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Pow! Right in the wallet

I’m going to forgo the typical “so hey, it’s been a while” style post here and jump right back into this.

All you need to know?

I’m a real Journalist now, professional-like and earning my keep. I’ve moved to London(ish) with my own flat and, most importantly, my life is now entirely paid for by the words I write. It’s a satisfying feeling to say the least.

But, I digress.

The one thing on every gamer’s mind right now, is Steam. If you just found yourself asking why, you’re likely in the wrong place and may find what follows beneath to be just a tad uninteresting and confusing.

For those of you still here, you’re probably as excited as I am right now. It is of course, the Steam summer sale.

A Christmas 2.0 of sorts for gamers, an abundance of gaming delights are dangled in front of us at heavily discounted prices. It is both cruel and highly rewarding.

At the time of writing this, I imagine I am in a very similar position to those of you reading – pockets lighter, HDD’s fuller and weekend plans cancelled as you sit there, smugly glancing over your new bevy of gaming treasures.

I personally feel like I achieved something by holding out until the second day of the sale. Of course, I eventually caved and more than made up for my initial resistance, ending my spree with no less than 12 games in my shopping cart.

The worst part, is the fact that out of these titles, I already own at least 6 of them… but, in my defence, this was the GTA Complete Collection and with today’s completion of the iCEnhancer mod for GTA IV, along with the inclusion of the game’s DLC that I never managed to play through originally, it was a no brainer – especially for just £4.99.

There are precautions to take before diving into the sale, I just didn’t listen to any of them. Like a deer in the headlights, I opened Steam and immediately, I was doomed… you can learn from my downfall with the usual sensible tips – set a budget, don’t buy non-sale items, etc.

Ultimately though, now is the time to buy those games you’ve had on your radar for a while but you’ve formulated numerous excuses not to play them – we’ve all got them.

EXCLAIMER: It’s not my fault if you spend all of your money on games and are then forced to live on the street and forage for supplies, empty soda cans and beans – DayZ style.


Tin Can Warfare

Warning: Caution when operating heavy machinery not required.

It’s safe to say that during my time playing World of Tanks, I’ve learned a couple of things. First off, life as a tank is hard. Like, really hard. One minute you’re safe and sound in your garage, with only the occasional sound of drilling to break the ambience. Bucket and sponge at the ready, you’re spoiled by custom paint jobs whilst browsing a catalogue of equipment upgrades, like that shiny Wright G200 engine you’ve always wanted. You know, the one with 960 engine power and the 20% chance to set on fire? …wait, what?

Soon enough though, you’re thrown into the thick of it. Lumbering along a remote coastal path somewhere in mainland Europe, suddenly, your entire right side is blown away, peeled apart like the oversized tin can that you are. Was it the hulking Russian KV behind that rock? Or maybe that German Tank Destroyer across the river? Most likely though, it was the American artillery across the other side of the map.

The second thing I learned is, life as a member of a tank crew is even more daunting. Sure, they might be nestled cosily within the cocoon of steel and raw firepower that is your pride and joy. But soon enough, you’ll appreciate their plight. Sitting a few hundred feet from an opposing tank, you’ll take a hit right on the nose. On the plus side, you survived with 50% health. Unfortunately, your gunner has been knocked out, and your crew inform you they are now ‘firing blindly’ in retaliation. Promising.

 I’d advise against the convertible roof upgrade. 

This is the frustratingly abrupt welcome to World of Tanks that many of us have endured after heading into battle for the first time, and whilst I’m aware that this might be a turn off for a number of gamers, it shouldn’t be.

