Are we all moving to smartphones for our gaming?

As smartphones become the phone of choice for most mobile users and you can definitely see why as they are a Personal Computer a Camera, Sat Nav, internet browser, games consul, Social Media platform and oh yes of course you can make still make a phone call on them.  How is all this tech in your pocket affecting the way we access and play games and how is the gaming and app industry reacting to this.

We have all been waiting in a queue or on a train or bus and looked up to see virtually everyone either on social media or playing a game and not only have the new range of smartphones made this easier but developers have also created games which are mind blowing, I mean we are talking console quality a far cry from the first games of snake and roll the dice. (If you can remember that far back).

Of course we have the ever increasing online gaming world which has taken the games like roll the dice to a whole new level with companies like Casino.com offering the ability to play your favourite casino games win money and all while waiting for the bus, with games like BlackJack, Slots and even roulette on your phone we are really being spoilt for choice.

candy crush

Most Android games offer a free version which is great although you do find there are in app payments which gives you additional access within the game, like the ability to add extra lives and levels or special features games like Candy Crush had become extremely successful with this business model.

Of course you have the more adult games which range from driving games like Crazy Taxi City Rush to Modern Combat 5: Blackout which as the name suggests is a combat game. These games are really more in depth and this is where you feel the consul games coming to your smartphone.

modern combat 5 blackout

Smartphone games for me are split into two camps the games that are great for the commute you know the ones you can just dip in and out of like the angry birds/bad piggies and the adventure or walk through which you can lose yourself for hours like Sky Force 2014 /Plants Vs Zombies.

So whatever you are doing and how much time you have you always have your smartphone and a game or app which is going to be right for that moment, the only problem you have is which game or app to choose, not a bad decision to have.

Tomb Raider – 101 ways to die!

