Month: March 2012

Weekly Wrap Up: Week 4 of March

Welcome back gamers.  We made it through yet again another week, another month, and believe it or not another quarter?  Right, with the end of which, there seems to be a bit of sad news coming out.  Let’s take a look what exactly was going on.

GAME, the UK gaming retailer, closed its first of many stores this week.  A total of 277 stores of 609 have already closed their doors.  With more stores expected to fall in the near future, this is having an impact on the brick and mortar locations to purchase video game necessities.  In addition to the stores being closed, the site is down stating that the company is in administration and they hope to be up and running soon.  As we have said in the past, time will tell the fate of GAME.

THQ this week announced that it cut 120 jobs in two different studios.  A total of 79 employees were released from Darksiders 2 development team Vigil Games, and 39 positions have been lost at Vancouver-based Relic Entertainment.  This news is after THQ announced that Warhammer 40,000: Dark Millennium would end up being a single-player game with multiplayer elements instead of the intended MMO.  “Vigil Games will continue to focus on both this game and the critically-acclaimed new title, Darksiders 2, scheduled for release this summer,” reads a statement issued by THQ.  “Relic Entertainment continues to focus its development expertise on THQ’s franchises including Company of Heroes and Warhammer 40,000: Dawn of War.”

SEGA this week announced that is plans to cancel to upcoming titles and cut jobs in an attempt to “streamline and refine their video game businesses in Europe and the US.”  SEGA’s parent company SEGA Sammy released the following statement: “The Consumer Business centred on Sega Corporation is expected to post operating loss in the year ending March 2012, due to the challenging economic climate and significant changes in the home video game software market environment in the US and Europe. Given this circumstance, the companies determined that in order to actualise earnings recovery of the Consumer Business in the following period and after and return to a growth path, it is essential to streamline organisations in the field of home video game software in the US and European markets, while shifting to a structure that corresponds to change in environment, including strengthening development in the field of digital content.”

In happier news, Mortal Kombat for the Sony Playstation Vita has been given a release date.  The reboot of the popular fight franchise will hit selves in North American on May 1 and Europe on May 4.  The port includes content from the home console release last year, including Kratos from God of War and add-on characters Skarlet, Kenshi, Rain and Freddy Krueger.  The Vita release will content exclusive content including touch screen fatalities and 150 new challenge tower missions.

That’s it for this week, check back to for more news, reviews and more!


Weekly Wrap Up: Week 3 of March

Welcome back gamers, we made it through yet again another week.   Let’s look at what has happened this past week in the gaming world.

After weeks of financial burden; GAME entered Administration this past week.  To clarify bankruptcy is limited to personal individuals in the UK, so companies enter either liquidation or administration.  The companies firm released the following statement:  “Further to this morning’s announcement of the suspension of trading in shares of GAME Group plc, the board has concluded that its discussions with all stakeholders and other parties have not made sufficient progress in the time available to offer a realistic prospect for a solvent solution for the business.  In the short term the Board’s intention is that the business will continue to trade and discussions with lenders and third parties will continue under the protection of the interim moratorium.”  Speculation surrounds the fate of GAME, and we’ll keep you posted as more news become available.

EA announced earlier this week is that it is going to shut down 11 game servers in the coming up weeks.  According to EA, the games are seeing dwindling player support, as a result the selected EA titles will no longer have their online support as of April 13.  EA has gone as far as saying that if any other games see a lack of player support, the online services will be discontinued for those titles as well.  A list of games that will no longer have online support can be found here.  A helpful gaming tip is, if you don’t want this fate to fall upon your favorite titles, make sure to give those games your online love.

One of the features that Mass Effect 3 was boasting was the ability to import player data from the previous Mass Effect titles.  What Bioware didn’t count on is when a player utilizes this feature, facial details are lost in the transition.  ”We have fixed the issue of faces not correctly importing into Mass Effect 3. It will be included as part of the next Mass Effect 3 patch,” BioWare’s Chris Priestly confirmed on the official forum.  No release dates have been announced at this time, and Team Z1G will post news as soon as we know.

There have been rumors flying around that the next gen Xbox will not support used games.  This week North American gaming retailer GameStop tried to debunk the rumor.  “We think it’s unlikely that there would be that next-gen console because the model simply hasn’t been proven to work,” GameStop CEO Paul Raines said in a call with investors.  “Remember, used video games have a residual value. Remember GameStop generates $1.2 billion of trade credits around the world with our used game model. So, consider taking used games out of that, you’d have to find new ways to sell the games.  This is the kind of news that gets out in the industry and gets people worked up and hyper-ventilating and excited,” Raines added.  It was further commented that credit that is earned from trade in games help make new releases affordable.  No comment has been made by Microsoft regarding the matter, just the recent news that the next generation Xbox will not be revealed at E3 later this year.

