GTA V: No one does open world quite like Rockstar

Image belongs to Rockstar

Image belongs to Rockstar

This review has been a long time coming, but what with Simul-Tober (the month of post swapping with UWG contributors I took part in), I didn’t really get a chance to slip this one in. So here it is! The GTA V review that you probably haven’t been waiting for, because a) you’ve probably already played it and b) you’ve probably already read a thousand and one reviews of it already. Hopefully though, I can still keep this interesting for you. So. I’ve confessed this before and I’ll confess it again. I never really played much GTA at all. I did get somewhat into GTA IV and then sort of just got distracted and never finished it. I didn’t really have anything against it, it just never really hooked me in. Perhaps I just never really gave it a chance. With all the hype surrounding GTA V before it came out, I decided to really give it a shot this time to see what all the fuss is about. What I found is that GTA V is exactly what I want out of an open world game. It’s massive in size and scope and actually has activities to match it. It’s not just empty space to traverse with the occasional repetitive side mission or activity to keep you occupied for a bit. Los Santos is rich and detailed and feels as real as any game city has ever felt. That’s not to say the game didn’t have its flaws, but it’s still one of the games I’ve enjoyed most this year and that’s really saying something considering this year’s slew of awesome games. I obviously can’t really compare GTA V with any of the previous games, but I can tell you that on its own, it certainly knocked my metaphorical socks off. Continue reading

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Far Cry 3: A Confession

I have a confession to make. I didn’t want to like Far Cry 3. At first it started growing on me like some sort unasked-for fungus and then unexpectedly, one day I began to LOVE it. At some point, I will probably write up a more detailed analysis of the plot (it will be extremely spoiler-ific), because much as I disliked the way the writer Jeffrey Yohalem explained his perspective on and intentions with the game and much as I felt that he didn’t make his point as well as he’d thought, personally I do think Far Cry 3 has meaning beyond what a lot of people give it credit for. It at least got me thinking and it seems there are other people out there who feel the same way. If you haven’t heard about all the controversy surrounding the game, there were a lot of gamers out there who felt that the plot was stupid, full of holes and blatantly racist. Taken at face value, that’s certainly what it seems like. There were others who saw what Yohalem says he was trying to do in creating a meta-commentary on the games industry and its use of certain tropes in games. Then there were the critics who were like me and really believe in the vision he was trying to create and saw the over-exaggerated or nonsensical elements of the plot as largely intended and were there to get you to think and to not take things at face-value. Don’t get me wrong, I was in the second camp before, so I completely see where people are coming from in their criticisms and I’m not denying that there is a feeling of Ubisoft Montreal wanting to have their cake and eat it too. However, many elements of the plot really spoke to me on a personal level and from my perspective, it was clear it was intended to. One thing that critics have often agreed on, however, with this game is that as open world first-person shooters go, this one is pretty damn fun. To be honest, fun doesn’t even really cover it. For me, this game was exhilarating, heart-pumping, trippy and explosion-filled. Also, it was certainly insane in more ways than one. I wouldn’t recommend anyone touch my Xbox controller, because I’m pretty sure my palms sweated through the whole game. I pretty much gave up trying to wipe it off after a while. There’s an unneeded disgusting fact for you. You’re welcome.

FC5

Weeee! Ziplines are an awesome way to get back down to ground level.

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Batman: Arkham Asylum – The Real Thing or Just a Shadow?

Na na na na na na na na na na na na na na na na BAMAN! Ok now that that’s out of the way, on with my post!

For those not on Twitter, I do realise this is a day late. Believe it or not I had a massive migraine and started having weird visual hallucinations, which I assume is because I had been staring at my PC screen for too long that day or week or month or whatever. I know, right? If you’ve fallen out of your chair with shock I’ll give you a second to recover. Me? A gaming-related injury/illness? Who would have guessed? At least I don’t get those hand cramps anymore… Anyways, since the thought of looking at anything bright and glowing made my brain want to hemorrhage on the spot, I took a bit of time off (even though I ended up playing some Bordlerlands 2 as soon as the pain let up – oy!) Enough of my brain-related problems though, on with the post (again)!

