Come on April!

Excuse the lack of updates, I feel like this page is in a serious need of a heavy makeover + I’ve not been playing anything major recently, just shoving my backlog under the blanket/carpet pretending it does not exist.

HOWEVER, there is something that might change things a wee bit and that is …

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This time next week I’ll be happily indulging into the world of Final Fantasy Type-0, Final Fantasy XV demo, Bloodborne and all the other good things. Honestly the easter break couldn’t come soon eough!

Is this Mass Effect for people like me? #StarOcean

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At the minute my backlog is getting out of hand my favourite activity is either starting a new game I have no intention of finishing, telling myself one step at a time or browsing through old titles I might have missed out on. There usually is plenty.

Just recently I reattempted to give Mass Effect yet another try mainly because outer space travel themes are my weakness. I usually stop a little bit after I create my character. But because this time around I did not even make it to the battlefield, I think it’s high time to get comfortable with the fact that me and Mass Effect will never get along.

However, scrolling through the old-ish titles in the RPG section I came across Star Ocean: The Last Hope and took a second look. Outer space? Vibrant enviroments? The standard, as unrealistic as possible character design? YES please. I do not want to say it just yet but it does seem like it ticks all the boxes. So the question is; have you played The Last Hope (or any other title in the series) and what have you thought of it?

2014 in retrospect //@BradBraddington

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2014 has come to an end. So what better way to introduce the New Year than recounting my video games experiences from the past 12 months. I feel it would be most fitting to begin with my most anticipated game from 2014, Dark Souls 2.
I was a late starter with the Souls franchise, my first delve into the franchise began with Demons Souls in 2013. I found myself sucked into the vivid world of Boletaria, the engrossing lore, the phenomenal soundtrack and of course Maiden Astraea who gave me one of my most beloved moments in gaming. The highly anticipated release of Dark Souls 2 came in March. I would spend the following week entirely absorbed by Dark Souls 2 and ultimately I found myself returning to the real world battle hardened and with a feeling of glowing gratification. I recall being astonished at the beautiful sun soaked cliffs and forgotten shacks of Majula. I was satisfied with the tweaks to the character stats to avoid previously impractical stats such as resistance and in general Dark Souls 2 provided more of the unforgiving but ultimately rewarding gameplay that I had come to expect from the talent at From Software. On the other hand I felt that the level design of Dark Souls 2 lacked the originality and genius of previous iterations. This trend continued with the boss fights as well. It is no secret that many of the boss fights were re-hashed and in some cases almost directly ripped from Dark Souls, it left the overall product feeling rushed and soulless at times. Dark Souls 2 was by no means a blunder but I could not shake the feeling that it could have been more.
Shinji Mikami’s The Evil Within. Those five words filled me with a manic eagerness that lingered with me right up to launch day. Which was only logical as Resident Evil 4 is my most beloved game of all time and the similarities between the two were undeniable. Much was promised, the return of survival horror by the godfather of the genre himself was just one such promise. Following the chaotic and explosive finale I slumped back from the edge of my seat with mixed sentiments. I found the gunplay to be a joy to handle, the atmosphere was genuinely nerve-racking and the game world and its repulsive inhabitants were designed wonderfully. The Evil Within was certainly not without its flaws. The stealth sections felt half-baked and I found the black borders to be very tiresome and redundant. My biggest gripe however was how paper-thin and dull the characters of The Evil Within were. This issue only accentuated the rather lackadaisical storytelling. The term ‘Diamond in the Rough’ fits The Evil Within perfectly, a terrific title hindered by some glaring snags.
The first season of the Walking Dead championed as my Game of the Year 2012. Telltale Games delivered an unforgettable tale of survival and sacrifice and in turn it was only natural that I had extremely high expectations for the second season. I was thrilled by Telltale’s decision to use Clementine as a leading role. I found her to be an adorable yet mature and intelligent character who I found myself emotionally invested in much like her makeshift guardian Lee Everett from the first season of The Walking Dead. Even under the lofty expectations that I, critics and fans worldwide had set, the team at Telltale Games flourished and delivered a superb tale with fantastic characters. From the gripping rhetoric between the characters to the harrowing scenarios that would each leave young Clementine more desensitized than before, The Walking Dead: Season 2 delivered an unforgettable journey marred only by the occasional graphic and audio bugs and as such I award it my Game of the Year 2014.
I would like to finish with a quick observation of some other great titles I had the chance to play last year. P.T was the brilliantly out-of-nowhere teaser for Silent Hills. The Silent Hill franchise has been on a dishearteningly mediocre streak since Silent Hill: Origins but I was absolutely astonished by what Kojima Productions delivered. P.T offers a truly terrifying experience with phenomenal visuals and simply ingenious game mechanics. If you have not yet played it, please do so as soon as possible. Continuing on the Kojima hype train, I also had the opportunity to play Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes. Although disappointingly short, Ground Zeroes treated me to some superb visuals and stealth gameplay not to mention more of the engrossing storytelling and characters I have come to expect from the Metal Gear Solid franchise. I have only just begun playing Aliens: Isolation. Early impressions consist of panicked screams and muffled sobbing, review to follow soon. Last but certainly not least. Hatsune Miku Project Diva f 2nd was a sweet Christmas gift from my lovely lady friend. It has since taken over both our lives and I don’t know how much longer our thumbs or our controllers will survive.
So what was your game of the year 2014?
Thank you for reading and I hope you enjoyed, and please come back again soon.