That’s it for this week.  Check back to for more news, reviews and more!

Opinion: Mass Effect 3 – The WTF Ending.

Before I go any further I want to make it clear that during this article I will be openly discussing the Ending(s) to Mass Effect 3.

This is a warning!!! If you are still playing or want to play through with no prior knowledge then click off this page NOW……..

……..Right! Now that’s out of the way, Hello!

It can’t have escaped your attention that the ending to one of the greatest gaming experiences ever has been less than favourably received. The ending to the Mass Effect Trilogy was always going to divide gamers because as the old adage say, “You can’t please everybody”, however I have yet to find or talk to anyone who is pleased with the way Bioware has waved Goodbye to Commander Shepard.

There seems to be two distinct “Unhappy Camps” forming – those who are angry with Bioware for ruining the series and those who are disappointed with such a weak ending to the strongest game of the series. I personally am disappointed.

People who have read my previous articles will know that I am not the biggest fan of the Xbox, I accept it has it’s fans but I am not one of them, so I didn’t get to experience the Mass Effect universe until Mass Effect 2 was released on Playstation 3. The absence of the first game has not stopped me falling madly in love with the series, I won’t even change Shepard’s face because I don’t want to mess with Bioware’s perfection. The universe was bright, colourful, exciting and full of life. In a world before Skyrim it was the first RPG that appealed to me and I played it through multiple times.

I got Mass Effect 3 on 9 March 2012 and over the course of a week I enjoyed every aspect of the game, I relished the skirmishes with Cerberus, I was enthralled by the Battle for Palaven, I was moved by the curing of the genophage, and I gasped when one of the choices I made ended with the destruction of the Quarians.

Unfortunately because the game was released in the UK three days after the release in the US the reports of of fans unhappy with the ending had already begun to appear on UK gaming and news sites. I made sure not to read the articles but it was hard to avoid the headlines, needless to say I was aware that there was a “Controversy” about the ending that I was quickly approaching. During the game I had begun to formulate what I thought the ending would be, if you are interested I’ll write out my idea for the ending at the bottom of this article, and I thought that it was going to be a small minority of gamers that just wanted to moan because the series didn’t end with Sunshine & Rainbows but after playing through the game I can now see why people are up in arms.

I fought through the streets of London till I arrived at the base with Anderson, I then spent time working my way around the base talking to Soldiers and having conversations with my allies and team mates. I’m not ashamed to say this but I did get quite emotional during this time. In my eyes this was Goodbye, Shepard wasn’t coming back and I’d never see any of them again, picking my final team was a hard choice but in the end I went with the two most important people – Garrus & Liara.

Off we went to destroy the Reaper and make our way to the beam and onto the Citadel. The fight was long, hard and frantic but in the end we made it and then just as we were all running to the beam the unthinkable happened. BAM! Zapped by a Reaper Beam, screen fades outs, silence. Part of me thought that was going to be the end, part of me wishes it had been. Once the game returns and Shepard makes his/her way onto the Citadel the game takes a massive nosedive.

I don’t think I will be alone in saying that for me, the Citadel/Catalyst scenes feel rushed, badly thought out, tacked on at the end and are generally a massive disappointment from scenes we experience not 20 minutes beforehand. How did Anderson get on board? If he was right behind Sheppard then why didn’t he stop him? Where are my team mates? How did the Illusive man get there and when was he indoctrinated? Who was indoctrinating Shepard while he was in the control chamber? How did he, Anderson or the Illusive Man know how to use technology that no one had seen for at least 50,000 years?!! Oh and what happened to Harbinger?? Remember him the biggest and baddest of all the Reapers…..

Once those scenes were over and more choices are made, you are then moved onto to the last choice. You meet the Catalyst, who I assume takes the form of the boy Sheppard saw get killed back on Earth at the start of the game, although how it knows who this boy is or why it takes that particular form is never made clear. The Catalyst will then give you up to three choices, the choices depend on your Morality level but they are:

1 – Control: Despite the fact that you have spent the entire game telling the Illusive Man that Reapers cannot be controlled, it turns out they can – but it will cost you your life.

2 – Destruction: You can chose to destroy the Reapers but in doing so you will destroy ALL TECHNOLOGY! That includes the Geth so if you haven’t already killed them you get the option to again.

3 – Synthesis: The middle ground where you can choice to merge all organic life with all synthetic life. Not sure why you would want to really as isn’t that what the Reapers want anyway…

In all possible endings there is one constant – whatever ending you choose and whatever morality you are the Mass Effect relays will be destroyed. For those who played through the “Arrival” DLC on Mass Effect 2 you will remember that you were told that an exploding Mass Effect relay would destroy an entire Solar System but again this is not mentioned during the final minutes of your play through. Either way it would appear that the Universe is screwed no matter what you do.

I went for the Paragon/Blue Ending and sacrificed myself to control the Reapers. I got teary as my Shepard disintegrated in front of my eyes, I felt that pang of bittersweet victory as the Reapers ceased firing and retreated from Earth and I watched on in horror as I started a chain reaction of exploding relays. It was over………but it wasn’t.

Can anyone, ANYONE, explain what the Hell the Normandy is doing mid jump when the relays start exploding??? The Normandy is last seen in the Battle for Earth, why does she now appear to be running away from the battle. The shockwave from the explosions eventually catches up with her and we are suddenly treated to the sound of birds tweeting and some leaves. the Normandy has crashed, Joker, who you are reminded earlier on in the game has a terrible brittle bone disease, steps out unscathed from this crash into the Sunlight on this strange and unusual planet, and oh look right behind him, it’s, it’s GARRUS & LIARA?? But wait aren’t they dead? Didn’t they get zapped by the same Reaper beam that I got zapped with on earth? How did they get back on the Normandy? WHERE THE HELL WAS EVERYONE GOING!!!!

*Roll Credits*

I was literally stunned by what I had just witnessed, but it wasn’t over yet. Now there is that rather bewildering scene of a boy and a man holding hands in a snowy landscape looking up at what maybe the Earth talking about the Sheppard Stories……HUH??

The END…

AAAAARRRRGGGHHH!!!! WHAT THE HELL JUST HAPPENED!!!!! Was my first reaction, in fairness it’s still my reaction. I just don’t get it. I will put my hand on my heart and say I do not understand the ending.

I like to think I’m quite clever, I can pick up on the subtext and read between the lines but the last 30 minutes of Mass Effect 3 are some of the most bewildering I’ve ever come across. I’m not saying I want it spelt out for me but I would at least like to have all the correct letters.

The only thing I can adequately compare it to is the ending of Lost. (If you haven’t seen that either then stop reading!) The last series of Lost was really good, some amazing moments and the excitement to find out what the whole thing was about was tangible – nothing could have been more disappointing than not really getting any answers, Evil Locke being killed, a shiny cave and purgatory. Yep it was all about purgatory, the same thing the producers swore it wasn’t about when the Series first started! Not only did the rush job ending ruin the last episodes, it’s unsatisfying conclusion then cast a shadow over the entire series. I fear the same has happened to Mass Effect.

Yes there are petitions and statements about Bioware accepting comments and working to find a happy medium that respects artist integrity yet giving fans the ending they want. Yes there are those who are adamant that Bioware should stand their ground and not give in whilst at the same time thanking their lucky stars they didn’t mess things up. But in my eyes the damage has been done now – You cannot unsee what has been seen. You cannot undo what has been done.

In the way that The Elder Scross V: Skyrim will always associated with frame rate issues and lag on the PS3, Mass Effect 3 will always be remembered for the ending that failed to provide what it’s fans wanted most.

My Ending:

This is what I thought might be the ending. It is quite dark.

The Catalyst turned out to be nothing more than a storage device. Shepard made his way to the heart of the device to find the catalyst was a series of recordings. Each cycle that had passed before had a champion who had made it this far only to find out that there is no way to stop the Reapers. All of this has happened before and all of this shall happen again. All the Catalyst/Citadel does is record a message from the champion about his/her story and how they got there. Shepard records his adventure as the Reapers continue their destruction. The End.

GAME OVER! Continue?

It’s been a known fact – unless you’ve been in a Mass Effect induced coma for the past month – that GAME haven’t been having the best time with regards to their money handling in recent months. With EA being one of the first publishers to pull out the stocks of their titles, was this the start of the end to GAME?

In this article I’m going to be discussing my thoughts and views on what could happen to the world of gaming if GAME are to vanish from our high streets and never to be seen again.

