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Review

Arrow shot his way into our lives back in Season 1 which aired in 2012 that took the comic fans by storm.

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DC’s comic book hero The Green Arrow had a great successful run with its dark action adventure series filled with vengeance and explosions. Now that season 2 is over and available on Blu-Ray you can relive the events from the masked vigilante’s life that introduces new foes and strengthens previous friendships. Season 1 introduced us to the hooded Arrow and the important people surrounding him including his small team, controversial family, endangered loved ones and a list of foes out to corrupt the city.

Season 2 follows the previously spoiled billionaire playboy Oliver Queen (Stephen Amell) who presumably died when his father’s boat was lost at sea and was trapped on an island which he returned from a changed man. The focus now after cleaning up the streets of Starling City is to continue stopping criminals without killing them, a promised he made to his dying best friend. Oliver must also contend with the outside forces attempting to take over Queen Consolidated all whilst dealing with characters returning who we all thought were dead. As the web of mystery deepens around the Arrow’s true identity Oliver finds himself revealing yet again his secret to protect others and take down criminals trying to destroy the city.

With the return of many actors from season 1 and introducing some more talent in season 2, Arrow features the great cast of Stephen Amell (The Flash, New Girl) as the lead vigilante; Katie Cassidy (Gossip Girl, Monte Carlo, A Nightmare on Elm Street) as Laurel Lance the attorney and former girlfriend of Oliver; David Ramsey (Blue Bloods, The Defenders, Outlaw) as John Diggle, Oliver’s partner, confidant and bodyguard; Willa Holland (Tiger Eyes, Straw Dogs, Chasing 3000) who plays Oliver’s younger sister; Paul Blackthorne (The River, CSI) playing the detective; Emily Bett Rickards (Dakota’s Summer, Romeo Killer, Bacon and Eggs) who brings Felicity Smoak to life as the IT technician at Queen Consolidated; Colton Hayes (Teen Wolf, Look, The Gates) who plays crook turned sidekick Roy Harper, and Colin Donnell (Pan Am), Oliver’s best friend.

Everything that was average from the first season is improved drastically in the second. The fact that Oliver’s training had made him come across as a character we couldn’t relate to and cold hearted through his killing is reigned in and given more heart this time round. He came across previously as a perfected killing machine leaving me speechless from the first episode and I longed for Oliver to show he was still human which came about towards the end of season one. Also the fact that the playboy carefree façade wasn’t Amell’s best work in the show, mostly due to these scenes contrasting dramatically with the Oliver we now know, I’m happy to say that both these points are vastly improved. With the Slade and Oliver flashback story from the island still continuing as the secondary parallel tale of Arrow, we get to see how this brothers in arms friendship takes a turn for the worst back in current day Starling City.

As friendships disintegrate over bloodshed Oliver makes new allegiances and expands his vigilante crew to take on new foes such a Blood’s team, a group of Slade’s subordinates that pose as the main villains for a majority of season 2. And lets not forget that Barry Allen is introduced midway through the season that’ll eventually play The Flash in his own series let alone crossovers with the Arrow show once again.

The special features from Arrow Season 2 includes; Deleted Scenes from various episodes which can be accessed separate to the episodes across the box set disks; From Vigilante to Hero which is a 25 minute documentary featuring various executive producers and cast members talking about Oliver Queen’s evolution in season one where he was a vigilante to season two where he came to embrace the idea of being a true hero for Starling City; How Did They Do That? which shows the visual effects made for the arrows; Wirework: The Impossible Moves of Arrow that show off the training and stunts within the show, and Arrow 2013 Comic-Con Panel where the cast and team talk to the audience about creating the show.

This box set is a must for any Arrow fans out there and is beautifully presented and is bursting with extra content. I have to say I’m a bigger fan of this season which has improved on many areas from the first season and I’m really excited to see where the next chapter takes us.

It’s finally time to catch the fever. Since Train Fever has a minimalist design I thought I’d just jump straight in and get started. Starting up a new game brings up the option to play two simple tutorials. The first is for setting up a simple bus route and the other for a train line. Everything went smoothly but after I’d finished both sections of the tutorial I realized I had no money left after my tracks had been automatically built using bridges and tunnels. Not too much of a problem, I merely restarted having learned my lesson and I appreciated the freedom to make mistakes but perhaps such freedom is out of place during a tutorial.

So I started my new map and set about deciding which two towns to connect. I set up my bus routes easily. Each town has a limited amount of road already laid out for you to work with. Placing a bus stop on a section of road creates a point for citizens to wait for a bus to arrive. And then you create a route using however many of these stops you want and assign a vehicle to it. The vehicle then begins work and eventually you should earn money from the route.

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There was a certain satisfaction in deciding on how many vehicles to assign for efficiency and cost effectiveness. And making an efficient route isn’t quite as simple as it first appears. Things like placing stops on the correct side of the road can make a significant difference in how long it takes for your busses to complete their route. But ultimately once a route is set up there’s very little for you to do but build new ones.

For train lines it’s a little more complicated. Not because there’s any difficulty, of course you’re route options are rather limited but that should make things easier. And it does once you’ve built the track but the building itself can be a torturous experience at times. Countless times I would drag the track tool only to see it was unavailable due to ‘Terrain alignment’. That’s all the so called help you get. There’s no indication on how to make it right and considering sometimes a bridge or tunnel will be created when needed it’s rather confusing when that doesn’t happen. So many times I found myself dragging the endpoint of my track around like a fool to try and find a valid spot with no success. I also found it frustrating that track would be cut into the scenery at times when it could just as easily have been placed on the surface level.

And creating a long length of track is even worse. To select the correct track to extend you have to have the camera fairly close. Not zoomed right in but still enough that you’re view of the map is limited. And you are unable to move the camera with track selected. So you’ll have to build it up in smaller sections, which quickly becomes a pain.

