Tag: year of the console

Dead Island

Dead Island. Deep Silver (2011), Xbox 360. An open-world, survival, horror, first-person action role-playing video game. I am playing single player.

It’s October and it’s Month 10 of the incredibly exciting Year of Console Gaming. It is Sunday afternoon and I am supposed to be working right now but I am taking time to post, because the YOCG is that important.

Business has taken off in a huge way in recent weeks, a lot of travel is coming up and I will have to be very determined to carve out any game time during October. Despite this, October will reward my effort because the game of the month is Dead Island, which has in common with GTA: San Andreas that it was one of the first games I acquired for the Xbox and one that I liked enough to return to a couple of times, usually at Xmas, because I wanted to get properly into it. This time around, October is my chance.

As you will recall, we are following an historical trajectory throughout the Year of Console Gaming. January and February were pre-history. March was Ancient Greece. April was the Middle Ages, quickly followed by the Enlightenment in May. June edged into the 20th century. July inevitably brought WW1. August evacuated to New York for the duration of the 1940s. September rudely bounced into the early 1990s and now here we are with Dead Island, which is set in 2006.

Zombies are here, finally. Game development swerved drunkenly towards zombies in the 2000s and games started to be set in the present day but with a zombie apocalypse representing the threat. Dead Island, developed by Polish team Techlab and published by Dead Silver in Germany, is a classic example of the genre. Set only five years before the date of publication, the action of Dead Island takes place on the fictional island of Banoi, a lush, tropical resort. The island is in the region of Papua New Guinea, north of Australia. The player becomes one of four characters who wake up in a luxury hotel to find that there’s been an outbreak of flesh-eating zombies. Played from a first-person perspective, your character will run around the island, trying to escape, which will involve completing missions, collecting machine parts, etc. You will be constantly attacked by zombies and engage in melee combat such as hitting them with wrenches, baseball bats or whatever you have handy.

Last time I attempted to play this game was probably last Xmas or even the one before and I seem to remember that I loved it. Although it was initially a bit nerve-wracking and I didn’t like being in the dark corridors of the hotel, once I got outside in the sunshine, I soon got the hang of bludgeoning zombies with heavy objects, repaired my car and had a fantastic time driving around. Eventually I drove through the wall of someone’s house, into their living room, and got my car stuck there, with the result that I had to sit there while hungry zombies slavered at me through the window, but hopefully things will proceed better this time around.

Dead Island sold 5m copies. It received a IGN score of 8/10. Dead Island 2 has been eagerly awaited by fans but currently has no release date, following a change of development team. So if you wouldn’t mind quickly emailing or tweeting @SumoDigitalLtd to ask what they are doing with it, that would be great. Maybe they will take notice if we all message them.

Here’s a trailer so you can see what I’m in for this month.

And here’s the trailer for Dead Island 2. Hurry up. Thanks.

Year of the Console, September Review. Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas

Welcome back to the TLYW Year of Console Gaming. September is suddenly over and so it is time to say goodbye to Month 9 of our specially extended 14-month year. The game of the month was Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas (2004/15) on the Xbox 360.

The 2015 release of the remastered version of this game was the reason I bought the Xbox two years ago. I desperately wanted to play it and have returned to it more than any other game apart from World of Warcraft over the last two years.

September was a hectic business month and I hardly had any time for gaming; despite this, I made more progress with San Andreas than on previous occasions.

If you are completely new to console gaming, like I was two years ago, having spent 20 years with PC games and their mouse-and-keyboard controls, Grand Theft Auto is a terrible place to start. It is fast paced and you will spend two-thirds of your time behind the wheel of an uncontrollable car, mowing down pedestrians and driving into walls at 100mph as you attempt to escape the police. You will not make any in-game progress and everyone will laugh at you as you handle the car like a drunken child.

This time around, I returned to San Andreas with eight consecutive months of console-handling experience. It was like a different game. I found myself able to control the car, outrun the police, complete quests, etc. And so it came to pass that I finally had the experience I wanted from San Andreas, the experience I knew was awaiting me, where I cruised around the beautiful, West Coast city in a series of progressively more glamorous stolen cars while listening to the deep reggae and hard core rap on the 1990s radio stations and only occasionally slowing down to do a drive-by shooting.

I am pleased to report that we have screenshots and actual gameplay.

Here I am in character as gangster Carl Johnson, aka CJ. In this clip, CJ is at the gym. I mainly included this to demonstrate how camp this game is. OK, so I deliberately dressed CJ in tiny shorts for comic effect, but even so. The shorts were there in the in-game wardrobe in the first place. I have to assume that this is how Rockstar Games wants CJ to look.