TOMB RAIDER GAME

To say Tomb Raider is brutal would be like saying Hitler wasn’t caring. Set in the Dragons Triangle (South Japan) you play out the origin story of the badass we all love Lara Croft, only she’s not quite the awesome Lara most will know her for. Thats a far cry, you play the young hopeful archaeologist Lara Croft, which gives the game this bitter sweet flavour to it – I want to be that badass Lara I knew when I was young…. but she’s going to have to be beaten to a pulp first (very cruel to be kind).
As the bright eyed, eager and clean behind the ears Lara starts out she’s on a boat, but that won’t last long, its unfortunate you can’t play the opening scene as I feel it would certainly help give some panic to the game and disorientate players as they try to flee and now sinking vessel as well as learn to get to grips with the world of Tomb Raider, unfortunately this isn’t the case. That isn’t to say however you miss out, whilst Lara fights to reach the shore you are able to admire the beauty that surrounds you which is a brilliant dynamic that I feel never ends as each new area in the game feels very different but also at home and just in the right place.
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Looking at story I’m actually very happy & always intrigued. Given Lara is an archeologist many of the things she was originally trying to find before `you` arrived are shrouded in legend and myth which does lead to some very interesting questions you’ll end up asking, such as “holy hell what’s that batman?!”.
As well as the Myth and curiosity side of Tomb Raider there is Lara’s own progression which as I already said is brutal. Lara can die in well over 100 ways I bet and the cinematic ones (as opposed to you falling off a cliff for whatever reason – you saw something shiny, took acid and thought you could fly, whatever it is) are particularly gruesome what with pikes being thrust through Lara’s Jaw and up up up through her skull all the way to being caught in a cave where a boulder is going to squish her spine like a boot does an Ant. Lara’s journey is one about realising who she is and what she is capable of and most definitely what she can take on (To everyone who said its sexist and the Dev’s just want to see Lara in pain – you’re the one not finishing the game and making Lara the victor, the badass, the legend). Seriously though as someone who thought they could take gruesome images – virtual ones made me squirm in my chair and be determined to beat the game.
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Looking at the story of the island and not so much Lara, I eventually got a sense of being almost in Lost (which subsequently made me decide to pick up from Season 4 and finish the blasted series). You are not the only inhabitants of this Island. There are `others`, these others initially cast a new look at the game, who can you trust? which quickly is answered by gunfire – so not them. The others are a cult of some sort lead by a Father Mathias – you’ll find many paintings over the island on rock faces (some just to help you) that are creepy – “Fear the demons”, “Father Mathias set us free”, “The storm is watching”. These messages feed the idea of myths and legends, some sort of cult and also a sense of being stranded even more than you realise with that last one, add in the games very good soundtrack that creates the feeling of unease very well and the smallest sound will freak you out – the game in quite a clever manner always seems `too quiet` in that hollywood sense of “I’m going to get jumped any second by something”.
If you do find yourself enjoying the story of the island I implore you to search for the relics hidden in each area (documents from periods of time & items from the eras) all of which add a layer of extra unease of that the Island is `aware`.
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Tomb Raider really does have a lot going for it in terms of story, in terms of gameplay apart from being pulverised Lara will as time goes on gain access to some very useful pieces of kit, my favourite of which is the bow – she does get a pistol but not the dual ones that seem iconic with the TR brand.
These new pieces of kit make combat easier & also allow you to traverse the island to larger and larger degrees and allow you to go back and collect what you may have missed – which can be annoying but the game quite awesomely links up previous area’s at times, so that Camp you came across 2 camps ago, is only 1 minute from the one you’ve just found. This is a nice addition to a game that has the mechanic of “go back and explore” as they make it easy on the player which not many games do.
Upgrades for your gear is found through story and also through something called Salvage which can be gained through crates, animals & others (providing you have certain skill points), you collect salvage and when you have enough you can improve your pistol/rifle/shotgun/bow at camp. Upgrades are relatively bog standard for the most part – larger mags, higher accuracy at longer ranges etc.
You can also upgrade Lara through Skill Points which can be spent in 3 areas Survivor (focusing on extra xp & loot from kills), Hunter (better adapt and dealing with guns) and Brawler (looking at things like taking higher amounts of damage).
Both Skill Points and Upgrades are done at Camp. Camps are found throughout the game and generally define an area (i.e. 1 per area almost), here you can upgrade gear and Lara, Lara can record her journal and also you may fast travel between camps (not always necessary as the map does link up with previous camps as I said above).
Moving away from Camp, each Area in the game as well as having Relics/Documents also has challenges – light all 10 statues, break 6 lamps etc. This does mean that each new area can seem daunting as there are many collectibles, there are the challenges and also the actual story, so it can be a bit uncertain at first as to if you have found everything. Luckily however Lara has `Environmental Awareness`, this means that a tap of the Left Bumper (or whatever key) will instantly highlight areas of importance (and items given the right skill points) and have you quickly back on the right path which is very helpful as the game continues.
Finally fighting in Tomb Raider is fine and flows quite well, however when in cutscenes Tomb Raider decided to use Quick Time Events which always have me on edge. However they are used few and far between, at appropriate moments and without having to mash a button faster than Usain Bolt running the 100m. My only qualm with the QTEs in this game is that they are all the same button which does mean instead of being surprised by a random `B` or `X` I just have to time hitting `Y` and its just not as immersive.
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Overall Tomb Raider is a great game and a welcome return to magnificent form, a must buy for everyone (especially with the Steam Sale imminent), the story feels like legends stepping out of a book and Lara finding her feet through blow after blow.
Truly enough good things can’t be said about the game.
Thank you so much for reading
Fred

Tomb Raider – 9/10
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Remember Me; Who’d Forget?

