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Here is the first full trailer for Xbox Exclusive ‘HALO: Nightfall’ series has been released in the run up to the release of the ‘Master Chief Collection’ on Xbox One.

Halo Nightfall is a live action series providing insight into the origin and backstory of legendary manhunter Agent Locke (Mike Colter, “The Good Wife”), a pivotal new character in the Halo universe who will play a key role in Halo 5: Guardians. A strange and treacherous world exposes elite UNSC operatives to a much deeper danger.

Halo Nightfall debuts 11th November in Halo The Master Chief Collection.

So, vault hunters. You’ve come back for more. And this time your adventures will take place on the moon. A change of scenery is always good. Especially considering I’ve spent over 400 hours on the first Borderlands and at least 200 on Borderlands 2. It’s fair to say I know my Borderlands. But Borderlands 2 failed to create that spark within me that made me take days off work and just generally attempt to avoid everything that wasn’t Borderlands. So I visit the moon in the hope that spark returns.

And because this is a moon that comes with a nice fat helping of low gravity gameplay. Sadly low gravity isn’t as fun as 2K Australia seem to think it is. After the first couple of higher-than-normal jumps the novelty has more than worn off. And so you spend most of the game hitting your head on low objects and just generally wishing you could jump, run and sprint the way you usually do. Sadly it’s nothing more than a gimmick wedged into the game. Adding the need for topping up oxygen reserves and an associated item, called Oz Kits, for you to loot increasing your tanks and providing various other abilities really doesn’t do enough to validate it. If you remove low gravity, the need for oxygen and the ‘Oz Kits’ completely out of The Pre-Sequel nothing would change and in fact the gameplay would be much less cluttered.

Borderlands hasn’t returned to the original ways of an almost irrelevant plot and constant instances of ‘what was that guys name?’. Although truth be told that never bothered me and the first Borderlands, irrelevant plot and all, is still my favourite. The constant humour and general foolishness are perpetual in The Pre-Sequel. Borderlands still remains the only game that can genuinely make me laugh. And I don’t mean the odd chuckle or a smile I mean actual audible laughter. But The Pre-Sequel doesn’t quite have the same punch that Borderlands 2 had.

Instead it attempts to make up for less quips and quick-witted pop culture references by offering a unique perspective. Any of the characters you can play as, except for the beloved Claptrap, is a villain. The concept that Handsome Jack isn’t a villain in his own mind is further explored in The Pre-Sequel by putting you in control of one of those villains. The game is set far enough in the past that there are plenty of notable characters for you to see periodically and on occasion even interact with.

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But all this really does is convince you that you’d rather be playing as someone else. I was a Mordecai guy myself and I accepted the events that transpired in Borderlands 2 only because it hit me so hard (seriously I swear I shed a proper tear). My co-op partner played Roland and again we all just had to accept the outcomes of Borderlands 2. Even then all we really wanted was to play as the original characters but the franchise moved forwards so we learned to love our new roster of Vault Hunters.

In The Pre-Sequel this is taken to a new level. We know what happens to most of the characters and we know what happens in the overall story. Being constantly reminded that the plot you’re in and the characters you’re controlling and meeting have totally predetermined endings doesn’t allow you to even come close to feeling connected with your characters. If the second Borderlands strained the relationship between player and character then The Pre-Sequel totally dismantles it and burns it. At least in Borderlands 2 there could be meaningful events. That simply isn’t possible without feeling connected to a character and The Pre-Sequel doesn’t even try to make room for such a connection.

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Those things aside, The Pre-Sequel does things much the same as other Borderlands titles. The addition of the ‘Grinder’ vending machine allows you to sacrifice three guns and have a chance to turn them into something better – or at least rarer. So if you put in 3 uncommon pistols you get a chance to get a rare pistol. If you put in three different weapon types of the same rarity you might get any one of those weapons. The odds of ‘winning’ and getting a good return are surprisingly high for Borderlands, or any loot-em-up really, and from my experience seem to give around a 50/50 chance of either returning a weapon of equal rarity to the parts provided or one of higher rarity. Rather generously you can also spend moon-shards on the process and guarantee the best result. In the end game this is a fantastic way to scrap loot when the shops no longer cater for your needs and also gives you a way to spend shards rather than them becoming totally redundant after you’ve bought all the SDUs.

I didn’t get that feeling I got jumping from the first Borderlands to the second. The Pre-Sequel is built using the same engine as Borderlands 2 and there are no obvious mechanical or visual improvements. Even at its best The Pre-Sequel feels like DLC. Admittedly this would be the mother of all DLC’s but really there’s less difference between Borderlands 2 and The Pre-Sequel as there is between the first Borderlands pre and post Knoxx’s Armoury. And that just stings a little bit.

And it’s not the only thing that stings. There are regular frame rate drops, especially when using some of Borderland’s more interesting weapons. Early game I used a unique MIRV (which is a type of grenade that separates into various child grenades before exploding) which boasted double the child grenades in the flavour text. And they did, often at risk to my own life, but they were very effective in the right circumstances – small rooms being a particular specialty. But for both me and my co-op partner frames dropped to 1/second and beyond so I just had to stop using them. More general ‘lag’ is a problem too and clients in particular can expect regular momentary interruptions or the need to press reload at least twice. By the third game this should be sorted. Especially given the decision to play it safe and release the game on last gen tech using the same engine, this really shouldn’t be happening anymore. Claptrap himself says it best in the game “This is prooobably fixed. Someone else’ll test it, anyway.”.

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It’s impossible to see The Pre-Sequel as anything other than DLC. Due to its very nature as a prequel we know what happens to the world and its characters. Putting plot aside, never too challenging in a Borderlands title, the gameplay is exactly like Borderlands 2 with low gravity forced in as an attempt to refresh the gameplay. The grinder makes a noticeable, and welcome, change to late game looting but it’s still something that could’ve been added with DLC.

With very few new features and old hardware the latest instalment of Borderlands does virtually nothing to move the franchise forward. But The Pre-Sequel is undoubtedly good fun and thankfully Borderlands hasn’t lost its identity. Humour is still integral but all your favourite characters remain off limits and serve only to make playable characters feel like third place; second place being won already. That is except Claptrap who you won’t be seeing because he is playable. Instead you’ll be presented with more generic Claptrap units than ever. They’re still funny but they’re not our beloved Claptrap who first opened a gate for some wannabe Vault Hunters way, way back in the early days on Pandora. The Pre-Sequel is good fun but it is a prequel in both title and design. For the true Borderlands experience the first game and its DLC’s are still the way to go. I’m starting to think they always will be.

 

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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Get ready to fight in the Asia Pacific dense urban environments with Battlefield 4 Dragon’s Teeth, the fourth extension of Battlefield 4.

Available from 15th July for members Battlefield 4 Premium, Dragon’s Teeth propels players into four new maps offering Unique gameplay environments and an overexcited, narrow alleys Market pearls floating restaurant Dragon submerged.

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Dragon’s Teeth also offers five unpublished in the Battlefield series weapons, a new gadget, the ballistic shield, and a new game mode, chain links, a revamped version of Conquest Mode where you must connect the capture points to win victory. Fans can also meet ten new missions featuring unlockable items and use RAWR, a new vehicle without remotely controlled and pilot armed to the teeth.

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Not to mention the four new maps:

• Lumphini Park: shopping channels a beautiful park aboard PWC quick to take advantage.

• Market beads: make war in the lively streets and rooftops of the market.

• Propaganda: fight among the towering monuments of despots in the gray battlefield concrete.

• Sunken Dragon: make havoc in a floating restaurant or drain the lake to open the way to a vehicle while the battle rages between skyscrapers.

Go to the Dragon’s Teeth 4 extension before the other players by joining Battlefield 4 Premium. Battlefield 4 Dragon’s Teeth will be available for all on 29th July.

If you enjoyed the first GRID it’s likely you were disappointed in some way by GRID 2. Many of GRID’s best features were unnecessarily cut. The entire game went too far down the arcade route and lost sight of why it’s predecessor was so great. Managing to remain simultaneously focused but still offering a chance to race across many disciplines with handling a nice hybrid of simulation and arcade. Well Codemasters appear to have recognised this and GRID: Autosport sees the return of many of the ideas and features that made GRID so great.

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Probably the most important change to Autosport is with the handling model. Autosport attempts to again find that sweet spot that is the balance between arcade and simulation from the first GRID. That satisfying sliding and skidding that would probably leave us critically injured in reality makes a strong return. But Autosport doesn’t let it get out of control and you don’t get those moments were you wonder whether you’ve started playing Burnout. As with the original GRID, Autosport dares to take itself seriously enough to become a racer but doesn’t require absolute perfection with every button press.

More than once I was reminded of how I felt during my time with the original. GRID is forgiving enough to encourage bravery at every turn but complicated enough that hitting an apex or being smooth with the throttle on the exit of a corner matters. It’s a fine line, and GRID 2 lost it’s way, but Autosport gets it right by looking back to the original for inspiration.

Car models help things by looking their best at all times, especially from the outside. I tend to play racers from the bumper cam anyway but the vehicles in GRID look great. And Autosport allows you to play from an interior camera too. Rejoice all those who will now briefly look at the interior of a car and then continue playing from a different view anyway! But it’s good to see Codemasters have included it anyway. The detail of the vehicle interiors isn’t quite as good as the rest of the game but I imagine statistically there’s very few gaming hours spent there and Codemasters’ attention has been correctly focused elsewhere.

During a bad collision that detail becomes obvious. The detail of the car models becomes clear as bits of car fly off, shatter and bend while the slow motion gives everything a cool weighted feel. There are some areas that don’t have quite the fidelity we might be looking for, particularly with next gen hardware around, but for a last gen title it looks very good.

One of my favourite things in GRID 2 were the tracks. There weren’t many of them and the tracks themselves weren’t always fun to race on but their detail was second to none. And the same goes for Autosport except there are loads of tracks on offer as well. There are a huge number of tracks for you to play on and each is detailed enough to stave off the boredom of hour after hour of grey tarmac rolling off the bottom of your screen.

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Autosport’s career mode yet again returns to old ideas and replaces constant, repeated, first place wins with realistic objectives. In your first season your goal isn’t to finish in first place. In fact you shouldn’t be finishing first place in your first race and Autosport encourages you to continue playing and improving as your position gets better with practice. It’s so much better not to be expected to overtake 20 or so vehicles even in your debut event. And the return of an AI partner as your teammate allows GRID to again feel like a team effort, which was one of my favourite features of the original. With the AI helping create excitement every step of the way you can be sure you’ll get to do some actual racing.

This time your career is split across multiple disciplines; Tuner, Touring, Street, Endurance and Open-Wheel. If there isn’t at least something for everyone in Autosport I’d be surprised. And each discipline feels unique and separated from the others. Touring races see you fighting wheel to wheel in huge packs. Open-Wheel races favour F1 like precision. The only disappointments for me were that the endurance races really weren’t long enough (but then I like the old Gran Turismo style that took many hours each) and the Tuner class wasn’t quite as enjoyable or exciting as the others. But some people will no doubt prefer the races I don’t like. The point is there’s a choice for you. On the whole the multiple class system works well and offers loads to keep you playing even long into your career. Just being able to change things up a bit occasionally makes a big difference.

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A lot of things were missing from GRID 2. And they’re all back in Autosport. Codemasters have really listened to what people want and actually made changes. The thrill of wheel to wheel racing the way only GRID knows how is so close to making a return. The handling model nearly finds that glorious balance between simulation and arcade. There are loads of tracks and plenty of good looking vehicle models. And then there are multiple race classes, realistic career objectives and a teammate. Although I would’ve still preferred to be able to fully manage a team, much like a more in-depth version of the first GRID. But some new features are what GRID needs now.

I wish I could have seen Autosport made for PS4 and Xbox One though as some nice next gen visuals would greatly increase the overall presentation of Autosport. It still looks good, especially for a last gen title but I’m still without a racer for my PS4 and GRID for some reason didn’t take advantage and fill that gap. Well done Codemasters for actually listening to fans but truth be told GRID Autosport is really just what GRID 2 needed to be. Still at least it’s safe to say GRID is back on track. What we need now is the next GRID to see were the franchise goes.

 

Even for the mighty UbiArt engine and Ubisoft Montpellier The Great War is a tricky topic to tackle correctly. Despite the abundance of WW2 period games out there WW1 remains relatively untouched. The sheer horror and weight of events make it difficult as a topic for any game. Valiant Hearts goes with an all out puzzler approach. There’s the occasional action filled moment but even then the puzzles are kept central to the gameplay. The point of Valiant Hearts isn’t to see how many men you can kill and how much gore there can be in a war. Thankfully.

But just because you’re not going to slaughter men on mass doesn’t mean Valiant Hearts pulls its punches. The Great War had a horrific death toll and Ubisoft aren’t afraid to make it known. Valiant Hearts doesn’t patronize and it doesn’t hold back. It covers the brutality of the first gas attack using Chlorine Gas. It covers the work of a medic performing triage after an attack. It covers a civilian population under attack from bombs, with people searching for loved ones and dealing with the destruction of their homes.

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There’s an appropriately solemn tone that never really lets up while you  play Valiant Hearts. It’s a strange experience to be entertained at the same time as watching the horrors of The Great War but I think it’s a fantastic way for us to commemorate the events that took place.

Great War aside Valiant Hearts is a great puzzler. There’s a fare share of simple tasks that don’t tax the brain too much but they are constant and keep you thinking until the next real puzzle. Which are clever. You’re canine friend has no name but he can squeeze through gaps and retrieve items, among other things, that allow the puzzles to be really creative. They kept me thinking and regularly had me stumped for a little while before I moved on.

The only problem I had was checkpoints which are few and far between. More than once when I quit the game I found myself playing the entire level again when I loaded it back up. It seems like a simple fix to me to just add more checkpoints especially considering Valiant Hearts has a slower pace that doesn’t make checkpoints difficult.

To compliment this are collectables that are carefully placed in every level. Some hidden, some require simple optional puzzles some are basically unmissable. But once you find and collect one you can press triangle and read more about the item. The nuggets of information make for interesting reading so it’s well worth stopping occasionally to take a look. Some are personal letters from soldiers on the front and some are interesting items like lighters or tools that provide some historical fact.

Valiant Hearts is a treat on the eyes and ears too, as if any of us doubted it. UbiArt has delivered again and the beautiful ‘hand drawn’ style creates the perfect atmosphere for Valiant Hearts. But musically Valiant Hearts has a simple yet powerful soundtrack that had me moved more than once. Even the piano piece on the main menu is truly beautiful.

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For me, the key concept that is a constant in Valiant Hearts is the issue of language barriers. Or more specifically the issue of nationality. Despite communication there’s no spoken language except the occasional mumble from the characters and a narrator on the loading screens. The most obvious example is your best friend in Valiant Hearts, your dog.

He starts out with his German handler, who’s a medic. But helps the French Emile when he’s in trouble early on. Emile and his dog then join with an American, Freddie and later even back with a German born French national Karl. On one occasion after Emile helps a German Soldier in need he will in return help Emile by letting him run from capture or death. Valiant Hearts does a good job of bringing to life the fact that all who fought in The Great War where ultimately still human, regardless of nationality. And your canine companion makes it all the more obvious as he doesn’t consider race or nationality when he helps people. He just helps those who need it. It’s also devastating when he gets in trouble and needs your help.

The Great War was certainly one of our darkest periods of history and it needs to be commemorated. And 100 years on it is all the more important that we make an effort to remember those who gave their lives for us. Valiant Hearts is so tastefully handled that I can think of no better way to remember those events. It’s a great puzzle game that makes you think infused with nuggets of history. More importantly Valiant Hearts packs a punch that doesn’t let us forget.

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Microsoft have released a special edition Xbox 360 Arctic Camouflage Controller, and we got a closer look at it.

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This controller has the following features:

  • Camouflage design inspired by snow-covered environments
  • Transforming D-pad that switches from plus to disc for better control
  • Special edition wireless controller with 30-foot range

Here’s a closer look at the controller:

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What do you think of the Camouflage Controller? Let us know by leaving a comment below.

And thanks to Xbox for the controller.

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I’ve recently been spending a lot of my time on the Destiny Alpha. Here’s a few videos of my adventures.

 

First mission with the Warlock class.

Co-op Strike Mission Objective 1

An encounter with ‘Devil Walker’

An encounter with ‘Sepiks Prime’. Which is immediately after Devil Walker!

Exploring the Tower

Exploring the Cosmodrome part 1

Exploring the Cosmodrome part 2

Hopefully this gives you a good idea of how Destiny plays. Also check out my first impressions here. Destiny is looking mighty impressive, and this is the Alpha with most features limited! Bring on the Beta!

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I’ve been lucky enough to get into Destiny over the weekend and more importantly allow Destiny to take over every waking moment I can spare. Here are my first impressions.

After playing for a few hours you hit the Alpha level cap of 8. Good old fashioned level ups seem to be second place to looting and levelling up individual items. Even after I reached the level cap I continued to find new weapons and gear and level them up to unlock new stuff like scopes and damage increases.

The looting is similar to borderlands although there are a few important differences. Firstly there aren’t 27 different shades of orange indicating that one rare item is slightly rarer than another. There’s white for common, green for uncommon and blue for rare. Admittedly there’s also legendary items but they’re firmly out of bounds for the Alpha. You can look but definitely not touch.

As an example most uncommon assault rifles have a choice of 3 scopes that are unlocked only by using the weapon. And I don’t mean for 30 hours but you have to get out there and kill a fair bunch of enemies. Machine guns have different round types and rocket ammo alters the ammo count in favour of attack power and visa versa. And each weapon also gets a cheeky damage boost pretty easily. This could, and I have no doubt will, really open up in the Beta and the full release.

One noticeable similarity to Borderlands (and arguably Borderlands’ key to success) is that two instances of the same weapon can be different. One may be more powerful, one may have a higher fire rate but otherwise look very similar, both visually and by name. You’ve got to pay attention but won’t be spending 30 minutes comparing two slightly different weapons and reaching for the calculator to work out DPS.

Abilities unlock nicely, nothing seems at all unattainable but there’s more than enough to keep you going. Having said that looking further down the road I’m not sure there will be all that much to do after a few long sessions. In about 4 hours I was at the alpha level cap of 8, which is supposedly out of only 20. And that seems quite low to me. I can only guess that destiny is going to rely on its loot system, which is great, and entertaining gunplay which is even better. Plus it looks very much like you can have multiple classes for each character which could be interesting.

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And my God is the gunplay fantastic. Bungie know one thing, and they know it well. And their heritage clearly shines through. If you stop admiring the weapon designs long enough to actually fire one you are instantly rewarded with satisfying heavy recoil and pseudo realistic sci-fi sound effects. Everything’s so smooth and we’ll balanced I don’t think I stopped grinning during the violence. It just feels right.

If (like me I’m ashamed to admit) Destiny isn’t at the very top of your wish list put it there now. There’s a single player experience that’s just like an offline fps. Great co-op opportunities for friends or drop in/out play. A whole MMO beneath that ties everything together. And competitive multiplayer too. And you can do any or all of these on one account with one character. Or you can have several! Destiny’s one of those games that tries to do it all but actually seems to be succeeding. Its borderlands looting, with Mass Effect multiplayer in a Halo universe. The Destiny open Beta starts 17th July, and I hope to see you there! We’ll be uploading some videos of my time on Destiny shortly so stay tuned! And feel free to join me either now or in Beta or full release, my PSN is Haggis666.

It’s difficult to stay excited when a game has as much hype surrounding it as Watchdogs. Combined with a seemingly endless trail of delays I somehow remained eager ever since Watchdogs was first announced oh so long ago. But with more hype than the Apollo 11 launch can Watchdogs deliver on it’s ambitious promises?

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The first thing you’ll need to do is complete the tutorial mission. It’s really about the only thing you have to do in Watchdogs and is a necessary evil even in an open world game. The brief cutscenes introduce us to the main characters and just about every function is covered during the mission. It doesn’t dwell on a single aspect of gameplay but instead keeps the pace up and gets you outside into the freedom of Watchdog’s open world as soon as possible.

Armed with only a few weapons and enough knowledge to do pretty much anything I took Aiden on his first steps into digital Chicago. Personally I like to do anything but the main missions for as long as possible if a game will let me. Inevitably sometimes you’ll spend hours grinding to achieve something only to find it would be handed out in the next campaign mission but I still do it. So I got to work.

The first visit to a weapons shop makes it clear that there isn’t going to be a shortage of firepower. In fact Aiden has so many weapons on offer he can more than capably become a one man army. Rambo’s got nothing on Aiden. There are several handguns ranging from simple 9mm’s to revolvers and a couple of machine pistols thrown in for good measure. Shotguns start at a simple single shot and go all the way up to a fully automatic monster and cover everything in-between. Plus assault rifles, more snipers than I expected (admittedly I expected none) and a couple of grenade launchers. That’s a lot of guns and Aiden can’t just own them all he can carry them all in his mysteriously deep pockets.

Acquiring all this hardware at first seems like a daunting task but anything that can be bought in Watchdogs is as easy as repeatedly pressing square to rob peoples bank accounts. Walking the streets with your trusty smart phone by your side highlights potential bank accounts to siphon funds from. Simply hold square and then eventually when you feel you have enough visit a cash machine to draw out the money. If you need cash that’s all there is to it.

And the same is true for the rest of the hacking in the game too. All that cool stuff we’ve seen in the videos is done by briefly holding square, or sometimes just pressing it. And that worried me at the start. I mean how much fun can it be to repeatedly press the same button? Well as it turns out it never bothered me and I never got bored of it. During a car chase when you first raise a bridge and jump over it to escape your pursuers or they slam into those bollards with a nifty slow motion close up the fact you ‘just pressed square’ really doesn’t matter.

The irony is that if hacking was a complex mechanic in Watchdogs Aiden wouldn’t feel like a genius. The simple context sensitive method really makes you feel powerful. Using just a phone you can do some serious hacking and the awesome result make sure you never get bored of hacking.

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Side missions are varied and abundant. Some are races, some are hacking mini-games and others are stealth/combat based. They kept me busy for at least 20 hours and constantly rewarded me with XP to spend on the impressive skill tree. The mini-games are incredibly in-depth too. There’s poker which is as good as any poker game I’ve ever played, chess which can either be a traditional game or objective based challenges using the rules of chess and far too many more to mention. And there are several story driven side missions that are both mysterious and clever. There’s loads to keep you busy and everything rewards you well.

To complement the huge amount of content there’s a huge choice of upgrades too. I don’t think there’s a single one I didn’t want and being free to complete whatever you want right from the start to get them is liberating. Don’t be put off by abilities being locked and telling you to complete a certain mission to unlock more; it’s a very early mission and once you do it it unlocks everything. Finally upgrades on an open world game that aren’t arbitrarily limited until it’s too late to use them.