The obvious thing would be that there would be no GAME to pop down to and get the latest games.How many of you reading this prefer going into town and spending a good while looking through all the titles that GAME have to offer compared to online shopping.  I for one like to do such a thing that way I can have a browse around what’s being offered in the shop such as good deals or gaming merch such as guides or figurines.  With the decrease of high street stores supplying us with games,  most of us turn to online shopping instead. Yes the  likes of HMV, Tescos and Asda are sure to stock some games however, I find HMV cost an arm and a leg for their games and the supermarkets are never really up to date with the new releases albeit when they are in stock, can sometimes give GAME a run for their money when it comes to some deals. One issue that can revial itself from less game devoted retailers is that I don’t think many people will do as much browsing for games online compared to what they would when in a shop and all the games are physically there on the shelves.

Some online stores don’t offer much in the way of a description of what the game is about compared to what’s on the back of the box, although the counter argument to that would be “Just go and Google the game to find out more!”  – fair play but to be honest, I reathink that all of the information should be presented to you in the first place. My argument to those who are reading this is how many of you will know the game you’re wanting, go online, purchase it and then just log off again without looking through the games that are also available to you. Unless there is a clear indication of a sale or promotional offer, I feel that most people will bypass any browsing for new games that they think they might enjoy and wish to add to their collection. If you do wish to browse for a new game through, one has to go through countless page and page after page of games via an interface that sometimes isn’t the best – the computer monitor.

Online stores may offer better prices at the moment compared to the current high street game retailers, although there is the annoyance of waiting for your game to come through your letterbox. Today, people want everything , in their hands as soon as possible and the same goes to getting our beloved favourite games via mail. For people in the UK, dare I even mention the annoyance that is the Royal Mail? By all means pay the extra couple of pounds for quicker delivery service so you can get the game through your door at an earlier date however, there is a quicker method than mail delivery. With this, I question the fact  that is , are we going to see gamers more willing to download games compared to buy the hard copies of them?

Steam is a perfect example of this. Buy agame and you can play it within half an hour or so and that’s you a happy bunny for the rest of the day however, console users don’t get such a good deal with downloadable games. Microsoft and Sony have both set up their own online stores to which gamers can download titles onto their hard drives and play through their Playstation or Xbox however, I know when it comes to the Xbox Live Games on Demand service, they do charge quite a bit, especially for the older titles to which you would think they would reduce the prices more due to their age.  If Sony and Microsoft start reducing prices on the games then more people could be inclined to start downloading digital copies of their games which is, in my opinion, going to become the norm sooner or later. Take a look on the amount of people who are now downloading their music rather than buying physical copies compared to five years ago.  This is all fine and well downloading games onto your hard drive but what happens when it comes to going round to a friend’s house for a gaming session  and you’re required to bring that game round? This is where I feel digital downloading is going to be a downside to gaming simply because without a physical copy of the game, that games usability is limited to one console which is going to end in one of two ways. The first being people are more reluctant to buying new games due to the reduced availability of passing on that game onto someone that could enjoy it and/or trade in at a later date or secondly, more people purchasing the game since it’s received good reviews. I’m not a big fan of choosing what game to play based purely on other peoples reviews on it, after all it’s their perspective of the game, not your own but considering what I’ve highlighted, reviews will be playing a much bigger role in our decisions of ‘What game shall I buy now’. The latter option is drastically going to affect developers for better or for worse.

Moving forward with how the reduced number of gaming outlets will affect developer, the lack of which is sure to bring around a significant decrease in trading in games which we all know, the money was going straight into the shops back pockets and not the developers. This led the developers to start coming up with ideas to try and get their money back through such things as online passes which when a pre-owned game was bought, it couldn’t be played online without a pass.  With the reduced number of shops offering this trading in service; more people are going to be buying their games direct from the developer, so to speak. This will obviously bring around a better profit for the developers however; online sites such as eBay, Amazon and Play all offer a trading feature where you can sell your games online. People will be getting more money for their games compared to if they traded them in at a shop but, on the other hand, with the hassle of putting up your listing, making it a reasonable price in comparison to the other prices that are being set by other sellers and then sending off the game itself – is this too much hassle for people? In my opinion, with the lack of pre-owned games being made available to us, a lot of the smaller, unknown titles are going to struggle even harder to reach some light of day in the gaming community and which of these online game retailers will even bother stocking it in the first place? Pre-owned games were an excellent way of picking up games for dirt cheap and giving them a try to see if they were any good or just complete and utter crap which, if you paid a tenner for – you weren’t exactly bothered about if it only gave you less than ten hours gameplay. This and with the added problem that I raised earlier of games getting bad reviews, some lesser known games (that of which I like to call ‘Hidden Gems’)  will be crushed under the weight of the bigger and well known games more than ever.