Many could be forgiven for looking at World of Tanks and seeing a simulation game inaccessible to those of us lacking a detailed knowledge of the 140 vehicles it features. Well, before you set off for the local library to brush up on your tank history, I bring good news. World of Tanks is a shooter, plain and simple. It boasts a simplistic control system familiar to veterans of shooter titles, using the WASD keys for movement and the mouse to aim and shoot. Is that an enemy vehicle on the horizon? Who the hell cares, you’re a tank. Aim the cursor over their flashy red outline and click away to seal their fiery doom. The learning curve is virtually non-existent, and whilst there are advanced features to get to grips with, you’ll do so with ease as you flow with the moderate pace the game sets.

For new World of Tanks players, you start with a limited arsenal of basic tanks to choose from. Currently, the game features four nations: the USA, USSR, Germany and France, with future updates set to incorporate both the UK and China. To begin, players will roll into battle in one of the four entry-level light tanks available at the top of each nations tech-tree. In order to climb their chosen tech tree, players will have to enter battle within their current tank to earn experience, a process that most gamers will be familiar with. Enter a battle, eliminate the opposing team and capture the enemy base to claim victory. It’s that simple. Win enough battles and you’ll soon be on your way to upgrading your tank via equipment upgrades, and eventually unlocking newer and more powerful tanks.

‘He tried jumping to light speed but I got him.’

Before you start to worry, no, you won’t be cannon fodder to experienced players in top-tier vehicles, picking of the new guys. World of Tanks has an accurate and fair matchmaking system that ensures players will only ever come face to face with enemies driving tanks comparable to their own. Similarly, the same applies when you’ve made it to the big time too. Shame on you.

As you work your way through a nations tech tree, different types of vehicles become available to research and purchase. Ranging from light, medium and heavy tanks, to artillery and tank destroyers. Players are free to choose which vehicle to work towards. Ideally, selecting one to suit their play style. Enjoy dominating other tanks with brute force? Go with a heavy tank. Prefer to pick off enemies from a distance? Hang back in an artillery. Or for you strategists out there, take a light tank and zip around the map in order to scout enemies for your team and capture the enemy base. If at any point you feel like trying a different vehicle, or want to see what other nations have to offer, you can. Players are able to advance through as many nations technology trees and progress towards as many vehicles as they wish.

Progressing through World of Tanks is as simplistic as it is engaging, offering players action packed, strategic combat, along with an in-depth experience and upgrade system, that’s sure to keep gamers involved. It’s this strategic and in-depth approach that World of Tanks utilizes so well that has led to over 5 million players signing up.

As a free-to-play title, World of Tanks allows players to take full advantage of all its features, without paying a penny. But players shouldn’t be surprised if they feel tempted to spend a little money at some point. Investing a few pounds here and there can offer players benefits such as increasing the size of their garage from the default capacity of 5 vehicles or transferring earned experience between tanks. Players are also able to upgrade to a premium account at a cost, which offers an increased amount of experience and credits earned from battles. None of these options provide those players purchasing in-game gold with an advantage over those who don’t, but it certainly speeds up their ability to unlock newer vehicles and branch off into other tech trees. Simply, it’s all about the individual gamers experience. There are benefits for those willing to spend and only minor limitations to those who choose not to. Either way, the game maintains a balanced and fair experience for all players.

World of Tanks is the kind of game that will grab your attention and play keep away with it. Quick and easy to get in to, its simplicity along with its sheer depth and extensive customisation will keep you gripped for hours whilst you annihilate your enemies on the battlefield, only to wash away their charred remains from your war machine and charge into the next battle. World of Tanks is a blast and a game that everyone should give a shot.

Greg Lockley

Hey, um, guys? Little help?

There’s a bunch of mean lookin’ creatures heading towards me, any chance you could have me run away?

As you’re reading this, you might be at your desk at work. You might be on the bus or train home. You might even be playing a game right now.

Wherever you are, spare a thought to those loveable heroes you’ve left behind.

That’s right, don’t try and pretend you haven’t done it. Abandoned. Deserted. Left to fend for themselves in their respective universe. Picture this…

You’re playing Resident Evil 4. Maybe the door bell rings, it’s the pizza delivery guy. Suddenly, your desire to hack-and-slash your way through a wave of mindless, infected villagers is overpowered by your own need to feast.

Understandable. But whilst you’re devouring your large double pepperoni, didn’t you forget about someone?

(Insert awkward silence here.)

You did… golfclap to you. Just incase you were wondering, his name was Leon, and he’s now on fire.

Starting to sound familiar? I thought so. That feeling, in the pit of your stomach right now, that’s guilt my friend. Now, I don’t want you getting smart with me here, I can hear you what you’re saying.

‘Yeah, but, I paused the game first… duh.’

Even if you did, it doesn’t leave our floppy-haired protagonist in a much better situation. I mean, who want’s to be stuck in suspended reality with a bunch of blood-crazed maniacs and a certain brown paper-bag wearing chainsaw enthusiast?

Leon: ‘So, hey. I like your suspenders, where’d you get them from?’

Crazed Villager 1: ‘Oh these old things? I got them from this farmer I ate last week.’

Leon: *gulp*

Don’t worry though, I’m not here to judge you (too harshly). We’ve all been there, even myself. I’ve felt the cold hand of shame, bearing its weight down on my shoulder. Granted, I was a kid. Young and naive, with the attention span of a baby murloc.

Anyone who owned a Nintendo 64 will be more than familiar with Zelda: Ocarina of Time.

It all happened in the Water Temple.

For those who don’t remember, you had to press a number of switches that raised and lowered the water level within the temple, in order to navigate your way through. Of course, it was a lot more complex than it sounds.

Somehow, I managed to mess this process up so badly, I reached a dead-end in the game. The water level within the temple was too high for me to activate the next switch. No matter how much I tried, that damn switch wouldn’t activate and I’d just float there, helplessly. With no way of progressing, and no way to reset the temple, I was well and truly stuck.

A sensible gamer would regularly save their progress, especially, before an event such as the Water Temple.

Frustratingly, I did not.

So, that was it. I threw in the towel and gave up. All of that progress, all of that time spent playing as Link, wasted. On a scale of 1 – 10 on the Angry YouTube Gamer Kid scale, I’d say it was around a 6.

To this day, that save file remains untouched. And Link? Well, he’s been drowning for about 14 years now. Granted, I did eventually pluck up the courage to return to Ocarina of Time and complete it. And, I admit, I may have choreographed a merry jig like dance as I skipped out of the Water Temple victorious.

Man, it feels good to get that off my chest.

So, next time you’re gaming, spare a thought for when you’re not. If there’s a game you’ve not quite finished yet, go do it. Not only do you owe it to yourself, but to the unsung hero, waiting on your command.

Greg Lockley.

OnLive: What you need to know

Is the latest on-demand gaming service set to revolutionise the way we play?  

Almost a year after its release in the USA, OnLive has finally landed in the UK. Hooray!

Whist Microsoft, Sony and Nintendo grapple over console supremacy with the festive season nearly upon us, OnLive has made a huge splash, and an even bigger impression on gamers.

The small yet mighty console stole the show at last week’s Eurogamer Expo, boasting a release to rival any other.

But that’s enough hype for now, let’s take a look at what OnLive actually is.

OnLive is cloud gaming. An on-demand gaming service that allows users to play the latest games on either their TV, PC, Mac or iPad and Android devices. It delivers games instantly and entirely through an internet connection, which are hosted by state-of-the-art servers – meaning the games are too.

The service also grants users the ability to tune in to other gamers as they play, allowing them to spectate the action for themselves. It comes complete with voice chat so gamers can connect as they play and provides the ability to save, upload and share replays.

Sounds pretty good right? It gets better.

Its promotion was backed by an equally impressive and impossible to turn down offering – allowing the interested masses to test out the service first.

Boasting over 100 games ready to play at launch, its superiority over other platform launch’s is clear. Complete with an offer to purchase your first game for a mere £1, even more gamers began wetting their lips.

I mean, who can honestly say they wouldn’t pay £1 for Deus Ex: Human Revolution? Right? Exactly.

And for those few individuals doubting the system, labelling it all as just on-release gimmicks, designed to pull people in, only to be disappointed and ripped off when the system is in full swing? Well, enter the play-pack. OnLive’s optional monthly service, which costs just £6.99 per month. A service which grants you access to the play-pack bundle of over 100 games, ranging from previous blockbusters such as Batman: Arkham Asylum and Borderlands to award winning classics such as Bioshock and the original Deus Ex.

Of course, lets not get carried away. OnLive isn’t about to dominate the gaming industry, rendering traditional consoles and PC gaming obsolete. But that’s not to say it isn’t going to try.

Like many small creatures, creeping their way into the big pond for the first time, OnLive knows its audience. It knows its prominent features and it knows its limitations.

Let’s set the record straight.

It isn’t a next-gen console set to blow away the competition with its full HD graphics, although it manages a modest 720p.

It wont be the centre of your home entertainment system, playing the latest Blu-ray titles and streaming your latest TV shows.

It will, however, offer simplistic, convenient, portable gaming to those who want or need it.

OnLive aims to serve an audience that is arguably unfulfilled in today’s gaming market. It is a low-cost-on-demand games service designed for the casual gamer. Its level of convenience is matched only by its simplicity, something un-rivaled by other on-demand services.

It banishes the various evils of gaming we’ve all come to endure such as lengthy installs and downloads, DLC, patches and system updates, all you have to do is play the game.

This probably sounds all well and good, and it is, but what may be the system’s biggest downfall is its audience overestimating it.

OnLive won’t replace your console or high-end gaming PC, the two simply cannot be compared. OnLive is a different breed, one that currently, should be considered as a compliment to traditional gaming, rather than a replacement.

The message we are being constantly fed, is that cloud gaming is the future. That it is more cost-effective than console gaming, eliminating the need for high-performance hardware.

OnLive is an achievement that has to be appreciated. The ability to stream a fully interactive 720p feed to gamers is astounding. Much like Steam did previously, OnLive opens up an entirely new avenue of options for developers to publish their games and generate revenue.

However, and without trying to burst its bubble, OnLive does come with its problems.

As impressed as I was whilst playing on the service for the first time, gingerly rendering The Joker’s hired goons unconscious as Batman in Arkham Asylum, I can’t help but maintain the sense that the service has come before its time.

Another good idea that has been released prematurely, and whilst the groundwork (impressive as it is) has been laid, the technology and infrastructure surrounding it needs to catch up for it to reach its potential.

As a cloud service, OnLive is heavily dependant on a high-quality internet connection, with the service itself stating that it recommends a minimum of 5MB for optimal performance.

Now, I’ll be the first to admit that my internet connection is far from the best, and below the recommendations made by OnLive. However, upon testing the service on a number of different connections, I was continuously greeted by the familiar pixelated performance. Temperamental is a key word I’d use here. Most of the time, my game experience was flawless. Other times, I would be saving the day as a very blurry caped crusader, often mistaking walls for people.

Let me tell you, as genuinely unnerving as some of Arkham Asylum’s elements are – notably the Jokers face – they are only amplified by blurriness. Other times, the service simply couldn’t connect, or would crash mid-game, leaving me to sit there whilst my controller vibrated its way out of the room, letting me know each time a rather large man reworked my face with a lead pipe.

I can’t even begin to imagine what the multiplayer gameplay in games such as Battlefield 3 or Modern Warfare 3 would be like (shudder.) As I write this, I can hear the collective groans of horrified gamers everywhere, simply considering the possibility.

To sum it all up, OnLive achieves what it aims to do. It is a low-tech alternative to console and PC gaming for those who consider themselves casual gamers, or those who wish to play games on the move. It is also a saving grace for gamers who lack the necessary hardware to power the latest games.