But the UI is slick even if it’s only because there isn’t much of it. There are very few elements at all and each of them has a purpose. Clicking on an element often opens up a widow in game that can be moved and closed like a window on an operating system. So Train Fever gets a very raw feel. Everything has its place and nothing is there unnecessarily or just to make things look better. Having said that I can’t help but feel this is partly because Train Fever has little more to offer.

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The level of detail is nothing short of amazing. Each coble that makes up a street feels as though someone has carefully placed it. Each citizen has a ‘thought process’ in deciding how long they are willing to wait for their transport or how far they will walk. There’s so much detail embedded in Train Fever but so much of it seems misdirected. For example it’s great that everything looks so good but I’d far rather be able to zoom out with more than around 1 frame every 5 seconds. The map is impressively huge but therefore I need to be able to scroll the map while I have the track building tool selected.

Train Fever has a lot in common with Banished. Banished had no objectives or rewards other than to survive. It was difficult and its lack of accessibility meant it was reserved for those who loved city building. Train Fever is largely the same. Once you’ve built your basic infrastructure you expand and grow. And as time passes you’re transport will become more modern. And the changes in era are impressive as your trains, busses, buildings and technologies become closer to the year 2000. Train Fever’s coverage of time is truly impressive.

But unfortunately were time in-between growth on Banished was spent balancing consumables and keeping people healthy Train Fever offers you very little. You build a new line of either busses or trains and eventually it makes money. Then when you have enough you can build another. I’m glad Train Fever doesn’t lose focus and try to be a full city builder and I love the detail and effort that’s clearly gone into it. But without resource management or people complaining about needing transport or something in between it can quickly become boring. When Banished kept me hooked by making me constantly check supply and demand, population growth and consumption Train Fever allows me to do nothing.

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There’s certainly fun to be had in Train Fever and it’s well designed at least as far as a transport manager goes. It looks great and the attention to detail is incredible. But without objectives Train Fever needs to provide us with something to do. There simply isn’t enough to keep even some hardcore fans interested for too long. On top of that the build tools can be awkward or temperamental and the optimization is far from perfect. Train Fever can be good fun for a little while but anyone other than the hardcore will struggle to find much entertainment value in it after a couple of hours. Nevertheless it’s an incredibly impressive game especially for such a small developer. With a few bits of extra content or maybe some custom scenarios Train Fever could be a great game but as it stands it’s ‘only’ good.

 

I love music and I love video games. More so when the two are combined I can’t be kept away from either of them. Whether it be using my feet to stumble gracefully across the dance mat in the living room, pretending I’m the front man of a band using my plastic guitar spinning uncontrollably on the spot, or even pressing buttons in time to the onscreen prompts and directions, the original Quick Time Events, I love them all. Growing up playing Dance, Dance, Revolution, Beatmania, Guitar Hero and Parappa the Rapper I’ve watched how these games paved the way for many spin-offs and other titles that have been inspired by such peripherals and innovative mechanics. The music genre of video games will never die as long as it keeps churning out fresh ideas. Square Enix’s latest game Thearhythm Final Fantasy Curtain Call is the second in the game’s series that does just that. So what exactly does this game do that’s different to the many out there?

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Theatre and Rhythm?

If you haven’t played the original title that came out in 2012 then the best way to describe this style of music game is that onscreen prompts and directions fly across playing field and you hit the relevant buttons in time. A piece of music is played in the background and the keys relate to notes in the song, what you’d expect from a typical music game at least. Sometimes you’ll have to press and hold down a key/button and keep it on track as the note moves up and down like a wave. Nothing too different to other games either. In fact the whole music ‘playing’ side to this game isn’t anything groundbreaking and resembles a lot of other games out there. But what this game does do that’s cool is slot the Final Fantasy franchise into its veins resulting in a game that adds almost every musical score and an adventure mode into it that will keep fans happy.

I must admit before I continue that I haven’t played much Final Fantasy in my lifetime and even though the main appeal might have been lost on me this game didn’t shut me out for not knowing my stuff. Fans of Final Fantasy will notice all 25 outings including the film Advent Children has been lovingly included into this game for you to play the music from. Across the different Music Stages game modes you can either play the battle stage where you fight foes, melody stages where you traverse the lands in less fight-like music, or even hit onscreen prompts whilst a video is played in the background from one of the games. With several difficulty settings on each song and with over 200+ tracks to chose from this mode along has hours of gameplay and nostalgia.

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Other Modes

Even though the Music Stages mode might be the backbone to this game I’m glad to have two other modes which otffer just as much, if not more replayable content. Quest Medleys is your quest mode that lets you participate in either a short, medium or a long quests. Each quest has a series of stages within which are the individual music playable parts but laid out like an adventure. You’ll have to progress through each quest keeping an eye out on your overall health bar which will go down on how bad you’re doing. This long endurance mode even has bosses to fight if you make it to the end that will reward you with collectables and unlockables. Using the Nintendo 3DS’s Play Coin feature you can even pay to fast track your way through the quests which is a pretty cool use of these coins.

The other game mode is the Verses Mode where you can fight against the AI or against human opponents locally or online. What this mode does differently to the other two is lets you play the battle stage music but allows you to send over modifiers to make the opponent struggle. These include sending faster speeds to hit the notes to, hidden notes that don’t reveal themselves until the last second and even health swapping which is always terrifying. If you don’t have internet access playing the AI is just as fun and offers a class system of difficulty to play against where you have to rank up before moving on. Playing offline still unlocks collectable cards for you just like the online mode rewards you so you’re never missing out. I played though both the AI and Online Battle modes and it offers hours of competitive gameplay that never had a dull moment. Yes, you might get to a stage where you know every note in a track but it’s not the same when you’re being thrown modifiers to make it more complex.

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Curtain Call?

