"If people want to get hung up on the numbers, they can do that, but really what they should be looking at is what’s on screen, with the controller in their hands, and play[ing] the game,"
So said Microsoft’s Phil Harrison during an interview with Revision 3 in response to the recent debate on the Xbox One graphical capabilities.
That’s all well and good Phil, but if this is the case, why is Microsoft itself publishing adverts bragging that XBox One’s ‘1080p, 60fps’ credentials (see this months Edge Magazine; see below)? ‘Next-Generation Graphics; Supports 1080p/60fps for cinematic realism’ the advert promises; something that at least two of the Xbox One’s release titles categorically fail to deliver, a fact that Mr Spencer now seems keen to explain away.
Braaaiiiiiinnnnnnssss…and a little icing.
Though things have been a little quiet gaming (and writing….)-wise at Gametaroo heights of late, my wife and I did find time to knock up this Plants Vs Zombies themed cake for my brother-in-laws 40th.
'The Zombies are….being eaten, with a cuppa coffee on the side'
Videogames have been trying to tell stories almost as long as they’ve been in existence. Though the narrative of early titles such as Pacman and Space Invaders could be summarised in a single sentence (‘The aliens have invaded! Quick, quick little shooter thing, shoot them or Earth will fall’ or ‘The twisted tale of the hungry circle, doomed to a life of power-pill addiction within a ghost infested maze’), there was still a narrative there to hang your hat on. As videogames and their host systems have got more and more advanced, so too have the stories that game creators have attempted to tell. And yet, running in parallel with this ever increasing sense of ambition has been an over reliance on weary clichés and worn out tropes – zombie invasions, loin-clothed barbarians, over-exuberant plumbers, military conflicts…the list goes on – something that, arguably, has prevented videogame narratives from reaching the true potential of the medium.
There is a very particular problem that crossover titles such as Banpresto/Monolith Soft’s Project X Zone must overcome: how do you compile a wish-list of some of gaming’s greatest characters and allow them enough breathing space to truly shine? As The Incredibles’ arch-nemesis Syndrome put it, ‘when everyone’s super…no one will be!’ Heroes are defined by their uniqueness, their mastery of their environments and enemies, and creating a world almost entirely populated by lead video game characters risked diluting them all. Project X Zone takes a big risk with much loved IPs then, but thankfully it just about manages to do its high-profile populace justice.
‘Kill or be killed’ has been a key theme for videogames ever since the first Space Invader fired a pixellated-laser at a plucky-unnamed cannon prowling along the bottom of the screen, a clearly defined dichotomy that has entrenched itself by connecting with our basest survival instincts. Of course, for such a set-up to exist, there also has to be an ‘us’ and a ‘them’, and it is this concept that Naughty Dog’s long awaiting The Last of Us attempts to explore…and it does so with frequently astonishing results.
I was surprised as anyone to find out that gametaroo! turned 2 years old today.
It only seems like, well, maybe a year ago…tops…that I first decided to start up my own little slice of gaming real estate. So far I’m reasonably happy with how things have gone; there’s been a steady (ish) stream of content (remember: I am but one man…with a day job…) and I’ve been able to cover many of the things that got either my goat or drew my interest.
Sadly, there’s no birthday cake, so as means of celebration I have settled on a picture taken from one of the more upbeat moments of Naughty Dog’s wonderful The Last of Us; you know…that bit where a sun-glasses and crown wearing Clicker gives Joel a hug. I love that bit.
Anyway - thanks for reading and I hope you’ve enjoyed it so far.
"Give us a kiss…right on the lips…"
London Studios’ Diggs Nightcrawler isn’t designed for adults, forcing lofty old folk to physically get down to a child’s level and sit cross legged on the floor. This isn’t a point of criticism however, as such unabashed commitment to the entertainment of our little’uns is commendable and, in actual fact, the gumshoe adventures of book-worm Diggs Nightcrawler prove to be surprisingly endearing, even for those of us who are a little long in the tooth.
