  3. As other devolopers tried to copy the design, they in most cases either failed or were, once again, bashed for copying WoW.

Of course there are exceptions to this. But the majority of subscription based MMOs failed, such as Lord of the Rings Online, Warhammer Online or even Star Trek Online and Star Wars The Old Republic. And the reason is quite clear: why should a user (continuously) pay for something he/she has seen before?

So in the future, I think, the gaming industry (and by that also Blizzard with their WoW addons) has two options: either develop a subscription-based game that is sufficiently different from all games before or just make it a free-to-play title, as it is a lot easier for a player to pay once, get his/her 15-30 hours of joy out of the title and then put it back in the shelf.

But anyways, these are just my thoughts... Either Mists of Pandaria will prove me wrong or Guild Wars 2 will prove me right.

Monday, August 13, 2012

The Death of The Demo

Written by Debbie Lloyd

I come from the era of video gamers who received demo discs with their monthly magazines. These discs always contained something new and exciting, and occasionally a little gem you perhaps had never heard of. There was a certain element of excitement as you knew something new was coming in the next issue of PlayStation magazine, and you were just itching to get your hands on the free discs contained within.

I still have many of my PS1 demo discs stored away somewhere. Why? Because these demos were so amazing, that I would play them for hours on end until I could afford to buy the full game. I remember playing the demos for Command & Conquer, Spider and some brightly coloured trippy game with a bouncing rabbit in it. These were a small piece of gaming glory that would leave you salivating for more. Playing a demo was like buying a small piece of cake, taking a bite and then running back to the buy the rest of it to experience its full flavor.

Unfortunately, this golden age appears to be coming to an end. The last few times I have picked up a gaming magazine I have been left disappointed. Sure, it’s had a disc and a little cheat book with it, but the contents of the disc really are nothing special. Within this thin circular container are a few trailers, perhaps some gamer avatars, oh and a demo for a game that’s been out for months. I feel both sad and robbed of my cash at this point. The excitement of the latest demo disc is gone, and replaced with the sloppy seconds of a game that apparently needs more promotion. It’s like the demo disc has turned into a cutting room floor compilation, housing whatever content could be put together at the last minute.  

It’s not just the magazines that are failing to provide though. Even the Xbox Live Marketplace has considerably less frequent demo releases than it did before. There has also been a trend that has seen demos of games being released after the completed game has gone to store shelves. This feels like a very sneaky way for developers to boost sales and pique interest after release date, while frustrating those that bought the game blindly when it first came out.

It seems that only the most profitable games get a demo, while smaller games are left behind. Is no one making these little playable previews anymore? Do we really have to bury the demo and instead start a relationship with XBLA trials and just hope that each new release is going be mind-blowing? I for one am sick of paying £40 for a game I never got to play a preview of.

Duke Nukem and Deadly Premonition are just two examples that really could have done with allowing people to dip their toes into each world, and spare gamers a bit of cash. There are more than 300 downloadable demos available on the Xbox Marketplace, but this doesn’t really seem to be enough. Perhaps the world of gaming is too oversaturated with releases that creating a demo for every game would be nigh on impossible, but some form of attempt from the industry would be nice. Every film gets a trailer before it is released, so why is it that games don’t get demos anymore?

It feels like we have to rely on the opinions of website magazine previews in order to build our own judgment about new games. Gone are the days when we could do this for ourselves as a consumer.

Wednesday, August 08, 2012

Hardware: Gioteck EX-05 wired headset

In these straightened times, buying a gaming peripheral can be a big decision and a sizeable investment. But with a summer lull for big game releases, there's no reason what money you do have should be burning a hole in your pocket – especially when Gioteck’s EX-05 headset will only enhance your gaming experience. The multi platform version is available at a slight premium but means it’s usable with the Xbox 360, PS3 and PC, offering a perfect accompaniment for the serious gamer.

For those of us loving nothing more than a lengthy gaming session, the EX-05 headset looks the business and is available as a substantial 5-metre wired version (reviewed here) or with a 2.4GHz wireless transmitter – either way, giving you ample range for mid-game snack runs!

Inside the box lurks the headset, control box and two cables – one with RCA connectors and a USB, as well as another shorter lead that connects to the controller when using it with Xbox for voice chat. The instructions clearly outline how you can plug these RCA cables into your display but an additional – and inexpensive - Xbox HDMI AV adaptor is needed if you want to connect the headset direct to your console. It's much the same set up on PS3, while using the EX-05 with the PC only requires the USB to be plugged in. Painless and quick.

The control box features four main elements: Game Volume, Voice Volume, a PS3/Xbox toggle and a mute switch, linked to an indicator light that shows when it’s activated.