Is this game for you? If you love music games whether it include loving Fantasy Fantasy or not this game could potentially have some appeal to you. When we purchase music games we don’t necessarily know all the music tracks beforehand and Curtain Call, for me, had no music I knew prior and still enjoyed what I listened to. The Final Fantasy franchise is filled with interesting and epic tracks that simulate great battle themes to even emotional melodies. Picking up a copy without being a fan will still have you hooked on these musical game scores. I also loved how they added a quest mode to give you that adventure feel even though it’s still a music game. The battle mode is by far the strongest mode that is always different whoever you play and doesn’t get repetitive. Without this mode’s fighting modifiers I would have to admit this game isn’t as in depth as it claims to be. Even with all the collectables and game modes, just playing the tracks perfectly you’ll notice that none of the in game items, booster cards, character levelling up system or abilities you can enable makes a difference. They’re only there to recharge your health or boost your chances of doing well, something made redundant if you play extremely well anyways.

I do appreciate the fact there’s a lot of Final Fantasy content which includes decades worth of protagonists to use and blends the RPG element in the quest mode but this is something truly for the fans and only they could appreciate this in its entirety. Beneath the Final Fantasy layer of quests, fighting and nostalgia Curtain Call isn’t any different to the other music games on the market and doesn’t add anything new to the genre.

Well Bungie decided not to carry over progress from the Beta. A good choice for game progression but it does mean that this is the third time I’ve climbed to level 12. And I don’t care at all. I just needed to get stuck in and explore worlds, level up and find loot with my fellow guardians.

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When you start you’ll have to choose between three classes, The Titan, The Warlock and the Hunter. They all feel completely different and they all come with an alternate class to level up once you reach level 15. Your characters race is purely cosmetic and will only be seen in The Tower (Destiny’s social hub) anyway so don’t worry too much. It’s not easy to say which class is for who but Destiny doesn’t limit you. My first character is a Hunter but I like to unload all hell into something, usually with a shotgun, and then run off and get my health back. It works well, so long as you know your limits. But the great thing is I never felt even remotely limited by my class. Apart from the fact there’s another subclass I can switch to whenever I want, I didn’t feel I had to use a sniper just because I’m a Hunter. In fact I rarely did.

Once you’ve sorted your character out a good way to start is definitely with the campaign, although in truth they’re really just missions to complete that are limited by level and not order. There’s a decent sci-fi story that leaves plenty of room for expansion down the line. The few characters you meet are only met briefly but seem like they may have a bigger part to play in the future. Progression hits the sweet spot, nothing is handed to you for free but there’s always something to look forward to. Although during my campaign experience, which I mainly played alone,  there were a couple of times when I thought the action was becoming a bit formulaic. Turn up, follow a marker, kill something, follow a marker, rinse, repeat. But that’s mainly because it’s difficult to remember that Destiny is really an MMO and is definitely not targeting the single player experience. But the campaign is so close to standing up on its own without the other features that its easy to forget.

My main gripe is that without my friends online I played alone. For those who haven’t played the Alpha or the Beta when you proceed to the start of a mission you still play in the open world. Other Guardians are going about there business but they’re not directly in your fireteam. When you cross an invisible threshold respawning becomes limited and the mission begins. At this point only your fireteam are present. So three guardians all walk into a mission alone (this isn’t a bad joke), with a public fireteam setting and play three separate missions. For a game so focused on co-op and team play this is just madness. Worse still there’s no way to see where the boundaries are and once you’ve crossed it it’s too late. I’m not saying I want a big ugly menu to come up every 10 seconds but perhaps an option that allows automatically putting similar guardians that are right next to each other and clearly on the same mission into a fireteam together would be good. The amount of times I’ve crossed that threshold alone as others do the same thing is just crazy.

However, on one occasion someone actually joined me! They must have known where the super secret line was. And we proceeded with the mission efficiently communicating silently in that way only gamers can. It was actually my penultimate mission and my friend stayed with me after the mission as I continued into Destiny’s finale. I don’t know if he/she had seen it before but we explored the areas together and completed our mission. We shared a dance and parted ways. I only wish Destiny had helped make these random encounters happen more often. It makes it easy to join a friend, or even someone with a public team but the invisible threshold makes it almost impossible to set up a fireteam with random players. (Just as a note, the PS4 doesn’t recognize people in your ‘players met’ list so don’t rely on that like I did.)

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Your environment plays a big part in playing Destiny. Knowing if you can make a jump might be the difference between life or death. Escape or landing right in the middle of a horde of very angry ‘men’. If you trap yourself it’s particularly bad news and often the AI will take advantage if it can. It likes to flank. And it doesn’t always mindlessly run into fire; although it does it a lot. If there’s only one or two enemies left alive the enemy tends to hide and make you come looking. More often than not the AI comes looking for a fight but it can be clever when it needs to be.

Which leads me nicely onto the topic of bosses. Bungie weren’t afraid of making a big aggressive sponge to soak up hundreds of rounds, crates of grenades, half a dozen rockets and still come back for more. And that’s not an exaggeration. Bosses are an actual challenge. Fights often form a pattern of shooting, dodging attacks and shooting again but they’re good fun especially with friends. Everybody likes a boss they can really get stuck into and Destiny will not disappoint.

The bosses are particularly prominent In Strike missions which form Destiny’s repeatable co-op missions. Those who played the Alpha and/or Beta will understand how tough these missions can be. And when you hit level 18 there’s another set of extra difficult missions for you. That’s my weekend sorted.

Or there’s the crucible, Destiny’s PvP offering. There’s a decent selection of game modes to keep you interested and the gameplay is exciting and fun. Apart from one mode, everybody plays with the same stats and equipment. You can select your weapons but your armour will be as effective as your opponents and your auto rifle the same power as theirs. And of course if you really want to test your skill and equipment you can play with your actual character, level and all. But so will your foes. It’s nice that it’s included but I can see this very quickly becoming reserved exclusively for the elite and people with more time than you. Time will tell. But at least the options there.