In this second clip, CJ is on the back of his friend’s bike. His friend is driving and CJ is shooting at police, very amateurishly. It is sheer dumb luck that I managed to hit anything but nevertheless we successfully finished the quest. There are exciting sequences in this clip such as a huge articulated lorry driving off a bridge.

Screenshots

Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas. Rockstar Games (2004/15), Xbox 360. A third-person, open-world action-adventure game set in 1990s San Andreas, a fictional US state based on California and Nevada.  

Plot and setting: Gangster CJ drives a series of stolen cars around a city that’s essentially Los Angeles in 1992, shooting rival gang members, evading the police and wearing a series of camp outfits.

General remarks: I absolutely loved it, it was everything I hoped for. It is funny. It is exciting. The cars handle beautifully once you’ve learned how to drive. The map is large. The quests are meaningful and contribute to plot development without being constraining. The roads are wide. The scenery is attractive, especially out by the coast. The soundtrack is hands down the best music I’ve ever heard on a game and I couldn’t have asked for more from it. The best moments were just driving around the city, listening to K-JAH West. As you recall, I enjoyed riding my horse around the deserts of Red Dead Redemption (also by Rockstar Games) but then the horse didn’t come equipped with a radio and even if it had, it would have played country & western, which, yanno, one would like to avoid.

Thumbs up: Everything. Music. Pleasure of driving. Map and scenery. Comedy. If you take CJ to the local fast food restaurant and make him eat too many chicken burgers, he will throw up on the floor.

Thumbs down: It’s hard to find anything to criticise. I suppose the graphics can be a bit blocky but it was originally released in 2004. When you take that into account, it looks great.

Return to?  Without a doubt. I will return to this game and keep returning to it until I’ve listened to all of the music and seen all the locations. This was one of my favourite games of the year so far, on a par with Ark: Survival Evolved.

We must close with a tune. This is on the GTASA rare groove radio station Master Sound 98.3. If you played the original version of this game back in 2004 and didn’t wait for the 2015 remaster, then you should congratulate yourself because the original soundtrack was longer and even more funky, if such a thing is imaginable. Cross The Track was produced by James Brown.

Maceo and The Macks: Cross The Track (We Better Go Back) (1975)

 

 

Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas

Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas. Rockstar Games (2004/15), Xbox 360. A third-person, open-world action-adventure game set in 1990s San Andreas, a fictional US state based on California and Nevada. I am playing single player.

Welcome to Month 9 of the TLYW Year of Console Gaming, which thunders through history like a juggernaut, or, more accurately, like 14 juggernauts, carefully arranged in order of the precise moment of history that they are attempting to blow up.

Having left the Batman of the 1940s behind, we unhesitatingly leap forward 50 years this month, entering the 1990s and things that happened within living memory. This month’s game, Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas was originally released in 2004, only about 10 years after the period in which it is set. It was then remastered for the Xbox 360 in 2015 and in fact this monumental game is the reason why I even own an Xbox in the first place and why I eventually set out on this year-long quest to become better at console gaming.

GTA: San Andreas follows the adventures of CJ, a member of one of two rival gangs based on the Crips and the Bloods, in a city based on Los Angeles. The game features gang warfare, police brutality and events inspired by the 1992 LA riots that followed the beating of Rodney King. This game might be the centrepiece of the Year of the Console. This will be my second or third attempt at carving out time to play it, over the course of two years, and nothing will stop me this time. I will give it as much time this month as I can make available.

Upon its release in 2004, San Andreas won a string of awards, including Game of the Year, Best Soundtrack, Best Action Game (VGX), Ultimate Game of the Year (Golden Joystick), Best Action Adventure Game, Funniest Game and Best Voice Acting (GameSpot). It has an IGN rating of 9.9. The Best Soundtrack award is for San Andreas’s incredible radio stations, which you listen to while driving stolen cars around Los Santos at 200mph and mowing down rival gang members and the police. There are 11 fully-functional radio stations, 20 DJs, the largest track listing of licensed music ever featured in an action game, hilarious spoof commercials and the genres span rap (of course, it’s LA circa 1992), reggae, rock, pop and country. The radio stations are in themselves a reason for playing. Here’s my favourite, reggae station K-JAH West. So many TLYW favourites on this station.

Grand Theft Auto San Andreas: K-JAH West ft. various artists (2004)

gta_grand_theft_auto_san_andreas_characters_graphics_15843_1920x1080

Tribute video commemorating the game’s 10th anniversary, this is what I am in for all this month. Excitedly awaited.

 

Year of the Console, August Review. Batman: Arkham Asylum.

Welcome back to the TLYW Year of Console Gaming. I cannot believe we have already reached the end of August, Month 8 of our specially extended 14-month year. The game of the month has been Batman: Arkham Asylum (2009) on the Xbox 360. Even though my gaming time was limited by work and business travel, Asylum proved to be easy to learn, engaging and much more enjoyable gameplay than I expected. I managed to complete about 8% of the game on my own at the start of the month, then Harry stepped in to help last night and pushed it forward a bit more before we ran out of time. Super helpful. I am glad he wants to be supportive of my gaming. I really had no idea that the Year of Console Gaming was going to feature real-life falling in love around Month 8. Didn’t see that coming.

