I’ve managed to keep away from annualized releases in the games that I’ve reviewed but there is a special reason why I’ve been playing so much Fifa 14 recently.
The world cup is on its way and with it will be another competition almost as important. My friends and I will be holding a world cup of our own. Taking place over the first three days of the 2014 world cup, we have each drawn a team and will attempt to beat the game system and each other in order to win our own (Less expensive) World cup. The winner will then hold the trophy until the next world cup in four years time. Yes, I’m aware at how awesome it sounds and I can feel your jealousy from here.
As excited as I was when the idea was posited, I couldn’t remember the last time that I’d actually played a Fifa game for any length of time and I REALLY wanted that trophy to go alone with my Golden Joystick.
Having purchased the day one edition of the Xbox One, I’d had Fifa 14 included in the bundle for ne reason other than living in Europe and every person in Europe loves football (almost true). I’d installed it and created my career character but got no further than a pre season friendly all the way back in November. I was impressed with the presentation and hearing “Morgan” called out by the announcers when my player picked up the ball made me squeal inside. Apart from that I’d got into other games until about a month ago when our plans were finalized and I’m very glad I was given that spur to play with this beautiful and digital game.
I’ve always loved football. As a kid I would spend more time playing than actually watching it but as I grew larger (In all directions) my love swung to watching. A Swindon Town and England fan since birth I have an intimate knowledge of the ugly parts of the game and this is one thing that Fifa 14 absolutely nails. Playing through the career mode gives you the option to only control your avatar or control the whole team as is more traditional. Considering I had started my career with my beloved Swindon town, two leagues away from the Premier League, my computer controlled team did not support me well. The hopelessness of seeing your avatar playing his heart out, swinging crosses in, playing through balls all to no avail is heart breaking. This is not to say that controlling the entire team can’t be equally frustrating. The teams you face will have differing ways of attacking and defending and you will find yourself struggling to make a break though against a team apparently weaker than the side you smashed in the previous game.
It may say something about my teams and their success/failures which makes me see these qualities in Fifa 14 to be a positive. It’ll be interesting to see if a Manchester United fan would carry on through a season when they find themselves in 7th place or whether they’d sack themselves and start again. Due to the career aspect of the game you are even forced to watch a simulation of the critical matches should you not be picked or end up on the injury list. Knowing I could have beaten a side and having to watch on the side lines as my team mates get beaten feels heartbreaking.
Frustration in Football is part of the beauty. Football is the most beautiful game when it is played simply and fluidly. The matches in which I’ve scored during the last few minutes to seal a victory are worth much more than the 5-0 thrashings. Scoring with a tap in two feet from an empty goal still makes me throw my fist up in the air as much as a cheeky chip from the edge of the box. The ability to command my xbox to record that particular goal also adds to the experience. I’ve recorded many of my goals and I’ve watched them all over and over.
Yes the presentation is excellent throughout, but what makes me enjoy Fifa is the feeling it brings out in me. The whole range of emotions that I’ve felt during games of football I’ve played in and watched are brought out during my time with Fifa 14. I don’t have the burnout that other people do with the series as this is the first version I’ve purchased since 1998. I can understand the frustrations people feel with the incremental changes that take place in the yearly franchises due to devs having to churn out a new game in about nine months. However as an outsider to the series I’ve got to say that Fifa 14 hits every single note that it needs to in order to recreate the game that I love so much. Goals feel satisfying. Long passing movements resulting in a goal make you feel like a master tactician. Cutting down an attack from your friend before sending a devastating counter attack his way causes you to record it and put it on the internet for everyone to see.
In short, if you love football and have been put off by the naysayers that complain about EA’s yearly release, none of their problems will bother you. You’ll be too busy celebrating each goal as if you’re watching a real game. If anyone’s said that isn’t enough, they’re wrong.
A small addition to that is that because the next gen consoles didn’t get a world cup release this year, we got a free update out of the blue which allowed us to play all of the world cup teams in one off international friendlies. They updated the teams, the stadium, weather and play style to match that of the retail release. Unfortunately the also updated the commentary team and chose ITV’s bunch of shaved apes. Other than the ear abuse I have to suffer, this free addition was very much appreciated.
Have you played a Fifa game recently?
Are you watching the world cup? Are you following England or choosing a sensible team?
XBL, PSN and Twitter @Urbundave
Yeah, that’s right. I said it. The console that is ripped on most consistently (second only to the Wii U and that’s only because people have heard of the Wii U) has recently been updated and it’s glorious. Almost every negative thing about the console has been fixed in terms of functionality and you should get one if you ever want to play great games while away from a console.
I picked up my original Vita last year and fell in like almost instantly. I spoke about it last year in a few blogs but there were always a few things that got in the way of giving it a glowing review.
1. It felt too heavy.
This could be taken as a sign of a quality build which it was. However it could become difficult to hold after long sessions of play.
The slim version of the Vita is lighter due to using plastic instead of metal yet holds onto the build quality of the original.
2. The rear touch screen was too wide.
As a normal sized guy, I would end up touching the back screen too often during games, causing incorrect button inputs and messing up whatever perfect run of excellent gaming I was attempting at the time.
The slim version has made the finger grips bigger and the touch screen smaller while still being big enough for a player to pick out specific sections at will.
3. The start and select buttons were inset and too small.
Sounds like a tiny thing but just think about how many times you use these buttons in your gaming. Now times that amount by the frustration you would feel by not being able to hit those buttons on a consistent basis.
They’ve beefed up the buttons and my stress levels have reduced.
4. Remote play did not work.
A couple of games could be played using remote play from the PS3 but it was never a game changer. I literally got it to work once, thought it was kinda cool and never used it again.
Remote play works with every game you can play on the PS4 and it’s actually worth using. Being able to carry on playing ‘Don’t Starve’ from my PS4 while my wife watches Tangled again for the 745th time, is a revelation.
5. The battery life wasn’t great.
The OLED screen sucked the battery clean in just over 2 hours during my time and for a mobile gaming device that isn’t ideal.
The Slim version has an LCD screen that, unless you placed it next to the original, looks fantastic still. Your games will still look great and the 4-5 hours of game time should last most commutes. Turn it onto airplane mode to get another couple of hours out of it should you be travelling cross country/countries.
6. The Vita needs more games.
Only joking. If you think the Vita doesn’t have games then you’re flat wrong. You only have to look at the free games you could have received with a PS+ membership (42 since Nov 2012). This isn’t counting the hundreds more you can buy separately if you hate getting a good deal and have too much money in your Scrooge McDuck bank vault.
7. The memory cards are the most overpriced piece of video game accessory in the history of the genre.
I said it was almost perfect and this remains the lone problem. You can buy each game on a cartridge but if you want to take advantage of PS+ you need a memory card. Not only are they always running out on Amazon and in physical shops, a 64gig card costs £85. A 64 gig micro sd costs £32. LESS THAN HALF. Sony are bad guys for doing this. The fact that the Vita isn’t that popular saves them from the daily thrashing they should be receiving for stealing money from their customers. This is the reason I laugh at people saying Sony have saved gaming and that they are the good guys now and Microsoft are the money grabbers. It’s also the one reason I wouldn’t drag you to a shop to make you buy a Vita right now as it makes me so angry that Sony are getting away with this. A new product should always have as few barriers for entry as possible to appeal to as wider an audience as possible. Sony for some reason hold on to this massive negative which not only puts off potential buyers but forces people like me who LOVE the Vita to tell people to stay away.
That got ranty all of a sudden. Anyway the Vita is still great despite the memory cards, just be prepared to get filled with rage whenever you fill up your monumentally expensive memory card with amazingly priced games.
XBL, PSN and Twitter @Urbundave
“There’s a brilliant South park episode about that” is a common sentence used by yours truly. My wife roles her eyes every time as I go on and on about the intricate plot points involved in your favorite crappily-animated-on-purpose TV show. Now that I can add “There’s a brilliant level in the South Park game about that” to my repertoire, my wife will be thrilled.
I have barely played any RPG’s in my time connected to various consoles, choosing to be very careful about the specific games from the genre I lend my time too. When I heard that the South Park game was going to be an RPG, I was not excited, due to both my RPG aversion and South Parks lackluster record with games. The tower defense game released a few years ago, which can at most give a living room of die hard South Park fans a long evening of fun, stands as the only semi high point.
This trend of underwhelming games taken from an outstanding series meant the anticipation for TSOT remained tepid until very close to release. A production filled with seemingly constant delays meant that we were getting into a Duke Nukem situation where the end result couldn’t possibly live up to the build up. The news that Matt and Trey were writing the entire script and over seeing the entire game gave people hope, but how could they keep the quality levels up when they also write a TV series and over see a West end and Broadway musical? The lack of game play at conventions worried me as it normally means that a producer isn’t confident in the progression of the game. Then I started to worry that the game would just be a game full of call backs to the show, only designed to be entertaining for fans of the show without any game play to back it up or storyline to produce an actual emotional response.
In summery I was worried. I was still going to buy it on day of release, but I was very, very cautious. Then I bought it and promptly went on holiday for a week which only raised the tension I had already built up. Finally after years of waiting I was able to start the game and found the walls protecting my love for South Park, built up in case the game turned out to be horrible, were torn down.
The look of the game is perfect, both in how it manages to look identical to the TV series but more crucially, how you get around the world. The fixed camera angles don’t hide anything from you or make getting around awkward. The actual town of South Park is lovingly recreated and easy to get around. The controls are simple to pick up and make sense even in the later part of the game when more and more powers are added to your character. Crucially the story and script make sense in the South park world. It may not make sense if you are expecting a realistic RPG, but nothing is shoe horned in and everything is believable. I was actually going to write an example of some fantastical idea that Matt and Trey could add to the show and it still make sense, however I actually couldn’t think of anything more strange or shocking than what they’ve already done. I think that proves my point well enough.
This is in no way a cheap cash in on the series. This is a valuable addition to the South park world and should be played by anyone who is even a casual fan.
I mentioned before that I’m not an RPG mark and I feel like this game was aimed squarely at my level of RPG interest. The turn based fighting style is easy to pick up and keeps you interested by adding small quick time events to each attack. It’s also a perfect length for me. I finished the game in 13ish hours and I was able to complete almost every quest and make friends with almost everyone. I was talking to a friend about this very point and he sounded disappointed at the relatively short run time. However I can’t spend 40+ hours on a game and still write a semi active blog. It’s the main reason I never started Mass Effect and is my cross to bare. To be able to finish a game in two to three hard core sessions is just about perfect and South Park nailed it.
Due to my location I was stuck with the censored version of the game which actually turned out to be funnier than the original in my opinion having watched both thanks to the internet(Proving the pointlessness of censorship in the modern world). The notice describing the cut scene accompanied by elevator music made the scene sound much worse than it actually was. It actually filled a part of the gap the an uncensored script left. For those of you outside of Britain, whenever we got to watch South Park the various cusses of Cartman and co were censored making the show funnier in my opinion. I would have liked a bleeping option for those few like me who prefer their rudeness implied. Those few may just include me, granted, so I understand why that option wasn’t given.
I can’t review a game for someone that doesn’t watch South Park so I can’t answer the question about whether it’s satisfying enough on game play alone. From my perspective, South Park: The Stick of Truth is my favorite game of the year so far and I would be happy for it to still be in that position come January.
Oh and you should definitely pick the Jew class. It’s final form is worth the wait on its own.
XBL, PSN and Twitter @Urbundave
This is the weirdest game design I have ever seen considering the developers seemed content to hide the best bit of the game behind some incredibly basic and easy platforming
I picked up Sound shapes because of the cross buy feature (Another feature XBL should adopt) meaning that I could now download the game on my PS3, PS4 and Vita after just one purchase. I was on holiday so the Vita was my platform of choice to play this highly rated Sony exclusive and see what the fuss was about. I have been playing platform games more often so my skills had been heightened and I was looking forward to a new challenge. That along with the sound track written by Daft Punk, Beck, Deadmau5 and others meant that it was the first game I booted up when I got settled on the plane. The soundtrack and the mechanic involved in listening to it in it’s entirety is indeed interesting and at least gives you a reason to play through the levels long after the boredom sets in due to the lack of challenge. Each location is filled with discs that once collected adds beats and loops to the sound track.
It is satisfying collecting all the discs included in the level you’re playing but other than hearing the song (Which do vary wildly in terms of quality) there seems to be no reason to go out of your way. In fact you’d find it harder to actively not pick them up as it’s so easy to do. Considering how at no point did I have to replay a level to pick up a missing disc. I don’t know if their collection is required to open up later levels but considering how easy the game is this shouldn’t be a problem. There isn’t even an achievement for collecting each disc during the playthrough of the campaign. Odd, considering how vital to the appeal of the game the sound track is and listening to it fully should be at the forefront of the designers mind.
Once you complete the campaign (and ignore the emptiness left in your soul from the lack of celebration) two new modes are opened up to you which make the purchase of sound shapes actually worth it.
Death mode and Beat School lets you play Sound shapes in completely different ways and I really wish the whole game was this entertaining. The warning the game gives you when you start playing Death Mode states that “this game may cause you to tear your face off” and it is not wrong. I thought, however, that due to the ease I completed the main game these “extra” levels would be a walk in the park. They are not. They require such extreme control and mastery of timing that it may, actually, cause you to rip your own face off, douse it in some kind of fuel and set fire to it while laughing like a hyena watching Police Squad for the first time. They are short but also perfectly formed levels of frustration that can take 5-30 minutes to complete. They are unforgiving and a lot of fun. Good job each completed level holds a silver trophy behind it.
Beat school is far and away the most fun I had in Sound shapes as it makes the most of the music creation suite and asks you to copy a created track. A simple track is played over a note grid and you have to fill out the exact notes and in the correct time. This works especially well on the Vita due to the touch screen, requiring you to tap and fill in the notes required. Different styles of music are used including jazz and Hip Hop. The trial and error is sweetly done and makes you want dozens more levels like it. Unfortunately only 12 are included but they stand out as the most interesting idea contained in the Soundshapes package.
This ransoming of good ideas puts me in a strange position when recommending whether you should buy it. Should I say that the few hours of absolute boredom are worth it for another few hours of absolute fun? Or should you not bother at all? Was this tactic designed to make fun of the modern gamer who only plays a game for the first third before going out to buy another game without reaching the end and really reaping the rewards?
After all I feel glad to have played Sound shapes. If that sounds like a recommendation to you then definitely pick it up. Just make sure you see it through to the end.
XBL, PSN and Twitter @Urbundave
Yes I’m biased when it comes to Bioshock games due to the place they hold in my pixelated heart. This DLC had me worried before I played it. The previous DLC was good but short and felt rushed next to Bioshock Infinite. It felt like a throwaway instalment looking to put fan fiction writers out of business by placing Booker and Elizabeth in Rapture. Then came the news that Irrational games had been taken apart at the decision of studio head Ken Levine. I’d guessed that everything would have been finalised with the DLC before the announcement but there was always the fear that the final instalment of my favourite series would be awful
Episode 2 is an excellent DLC on a par if not better than Minerva’s Den from Bioshock 2. It serves as a game and an interactive museum of both Bioshock and Infinite as scenes are viewed from another angle. Time lines are merged to flesh out story lines and answer some questions many players had from the original games.
This final piece of Bioshock Infinite lore takes place after the first DLC and gives you the chance to play as Elizabeth, the charming non playable character/companion from infinite. Booker does play a part in this story but this is definitely Elizabeth’s show. This brings in a few changes and really offers many different options of how you can finish the game. I played through the whole game without fatally shooting any characters. Sneaking around with your brand new vigors made it feel completely different to the entire Bioshock universe and made the game feel fresh. All of the mechanics introduced worked solidly and made for some gratifying moments once you work out the potential for traps when using your crossbows different ammo options.
Stealth is a necessity during this 5-6 hour story due to the change in protagonist. Elizabeth doesn’t have much health and isn’t going to get any more during your play through so keeping away from conflict is key. There is an option to play through the game without any lethal weapons and it is absolutely possible. In fact I performed this myself in the hope of picking up the achievement, only to find you need to select the 1998 mode first to make that trophy pop.
It is difficult to go through what makes this game special without spoiling it for anyone that reads this. I will say that the story is extremely well done from start to finish and if you have a deep understanding of the events in the other games you will get huge enjoyment from where it ends up. Maybe read up about the Bioshock story to refresh yourself before starting.
You do find yourself in Rapture while playing as an underpowered Elizabeth for reasons that are quickly explained. You are working for Atlas as he tries to get back into Rapture having being banished by Andrew Ryan. You are given some fetch quests and left to explore this beautifully designed world and you will run into many splicers.
I hear people complain about fetch quests all the time in reviews but I’ve never seen why this is a problem. It’s a common trope and could be seen as lazy design but as long as it makes sense in the context of the game as it does here I don’t see the issue.
The bonus of these fetch quests comes when you get to look at the architecture around you. Some of the design concepts are high points compared to anything seen in a Bioshock game, which considering how well beautiful the designs of Rapture and Columbia are, is high praise indeed. You can and should take the time to look around and read every piece of artwork or scribble. Almost everything references something in a past game and all of it is interesting for a fan.
I played this through in one long sitting while my wife was away for the night and I couldn’t put it down for the 5+ hours. I am a huge Bioshock mark but I am not someone to praise a game for no reason. Everything that you look for in a Bioshock game is present in Burial at Sea episode 2. Story, atmosphere, intrigue and action are all present and all done masterfully.
With irrational games handing off the Bioshock series to 2K I don’t know where the series will end up. I loved Bioshock 2 but it seems I was in the minority as even Levine doesn’t reference the game when talking about the series. I could stand to see a Bioshock game every few years. Nobody wants to see this game annualized and hopefully 2K realizes this before ruining what is right now a high point in everything that makes video games so special.
XBL, PSN and Twitter @Urbundave