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And of course everything you do will earn you something. Your character has a Vanguard level and a Crucible level. The Vanguard represents PvE and Crucible PvP. This level acts as a reputation and at higher levels will unlock exclusive gear that you will want. Completing missions in the Crucible earns you crucible reputation and completing strike missions earns you Vanguard reputation. Each one also has a currency which is earned in the same missions, with a limit of 100 a week for each. You can get a lot done with 100 Vanguard/Crucible marks and earning that many will probably take a week anyway so that shouldn’t be a problem for anyone.

But one one the best ways to earn rep is by completing bounties. Updated every day, bounties will offer you tasty rewards for completing certain tasks. You get a large chunk of XP too, in fact completing bounties is by far one of the best ways to earn levels. Bounties play a key part in earning levels and there’s usually at least a couple you can complete no matter where you are in the game.

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And once your finished with all that and you’ve reached level 20 the game really begins. Although 20 is the cap for levelling up conventionally there are ‘light levels’ to be earned after this. By equipping various rare armours and equipment you can level up past 20. Plus there’s a simple but clever system were your XP gets converted to ‘light motes’ which act as currency for some really nice items so earning XP after reaching the cap isn’t a problem. There’s loads to do after 20 and that’s after a 40 hour playthrough to get to 20 with one of the six classes available. Destiny certainly has enough content for MMO, RPG and FPS fans alike.

Presentation is truly exceptional. Destiny is a marvel to look at and the original soundtrack is somehow both reverent and triumphant. It looks beautiful all the time. Nothing feels rushed or uncared for. Seeing is believing. And if you’ve got a good headset or sound system Destiny definitely benefits from high volume. Auto rifles are tinny and sci-fi-ey and the Heavy Machine Guns (not sure why they’re not called LMG’s) are really chunky.

In short Destiny is a marvel. It does almost everything right apart from a few minor niggles. But far more importantly it’s something new that finally pushes the increasingly stale MMO genre forward. It’s great looking, great sounding, endless fun filled with both competitive or cooperative levelling and looting. There’s more content than you could ask for and I’m quite happy doing the same things over and over in Destiny, because it’s just fun. Destiny has become legend before we even got chance.

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Diablo 3 has been out for a couple of years almost on multiple formats and finally makes it’s way over to the next generation consoles, the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One. Out originally on the PC and Mac the game has been tried and tested, perfected and tweaked over the years. Now available for next gen we have got the Ultimate Evil Edition that includes the original Diablo 3 and the Reaper of Souls expansion. Yes, this game is the same game out again with the extra content but I honestly think it was necessary. The Xbox One certainly needs as many titles, great titles, as it is. And as it’s a role playing game I dedicated a week of solid hack and slashing before writing this review.

Here’s why Diablo 3 is a necessity on next gen:

Adventure

If the idea of joining a crusade, taking up arms against hoards of enemies and fighting across mortal realms interests you then look no further. Diablo 3, if you haven’t played it already, is that game where you’d raid various dungeons and large open playing fields racking up a huge kill count before fighting mini bosses. What makes this game’s adventure so engaging is the fact you hardly ever have to repeat, back track or grind your experience points from kills in the same location for hours. Progressing forward, visiting new locations and grabbing all the loot is usually what most gamers look for which is what Diablo 3 offers. Clearing entire areas of foes, building up the biggest kill combo and finding hidden items is something too catered to for the more hardcore gamer which is also another option. Look no further for your adventure needs.

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Friends

What’s better than going on an adventure and fighting off foes? Doing all this with a friend or a bunch of them. Diablo 3 still offers local cooperative play on the same console, up to 4 players, as well as online Xbox Live play for 4 players too. For every individual friend that joins your party you will be provided with an XP boost. As fun as this is you’ll notice you would sail more easily through the game but it’s still a great perk for playing with others. The Reaper of Souls expansion adds exploration to the open world in Adventure Mode that allows you to hunt bounties on the elder evils that lurk throughout the mortal realms. What this means is that you can play the game with a target objective as opposed to the story mode, something recommended to do after completing the game for replyability.

The Ultimate Evil Edition has a cool feature which allows you to send and receive items from friends. You’re more likely to do this amongst friends rather than random people unless you’re really lucky and get gifts from people you don’t know. Nothing is welcomed more than a wonderfully crafted bit of kit, which at times, you might not be able to equip yet but it’s better than a poke in the eye. Also the more friends you have that play Diablo 3 on your format the likely you’ll come across the nemeses enemies from another friend’s game. Fighting and slaying these rewards you instantly and gives your friend a that the nemeses came from a gift which too can be shared.

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Reaper of Souls

Other than adding in the Adventure Mode the expansion the Apprentice Mode is a console exclusive feature to play with friends. Having one member of the group who should be a high level take the lead all other lower level characters will get significant boosts. Players will see their stats boosted to a level which the game thinks you’ll be able to survive on. The lead higher level character still plays a big role as if he doesn’t look after his guest apprentices they’ll most likely be worm food. This mode is mainly for playing to have the increased rate of experience, loot and gear but I personally can’t see this being the mode to play primarily.

The difficulty setting in Reaper of Souls is pretty much the only strange thing about the game. Easily resolved it’s not enough of an issue to criticise players who will start the game on the lowest setting will notice within the hour that the game becomes too easy. I was recommended to bump up the setting to the next level after every Act but ended up pushing it up twice to Expert within my first session. On the plus side the higher the difficulty the more experience points and loot you’ll acquire as a difficulty bonus which can all be altered in the game’s pause screen. If you find yourself or the group you’re playing with cutting down enemies in seconds with ease and no danger to your health bar then it’s time to up the difficulty.

