The first Call of Duty game was released in 2003, and at time of writing, there have been nine main instalments in the series. The first Assassin’s Creed game was released in 2007 and there have been five main instalments with a sixth one inevitably hurtling our way. The third in the series had barely been released for six months before avid anticipaton of another game began. It baffles me that this constant churning out of games from franchises is what people want, and in the following article I’m going to explain why.
My collection of games is pretty large; it’s big enough that I can’t even estimate the actual number of physical games I own, let alone the digital ones. As such, I’ve developed quite a backlog, since excellent games kept coming out faster than I could complete them. The fact that I spent a good chunk of the last six years playing World of Warcraft didn’t do anything to help the situation, either. As of today, I know that I have well over a hundred games – most of them brilliance waiting to be experienced – that I have yet to play. Up until a few weeks ago, I thought that this was something to be ashamed of, or at least a problem that needed to be solved. Then I came to the realisation that, perhaps without even knowing it, I’d been building myself an ark.
The gaming industry takes an awful lot of flak for the state of modern society. Parents, ignoring the fact that they have purchased something designed for someone aged in their twenties or thirties, are apparently surprised that the box with a masked man holding a pistol does not contain a story about a happy unicorn that loses his balloon. As a parent, it is your job to protect your children from the world until such times that their moral compass can steer them away from picking up an AK-47 and walking into an airport terminal. If you don’t want your child to play these games don’t buy it for them! This shouldn’t be news to you; your parents tried to steer you on the right path when they told you not to listen to rap music as it was all about shootin’ up pimps and rollin’ wit yo bitches, in the same way their parents told them not to listen to rock and roll, put down that guitar and get a haircut.
I agree that exposing children to content that is not age appropriate for them has a detrimental effect on their understanding of right and wrong and how to interact with the world around them. Of course it does; I saw Watership Down as a child and to this day I can’t walk past a rabbit without kicking it in the face before it has the chance to savagely attack me. I do however fully agree with the statement that being good at Call of Duty does not make you capable of shooting up a school in the same way being good at FIFA does not make you good enough to play for Man United. It is the person within you that determines that shooting the ho to get your money back is acceptable in Grand Theft Auto (it is, in case you were unsure) and that it most definitely is not in real life. Baring all this in mind, I am going to issue a warning in the unlikely event that any parents are reading this; do not, under any circumstances buy Payday 2 for your child. Even as an adult with a reasonable grasp on morality and physical limitation, I am now convinced that robbing a jewellers is a good idea.
So what have we got here then? Well, Overkill Software have walked in to an overcrowded FPS market and whopped out their shiny new sequel to 2011’s Payday: The Heist to really shake things up a bit. As its predecessors title may suggest, the point is not to stop terrorist plots, fight back alien hordes or rescue a sweet beautiful girl (I love you Elizabeth! Please call me I’m home all day!), it’s a good old fashioned jewellery store and bank heist game. Having never played the first, the claims being called from the rooftops that the bugs are fixed and the gameplay is better mean relatively little; I’m a ‘show me’ kind of guy,so show me what you’ve got and I’ll make my own mind up. Well it has, and boy does it look good.
Here’s an example of what you’re likely to expect. You and your partner are dropped into a street, and expected to get on with it. Scout out the building and get your bearings, check out where the guards are, try and find all the entry and exit routes. Done? Right, time to break in. On go the masks and you’re off, taking out guards and stashing their bodies, sneaking past doorways trying to remain unseen, and then shooting the place up when you’re inevitably spotted. Find the loot, hold off the police until the getaway driver gets there and get the hell outta there. A timelessly classic storyline I’m sure you’ll agree.
There are a few things that have struck me about what I’ve seen so far. Firstly, gameplay. What little actual gameplay footage there is in the public domain does have a rather interesting quality to it; the only way to describe it is that the game looks clever. The game seems to change and react around you, so it looks likely that there will be a lot of re-play value here. Guards watch different alleyways, the loot you’re after is hidden in different places, the police will try and out flank/sneak up on you/steal back your loot, even the getaway car will stop in a different place depending on where you’re standing. All very clever, and while it might not take years of planning like a real world bank job, the emphasis is really on putting some thought into what you’re doing.
Secondly, the cooperative element of this game looks very impressive. The AI looks very clever if you’ve got no friends; in the footage I’ve seen it’s hard to tell if it’s a real person or Skynet holding the other joypad. As you’d expect, you have a choice of attributes that you can use to transform your characters; skills like becoming a silver tongued debonair who can sweet talk his way past guards, or turning into a specky little computer nerd who could hack his way into the Pentagon and read all their emails about forwarding to five people and the luck fairy will send you a rainbow coloured puppy. Skills matter, and having the right ones can be the difference between escaping across the border to Mexico and standing in a prison shower clinging on to the soap like your life depends on it.