Today I wanted to review a game that I’m ashamed to admit I only played recently – Batman: Arkham Asylum. I know, I know, you’d think that a self-proclaimed Batman nut like myself would have played a multi-award-winning Batman game that’s been around since 2009 and holds a Guinness World Record for “Most Critically Acclaimed Superhero Game Ever”. Yeah, beat that, right? The reason for this delay? Well, other than the fact that I was saving it for a rainy day, which turned out to be some years later, there was also that part of me that was skeptical. The truth is, nothing that’s come out of the Batman franchise other than the comics has ever truly impressed me. I knew it wouldn’t be as terrible the infamously cheesy 1960’s Batman TV series with Adam West or equally cringey old movies (much as they’re guilty pleasures of mine). However, even the much-lauded Batman: The Animated Series and Christopher Nolan’s recent Dark Knight movies failed to really capture me the way the comics did. Don’t get me wrong, I used to watch the animated series obsessively and watched each of the new movies several times. It’s because I’m such a huge fan of Batman from the comics that I’m so particular when it comes to anything that’s added to the lore. That’s the problem though, really. None of it truly adds to or fits comfortably into the comic book lore and as a comic book fan that’s obviously something I’d be excited to see. Of course, I’m talking about the revamped Batman, the Dark Knight, not the previous versions like the 1940’s Batman who was even campier than Adam West (I confess I even used to read these somewhat terrible comics). Also, of course, there are many adaptations of even modern Batman, for instance Frank Miller’s Batman is different to Jeff Loeb’s Batman. However, although Batman has been revamped so many times, I feel there is a certain overarching look and feel to the modern Batman, who received a major facelift in the ’80’s and whose new look has been built on and adapted ever since. The movies captured the spirit, but I didn’t learn anything new or see another side of Batman that I’d never experienced before from the comics. Also, the movies were amazing, but it wasn’t really Batman in his true form. I loved the movies as a separate thing to the comics, because I just couldn’t reconcile the two of them in my mind. As an obsessed fan of the comics, I wanted something that truly captured the essence of Batman as I knew him. There’s nothing wrong with all the adaptations that have been created and as I said I’ve loved pretty much all of it, but as a Batman comic fan, I wanted that true Dark Knight experience from the comics for myself just once and to be able to share it with the rest of the world as well, so that they could so see why I’m so in love with this dark corner of the DC Universe. Above everything else, this game definitely does that. So, even if it turns out that everyone other than me has already played this game, I’m hoping that it might be interesting reading about the game from the perspective of a fan of the comics who used to creepily keeps busts and PVC statutes of Batman in her bedroom.

The official launch trailer:

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Left 4 Dead 1: Zombies Galore Part 1 of 3(?)

I know I said I’d get a Portal 2 co-op review out, but since I haven’t managed to get a capture card for my Xbox yet, how about a game about zombies instead? And survivors. Though mainly lots and lots of zombies. 

L4D is a co-op action horror game with 4 game modes: single-player, co-op campaign, survival and versus. My focus is on the 4-person campaign mode, which is essentially the same as the single-player mode, except that for single-player the other characters are AI-controlled. The game uses the Source engine and is available on the Xbox 360, PC and Mac. As you can see, I’ve titled this Part 1 of 3, because I’m planning to play L4D 2 and 3 if it comes out (it has been promised by Valve, but you know… it’s Valve) and do a comparison. L4D came out in 2008, so it’s not new, but I’ve only just got round to playing it at last and my verdict? I wasn’t disappointed.

l4d SC1

Someone got up on the wrong side of bed this morning…

I must confess, I’m a huge zombie fan. Zombie games, books, fanfic, movies, anything to do with zombies I’ll devour (pun intended). However, that also means I’m generally pretty picky about what I consider to be quality. After all, there’s a lot of rubbish out there. The question then is, what makes a good zombie game/book/movie anyway? It’s certainly not complexity. I wasn’t particularly impressed by Dawn of the Dead, despite generally loving Romero’s Living Dead series and that covered some pretty heavy themes including the effects of excess consumerism on American society. On the opposite side of the spectrum, one my favourite zombie games of all time is actually a simple little Flash game called Rebuild 2, which you can and should check out here. That game was incredible and even though it’s only a simple turn-based strategy game, it somehow managed to hit all the right buttons for me. There was less focus on gore and action and more on characters, plot and the deeper societal issues that we all know lie beneath the surface of everyday life and that an apocalyptic setting is often used to bring out in full colour. That’s what really draws me into the zombie genre I think; the dark, gritty atmosphere and way that all your human flaws are reflected back at you in an unforgiving light, forcing you to examine what it means to truly be human. To an extent, L4D has all of these elements and more.

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