@BradBraddington

On Henry #SilentHill

It’s ok … it’s just a dream.

If there’s anything other than undeafeatable ghosts Silent Hill 4: The Room is receiving the most negative feedback on it is the main protagonist Henry Townshend. A soft-spoken introverted tenant who clearly does not stand out. Very little there is to know about him at the very first glance, even his neighbours admit they barely notice him and have got not much to say about him either. Although it is still possible to find fractions of information about his past, current life and interests with a bit of an effort and exploration throughout the game he still remains your average boy next door.

Yes, Henry is not necessarily the most exciting and colourful character. And that is okay. But what he really has been criticised for is the fact that he is not very vocal about his emotions, feelings, thoughts etc. when facing the most gruesome scenes therefore he is not believable/relatable. Well, I beg to differ. Henry has been given a hard time because he has a tendency to freeze up and act irrationally and for the most part is pretty reserved and not very expressive. Consequently, he is frequently compared to his entire opposite, the sassy outspoken Heather and recently Murphy whose reactions to traumatic surroundings for some unexplainable reason have been set as ideal patterns. It isn’t really fair since in my eyes there is no such thing as a default, primary or a better reaction to disturbing circumstances. People respond to certain elements in many different ways and the way Henry does in fact is not that uncommon which paradoxically does make him believable.

Why level design is what matters

As it’s been mentioned before exploring is probably my top favourite thing to do in a video game. Therefore design or style direction is crucial. It’s something I could talk about for days. It’s what I notice first and pay the most attention to in my titles. And that involves both the outdoor backgrounds, landscapes, the interior as well as menus, equipment, etc.

The reason I am always so drawn to it is probably because it requires a lot of creativity, skill in craft and imagination. It adds volumes to the atmosphere and makes my favourite activity- exploration- a dream. Games like Demon’s or Dark Souls both share the same about of care and attention to detail making the architecture and setting exeptional. Others like NieR, Ni no Kuni, Ico, Legend of Dragoon or Final Fantasy titles offer an entirely different but equally immersive approach.

Silent Hill 2 in my eyes has a solid number of beautifully designed enviroments, the indoor areas in particular. The levels go amazingly well together with the story and the mood of the entire game. Here’s a few stand-outs.

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A Gamer Grill ft. @gunbladeproxy01@BradBraddington

This month I thought of doing something a little bit different and let the fellow gamers do the talking. Today’s questionnaire’s featuring &.

Prologue. What was you first memorable gaming experience?

My first gaming experience would be … When I was about 6 years old my sister was baby sitting me and needed someway to entertain me so I would stop climbing the walls and generally misbeheaving. She put me in front of the SNES and put in a copy of Super Mario Bros: All Stars, I unfortunatly can’t remember which of the Mario games on the cartridge I played first but 2 and 3 definietly stick in my mind the most from that time.

Playing Asteroids on the Atari 2600 when I was about 5 or 6 years old.

Category. What would you say is your favourite genre and what titles would represent it best?

That’s a hard question, I could narrow it down to my top 3 which would be Horror, Open World, and fighting games. I would say Horror has a way to capture my attention and emotions like no other game can, I love being scared I guess. Since everyone has heard all the usual best horror games ever (Silent Hill, Resident Evil or Fatal Frame) I’ll try throw in something different. So I would have to say Forbidden Siren, also more recently Outlast and Five Nights at Freddy’s scared the shit out of me. I love Open World games such as GTA, Fallout, Elder Scrolls, Sleeping Dogs etc. I guess I love that feeling of a game environment existing independently around you and you can behave as you see fit in that world. As for fighting games, I love competition and nothing is better than knocking some heads together on Tekken Tag Tournament 2.

A few years ago I would probably have said RPG but I would now say Fighting games like DOA5U, Tekken Tag 2 and Persona 4 Arena. I’m not extremely good at them but I have fun with them. I have a lot of fighting games. Most of them on my PS3.

Ingredient. What are your favourite aspects of a game & why?

It depends on what type of a game it is. A good story and interesting characters are a must have feature for an RPG. You need to be hooked by them to put a ton of hours into an RPG. Fighting games also need interesting characters but they also need cool gameplay and environments. Dead or Alive 5 Ultimate has all three of those aspects. Sports games need to be as authentic to the sport that they are based on. Racing games need well designed courses and good racing controls for me to get interested in them.

Again I find this hard to pick one single answer. I love artistic design or vision in my games, Silent Hill 1/2/3/4 all had incredible design both in their level and their characters. The developers had a vision and they clearly worked hard to potray it properly and create a terryfying experience for gamers. An example of this would be Final Fantasy X. Tidus and his merry group are all intricatly and fantastically designed just as much if not more than the world that they explore. I guess that level of detail and creativity makes them seem almost…alive and you are part of their world as you play along. They take you somewhere you’ve never been before. It’s similar to Edgar Alan Poe, when you read his literature he was able to make the reader visualize his characters and their world on such on an intricate level that you felt you were really there. Artistic design can also extend to audio elements of games. Niers soundtrack for example is to die for and is simply incredible. I must admit that I have a wee bit of a bias towards the good ol’ piano.

Persona. Can you think of a video game character that resembles you personality wise? Who would you say you admire as a person in a game?

I can’t think of one of the top of my head but Aya Brea from the Parasite Eve games and Solid Snake from the MGS games are a couple of characters that I admire.

Which character do I relate myself to? That would be Tidus from FFX. Not to toot my own horn but I felt like he’s always positive, always moving forward, very protective other those he cared about. Plus some other aspects of his personality, like quirks you see throughout FFX would fit with mine, plus the annoying voice all the time lol. Who do I admire most as a character? Easily gotta be The Boss from MGS3, she sacrificed herself for her country knowing she would forever be known as a traitor, she gave everything for her country and more. I can feel the tears coming. Also Raiden for being the sexiest man in video games.

Treasure. What would you say are games that are not getting enough recognition for their quality?

 It always sucks to see certain games not earn the recognition and/or sales that they deserve. A recent example being Swery’s D4 on X1. I’ve been hearing that despite fantastic reception from gamers and media, it’s selling horribly. As for games I’ve actually played I would say Valkyria Chronicles and its sequels. Although the games are hard as frozen nails they managed realise a beautiful game world/characters, and incredible turn based gameplay. Unfortunatly the game sold next to nothing and we’ve never seen the third title released outside of Japan.

Tetris. It’s a simple yet addicting game that you don’t hear about a lot. Games like Bejeweled and other match 3 type of games are popular now . The Parasite Eve games are also games that are not getting enough recognition for their quality. You know that I could go on and on about the PE games but I will most likely do that on my gaming blog eventually.

 I’ve got a couple of others that I thought didn’t get the respect they deserved, such as Nier which I harp on about a lot! Incredible, incredible game that it’s a peak representation of artistic design in chracter development, story and of course the jaw dropping soundtrack. Resistance 3 sales more or less killed the franchise which also upset me. Resitance 1 had an incredible multiplayer experience but was hampered by a lackluster single player. Resistance 2 was very forgetable all-around but Resitance 3 was simply incredible on all fronts, a fantastic campaign was backed by a fairly good online experience. The most over-looked game ever has to be Clive Barkers Jericho, wow that game was awful in so many ways but I absolutely LOVED it and it makes me sad even talking about it now knowing that there is a 99.9% chance we will never see a successor, even worse considering that cliff-hanger ending.

Hype. Can you think of any games that rightfully deserve all the popularity they have been receiving?

Games like Persona 4 and Grand Theft Auto V are a couple of games that deserve the hype they are getting. Both are amazing . The Metal Gear Solid series also deserves all of the hype they get when a new game is announced.

 I can’t recall a single game ever living up to its hype it seems like an impossible goal to accomplish but in part this is largely due to how wild people expectations become. Destiny, GTAV those sort of things never quite lived up to the hype but people still bought and enjoyed those games. It’s hard to say if a game deserves its hype or not but there is no denying that it’s a big part of making a game nowadays. Hype works and Destiny and GTAV sales prove that.

Pet peeves. All the little things that irritate you, now’s your time to vent.

Time Limits in games…ever, in any circumstance. Unskippable cutscenes, people replay games sometimes ya know? Lack of maps or general direction. Multiplayer trophies, uttetly pointless. When you have cables going all over the place for your consoles (more so an old problem). Putting games in the wrong case, “it’s just a game”.

Campers in First Person Shooters is the most recent pet peeve that I have. What’s the point of just standing there and waiting for a kill??? It makes no freaking sense! The developers spend a lot of time making the maps for the game but campers will only see that little corner that they decided to hide in. Another pet peeve of mine is bad checkpointing in games. Grand Theft Auto IV was definitely guilty of that. It got so bad that I gave up on the game and deleted it off my 360. The good news is that GTA V doesn’t suffer from this problem. Another pet peeve related to GTA is annoying “Dudebro” characters. GTA IV had a character named Brucie who always acted like a douchebag. He was another reason I gave up on GTA IV. Yesterday I encountered a similar character in GTA V named Dom. That character almost ruined an enjoyable mission for me. Luckily, I can just avoid any future missions featuring Dom. He is not a big part of the main story like Brucie was in GTA IV. The final pet peeve I will mention is unskippable cutscenes. They can get really annoying in parts of a game that you keep dying in.

Online. How often do you play online? Do you have any great online experiences to share?

I play online games a lot. I mostly play fighting and FPS games online. A few great online experiences that I can think off the top of my head right now are great matches of DOA5 and Tekken Tag 2 with you and Brad.

I play about the same amount online as I do offline. Games I have loved in the past or currently recommend would include Team Fortress 2, Dark/Demons Souls, any of the Tekken games and I’ve always enjoyed dabbling in the old Civilization V game.

The Current. What are your recent favourites & a GOTY as of now.

My current faves are GTA V on PS3, Rouge Legacy on PS3 and Vita, and Far Cry 3 on 360. Rouge Legacy is also my GOTY as of now. It’s addicting and fun. The gameplay fits perfectly on the Vita. It’s great if you just want to play a quick game of something.

GOTY as of now- Dark Souls 2 and I’m currently in love with Dead Rising 2: Off the Record and Team Fortress 2.

Epilogue. What do you look forward to the most in the year 2015?

EASILY MGSV, I truly cannot wait for that one. I NEED a next-gen console for that. It’s going to be GOTY 2015 no doubt about it.

I am looking forward to Dead or Alive 5 Last Round on the PS4. It is good that Tecmo Koei is putting DOA5 on the current gen consoles. I will definitely play a lot of that as Mila, Phase 4, or Hitomi. I am also looking forward to Persona 5, Bloodbourne, MLB 15 The Show, Tekken 7, Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain, and any others that I can’t think of right now.

 

Plot or gameplay?

I often find myself wondering if I enjoy video games for the right reasons mainly because most of the time if not always I tend to focus only on the way a game is designed, what the sound is like or who the characters are and why they are who they are. If I enjoy the plot I will gladly accept lengthy cutscenes and a ‘barely there’ gameplay. If the plot is lacking I’m never fully satisfied unless it’s a fighting game. Silent Hill 2, which is generally considered an iconic game, has been praised for its distincive horror, plot and atmosphere but criticised especially recently for its simplistic, archaic and not the most exciting gameplay. And I agree.The gameplay IS not very complex but I’ve never had any complaints since to me it feels almost like a transparent part of a bigger picture that I would never notice or think much of. So I wouldn’t necessarily consider it a flaw since it is …good enough … [for a game that is powerfull in other aspects].