As you know, we are following a dramatic historical trajectory throughout the year. August was the month in which we ended the first half of the 20th century; Batman’s story and aesthetics derive from the 1940s. At the start of the game, Batman spawns on a relatively small geographical area, being an asylum for the criminally insane and its grounds. The asylum belongs to the fictional Arkham City. It has been taken over by The Joker, and other familiar characters such as The Riddler and Commissioner Gordon make an appearance.

Once again, we have both screenshots and real gameplay.

Here I am in character as Batman, beating up some thugs in a corridor. Harry picked out this clip.

Batman swoops, grapples and soars around the room, gliding down to drop-kick bad guys. This was as much fun as the horse in Red Dead Redemption back in June.

Batman gets involved in an exciting boss fight.

Screenshots

Batman: Arkham Asylum. Rocksteady Studios (2009), Xbox 360. A third-person action-adventure game concerning Batman and a familiar cast of characters. 

Plot and setting: Batman run, swoops and glides around a dark and spooky hospital/high-security prison which has been taken over by The Joker and his gang of criminal buddies. Batman must rescue personnel, take out bad guys and solve puzzles and problems.

General remarks: As readers may remember, I really didn’t like God of War 3 back in March because I am not used to platform gaming and I found it linear and constraining. There was too much puzzle-solving while being trapped in one room or even one spot. I was afraid of having the same problem with Batman: Arkham Asylum, but even though there are puzzle-solving elements and more than a few platforms, I needn’t have worried. Asylum gives you the feeling of considerable freedom as you jump and glide around large buildings.

Thumbs up: Excellent graphics considering it was 2009. The physical mechanics of Batman’s movements are incredibly satisfying and he can fly, swoop and glide long distance with ease and grace.

Thumbs down: There isn’t much to criticise, this is a light-hearted and fun game. I suppose if I wanted to find fault, I could complain that it felt a bit shallow. This is family entertainment, based on a comic book character, in the form of a very sleek platform game, it was never going to have the same adult moral dilemmas and open-world, sandbox complexity of Skyrim or whatever.

Return to?  I might return to the Asylum, in the futureIt didn’t feel like the kind of game you would commit to for months or years but it did offer accessible and light-hearted Batman fun, just right for a bit of casual gaming here and there.

It’s almost September and time for a new Game of the Month! Coming this Friday.

Batman: Arkham Asylum

Batman: Arkham Asylum. Rocksteady Studios (2009), Xbox 360. A third-person action-adventure game concerning Batman, Gotham City and its cast of characters. 

Welcome back to the unstoppable TLYW Year of Console Gaming in which we dramatically swoop through 14 games in 14 months. Today is 1 August, it’s Month 8 and we’re into the second half of our 14-month year! The year began with two months of pre-history in the form of dinosaurs and primitive early humans, then continued through Ancient Greece, the Middle Ages, the Enlightenment, the American Wild West and finally plunged into World War I in July. Here we are in August and the natural next chapter would have been World War II, but frankly I could not face two world wars back to back, which is probably how people felt at the time. As a result, I looked around for another game that was more or less set in the 1940s and alighted on the DC Comics hero Batman (who first appeared in 1939, with his own comic book beginning in 1940).

Batman: Arkham Asylum is a critically acclaimed game that won several awards. It spawned a series of well-regarded sequels from 2011 and was remastered for the PS4 and Xbox One in 2016. I’m going to play the original 2009 version on the Xbox 360.

This should certainly make a change from Battlefield 1. I don’t think there will be much driving of tanks or crawling around muddy fields with a large, antique gun. Instead, I believe I can expect a month full of swooping, jumping, grappling, climbing, running, using throwing weapons and engaging in hand to hand combat. Arkham Asylum has Batman running around a prison for the criminally insane and his foes will include The Joker as well as half a dozen other super-villains. There’s some puzzle-solving and I’m slightly concerned that this is going to be uncomfortably close to the rather linear God of War 3, but we are committed now so let’s see what August brings.

It might be amazing; let’s hope so. Here’s a trailer so you can see what I’m in for.

Year of the Console, July Review. Battlefield 1.

Welcome back to the TLYW Year of Console Gaming. It’s the end of Month 7 and we have reached the exact halfway point in our specially extended year, which is 14 months long. There has been a great deal of work, meal preparation and relationship-building this month so I have played Battlefield 1 rather sporadically, making a start on its single-player War Stories, which amount to only a portion of the whole game. Despite playing it in small bursts, it’s been a very absorbing game, to the point where I almost forgot I’d ever played anything else. I would have struggled to remember what we played last month.