In conclusion, I think that the lack of GAME within our high streets is really going to affect gamers and developers in a bad way to a certain degree. Smaller, unknown developers are definitely going to feel more of a pressure towards making their game good enough to get gamers to actually consider purchasing their game in the first place whereas for the more well known developers – this can only be like justice for them after loosing money through the pre-owned services GAME offered to it’s customers.

This isn’t all about what I think though – I want to hear your thoughts on the matter in hands. Leave a comment below expressing your opinions.

Hidden Gems : Toy Soldiers

Signal Studios' Toy Soldiers War Stories. We’ve all heard a few. How some great heroic ancestor fought their way though waves of countless foes for the good of the nation. Well it’s clear to see those stories as inspiration for a true Xbox Live Arcade gem, Toy Soldiers.

Toy Soldiers takes place in the bedroom of a young boy, who seems to have quite a liking for his World War 1 play sets! You play though famous battles of the “ Great War” from the point of view of your average 7-year-old. Meaning the odd giant robot, or spaceship, may make its way onto the battlefield. All your unites are actually toys that have come to life. Quite like Toy Story, but with much more violence.  The objective of each level is quite simple. Protect your Armies HQ (or Toy box) from the waves of oncoming enemy forces. You do this by sending waves of your own troops toward the enemy, building cannons, AA guns, and machine-gun posts. These can be upgraded, and the game even lets you control them third-person style, adding to the awesome-level of Toy Soldiers as a whole.

In addition, you can fly bomber aircraft and drive monster tanks to crush all those that oppose you on the battlefield.

It’s easy to think of Toy Soldiers as a Total War spin-off, with added tanks and planes you can control. And you’d be thinking right, but that’s in no way a bad thing.  For 1200 Microsoft points, you’ll easily get your moneys worth from the package.

And now comes the story, which honestly, doesn’t exist. Before every level, you’re given an objective, and a short paragraph informing you of what’s going on.  Toy Soldiers takes pride in its young boy mind set, and, lets be honest, most young lads only care for explosions and “sh*t blowing up” so a solid plot isn’t very important.  It had next to no effect on my enjoyment of the game, however, so it’s not something to worry much about.

Sound effects fit in well to every warzone, that satisfying “Ka-Bloom!” you hear every time you fire off one of your “Big Bertha” cannons hits the spot every time.

Toy Soldiers heading into battle!The soundtrack consists of (somewhat catchy) 1920’s recordings, adding to the atmosphere greatly.

Toy Soldiers isn’t very ambitious, but for-fills everything it wants to be. The result is a fun distraction that will kill many hours, and offer you a different experience from everything else on the Xbox 360.

Once you’ve finished off the campaign (Its around 6 hours, but as some of the later boss battles are real hard, it could last much longer) more game modes are unlocked, including a whole new “campaign +” mode, which allows for many more hours of World War 1 shenanigans.

As for multiplayer options, Toy Soldiers online will give you 1 vs. 1 battles which, though nothing special, is an enjoyable little experience. Throw in a few challenge levels to spice things up, and you’ll be running into days worth of gameplay. For just over £10, its safe to say you’ll get your moneys worth.

Now its time for the few downfalls of Toy Soldiers, that, though not many, may just put you off it all together.  First things first, if you’re a massive RTS fan, then you might be disappointed. Toy Solders has very little of the depth you’ve come to expect from Total War-esque titles. Smarts isn’t something that has much effect on the outcome of a battle, so your well paced battle stratages will be pretty much worthless on the fields of World War 1. I felt a small hit of Gears of War throughout the campaign, which should sum up how much more action focused Toy Soldiers is.

Secondly, the scale of the battles is way smaller than the 80,000 men on one screen of Total war. This is understandable- you have to remember it’s running on the humble Xbox 360, not a maxed out gaming PC, meaning it has its limits.

If you’re willing to overlook these flaws, or even if you’re completely new to the RTS genre, Toy Soldiers is a unique and detailed battle-zone worthy or your hard earned bucks.

A matter of loaf and death!The DLC is worth a look too. One pack adds Aliens and Giant evil robots to the table. Its sequel, Toy Soldiers: Cold war also has plenty to offer, but has a steeper learning curve. It’s much better to kick-off with the original, and what some may call, the best in the series.

Toy Soldiers is available exclusively on Xbox live arcade and retails for 1200 Microsoft points. What are you waiting for?



Next week we’ll be continuing our Hidden Gems XBLA special with a neat review of Shadow Complex, a thrilling title courtesy of Epic Games.