It’s not hard to see the allure of the rhythm action genre for game developers, providing as it does a framework within which to work while at the same time enabling some hugely idiosyncratic and downright eccentric experiences. When executed well, the tension between interactivity and aural feedback can be wonderfully liberating, but problems can arise when these two worlds fail to meet; as unsatisfying mechanics flounder to connect with aural elements. The latest title to attempt to seamlessly meld these two elements into a cohesive – and toe tapping – whole is Fun Unit’s Groove Heaven for the Nintendo 3DS, but does it find perfect harmony or ear-drum perforating dissonance?
My reaction to Microsoft’s long awaited reveal of the follow up to its hugely successful Xbox 360 can be summarised in looking at one small moment. 45 seconds into a video piece in which Infinity Ward staff talk through the latest instalment of Call of Duty, subtitled Ghosts, our attention is drawn star of the show - namely your character’s arms.
“The arms in MW3 were beautiful at the time,” we are told, “but the new engine allows for significantly increased texture resolution”
Delivered as it is without a hint of irony, it’s a statement both ludicrous and crushingly dull in equal measure, dryly espousing the given aspect of any next gen console (namely: better visuals) while also encapsulating the lack of imagination and excitement behind the Xbox One announcement as a whole. Yes, yes, it’s all very clever…but where’s the magic?
A change in platform isn’t usually enough to justify re-reviewing a game, but in the case of Black Market Games’ Dead Hungry Diner we’ll make an exception. Released on the PC back in June 2012 (and reviewed by Gametaroo at launch), this horror-themed time-management game was a title out of place; though its mouse-driven form was plenty entertaining, the button-clicking mechanics prevented it from achieving potential that was evidently there to be mined if only it could find its way on to a more suitable host: namely a touch-based device (a sentiment that we took pains to reflect in our review).
‘Guacamelee!’: it’s a bloody great title for a game isn’t it? It wrestles your attention (pun absolutely intended), does a great job at capturing in a single word the game’s Mexicana-theme and penchant for ass-kickery, and makes you want to play it before you’ve seen a single frame of actual gameplay. It may also make you hungry, but this is something of an aside. But, of course, a witty moniker alone does not a great game make, so does Guacamelee! the game live up to Guacamelee! the name?
Today, Monolith Soft’s Disaster: Day of Crisis on the Wii taught me a valuable lesson: Not only does touching flames set you on fire, but doing so is also not particularly good for your life.
With three instalments under its belt, Gears of War can without question be considered as something of a veteran, but here in the twilight years of a generation, such an old hand has to try that much harder to impress a gaming audience that has seen it all before, quite possibly on numerous occasions. The latest chapter – Gears of War: Judgment – sees a new developer take the driving seat, but have People Can Fly steered the soldiers of the COG into fertile new ground, or settled on ploughing the same old furrows?
I’ve just seen the Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain trailer, and - as a piece of promotional material - it’s really quite brilliant. Building on the intrigue laid down by The Phantom Pain trailer (shown at the Spike Video Game Awards 2012), it gives you hints of what the game will consist of, while leaving you thirsty for more. It is also masterfully edited and soundtracked beautifully with a track by Garbage and, all in all, is a pleasure to watch. And did I mention that it features a flying, flaming whale? Well…it does…and it’s awesome.
Reviewing new tables for Zen Studio’s Zen Pinball series is becoming quite a difficult task as there is only so much you can say about how authentic it feels and how lovingly it pays homage to whatever licensed property frames any given table. Though this might sound harsh, Zen Studios should actually take it as a compliment, reflecting as it does the consistently high-quality of the DLC support lavished on its flagship title. If the studio’s partnership with Marvel and, more recently, PopCap has proved anything however, it’s that finding the right IP can have a huge impact on the allure of a table and, with this in mind, it’s hard to imagine a combination appealing more heartily to one’s inner-nerd than that of pinball mixed with Star Wars…