As you know, we are following a dramatic historical trajectory throughout the year. July was the month in which we fully settled into the 20th century, which of course means war. Set during WW1, Battlefield 1 takes place in France, the UK, Italy, Turkey and Mesopotamia and is based on real events. I travelled around by tank as well as sneaking around on foot. The scenery, whether French villages, Italian mountain ranges or Mesopotamian deserts, would be gorgeous if everyone were not constantly blowing each other up and destroying buildings.

For the second consecutive month, we have not only screenshots but real gameplay. Here I am, in character as Daniel Edwards, a British soldier, driving around a muddy, ruined village in my tank, taking out German tanks, artillery and infantry. This mission is based on the Battle of Cambrai, 1918.

Screenshots

Battlefield 1. Electronic Arts (2016), PS4. A first-person shooter set during World War 1.

Plot and setting: The game begins with a series of single-player missions, set in half a dozen countries and climates. The missions are based on historical events in WW1 and the player adopts various unique characters to complete self-contained quest lines, or War Stories. These quest lines prepare the player for eventual multiplayer gameplay.

General remarks: This was an interesting change for me because Battlefield 1 is very rich in story while not being a RPG. There’s no character development as such. I never really got to know my character, Daniel Edwards, he didn’t have much internal dialogue. However, as a young soldier and tank driver for the British army in France, he and I certainly saw dramatic and terrifying events unfold. Battlefield 1 is nothing if not atmospheric. In strong contrast to most RPGs, it isn’t warm, decorative or obviously romantic. It’s brutal. It can be nail-bitingly tense but is not particularly relaxing.

Thumbs up: Amazing graphics and exciting gameplay. My heart was in my mouth as I stealthed around German camps in the dead of night, looking for spare parts for my tank and trying to pick off Nazis quietly without attracting everyone’s attention. The quest lines are clear and well-structured, there was plenty of action and most of the time I was clear what I was supposed to be doing, never having played a war game before.

Thumbs down: It’s an exciting game but it’s also a bit depressing. I loved being drawn into the drama but I also recall how much I enjoy games that offer blue seas, placid beaches, tropical flowers, palm trees and opportunities for quiet solo hunting or even house building and crafting and Battlefield 1 is the wrong place to look for that stuff. War is serious business and is not pretty.

Return to?  I recognise why this is such a Titan of a game. It is beautifully imagined and engineered. It looks great. It works and gives satisfying gameplay. It’s polished and professional. It offers entertainment and drama with a measure of real history. It’s a very macho game and I cannot say when I will return to it, however I acknowledge its many merits and technical accomplishments.

It’s almost August and time for a new Game of the Month! Kick-off on Tuesday, so stay tuned.

Battlefield 1

Battlefield 1. Electronic Arts (2016), PlayStation 4. A first-person shooter game set during World War 1. 

Welcome back to the fabulous TLYW Year of Console Gaming in which we attempt to play 14 games in 14 months. Today is 1 July, it’s Month 7 and that’s very exciting as we are now half way through the year! Our year began with two months of dinosaurs and primitive early humans, then continued through Ancient Greece, the Middle Ages, the Enlightenment and finally arrived at the dawn of the 20th century in June. Here we are in July and, unavoidably, here is World War 1 and an immensely popular game that I would never have played were it not for this year-long project.

Despite its name, Battlefield 1 is actually the 15th iteration of the Battlefield series, so EA has had plenty of time to get the game design right and, indeed, this game was critically acclaimed upon release. Rather than a single main character and a single open world to explore, in single player mode there are six distinct War Stories, where you can play out different characters in a variety of locations and scenarios. The game was praised for its compelling stories, well-structured campaigns and diverse scenery and gameplay.

Battlefield 1 was released at the end of October 2016 and in January this year it was reported to have sold more than 15m copies. That was six months ago so the total will be even more than that now.

I hope it’s good. It has a lot of customers. As one would hope, there’s a multiplayer mode so if I turn out to be good at it, there will be plenty to do, with the single-player missions functioning as training for multiplayer scenarios. I will then be able to use my fancy Turtle Beach headset to scream into the microphone at teenagers in Ohio and Alabama as I blow things up, which is what everybody is presumed to want.

My interest in video gaming has always attracted a lot of attention from boys in the online dating arena. One such, a hot blond of about 25 who was a massive Battlefield 1 player, proposed as his suggestion for a date: “I will come over and you can play Battlefield and scream at American kids while you sit on my face.” “Yeah okay”, I replied, “that sounds all right actually”.

Here’s a trailer so you can see what I’m in for. The gameplay I mean, not the other part. Here’s to July. I wish you a happy month of gaming.

Trailer: