The Last of Us – First Impressions

Buy it. NOW!

Buy it. NOW!

PlayStation 3 Exclusive

If Naughty Dog are to be remembered for anything, I bet you it would be the Uncharted series. Don’t get me wrong, I love the Uncharted games, they’re some of the most cinematic games I’ve ever played and they have some of the best characters written for video games. But in my eyes, from the 2 – 3 hours I’ve put into The Last of Us so far, I think this my be their greatest achievement yet.

The Last of Us is set against a post apocalypse setting 20 years after a viral infection nearly wipes out mankind. You play as Joel and you’re tasked with escorting a young girl named Ellie across a dangerous US, having to deal with both the infected and bandits. This is a third person game like their Uncharted games, but is much focused on stealth and melee combat rather than being an all out shooter. Due to the rarity of bullets, you’ll end up only using your gun when you’ve got no other choice.

They will hunt you. Find you. Kill you.

They will hunt you. Find you. Kill you.

There’s nothing quite like a memorable opening to a game. Setting the tone for the rest of the game and establishing the characters. The Last of Us has easily one of the best openings to a game I’ve ever experienced. It blew my mind. Never before have I felt such an emotional connection to characters and what’s happening all around them. Believe it or not, I actually replayed the opening 30 minutes again straight after. I’ve never done that before, usually saving such a feeling for a second play through. But I had to see it all again and I’m still looking forward to playing it yet again when I go through the game on a harder difficulty.

The rest of the game since then has been exceptional too, don’t think it the lets it foot off the gas for one second. Characters are so lifelike, the writing, voice acting and graphical quality all help towards this. Coming to the end of a generation of consoles, you’d expect we’d seen the best from the PS3. Naughty Dog has quite the reputation for having such high graphical quality and they have stepped up the bar once again. Even I had my doubts, but they were put to rest at the very second I saw playing out in front of me. The animations are just as good too, from the simplest animations of walking and running to complex and totally believable animations that play when you’re strangling an enemy from behind.

Combat seen in the game is simple, but mastering to lure enemies and strike at the right time is essential to your survival. Even when playing on normal, it doesn’t take many bullet to put you down. The hand-to-hand is incredibly violent and get more violent as you start to get your hands of metal pipes and 2×4’s. The Uncharted series may have had a focus on shooting, but many fans will confess that the shooting took a little while to get use to, enemies felt like damage sponges and shots didn’t feel like they had impact. Naughty Dog have finally nailed it, maybe the feeling that each bullet counts helps towards the feeling, but the shooting in The Last of Us has a great weighty feel to it.

Mine FTW!

Mine FTW!

The enemies seen in the game have some fantastic A.I. behind them too. At one point I had grabbed someone from behind but got spotted as I tried to choke him out. At this point I saw 2 enemies in a warehouse run into cover and out of sight. It was at this moment I had just finished choking out the guy, only to be flanked by an enemy whom had no weapons and had to rely on using his hands to take me down. I never saw him coming and turned around straight into a punch to the face off him. After dealing with him I then moved into the warehouse and the last guy was hiding behind a box, but I didn’t know where. It was only when I walked into the open did he pop out and get a couple of shots at me. I felt like I had been outsmart for the first time ever in a game.

Infected on the other hand behave a lot like many other infected in games and will simply chase you down once they’re aware of your presence. Clickers and Runners are the two types of infected and the Runners resemble the infected from the movie 28 Days Later or even the remake of Dawn of the Dead. On the other side of the coin though are the Clickers, these guys are blind and use a sonar like ability to find out and rely solely on sound you make. These guys a frightening and will kill you once they have a hold of you. They’re very hard to take out to, so good luck, I died several times when thrown in a room full of infected.

As I’m in the early days of the relationship between Joel and Ellie, it’s hard for me to say what the chemistry is like. Early signs are good though, and if it ends up anything like the way other characters interact with each other, then I know I’ve got much to look forward to. Now the game also includes a crafting system, and whilst a simple mechanic within the game, crafting items on the fly in the middle of a fight is a great risk/ rewards system and can help turn the tide of the battle.

Multiplayer is looking to be just as brutal.

Multiplayer is looking to be just as brutal.

I’ve currently not had the chance to play the multiplayer, but it’s something I can’t wait to get stuck into later. Called Factions, you must initially pick a faction to join, being aligned with the hunters or fireflies. Each player begins with a small number of survivors that must be kept alive and grown over time. You accomplish this in two modes, the first of which is Supply Raid. In this mode, your team has 20 reinforcements. Once they’re exhausted, the match will go to sudden death. In the Survivors mode, no one can respawn. Once you die, you’re finished until the next round begins. Matches are best of seven, meaning the first team to win four rounds, wins the match.

Everything I’ve played so far suggests that The Last of Us is shaping to be the game to beat this year, like many reviewers have stated. Unfortunately, with the next generation kicking off this holiday season, I hope The Last of Us doesn’t get forgotten about as the GOTY nominations get announced. Now please excuse me as I go off and play some more of The Last of Us.

-ast

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Coming Soon – The Last of Us and Man of Steel

Hopefully tomorrow, I’ll be posting my first impressions with The Last of Us. That’s hoping it actually arrives a day early. It’s looking fantastic and all the perfect review scores out there got me even more excited to play another masterpiece from Naughty Dog.

Then on Friday, you should see a review for Man of Steel as I’m off to see it at IMAX! Something I cannot wait to see and experience. I’m a big fan of everyone involved, from the writers, director and actors. Early talk from people lucky enough to see the movie has been positive, so it seems we may see Superman get all the love and attention his fellow DC friend has seen in recent years, Batman.

Be sure to follow my posts to not miss anything new. Thank you for reading.

Monday Conferences – My E3 2013 Highlights

e3_2013

With Microsoft, EA, Ubisoft and Sony setting many social media sites on fire with announcements, what were the highlights for me as I stayed up until around 4:30am in the morning? Spoiler… They’re mostly games!

Dead Rising 3 – Something I should have seen coming, but never gave a thought to. I’ve said previously, that Dead Rising was the reason I bought an Xbox 360, and it was looking like the reason I was going to buy an Xbox One. Being exclusive to the Xbox One is a huge kick in the nuts for me, and a real shame. It went multi-platform for the second game, so I did not call this to be exclusive. Anyway, it looked fantastic, both graphically and mechanic (no pun intended) wise. I just fear that the comedic side of the game is lost along with psycho boss fights and the time limit that I have come to love with many other fans.

Titanfall – Ex Infinity Ward staff created Respawn Entertainment, and their first ever game is an Xbox 360, Xbox One, PC exclusive. No PS4 version in sight which is a shame because this is right up my alley. Mechs, first person shooter, multiplayer with story, there’s a lot to be excited about with this game. A little downside though, it seems as though graphically it had quite a way to go, it wasn’t the prettiest game we’ve seen.

Battlefield 4 – The single player demo didn’t do much for me. It showcased pretty graphics and what seemed to be something I have already played in a Call of Duty game. The multiplayer on the other hand, my god. It impressed me so much that I simply cannot wait to get stuck into it, and it has already become and day one buy for me. From destroying pillars to get tanks to fall through the floor, to destroying and levelling an entire skyscraper. Sure it was all staged, but the beauty of Battlefield is that anything can happen, even what we saw on stage.

Tom Clancy’s The Division – I said in my previous E3 article (Click Here) that I wanted a standout game in the same vein as Watch_Dogs last year. Watch_Dogs stole the show for me and many others last year, so whilst it may not have quite stole the show overall, at this point, The Division, an online, open-world RPG, was the best thing I’d seen all night. Presentation was similar to Watch_Dogs and it was a Ubisoft title, they sure do love to surprise us. Set after an infection has swept the US, you’ll play as a sleeper agent who now has to survive on found resources like food and water, as well help civilians and fight back gangs. The US is in pieces and it is looking very fresh, with the ability to walk into other players as you play and get into fire fights.

PS4 – It stole the show. It did. The reaction of the look of it, to how they said the restrictions on the Xbox One surrounding used game and always online, were non-existent on the PS4. The price too, the crowd exploded when they announced the $399/ £349 price tag compared to the $499/ £429 price tag of the Xbox One. I said that it always falls down to price (See Here), like a friend of mine tweeted me during the conferences, he was simply getting which ever was the cheapest. I replied with it all about the games for me, and it was, the Xbox One price was expected in my eyes. But when Sony put that price tag on the PS4, I was sold, but there was a game (See Below) to help me with that decision, it may not be exclusive, but it will have exclusive content only on PS4.

Destiny – Possibly the game of the night for me. I may end up changing my mind once the hype boils down, but from what we saw towards the end of Sony’s conference, it was magical. Being a big Halo fan, the music excited my ears and the gameplay looked a solid as Bungie always makes it. The world events, drop in co-op, fantastic art style, great A.I. and addictive loot system made this new game from Bungie, best of the show.

-ast

What I want from E3 2013

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With E3 just around the corner, news sites are exploding with leaks and speculation. It’s always the surprises that stick in your mind however. I remember last E3, Ubisoft showed off Watch_Dogs for the first time, it blew my mind and became a game a have followed very closely since then. But what do I want to see announced and talked about at this year’s E3?

Next Gen Console Release Details – With the Xbox One and PS4 to be released this holiday season, we still know nothing about the release of the consoles. Hopefully those details are revealed in the next few days. I want a solid release date, including a UK/ Europe date please. As well as the price of the new consoles and the launch titles we can expect to be able to pick up with them.

PS4 Design – We will see this. I’ve even had an email off Sony confirming it, but will it look nice? The design for the Xbox One is something I quite like, it’s simple, minimalistic and the use of both gloss and matt finishes work well. For the PS4, I’m hoping for something with a little more character though, the Xbox One is a simple box shape and I wouldn’t mind something a little more out of the ordinary for the design of the Ps4.

Games Everywhere – I want to see more of a focus on the game in these conferences. Sure if Sony decide to focus a little more on the console, they could be forgiven as they’ve shown quite a bit already, but Microsoft have an uphill battle to fight. From both companies and even Nintendo too (doing whatever they’re doing?), I want to see games that sell these console to us gamers. Times have change since 2005, we want more diversity and complexity to our games, but there’s a solid target audience for the smaller titles too.

The Show Stopper – It’s no secret that Watch_Dogs was the talk of E3 last year. I want another game to do that this year. The real shocker though, was it was a Ubisoft title and not a game from Sony, Microsoft or Nintendo. Maybe Activision will shock the world with Destiny? Or will EA have a surprise up their sleeve with a Mirrors Edge 2 announcement? For all we know a small Indie Developer may steal the show floor with a truly unique experience that gets everyone talking.

Day Z Console Release – This is a little more specific, but ever since Dean Hall revealed that he had a meeting with Sony, I have long wished for an announcement for the release of Day Z on the Ps4 when it launches. A launch on both next-gen console would be even better, but I feel like Day Z is the new Minecraft, and someone may try to get exclusive rights. All info currently points to Sony, but Microsoft have deep pockets they’re not afraid to reach into.

Expect more E3 thoughts and articles during the week. With The Last of Us and Man of Steel this week too, keep your eyes glued here, and click that follow button to be notified by email when I do a new post.

-ast

Rising from the Grave: The Getaway

The memories!

The memories!

So I live in the UK, yet it feels like I’ve visited everywhere on earth, despite only being to France. It seems every game today, mostly open world, takes place in America. That’s why whenever a game reveals it’s got a few levels or partially takes place in the UK, I can easily get excited for it. This may just be me, but surely there are many more gamers out there with the same feelings. So I ask, where is The Getaway series? Set in London, being based around gang and police life, The Getaway and it’s sequel, The Getaway: Black Monday, always felt like a breath of fresh air.

Exclusives these days are what help sell consoles, and Sony already has their fair share of amazing exclusives already. The Getaway 3 has been rumoured for quite some time now. To be released on the PS3, it was being developed by Sony’s London Studio, quite fitting when you think about it. Then news came that The Getaway 3 had been put on hold by SCE London Studio so they could focus their attention to games for the EyeToy and in the SingStar series. Seems like a waste of talent to me and reminds me of Rare’s current standing with Microsoft. So with the PS4 on the horizon, a new start, maybe the chances of The Getaway 3 are slowly improving. This is ‘Rising from the Grave: The Getaway’.

Try and picture how this would look on PS4.

Try and picture how this would look on PS4.

Why? If the critical success of Sleeping Dogs is anything to go by, then you don’t have to have your open world in America for the game to sell. There’s a lot potential with having the game set in the UK, we have different laws, a different society and different architecture. That alone would bring back that feeling of freshness, something new and exciting. Also, game mechanics like leaning up to a wall the help recover your health and having to watch your indicators on your car to find your way through the streets would be welcomed back with open arms.

How could it improve? We’re yet to see what the PS4 could do with an open world game. The Getaway series always went for authenticity and realism, whilst still keeping the game side of thing intact. It’s a hard balance to achieve, but one that the series is known for. So with the improved power of the PS4, everything could be improved to make it look more lifelike than ever before. With firearms being less prominent in the UK too, we could have a see an improvement on the brutal fighting we saw in the previous game and when we do get our hands on some guns, the shooting mechanics will need a complete rework as they were never that great to begin with.

Realistically, could this game happen? So SCE London Studios have been hard at work for the past few years on many EyePet and SingStar games. They are also responsible for PlayStation Home and their newest project, Wonderbook. Since last year though, they’ve released nothing, leading to speculation that they’re working on something for the PS4. I’m not saying it’s The Getaway 3, I’m sure they have enough exclusives in the pipeline, all ready for the launch later this year. But let’s not push aside the facts, they were working on The Getaway 3, It was put on hold, not cancelled. Of course that was back in 2008 and later reconfirmed in late 2009. I do think we’ll see something from this series in the near future, whether it be a full-blown PS4 title or a PS Vita title.

On my way to SCE London Studios to arrest them for not making The Getaway 3!

Off to SCE London Studios to arrest them!

Probability of Rising from the Grave: 83%

-ast

State of Decay – First Impressions

The Zombie Game we've always wanted

The Zombie Game we’ve always wanted.

Version Played: Xbox 360

Back in 2006 when I was gearing up to buy my Xbox 360, I was buying it for one game. That game was Dead Rising. With zombie games, no matter how many we receive, I’ll play them all regardless of seeking out reviews. Dead Rising remains one of my favourite zombie game franchises, but it wasn’t the zombie game we have all wanted. The survival zombie game we all crave has only really just been introduced with Day Z, yet that is only on PC. State of Decay is the survival zombie we’ve all been waiting for. Available on Xbox 360 and later to be released on PC, State of Decay puts you in the middle of an open world ravaged by zombies, with your main goal, to survive day by day.

State of Decay is the first game from Undead Labs, and by god do they impress. From the first few hours with the game everything is looking very promising. Having an open world to explore and survive in is what we have always wanted in zombie games. The world feels lived in, yet torn apart by the apocalypse. You start the game by returning from a 2 week-long trip with your friend. Upon returning your attacked by zombies and from there you find survivors and slowly learn what has happened in the 2 weeks you’ve been away.

Imagine yourself holding off a horde attack from the house.

The game revolves around survival, gathering food, ammo, medical and building supplies to help grow and protect your community of survivors. Keeping them happy and healthy is the key to success from what I’ve seen so far. Fractures can develop between people and at times you’ll be task to take people out with you to talk to them about the problems they may be causing within the group. Everyone you encounter can become your friend, and the more friends you have the better. This is because when you die, your character is dead for good and you will switch to one of their friends. All that levelling up you’ve done with the character, the bond you’ve developed, all gone and ripped apart if they fall victim to the zombies. You will be switching between friends regards of you dying anyway as your characters will need rest, so when they do, you should switch and take someone else out.

You can also use these friends you gain and survivors you choose to save to help upgrade your home base. Improving the food, helping with training people or even just being a good shot helping guard the base from the watchtower. The people you meet are just as important to your survival as you are. When out in the world searching through abandoned homes for supplies, if you come across more than you can carry, then radio your base and send out someone to pick up the rest of the supplies. Of course this is all risk and reward, you could just drop off the supplies you have and come back, but then it’s much faster sending someone out to help but they run the risk of getting attacked by zombies on the way.

The zombies in the game shamble around at first, but once they have spotted you or heard you, then they run straight at you. Usually in zombie games, I would welcome a large group of zombies to tear through, but in State of Decay, taking on more than one is always a risk. Melee weapons and firearms are your main zombie killing tools. With melee, much less noise is made, but weapons can break and they’re horrible for crowd control. Firearms on the other hand can take out a small group with well placed headshots, but make a lot of noise, which can attract more zombies than you may have bullets for. Each gun in the game can take different types of ammo, so having the right kind of bullets for the gun you’ve just found is an intense feeling. Tip: Raid the gun shop as soon as possible!

In your inventory (upgradable by the size of the bag your carrying), you also have access to consumables, from painkillers to snacks, these will fill your health and stamina bar back up. You also can carry objects to distract zombies and even kill them with the likes of homemade Molotov Cocktails and mines. This being an open world game, there’s plenty of cars to drive around too. Cars can deteriorate over too much running over of the dead, as much fun as it is. Also, this seems like a truly consistent open world too. Houses I’ve fully emptied out don’t respawn more supplies and cars, once damaged, don’t heal or respawn either. Maybe this will change once you’re a far enough distance from the location it may reset when you revisit it later. So far though, that hasn’t happened and I hope it doesn’t, it adds to the survival aspect of the game.

Driving is made more fun when your car is covered in zombies!

Driving is made more fun when your car is covered in zombies!

Even with being a few hours into the game, I’ve not touched the story very much. Not that it’s bad, in fact, learning more about the early days of the infection is very interesting and I can’t wait to see what’s in store later down the line. But with so much to do, so many people to save, so many houses to explore and raid, there’s always something for you to do. Early insight into the story though has me interested in what’s to come, and that can only be a good thing. The game is also quite good-looking too. Whilst not on par with a lot of major releases, it’s still nice to look at for a cheaper, smaller release.

State of Decay is a fantastic game so far, giving off every impression that it can only get better. The developers, Undead Labs have said this game is very much the foundation of an open world survival zombie MMO. Depending on the success of this game, we may get that game in the future. They do deserve every single sale this game receives, and if you have yourself an Xbox 360, I recommend picking this game up as soon as you get the chance. It does fall into the premium side of the Xbox Live Arcade price point, at 1600 Microsoft Points. But very much like Minecraft before it, it’s definitely deserving of the higher price point.

-ast

Grid 2 (2013) Review

GRID is back!

GRID is back!

Version Played: Xbox 360

Race Driver: Grid was a great racing game back in 2008, and to be honest it still holds up today. It was great because I’ve never been into racing games. I’ve never been good at them and got bored with them rather quickly. Race Driver: Grid changed that for me, the first person cockpit view that put you in the driver’s seat made racing exciting and I felt it had found the perfect balance between simulation and arcade. Now Grid 2 has been released, but does it improve on the original or play it safe by doing more of the same?

Grid 2 is split into two options, the story mode or the online. Each is completely separate from the other. The online is like other past Codemasters Racing titles. It takes the modes from the story and by replacing the A.I. with human opponents, you’ve got your online. It’s simple stuff, you level up and unlock different cars as your level gets higher and higher. There’s a lot on offer in the online section of the game, it stands fairly well on its own and it is always a nice time racing online with little lag and fair racing.

For me however, I felt the real heart of the game is found in the story. You play as an unknown racer, but after your first race in the story, your approached by Patrick Callahan about helping him build The World Series Racing. It’s from here you will start to gain fans after each race and move around the globe racing people in the US, Europe and Asia. Gaining the support of the US, Europe and Asia for The World Series Racing is your main objective throughout. You will be treated to real life ESPN news reports made for the game that showcases the progress of The World Series Racing as well as see you videos go viral on YouTube. All of this sucks you into a world you thought could never exist in a racing title. With the immersion and atmosphere only heightened by all of this.

The racing itself actually improves on the originals. I thought the original had the perfect balance of simulation and arcade, but it’s only after playing Grid 2, you begin to realise that only now had simulation and arcade been moulded together so well. Nailing the perfect drift through a corner is a great feeling and something not seen on a simulation racer. Were as the weight of a car combined with its other stats can make the car handle differently, something not seen in arcade racers. Presentation wise the game does a wonderful job, from the text to the graphics, Grid 2 is one of the best on the market. Graphically the game is simply amazing, cars look fantastic as does the tracks you race on. The sound design is also worth mentioning, with no music whilst racing, the grunts of cars really stand out as does the roars of the crowd.

Returning from past Codemasters Racing titles is the rewind feature. Upon messing up a corner or breaking too late and crashing you car, you are able to rewind the game to a point when you can correct the mistake. However this is limited, depending on the difficulty you choose. Something that has been removed however is the first person cockpit view. This is a feature that I loved from the original, it’s also the only reason I ever played Need of Speed: Shift. Why this was removed is a mystery to many fans, most opinions seem to point to it being a very time-consuming process and very expensive. Whatever the reason though, it is a real shame it has not returned for the sequel.

I said earlier that repetition as something that bothered me in racing titles and has made me get bored with them rather quickly. Unfortunately, this holds true in Grid 2. Whilst the story is great, you play through it season by season. I found myself extremely bored towards the end of a season due to the same tracks and race types. It’s only when you start a new season that you get access to new tracks and race types, but even then, by the end of the season, I found myself wanting to skip races just to see and do something new.

Grid 2 isn’t a perfect game, but it’s also not a terrible game. Where it improves on the original, it takes a step backwards with some thing missing or by being repetitive. It is one of the best looking and sounding racing games I’ve had the pleasure of playing. It also handles very well too. But the uninspired online, repetitiveness, and lack of the cockpit view that I feel the first game made so popular, it’s hard to say this game is what the original deserved. It wanted greatness, but that is something I cannot give.

71 Broken Bumpers out of 100

-ast