Whilst graphically it looks competent if not spectacular, you and I both know thatgraphics don’t make a game play well. What you’ll notice is that it actually looks like a sharpened up version of Left4Dead 2, and not just in terms of the buildings and scenery. An item you’ve interacted with, say a bag of money, safe or a dead guard will have a highlighted outline, acting as a useful point of reference in the heat of battle. For anyone who’s played Left4Dead 2 and been faced with a tank (or TAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAANK!! To pronounce it properly), being able to easily see where the next gun is when yours runs out of ammo is a benefit you only notice when it isn’t there.
As you may have gathered, this game ticks a lot of my boxes. If you liked Hitman Absolution, Left4Dead 2 or Monaco: What’s Yours Is Mine (not heard of it? Shame on you! Click here), then you’re going to like Payday 2. It’s scheduled for August this year, and is expected on Xbox 360, PS3 and PC, so whatever your platform you can get in on the action. Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to find an Olympic class gymnast, a French locksmith and a blonde woman with a Russian accent and a pun-laden surname. Then I might go to the bank.
The games industry today is abuzz with talk of the next generation of gaming. With the WiiU already with us, the Playstation 4 having been announced a while ago and, by the time you read this, Microsoft being about to or having just announced the next Xbox unit, you can’t move around the gaming web without coming across some sort of discussion about the next gen. This is only to be expected of course; it’s an exciting time of promise and optimism, the culmination of one gaming era and the cusp of yet another; one which seems set to bring unprecedented gaming experiences. The gaming community is nothing if not willing to voice its varied opinions, so its unsurprising that there are as many views on offer as there are voices or keyboards with which to express them.
Now, we’ve all heard most of the big things (probably on this very site if you’ve any sort of reading taste!): tales of always-online restrictions, specification layouts, persecution of second-hand games, augmented reality, 3d sound and many more facts, rumours and outright fabrications have done the rounds and purveyed as ‘fact’ by many.
Thing is, even at times of relative serenity in the industry, trying to discern fact from fiction when it comes to gaming is often pretty hard. All it takes these days, it seems, is for one person to claim something with a measure of assumed authority and it can gain momentum rapidly, quickly becoming accepted as truth. It seems in the games industry the old adage of ‘if you repeat a lie often enough, it becomes the truth’ holds especially true (and that’s likely to be the last time I ever quote an old Nazi in one of my articles I hope!)
I was given reason to reflect on this recently as I was reading up on the coverage of the PS4 release news and the speculation around the scheduled Xbox announcement. While the reports were fairly standard and seemed to convey much of the same official information, along with the standard speculation, my attention was drawn to a recurring theme in the comments sections of the articles. Curious as to whether the release news was acting as a light to the troll-moths, I took an excursion around various forums and boilerhouse websites to see if the situation was the same. What I found mirrored the comments I’d seen previously. All across the various discussion points of the web, when it came to the subject of next-gen, there was the same ‘fact’ being put forward:
High-end PC gamers are already experiencing the next-gen today.
This puzzled me, as its simply not true.
Look at it this way; while high-end PC gaming has seen something of a resurgence in recent years, it still represents only a miniscule part of gaming companies’ demographic. For a game to be realistically next-gen, it stands to reason that it would have to be playable only on these new systems, as the hardware required would be only present on those systems. You name me one mainstream game that is only playable on next-gen equivalent technology!
Go on… I’ll wait…
What’s that? Crysis 3? Ah, I think I may see the problem here. I fear people may be confusing graphical improvements with next-gen gaming. The fact is that while games like Crysis 3 are graphical powerhouses, wonders of visual design on high-end systems, they’re still designed at a base level to work on all reasonable mainstream systems and the current generation of consoles. This means that, while they look prettier on high-spec PC units, the core game remains the same. What many forget is that graphical quality, in this situation, is really no more than window dressing; graphical eye candy creating the illusion of being a step above the rest, when in actuality the base game runs on the same limitations as all the rest do. It’s the equivalent of putting flashy rims and a new paint job on your car; it’s still the same car as it was before; same speed, handling and feels as before, it just looks a bit flashier. The same is true of games like Crysis 3 and Far-Cry 3; they have all the graphical bells and whistles but under the hood they’re current-gen through and through.