The only time Watchdogs lets you down is unfortunately in the campaign missions. The story is dark and well presented but in between the story the gameplay soon becomes stale and repetitive. Most situations require you getting past enemy guards. You can sneak around and use stealth and hacking to remain undetected but I very rarely did. I tried a couple of times but realised that gunning them down using my immense firepower and hacking was just quicker and easier. I even had the difficulty on hard and still found that I could take on entire mobs of enemies in a straight up fire fight. By the way I recommend playing on hard to at least stop you becoming a god. At least on hard I could be killed.

I enjoyed using the pistols so I actually used the second one you get which has a large clip and found it easy to use ‘focus’ (Watchdog’s slow motion) to head shot as many enemies as possible before finished the rest of without focus. So even on hard using the starting pistol I was overpowered. And that’s not taking into account the 2 Barrett rifles, 2 grenade launches, 6 or 7 assault rifles, 8 other pistols/revolvers/machine pistols, 5 shotguns, grenades, IED’s and remote IED’s I had. On top of all the hacking tools and context sensitive commands available. And pills that refill your focus allowing for almost continuous slow motion.

Aiden should have had far less weapons. It’s a shame because the weapons are so satisfying to use. But Aiden should have had a pistol and nothing else. Or only two weapons. Or an ammo limit that actually matters. Or no slow motion. Just something to make him less godlike. When you actually find a challenging fight and can just switch to the anti-material rifle or grenade launcher and win easily the challenge is completely gone, and a lot of fun along with it. I enjoy using the weapons a lot, but at the same time they make everything far too easy and mean Aiden doesn’t actually rely much on hacking during combat. The same applies to car chases which are great fun until you get the steam pipe upgrade which works so well and can be used so often that all other hacks become almost irrelevant. Don’t bother finding a street with spikes or bollards to lure your enemies down just wait and blow a pipe. It works every time.

Plus the campaign missions come loaded with so many ridiculous situations that call for Aiden to ‘manually’ follow a target or sneak physically into a place it just becomes irritating. Sure you can raise a bridge, steal bank details, stop a train or even burst steam pipes but you have to sneak into this building or follow that person. Tailing people isn’t constant like Assassins Creed but Ubisoft did decide to go with the ‘10ft rule’. If your target goes out of sight for a millisecond or gets more than 10ft away a massive message comes on screen telling you you’re losing your target. Aside from the question ‘Can’t Aiden hack GPS or track a SIM?’ I’m pretty sure I could follow someone from further away in real life. I hate it. It’s the worst thing in AC and Ubisoft for some reason decided it was the only mechanic worth copying into Watchdogs.

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It’s impossible not to be impressed with Watchdog’s overall presentations. It looks amazing and is by far the densest city I’ve ever seen in a game. There isn’t an single inch that doesn’t have incredible detail. You really get the sense Ubisoft are putting all that next gen power to good use. When the wind picks up and the rain starts I still stand there for a moment and admire my surroundings. Aiden’s coat flapping in the wind as the colours deepen to reflect their absorption of the rain. Water pools at the sides of the roads and raindrops can be seen splashing into them. I could go on for hours describing how pretty it is but seeing is believing. An adequately electronic soundtrack makes action sequences all the more intense and I’ve never heard guns that sound as cool as these ever.

On one occasion, I was being chased by a gang who decided they’d finally got sick of me. They took out the wheel on my car so I was left almost entirely immobile. I darted down an alley and turned off the engine to hide as the gangsters drove past searching for me. When I saw a chance I went for a train line I knew was nearby and hid on foot until a train arrived. I stopped it with my phone and ran for the doors. The gangsters saw me but were on the other side of the train. As the doors opened I drew my pistol and used slow motion to kill him with a single shot, hopped on the train and started it leaving the gangsters as I made my escape. It couldn’t have been better if it had been scripted but in Watchdogs these things just happen all the time. It’s like constantly playing a developer walkthrough. This is a perfect example of when all Watchdog’s features come together to create a special moment.