Other additional goodies

I’ve always love games that come with their previous content attached to the game disk, DLC and all. Reaper of Souls is indeed the expansion that comes with the original Diablo 3 game but also an additional Act and the Crusader character. Once you get to the new Act, 5, you’ll meet Myriam the Mystic who offers you two options. You can Enchant which will change a single stat on any piece of gear for another stat of similar strength or Transmogrify your items to reskin them to look like other items. If you have also played the game on the previous console’s format you can transfer your character over through your account if connected to the internet.

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Verdict

I’ve never really played this genre of game before and I must say I was out of my comfort zone. Blizzard have created a game which has a learning curve that eases anyone at any skill level to enjoy. The fact that the Ultimate Evil Edition comes as a whole package is a bonus offering more than your average game getting your money’s worth. The fact there’s additional locked difficulty settings and the Adventure Mode available upon completion thrives with replayability. Even though the game has been tweaked with every outing for the better the difficulty setting is its only fault and can result in players blitzing through the entire game in less than half the time if not tweaked by the player. Other than that Reaper of Souls is a necessity for gamers on the Xbox One.

All too often pool games have a habit of not quite striking a balance between you being able to win every game in a single turn or your opponent winning every game in a single turn. Well pure pool has a simple but effective way of making sure you don’t have to be a professional pool player to play but still not let you win without challenge.

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So you get showing were the cue ball will go and then where that will leave the ball you hit. When this happens there’s not a huge chance of you missing unless you make a mistake, which is unlikely. But were pure pool kept me interested was when you hit a sharp angle or take a shot from long range. When this happens the markers begin to fade and make it difficult to see exactly what you’re going to hit. There’s just enough for you to take a decent shot but you’re not able to take perfect shots across the table every shot. Not only does this add a challenge and skill to Pure Pool but Its also so rewarding when you get a good shot and the game isn’t there to jump in and take the credit with its training wheel UI.

There’s not a whole load of excitement that can be injected into a pool game as far as graphics are concerned. But the tables, balls and cues are well detailed. The backgrounds look nice but spend their time our of focus which is either not to be distracting or because they’re low fidelity. Considering the amount of time you’ll spend looking at them they do their job just right. It looks pretty and saves power for the important things. Everything is smooth and the UI is as minimalist as possible. It doesn’t intrude and it always feels like it was made to help rather than hinder you.

The main menu is as minimalist as possible too. There’s very little for you to do before you get in and play. There’s a few different game modes to play around with but Pure Pool has one priority and that’s to get you into the game and playing pool. It’s a simple process but it’s one that a lot of games miss (*cough* EA Sports menus *cough*). I just want to play pool and Pure Pool just gets it done.

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Pure Pool is great fun and it does what it says on the tin without any fuss or flash. It looks nice, the UI is exactly what you need and there’s plenty of difficulty should you want it. Or you can always go online. And because long shots aren’t just as easy as short ones there’s actually a point to things like were the cue ball ends up after a shot. It’s great fun and a welcome change of pace from the racing and killing.

 

More people play games on their mobile devices, and MadCatz have released the C.T.R.L.r Mobile Gamepad and here is our review.

 

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Mad Catz’ C.T.R.L.R Mobile Gamepad with Bluetooth technology removes the need for fingers and thumbs to block your touchscreen during mobile gaming. A highly capable game controller at home and also while on the move, C.T.R.L.R provides traditional gamepad controls with physical action and shoulder buttons, D-Pad, and analogue sticks. When paired with Mad Catz’ downloadable configuration app, you can adjust profiles and settings to customize C.T.R.L.R for an expansive list of controller-compatible videogames. And, the included AAA batteries provide energy for up to 40 hours of continuous control over your favourite games, apps, and media.

Who are Mad Catz?

From their website:

Mad Catz Interactive is a global provider of innovative interactive entertainment products marketed under its Mad Catz (gaming), Tritton (audio), and Saitek (simulation) brands. Mad Catz also develops flight simulation software through its internal ThunderHawk Studios; publishes games under its Mad Catz brand; and distributes games and videogame products for third parties.

What’s in the Box?

The box contains the C.T.R.L.R gamepad, travel clip, plus manuals, stickers and a set of AAA batteries.

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A Closer Look

The first thing you will notice about the C.T.R.L.R gamepad is that it looks very similar to an Xbox 360 controller. Gamers should immediately feel at home holding it, as it feels nice and robust in your hands.

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The C.T.R.L.R has three separate modes which are selected via a switch. These include a “mouse mode” which enables the left stick to control the cursor on the screen, as though it were a mouse.

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There are also media playback controls situated on the top of the C.T.R.L.R which include play, pause and mute.

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Fitting the batteries is simple, as you would expect.

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There is also a travel clip included in the box which enables you to connect up your smartphone to the C.T.R.L.R so that you can pretty much play games wherever you want.

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Fitting the travel clip was very easy.

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Then fitting your phone or other device into the clip is also very easy, and the clip really does hold it in there tightly, so you shouldn’t have to worry about it flying out if you are really playing hard!

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Pairing was very simple and quick.

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Final Thoughts

You might recall our review of the MadCatz M.O.J.O. that also included a C.T.R.L.R – the one in this review is a newer version than the one included with the M.O.J.O.

I liked the feel of the C.T.R.L.R - it really did remind me in both look and feel of the Xbox 360 controller, but with more functionality.

And the inclusion of the travel clip means that you a device such as a smartphone and thus create your own little gaming rig. Of course you don’t have to do that, you can always connect the C.T.R.L.R via Bluetooth to whatever you want to use for gaming.

It also uses Bluetooth 4.0 technology to ensure lag free gaming, and believe me the last thing you want if you are playing a game is lag!  And talking of Bluetooth, pairing the C.T.R.L.R was simple and incredibly fast.

You also get around 40 hours of playtime out of a single set of AA batteries, so that’s really good too, although it would have been better to have included a rechargeable battery instead. Talking of batteries, there is no visible way to know when the batteries are running low so that can be a little annoying if you are in the middle of a game.

The MadCatz A.P.P. desktop software enables the creation of game-specific macro profiles which helps with your PC gaming needs.

Because the C.T.R.L.R is shiny it really does pick up every fingerprint and smudge, it’s not really a problem though, but I know some people like their controllers pristine.

MadCatz are currently listing the C.T.R.L.R as £33.33 on their website – so if you play mobile games and want a decent controller, go get this one today.

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You can learn more from the MadCatz website.

If you have ever wanted your hand written notes to be available on your iPad then you might want to take a look at the Livescribe Smartpen 3 – and here is our review.

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Livescribe is a global leader in the design and manufacturing of smartpens, enabling customers to capture, search and share handwritten notes on digital devices from desktops to smartphones. Livescribe makes the only smartpens on the market that synchronize handwritten notes with recorded audio, making the ubiquitous pen more useful in today’s world. Livescribe’s family of smartpens include the Echo smartpen, the Sky wifi smartpen and the Livescribe 3 smartpen, with complementary software for each platform.

Designed as a mobile companion, Livescribe 3 is a sleek, simplified smartpen paired with Livescribe+, a powerful iOS 7 app created to organize information and turn notes into useful actions. Set up will only take a few seconds and then you’ll be able to start syncing your notes to your iPhone or iPad, where they can be organized, tagged, searched, converted into text and shared

Features

  • Simply write on Livescribe paper and the smartpen captures all your notes. Pair and connect your Livescribe 3 with your iPhone or iPad and your notes instantly appear in Livescribe+.
  • Convert handwritten notes into text to create tasks, reminders, calendar events, contacts or more.
  • Create audio “pencasts,” or add photos and typed memos inside Livescribe+ to add more detail and additional context to your written notes.
  • Tag your notes in Feed view to create Collections that sort all your tagged content together.
  • Livescribe 3 uses low-energy Bluetooth Smart to connect to any iPhone 4S, 3rd-gen iPad or 5th-gen iPod touch (or newer devices with iOS 7) to deliver more than 14 hours of battery life.

What’s in the Box?

The box contains everything you need to get started, including the Smartpen (with ink), a notebook, cable and a basic guide.

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A Closer Look

The Livescribe Smartpen looks and feels like a normal pen, well that’s because it is a normal pen, although it is a little chunkier than pens you might be used to writing with.

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It has an ink nib (which has a protective plastic cap on when you take it out of the box.

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When the ink runs out you can just remove it and replace it with another Livescribe ink. All this is very simple to do and doesn’t involve you having to take the pen apart, you just slide out the old ink and slide in the new one.

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Charging the Livescribe Smartpen is as easy as removing the top of the pen and connecting the USB cable.

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Using the Livescribe Smartpen

The first thing you need to do is pair your iOS device to your new smartpen – so once you have downloaded and installed the Livescribe+ app from the app store, just twist the middle ring on the pen to power it on and then the iOS device (in my case my iPad mini) will detect it automatically.

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Just tap Pair and it’s as simple as that. There might be some firmware updates to do, but don’t worry, they are very quick and easy.

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You can now start making notes in the notebook.

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The notes are then available in the app, and you can even use handwriting recognition to turn your notes in text which you can then use in another application.

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The notebook also has a number of images on the bottom of each page. As you can see here, there is a image for Record, Pause and Stop. These are used to create Pencasts, which are interactive documents containing audio that is syncronised to your handwritten notes. The audio is recorded using the microphone on your iOS device rather than from the smartpen.

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Here you can see an example:

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You can also easily tag your notes to create collections to easily find similar things.

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Final Thoughts

As someone who takes a lot of notes, I found the Livescribe Smartpen 3 to be a really useful tool that saved me a lot of time, and effort! I really liked the ability to be able to record audio as well and include that within my notes, again saving me a lot of time and effort when collating my notes.

You can use any iOS device, although I found it easier to use an iPad rather than my iPhone when going through my outputs – but it still worked great on the iPhone.

Within the box, you have a notebook and the pen already has an ink cartridge, but depending on how much you intend to use the device you will wait to order some additional books and cartridges to have ready for when you need them. You can also print your own paper for use with the smartpen too!

It took me a little while to get used to writing with the smartpen, primarily because it is a lot chunkier than any pen I have used before for writing with, although you will get used to it!

Setting up the LIvescribe+ app and pairing the smartpen was simple and only took a few moments – no mucking around in the settings, everything was done in the app for me.

I was also very happy with the battery life on the smartphone – it delivers around 14 hours per charge which should be more than enough for the average day.

There are different views in the app for your notes – Page view which shows you exactly what your wrote and how you wrote it, Feed view which sorts your notes into a timeline view, and Pencast view.

I also found the handwriting recognition, provided using a version of MyScript, to be very good and easy to use.

Sharing my notes was very easy too – I could send them as PDFs, images, or text, depending on my target audience. I could also use Online services such as Evernote and Dropbox very easily from within the app.

All in all, if you are the type of person who takes a lot of notes in meetings, at school or at university, then the Livescribe Smartpen 3 may be one of the best bits of tech you buy.

The Livescribe 3 Smartpen is available in two versions the regular at £129.99or Pro Edition, priced at £169.99 which includes a leather smartpen portfolio.

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Learn more from the Livescribe website.

It’s time for another two minute review, and this one is for the Sony PS Vita CitySlicker Case from Waterfield Designs.

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We have reviewed a number of products from Waterfield Designs in the past, including MacBook Air cases and even bags, and so we thought it was time to review something a little smaller, and hope that we could get the same sort of quality and protection for our Vita.

This is how Waterfield Designs describe the case:

“The slim PS Vita CitySlicker is probably the best-looking case out there for your PS Vita or PS Vita Slim. Made of sturdy ballistic nylon and leather, it’s custom-fitted for your device and provides pockets for commonly-played games you may want to take along. The cushy interior hugs the PS Vita so it doesn’t jostle around. The exterior sports a double-layer leather flap that enriches its look. The back of the case has a stretchable, self-locking zippered pocket to hold more games and ear-buds.”

A Closer Look

The back part of the case has a very easy to use zip which opens up the rear compartment.

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You can easily store your earbuds or something else in the back as it is quite stretchy.

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Even with the Vita in the case it still is quite small.

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When you open up the front flap you have access to the main compartment and also cartridge holders.

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Using the Case

It is very easy to slip your Vita into the main compartment.

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And the same goes for the cartridge holders. There are only five but you could always store some in the back.

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Final Thoughts

Having reviewed a number of Waterfield Design products in the past, I was expecting a certain level of quality, and I wasn’t disappointed. The case is very well made, and feels very good in your hands, it is also very lightweight but at the same time is gives your Vita a lot of protection for when you are carrying it around in your bag.

The front flap opens and closes very easily and locks in place with two studs – it won’t open on it’s own so you don’t need to worry about something falling out! The back has a large zip and you can store whatever you want there, as long as its small. I stored my earbuds there and it didn’t detract from the look of the case.

The front also has five cartridge holders and again these are very secure, so you won’t be losing anything from in there! The Vita slides in very easily into the pouch and is held there very securely.

Overall I was once again very impressed with the amount of effort Waterfield Designs has put into their work, this really is the Vita case to own.

The Sony PS Vita CitySlicker Case is available now in Black, Kiwi, Orange, Camel and Grizzly (which is the one we are reviewing here) and costs $49.

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You can learn more from the Waterfield Designs website.

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When I was growing up in secondary school I was like most youngsters that collected the original Pokémon trading cards. However, I didn’t learn how to play it the proper way until late last year when I went into full Pokémon mode with the release of their latest game X & Y. After acquiring my first grass type starter deck from the Kalos Region I once again found that love again and need to collect, or should I say catch em all. Every few months a newer expansion pack is released to keep the trading card game fresh, up to date and most importantly offers you a chance to collect a shiny Pokémon card to add to your every growing collection. So when I was asked to review the latest Furious Fists expansion packs I was instantly onboard and have loved every minute of it.

What is this Pokémon Trading Card game?

Whether you’re a fan of the TV series, an avid Pokémon trainer that plays the video game or just a lover of the Japanese pocket monsters you’ll somewhat already know that battling them is one of the primary roles. The trading card game is the battling side to the ever-growing Pokémon franchise with the obvious opportunity to trade for better cards. Once you’ve laid out the playmat to battle on you’ll divide your deck of 60 cards into a Prize Card section where you collect up to 6 cards after defeating your opponent’s individual Pokémon, your Bench where you line up 5 of your own Pokémon ready to battle with, your Deck pile where you draw new cards from, your Discard Pile where used cards and defeated Pokémon go, and most importantly your Active Pokémon section where you fight. The system works similarly to how the series and the game works. You only can defeat 6 Pokémon, items can boost your team and you even can to be tactical with whatever cards you randomly deal yourself.

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What is Furious Fists?

With most successful franchises out there releasing a sequel or an expansion is what the fans would always want. Something to keep the interest, a new talking point and most importantly renewing this brand to keep fans happy and even bring in new players. Furious Fists in an expansion to the XY set of cards with 2 theme decks and multiple expansion packs. The 2 theme decks is the Dark Hammer deck with the mascot Pokémon Pangoro, the fighting panda, and the Enchanted Echo deck with the mascot Pokémon Sylveon, the fairy evolution of Eevee.

Dark Hammer consists of Pokémon that are hard hitters, fighting types and dark types. Featuring cards such as the Pokémon Mienshao who pulls a tricky hit-and-run as Pangoro hammers away at your opponent’s deck. Landorus keeps your team powered up with energy and Machamp’s Fighting Fury Ability can boost your attacks. To name but a few from this deck of 60 you’ll certainly be pulling out all the stops.

Enchanted Echo consists of Pokémon that are more likely to disrupt your opponent’s strategy as this deck of fairy types isn’t as innocent as it seems. Damage prevention moves from Clefable and Accelgor plus the healing powers of Victreebel and the Potion item, this deck balances out the fight to whatever the opponent throws at you.

Is Furious Fists for you?

The accessibility into playing with this pack doesn’t change if you’ve already learned how to play the Trading Card Game itself. It offers more to choose from and the initial game created years ago hasn’t been changed. This means that the expansion will appeal to anyone that’s previous played and the learning curve for the new cards is null. Literally you can play out of the box on release.

The quality of the components within each theme deck and the expansion is top of the range, sturdy and the shiny cards always gleam, just how a rare card should. The deck box, damage counters and metallic coin are built to last and endured the beating I gave them from the battles I had during my review.

The newer cards weren’t overpowering the older cards meaning you can incorporate older cards into the game. I purposely played with my older deck from last year against a Furious Fist deck and still managed to have a great match. I threw in a few expansion packs into the mix too and it complimented what cards I originally played with and still didn’t unbalance the game. So if you have your older cards around don’t think that they’re now redundant, dust them off and get back into the action.

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Verdict

I love playing anything Pokémon related but the latest Furious Fist expansions have rekindled my excited to play and trade more. Each of the 2 theme decks come with a decent amount of cards, evolutions, items and are all balanced to ease you into battling straight away. I’m pleased with the individual booster packs for Furious Fists offering me some pretty awesome and rare cards and now I must collect more. I’ll urge any Pokémon fans out there who were like me, a collector of the card but not the player of the card game, to try out the game and see it’s actually as fun as the video game battling itself. I, for one, am excited for the next expansion but until then I must become the Pokémon master, of the cards I already own that is.

Now that the retail boxed version of Ultra Street Fighter IV has arrived it is now the complete edition. Within the boxed title comes everything that was available from the digital upgrade a couple of months prior but with all the alternative costumes that were purchasable over the years. Players like myself who held off from buying the online upgrade that required the Arcade edition before hand have also had the chance to pick up additional costumes through pre ordering the game at selected shops. Doing so and awaiting for the boxed version now means you’ve got everything that Capcom has to offer. This is biggest update to a Street Fighter game to date even though Seth Killian originally planned for the previous title to be the last.

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Over the past few years we’ve seen 2 updates, the first being Super Street Fighter that added 10 new characters, then Super Street Fighter Arcade Edition which brought 4 more characters, and now Ultra Street Fighter IV which adds 5 more characters. 3 of the 5 characters you might have already played or come across from 2012’s Street Fighter X Tekken game. Poison, Hugo and Rolento, all from Street Fighter X Tekken have their same moves with some tweaks and are joined by 2 additional characters, Elena and Decapre. Elena is a female Capoeira fighter seen in previous Street Fighters with the unique ability to heal as her ultra move. Fighting only using her feet as Capoeira fighters do, Elena is the only additional character that offers a unique fighting style and is also very quick and accessible to learn. Decapre was the last character to be announced and also debuts in Ultra Street Fighter IV. She has a similar look to Cammy but has her own unique move set and is armed with a claw and some moves which resembles Cammy’s.

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With the added characters there sadly isn’t the option to take them into the Trial mode to challenge yourself to furthering your training. Being a feature I only tend to use when I fancy trying out a new character I can’t fault this but there will be some fans out there who’ll miss the 24 stages of trials. Perhaps this is something that could be rectified by an update as opposed to a paid microtransaction.

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There’s an additional 6 stages to battle it out on for even more visual variety. Pitstop 109, Mad Gear Hideout, Cosmic Elevator, Blast Furnace, Half Pipe and Jurassic Era Research Facility make their way across from Street Fighter X Tekken which I enjoyed as they were dynamic in that game and some of the background animations have made it over too.

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There are a few other additional cool tricks you can now pull off within the matches. From delaying your standing up after being knocked down to throw off your opponent’s timing if they’re anticipating you getting back up, to the new Red Focus move which absorbs multiple attacks in exchange for some of your super bar. But my favourite feature is having the option to having both of your ultra moves. For anyone that doesn’t know, your ultra move is only powered up if you’re taking quite the beating, previously named the Revenge bar which makes sense. Now this ultra bar allows you to do 1 of 2 moves chosen by you whilst selecting your character and can’t be changed mid fight. With the addition of Ultra Combo Double you can now have the option to do either move at the cost of reduced damage to keep it fair. Now players like myself who use a character with an ultra offensive move and an ultra counter move can have game changing options right at our finger tips.

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This version of the game has added a lot more than it says on the tin and with almost no faults it’s the best upgrade to the current Street Fighter series. The only crime is that if you’ve moved onto the Xbox One or PlayStation 4 you’ll be missing out as this title is only for the 360 and PS3, for now.

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The second set of maps for Titanfall has arrived for gamers to enjoy more Titan bashing fun across 3 more battlegrounds. Whether you’re into your open and wide playgrounds for Titan and sniper heavy duals, to my personal favourite tighter built up arenas to show off your parkour abilities there’s something for everyone here. The Frontier’s Edge DLC adds yet another 3 maps to the game’s playlist giving you more reasons to take down your opponents in a variety of ways.

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Dig Site is a small industrial mining facility where energy-rich ores are extracted that offers a tighter arena for Titans to engage in combat. Build out of from the interior of a mine this environment incorporates both naturalistic rock formations to parkour on as well as the man made factories to enter into. Players can storm these mines on this medium sized map in numerous ways. From the open ground level you’re exposed a lot more and could be ambushed from players if you’re not quick, cautious or not in your Titan. This map is medium sized compared to the others.

I particularly enjoyed playing Capture The Flag on Dig Site as the various ways to get from one base to the other were plentiful. With the central structure being the key vantage point any team nesting within can control this game mode pretty well.
(A cross between the maps Airbase and Boneyard)

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Haven is a map that features a hotel, several sky scraping buildings and a beach. This is a luxury retreat for the wealthy built on the shores of a natural crater lake and it shows. And with every city-like map in Titanfall comes the tighter, less spacious streets restricting Titans from moving as freely. This map is extra large and offers loads of interiors, a lot of height and cover above if you’re into your sniping.

This map was great for Hardpoint Domination as nothing really beats running from building to building avoiding Titans and capturing bases. With the main hotspot being ‘B’ inside a hotel lobby it is a scene for mayhem as Titan’s can enter as well as a couple of elevated floor for pilots to rain down covering fire from above.

(A cross between the maps Fracture and War Games)

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Export is a dock with an interesting feature that can cause quite a lot of panic. With an exposed generator housed in the centre of the map, shooting this will result in one of pathways from one end of the map to the other to become electrified frying friend and foe. This map is my personal favourite from this pack as it balances a decent amount of building to enter, amazing vantage points for snipers, great open spaces for Titan fights and a decent amount of zip lines to get from the ground upwards out of danger. This map is large and is perfect for pilots to show off their abilities to traverse across the arena.

Playing Last Titan Standing on this map was by far the most enjoyable game mode. With a variety of ways to cross from one side to the other not forgetting the potential electrified easier route, this game mode played differently every time I played Export.
(A cross between the maps Smuggler’s Cove and Relic)

The Frontier’s Edge Variety Pack and Expedition Attrition are 2 playlists you can choose to play if you fancy just playing the 3 maps on rotation. These, the DLC and the added recent update have given more to the Titanfall experience. Since the last DLC we’ve now got the additional OS Voice option to choose what AI speaks to us once inside the Titan. The Titan Insignia is also added as the emblem to show off what challenges we’ve accomplished to heard these. The Black Market is also available to sell you current Burn Cards at and the one stop shop for buying more insignias or packs of Burn Cards, some featuring some rare cards.

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