The build quality of the headphones is suitably sturdy, ensuring that these can withstand plenty of abuse. Although initially seeming slightly unwieldy compared with other slimmer headsets currently available, the height adjustable earcups encapsulate your ears perfectly and isolate all external noise to provide a very pleasant (albeit sweaty) experience. The cushioned ear cups will no doubt ensure that your eyes will ache long before your ears after a lengthy gaming session. It may look substantial but the headset is nice and lightweight; the mesh camo headband sports a metal frame and, despite its rigidity and lack of padding is surprisingly comfy.

The EX-05 also boasts 40mm speakers capable of producing good treble and bass. In fact, ramp the volume up on these bad boys and you’ll be blown away. Topping the unit off is a flexible noise isolating microphone boom that can be positioned according to individual preference and during our playtests, received very favourable reports from those on the other end of the conversation.They all commented on crystal clear speech and said it was a great improvement on the standard headset bundled with my 360.

The military styling will make you feel right at home as you unload your MK14 into your Modern Warfare buddies. Footsteps, gunshots and even the rustling of leaves are clearly audible with these babies on your head – and it certainly enhances your experience. But don’t think the headset is only suited to explosives and gunfire.. an extensive playthrough of FIFA 12 had us hearing crowd chants like never before. While the menu music was more vivid and rich than when we’d relied on our TV speakers, even subtle sounds like the ball striking the crossbar helped to immerse us in the game. We tried playing The Walking Dead, Dead Island and Left 4 Dead 2 and the groans, shuffles and screams were crystal clear through the EX-05s and really heightened the experience… so much so, you’ll be playing with the lights on!

We did find, however, that the game volume can easily overpower voice chat, which meant we had to get the balance just right if we wanted to talk to friends. The lack of any form of voice monitoring offered by some rival headsets means you’re unable to gauge how loud you’re speaking, which may prove an irritant to others in the room.

Besides these minor issues, we can’t rate these highly enough. The sound clarity and build quality are fantastic and, unlike many of its competitors, the Gioteck EX-05 is reasonably priced too and won’t break the bank. For pretty much the price of a new game (around £40 in the UK) this is a peripheral that will certainly augment your gameplay.

  • Breathable micro-fibre ear cups
  • Super lightweight headband
  • Military styling
  • Powered by USB
  • 40mm high quality stereo drivers
  • Flexible microphone arm
  • Noise isolating microphone
  • Ergonomic controls - voice and game sound control
For more details, visit the official website.

Tuesday, August 07, 2012

Riffing on the new Mass Effect 3 endings

After the controversy surrounding Bioware’s half-arsed attempt at ending the venerable Mass Effect series, it was somewhat surprising to see a multi-national conglomerate listening to their consumers and responding.
So, after a few months of waiting, Bioware have spooned a little sugar to their angry fanboys (myself included), in the form of Mass Effect 3: Extended Cut, a weighty download which adds more background and more explanation to the threadbare mess the game came packaged with.
Obviously, spoilers ahead, so consider yourself warned.

As well as expanding on the ‘control’, ‘destroy’ and ‘synthesis’ endings offered by the original game, the Extended Cut includes a fourth option - ‘Refusal’. This sees the angry AI powering the Citadel and the Reapers complete their harvest of the galaxy’s intelligent races, and ends with the following civilisation living in peace, having heeded the warnings left by Asari scientist Liara T’soni. Bit of a cop-out, but not a bad addition to the line up.

As for the three traditional endings the download adds a whole lot of extra content, including conversation options with the ‘Star-Child’ AI as to its origin and purpose – and why the heck it’s doing what it’s doing.

Also explained is why the Normandy was in jump space when the Crucible fired and how the Illusive Man got there, in little scenes which play out amid the action of the finale.

As for the fact that exploding Mass Effect relays would devastate the galaxy... well, now the relays are merely damaged, not destroyed. *Sweeps massive developer oversight under the carpet*

The additional ending videos which play after Shepherd makes his decision are a much-needed addition also.

Having selected the synthesis ending on my initial playthrough, I was treated to a video explaining what the power of the Crucible would do – merge synthetic and organic DNA into new life – followed by a series of still images detailing the results of my actions: Geth and Quarians on their shared home planet, Krogan babies and the like.

The destroy ending shows a similar slide-reel of images, with a voice over bemoaning the destruction brought by the Reapers, and how the galaxy will have to rebuild.

The control ending – previously nonsensical rubbish – is by far the best of the three now, making Shepherd out to be a legendary hero who gave himself to the cause, and ends up a benevolent, spiritual military dictator, getting the Reapers to rebuild the relays and protect the galaxy. And yes, that’s still ripping off the original Deus Ex.

Overall, the Extended Cut adds enough background, exposition and explanation to make Mass Effect 3’s laughable ending a little more plausible to its legion of fans.

Sure, it still leaves a number of questions unanswered, but on the whole it was a welcome addition – and one which should of been included in the first place.