Where the next generation of gaming will prove its step up from today’s is in the behind the scenes aspects. The upgraded processor power, graphics engine and RAM will allow for the game to be doing much, much more in the background, allowing for more environmental and gameplay features. It’s hard to say exactly what, as games being developed now are unlikely to use this to its full potential; that takes time and practice. To use an example from the previous generation gap, Half-Life 2 demonstrated the progression from the old generation to the current with its previously unseen physics engine, which allowed a whole new way of designing and playing a game. While visually a treat, the real revolution there was in the background, contained within the upgraded grunt produced by the better hardware.
Yes Diablo 3 will look prettier on the PS4 and next Xbox than it would on the PS3 or 360, but this is a game that runs on standard, middle of the road PCs now. Unless some exclusive content is produced for the new consoles, the game is going to be the same as it is now, but with prettier graphics.
While graphical improvements are always the most striking and obvious feature of the next generation of gaming when it arrives, in many ways it is a smokescreen, a visual sleight of hand used to impress the public and demonstrate in a easily recognised way the improvements over old technology. This causes many to mistakenly identify improved graphics as evidence of next-gen gaming. As with many things, the truth is really much more complicated. It’s going to be a while into the new generation before we start seeing true next-gen gaming, as it will take some time for developers to adapt to the improved technology available.
In this case, beauty is only skin deep. For true next-gen gaming you have to dig a little bit deeper.
In a building deep in a small French suburb, the press room was full to bursting. Hundreds of flash bulbs burst into dazzling light as I stood behind the desk, grinning a genuine and excited grin from ear to ear. ‘He’s finally here’ I thought to myself, and turned to look at my latest signing; the man who I knew would finally deliver us to the Promised Land. But Ronaldinho would not meet my gaze; indeed, throughout our discussions he would not make eye contact with me and as he stood, holding the white and blue number 44 shirt (bit of a theme for me; favourite player gets my lucky number) and smiling dutifully for the cameras, he seemed distant. I should have known then. I should have read the signs, but I didn’t want to believe. Looking back, I should have known that first press conference was the beginning of the end.
I have two strategies when playing Championship Manager; the first and most frequently used is to take a lower league club with a budget of pocket fluff and some Orbit Spearmint gum and drag them, kicking and screaming to the heights of domestic and European glory. The second, for a slightly different type of challenge, is to take over at a dominant club in a mono or duopolistic league like those in Scotland or Russia, and the task would be to make them more than the sum of their parts on the continental stage. I have had fantastic success with the likes of CSKA Moscow and Celtic previously, but the most memorable of all these games was with Olympic Lyonnais, a club to whom I return time and time again across the various game iterations. This particular story however took place in Champ Manager 2006, and is a tale of unrequited love as I chased one man across Europe. I gave him everything but it was not enough, and he left me alone in a club full of French people and one very angry Mexican.
For those not acquainted with the great man, Ronaldinho was the most iconic footballer of his generation. He did things with a football that left Newton and Einstein quivering wrecks, the laws of physics torn asunder beneath his boots and a flurry of toothy magnificence. The first time I placed the disc into my PC, my only thought was that I would get him to sign for me and be the talismanic focal point of a dynasty of success. Not that I would start with Barcelona of course; that would be crass. Back to trusty Lyon it was, and to create a side worthy of the great man.
First signing was a 16 year old Carlos Vela from Arsenal, years before his real world potential had turned to dust. Second in the door was another 16 year old, this time a centre back by the name of Raikovic who would go on to be the bedrock of my back line for the next twenty years. For those who aren’t familiar with Champ Manager tactics, there’s no need to go all operation yewtree here; it just these players can be signed very cheaply and provide years of success. A dependable Cris (got to love Brazilian names) at the back and Fred up front, I decided that I would chance my arm for my hero. Some astute sales (Sidney Govou for £29 million to Milan – Yoink!) had left me with a healthy £50 million transfer budget, all of which I offered to Barcelona. With a Catalan shrug the response was ‘no dice Frenchy’, so I had to console myself with destroying League Un at a canter and a semi-final loss on penalties to Chelsea. The next summer I was knocked back once more, so killed time with the additions of Theo Walcott, Samir Nasri and Hatem Ben Arfa. I knew though that the real work would come at Christmas; Ronaldinho was only under contract for another year and was unhappy with the sale of Iniesta to Bayern Munich. He probably wouldn’t re-sign and I could snatch him up on huge wages.
Through autumn and winter I waited; barely noticing the dominance of my current players, most notably Carlos Vela who was tearing the league to pieces. Twenty goals by Christmas barely even caught my attention as the slow and agonising wait for January 1st to arrive. But arrive it did, and I was straight in with an offer of £100,000 a week, Jean Michel Aulas refusing to up the wage cap for this one special case. Rejected. Back I went with the offer of a £5,000 bonus every time he scored and £5 million signing on fee, but again I was knocked back. Curse you Iniesta! What must have been the most outrageous case of tapping up since Harry Redknapp signed his son for Southampton occurred as Ronaldinho loaded his brilliance into the back of a removal van and crossed Europe to Germany to join his buddy at Bayern. I’d forgotten about my team, and neglected to sign anyone else in the transfer window. Fortunately, the 12 point cushion I’d already achieved was enough to see us through to retain the league title, with a disappointing exit in the quarter finals to Galatasaray the prompt to invest in the summer.
Following the inevitable “Nein!” in response to a £55 million offer, I turned my attentions away and picked up an unhappy Robinho from Madrid, followed by a young Vincent Kompany and the re-signing of Govou for £10 million following a disastrous time in Italy. The next three seasons brought further glory, my dominance in the French league and cup matched only by the exploits of the Lyon team in real life. This period also brought me Champions League, Super Cup and World Club Cup glories, and a loss on penalties the year after in the final against Madrid the only thing to stop me being the first to retain the Champions League.
Fast forward and it’s the January transfer window in 2012. I had waited for this moment for four years, and I wasn’t going to miss this time. Following complaints to the board I was granted special dispensation to offer £160,000 a week, £10,000 per goal, £6 million up front and £2,500 per assist. Music played and people sang as the ink dried on the contract, and I took a six month holiday from the game until the summer when finally, after six years, Ronaldinho came home to France.
First game up is the now traditional friendly against Chelmsford FC. 24 minutes in, and Ronaldinho is carried off on a stretcher. I fast forward the game to see what the damage is, and I find that the irony fairy has been to visit, and he’s been carted off to hospital carrying his cruciate ligaments in a bucket. A conservative estimate is 18 months out, and I’m forced to watch a season and a half drag by with his name sitting on my team sheet; unavailable for selection. So distracted was I by that red INJ button, a polyp on the face of my team, that I barely noticed the little green UNH next to Carlos Vela’s ever increasingly goal laden name.
Eventually Ronaldinho returns to training and, after an eternity, full match fitness. I had not won anything the previous season and I was trailing a rejuvenated Marseille side by 6 points in February, but I was sure everything would be better now. His first seven games produced six scores of 5 and one of 4, but I dared not criticise; he’d come good, I knew it. The next game we trailed to Bastia, Ronaldinho continuing his new found hobby of throwing banjo’s wildly into the field next to the barn he was aiming at when once again, he was taken off on a stretcher, this time with his leg having acquired an additional knee. Three days passed and I received an email; in light of his most recent injury, Ronaldinho has decided to call time on his career and retire at the end of the season. Oh thanks! You’ve decided that you’ll let me continue to pay you until the end of the season have you! How bloody considerate! In temper, I click through my emails. I suddenly realise that I may have clicked something important, and look back to see what the damage was. Sure enough, Carlos Vela, unhappy with his contract and the feeling of favouritism to other players, had handed in a transfer request and like a chump I had accepted. No amount of throwing money at the problem fixed it and, having had his £35 million release clause met, I lost the man who I had pinned my dreams on and the man who had given me 30 goals a season for the past 4 years in a miserable summer to forget.
This signalled the end of my time with Lyon, and my love for Ronaldinho. He never played for one of my teams again, but I chose in future to build my teams around Carlos Vela; good dependable Carlos, I’m sorry I treated you so badly, please let’s not fight any more.
The games industry today is abuzz with talk of the next generation of gaming. With the WiiU already with us, the Playstation 4 having been announced a while ago and, by the time you read this, Microsoft being about to or having just announced the next Xbox unit, you can’t move around the gaming web [...]
Computer games, as much as any other medium, are mysterious things. They can stir our souls, hotwire our adrenaline glands or disappoint us to our core. For every person who plays a game there is a valid and varied opinion. It’s one of the things that make the subject of a game’s relative quality a [...]
Across every genre of entertainment there are specific titles or releases that become synonymous with failure, that in the eyes of fans and critics alike embody the worst that the genre has to offer. They become the universal butt of any joke in that medium, the yardstick against which every other poorly-received release is measured. [...]
Over recent years there has been a shift in the focus of the gaming industry towards online multiplayer as a gaming model. Indeed, the biggest sellers of this generation of titles have been primarily online competitive titles, such as Halo 4 & Call of Duty. Over this time there has developed a very distinct separation [...]