Whilst certain games work well on the system – particularly single-player modes and campaigns – as the service stands right now, I simply can’t see multiplayer gaming as a viable option, which will ultimately hurt its value. Again, it is important not to overestimate OnLive for more than what it is, at least for now. As a solution to playing the latest titles and their single player modes, with slightly reduced performance and presentation, it is near perfect. However, for those of us who are more concerned with multiplayer modes and crisp, top-quality gameplay, don’t expect to be too satisfied with what the service has to offer, stick with your consoles and PC’s.

OnLive – and other services like it – will one day be a huge part of the gaming market, with cloud gaming possibly retiring the concept of console gaming. But for now, it’s much better suited to meeting the needs of its smaller audience.

Greg Lockley.


Blizzard to announce new MMO?

Titan could be revealed at this year’s BlizzCon

Reports are indicating that Titan, the new MMO from Blizzard, will be officially announced this October.

In an interview with VentureBeat, M2 Research senior analyst Billy Pidgeon predicted that the highly anticipated title could be unveiled at BlizzCon next month.

“If they are holding any juicy details, it’s going to be announced at BlizzCon,” Pidgeon said. “The big news is probably going to be a Diablo III date and a possible new announcement about one or more new properties.”

Titan was originally revealed last year following the leak of a release schedule which slated a 2014 release for the title.

Few details are known other than comments made in an official Blizzard announcement following the leak.

When asked about Titan by gaming blog Destructoid, World of Warcraft executive producer Frank Pearce said “Titan is… the media is not meant to know anything about that,”

“It’s our next gen MMO and we’ve only started talking about it…” Pearce responded.

Rumours surrounding the possible unveiling have been fueled by EA’s announcement which confirmed the release date for their upcoming MMO juggernaut, Star Wars: The Old Republic.

BlizzCon takes place on October 21st and 22nd in Anaheim, California. Aside from Titan, Blizzard is expected to announce an official release date for Diablo III along with a release window for StarCraft II: Heart of the Swarm.

[Source: VentureBeat]

Greg Lockley.

Battlefield 3 and Jay-Z – “99 Problems” TV ad

96, 97, 98… 99. Yup, 99 Problems.

EA hinted a while back that a new cinematic trailer for Battlfefield 3 would be released soon.

Well, the wait is finally over.

EA have teamed up with Jay Z to produce their latest TV spot for Battlefield 3 which features the track “99 Problems” – and it’s pretty impressive to say the least.

Those of you stuck on the fence as to your allegiance to Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 or Battlefield 3,  this might just be the edge you were looking for.

As often as the track has been used in advertising campaigns in the past, we’ll let this one slide considering it’s a backdrop for gunfire and explosions.

You’ll likely be seeing this advert over and over again once the holiday season hits, but here you can see it before the advertisment bombardment begins.



Greg Lockley

Star Wars: The Old Republic release date announced

Bioware have confirmed their latest MMO will hit the EU two days after its launch in the US.

Whilst Europe will receive the game on December 22, our neighbours across the pond will get it a full two days earlier on December 20.

Fans were growing increasingly worried that the release date for the game may be pushed back into the beginning of 2012; missing its original target of Q4 2011.

Last month, Bioware announced that the release date of the game depended entirely on the reception it received from players beta testing the game.

With a release date now officially announced, it would seem that the developers are happy with the responses received from testers and are happy to schedule a release for the game.

EA and Bioware are preparing the games release to be the biggest online game launch ever.

Whilst it’s a bold ambition, clearly they are looking to capitalise on a Christmas launch and benefit from the festive spirit.

“This is an incredible moment for everyone at BioWare and our partners at LucasArts who have dedicated their lives to build this extraordinary game,” said BioWare co-founder Dr. Ray Muzyka.

“We appreciate the patience from the millions of fans who have been waiting for the game’s release.”

[Source: Star Wars: The Old Republic website]

Greg Lockley