But the campaign missions are a real let down. The theory that a high body count makes for fun gameplay should be left to COD. It doesn’t belong in Watchdogs and stops it from becoming an intelligent game, even on the harder difficulties, which is a true shame. There’s so much that’s good about Watchdogs that it certainly lived up to my expectations. With less guns and a larger focus on using smarts to overcome challenges Watchdogs would be close to perfect. It really lets itself down by trying too hard to become the shooter that nobody wanted, even given the incredibly satisfying gunplay which just makes it all the more frustrating.

But GTA didn’t get everything right straight away. And Ubisoft now has a more than decent competitor for the open world giant. As a series Watchdogs has almost unlimited potential. Ubisoft has laid the groundwork incredibly well and I can only imagine what future instalments will bring.

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I was really quite disappointed with GRID 2. Not particularly because it was a bad racer but because it felt like a step backwards from the first GRID. At least it did to me. GRID: Autosport is making itself out to offer pretty much everything in one nice tidy racer package, and avoiding being thought of as a sequel to GRID 2.

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Autosport offers five disciplines, Touring, Endurance, Open wheel (basically F1), Tuner and Street. I reckon that should just about cover everything. Assuming there’s a decent roster of cars to back it up there are clearly enough disciplines to make sure Autosport keeps us coming back for more many hours down the road.

Swapping between disciplines it becomes very obvious that they’re not just for show too. With the difference in cars, tracks and race types there is a definitive line drawn between each discipline that keeps them separated from each other. Although in the preview code I played there wasn’t an enormous roster of vehicles and upgrades the groundwork is there ready for the full release.

The handling models have that familiar GRID sliding feel that makes tight races all the more exciting but it’s clear that Codemasters are perfecting their formula with the franchise. The handling never feels overly simplistic but ensures GRID doesn’t fall into the trap that some simulators can and forget to actually let you have any fun. If GRID has always done one thing right it’s excitement.

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The visuals are everything we’ve come to expect from GRID and the tracks always seem to have even more detail than the car models. Which, truth be told, is the right way to do it. How many of us play racers from the bumper cam where you can’t see the car anyway? In fairness GRID’s handling model does at least give you a fighting chance of playing from a third person view but it’s still not the same. With GRID constantly staring at the track for hour after hour isn’t a problem and Autosport is looking good so far, especially the textures on the asphalt and tarmac.

Most importantly I was elated to see the return of many of my favourite features from the first GRID that had disappeared on GRID 2. There’s an XP bonus that increases as you increase the challenge by changing some, or all, of the many difficulty options (like Forza). Better still is the return of your team mate and team objectives. You aren’t required to arbitrarily make it to first place from last place race after race. There are realistic goals that you and your AI driver can achieve together. I’m so glad Codemasters put this back on, I loved this feature in the first GRID.

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So even though I only got my hands on a relatively small amount of the content it looks like Autosport will offer there’s a definite feeling that everything’s in place. The mechanics are solid, there’s a decent damage model and everything’s looking rather polished to be honest. With a ton of cars, upgrades and races Autosport just might be what GRID 2 should have been.

 

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As you know that Xbox 360 and Xbox One owners currently need an Xbox Live Gold subscription to access most online apps and services.

With entertainment, sports and gaming apps will no longer live behind the Xbox Live Gold paywall, Microsoft has just confirmed, among other sweeping changes for Xbox One (although the paywall changes apply to Xbox 360 too).

Internet Explorer, Skype, OneDrive, OneGuide, GameDVR, Upload Studio and Twitch broadcasting will also now be free to all.

It means that you couldn’t use freely-available services such as 4OD, Skype, Internet Explorer or YouTube without being a Xbox Live Gold subscriber, something that has become increasingly unpopular among fans.

 

The old policy delayed the Xbox 360 release of BBC iPlayer, whose license fee-funded content cannot be put behind a paywall. An exception was eventually made, but Xbox One still lacks an iPlayer app.

 

 

 

 

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