Sadly, however, all the hard work you go to to unite the galaxy to face the Reapers still means very little. You can’t fail, it’s still an A,B,C choice – but at least this time you get to know what happens when you push the magic button.

Monday, August 06, 2012

Review: The Walking Dead: Starved For Help

Decisions, decisions, decisions. All of them a matter of life and death, and barely any time to make them. That's what makes Telltale Games' Walking Dead series so engrossing and addictive.

The second episode in the five-part series, The Walking Dead: Starved For Help, is an altogether darker affair with protagonist Lee Everett once again accompanied by little Clementine in a fight for survival after a zombie outbreak. It's a few months since the last episode concluded and the guys barricaded themselves in a deserted motel. Food supplies are rapidly depleting, morale is low and the world is just as dangerous as ever. 

It's the same old mix of point-and-click adventuring with occasional QTE button mashing but it is still sublime and a joy to play. Again the short playtime fails to detract from the proceedings, which sees our group of survivors venture out from the confines of their apparent safe haven to a nearby dairy farm, complete with a friendly food-bearing family, poorly cow and heavily fortified defences. Could things finally be looking up for our beleaguered group of misfits? Nah, course not.

Choices made in the previous game are carried over and have some effect on what happens and how your companions perceive you. There are some equally tough decisions to be made and some truly grotesque discoveries that help to change the dynamic of the group. Even at the start, the seemingly simple objective of deciding who should receive the limited rations puts your position in the group under strain and tests relationships.

You can instantly jump into the action this time round; you know the characters, understand the point-and-click mechanic and have a firm grasp of the controls. By the end of this episode, you'll have lost some of those close to you and inevitably done something that will put you at odds with members of the group. Along the way you'll meet new friends and foes, from stranded students to crossbow-wielding bandits... oh, and bond with that aforementioned cow.

Without giving the game away, it's difficult to go in to too much detail about how the story unravels but suffice to say, it's a fantastic continuation from A New Day. Thing is, it is slightly predictable - given that by now you've learnt to trust no one and  that it's highly likely few of your comrades will be in one piece by the end of the episode.

Conflict and constant bitching between Larry, Lily, Lee and Kenny adds some drama and tension, while the sudden zombie strikes add a shock factor - and it combines perfectly. Once again, however, the puzzles are painfully obvious and won't create too much of a challenge - but that's not really an issue

Graphically, it obviously continues the cel-shaded style of the first game and the voice acting, animations and environments combine perfectly. There was the occasional moment of shuddering or a glitch where an arm would pass through a solid cardboard box, for example, but nothing detrimental to the gameplay.

The slow pace and dialogue-heavy sections only add to the atmosphere and contrast perfectly with the shock discoveries and constant threat of either being ravaged by a zombie or shot by a stranger. In fact, the choices made this time round really feel like they're helping to mould your character, Lee - you decide whether he lies and kills, who his allegiances are with and whether he has a moral compass. It's inspired and feels like the game is being tailored to your playing style and personality.

Telltale Games has once again done a fantastic job - one that's arguably better than its predecessor. Now when's the next episode going to be available??? We can't wait any longer!

Reviewed on PC

Friday, August 03, 2012

Megabits of News: Weekly Roundup (w/e 3 Aug)

Megabits of Gaming trawls the web for the tastiest morsels of news, so you don't have to... Don't forget to follow us on Facebook and subscribe to Megabits' newsfeed to receive all our latest articles.

Sony’s games division posts losses
MCV says Sony's games division had a torrid three months ended 30 June, posting an operating loss of $45m, driven by slower sales for PSPs and PS3s. Hardware sales for the PS3 and PS2 combined were 2.8m for the quarter, down compared with 3.2m sold during the same period last year.

NBA 2K13 gets rap-legend support
Being a rap superstar, song writer, record producer and millionaire entrepreneur is not enough for Jay Z. The global legend now wants another feather in its bow and why not? Jay Z is now the executive producer of basketball game NBA 2K 13. Among other things, it is understood he will choose soundtrack for the next instalment of the franchise.

Nintendo wins lawsuit over Wii-related patent
Gaming giant Nintendo announced victory over a lawsuit brought by Copper Innovations Group, which claimed the Wii console and its controllers infringed on one of its patents. A US District Court judge dismissed the lawsuit and ruled there was no need for a jury trial. Visit CVG for more.

New PlayStation Move mini game to arrive end August
From the title, Lights, Camera, Party! was never going to be a bloody shoot-em up. But this mini-game collection for the PlayStation Move should bring with it a lot of fun and help provide indoor entertainment for the rainy summer weather. Joystiq says it will be released on 28 August.

Next Army of Two game March 2013 release
VG24/7 says Army of Two: The Devil’s Cartel will be released in March next year. The third co-op title of the franchise will see gamers dropped in the middle of a grug war in Mexico. Sounds friendly.