Remember Me is an awesome linear story set in Neo-Paris in the future where memories have been commoditised and can be shared with everyone. You play Nilin a memory hunter whose hunting her own memories as she’s been `wiped`.
The game starts out with an advertisement for a Sensen, this is the tool that lets people remember every single event in your past and that of others who are willing to share theirs. You wake up in this horribly white and medicinally clean setting that gives it an uneasy vibe already. Your first task; Escape.
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The general game has a look & feel of the most recent Deus Ex with Total Recall thrown in especially given the memory angle. So the population of Neo-Paris has become addicted to their Sensens – understandable I think, depressives will wallow and replay the events that put them there and those who are truly happy may become obsessed with chasing previous feelings.
So in this 2084 future you have to find out who you truly are. Once you finish your fist task there is a news flash talking of your epic departure but seeing as you and your character are both being reintroduced to this world its unsettling to see this news flash describe you as a terrorist. Just who is Nilin? Who are you?
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In terms of gameplay Remember Me is a mixed bag that comes out surprisingly enjoyable. In terms of fighting you’ll have to deal with hand-to-hand for the entirety of the game which is refreshing given the industry’s simple and easy power-fantasy fascination with guns. Nilin is incredibly acrobatic with her fighting style (imagine maybe Batman’s Arkham Series). Also as you fight an awesome soundtrack kicks in which you may not notice at first but is quite catchy – I was trying to get in fights just to hear the song by the end.
As your memory comes back so does your fighting abilities which ties in nicely to gameplay & story. This takes shape in Nilin remembering different combo lay outs and some fantastic special maneuvers.  One really fun part of the combos Nilin remembers is that you’ll only ever remember 4 (which is sucky at first) however what makes them to the core awesome is that they are customisable. This means that the combo set maybe XXX or XYYXYY but Nilin has `Pressens`, Pressens are different punches/kicks meaning that any combo you remember you can then choreograph which is incredibly refreshing and lets you change up gameplay to how you want it. Remember however that at times it is very hard to pull off the longer combos which does create a level of frustration as you desperately try to land that last punch only to be hit off balance at the last second.
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Pressens allow you to choreograph a combo but there’s a little more to it than that. Pressens can take on 4 different types – Damage, Regen, Cooldown & Linked. Damage Pressens allow for heavier damage to foes, Regen Pressens allow for you to regain health that may be lost in combat (maybe not sensible but makes the game compact and forces you to change fighting to what you need), Cooldown Pressens reduce the cooldown time of Nilins specials moves (though even when at 0 you need `Focus` to execute these moves), and finally Link Pressens are merely a multiplier for the previous move so if the previous Pressen was a damage one then it does double damage, if a regen you get double health back etc.
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Pressens are unlocked by buying them with PMP (procedural mastering points) which you gain from fighting. You’ll need to unlock Pressens if you want to have several combos as a Pressen can only be used in one combo at a time.
As you run & climb around Neo-Paris you’ll find patches for either Health, or Focus or even that just add some extra information about the world around you. What is cool about these patches is that tiny screens pop up around the world with a picture of where the patch is located and you have to find it based solely on that.
One thing that was slightly annoying however about exploring what little there was to explore (the game is very linear) is that the camera handling is quite old school, so its not always 3rd person, you may round a corner and now you have to deal with an aerial camera, its a minor thing but personally its abit annoying.
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Since Remember Me is based heavily around memories, your own and that of others, they added a very cool mechanic that is employed via story and not choice but that is the `Memory Remix`. This is where you go into an enemies mind, watch how they remember a scene then rewind through it altering data to make them think something else happened due to the changes you’ve made – As cool as this mechanic is, it does result in some tragic consequences made all the worse by the fact you HAVE to do it to progress the story, but if you can feel that then it shows some powerful story telling at play, so take with one hand and give with another.
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Talking about the writing however, in places it does seem strange. There is admittedly good voice acting as you can feel the exasperation that is displayed in Nilin as she desperately tries to recover `herself` but still some bits seem odd and probably should have been changed for instance you are displayed as a terrorist by the news and those you fight, however they call you Errorists which just felt a little sloppy in terms of writing.
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In cutscenes Nilin reflects on what has happened in her mission and deals with the consequences of how that makes her feel. These cutscenes are set in this weird mindscape where there are disjointed blocks that float up to support her feet. It is a great layout and one that had me clamouring to just be able to walk around in it for a minute. To give an example of how it feels imagine being in Assassins Creed Animus but the floor moves like it would in Bastion.
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Overall Remember Me despite its limitations is a fantastic game and one I definitely recommend playing. There are several quite philosophical things I took away from it as well. As the game revolves around memory and you have the ability to change minor things and major things in those memories – Did things happen the way you remember them?
If you had your entire memory wiped away but gained it back would you arrive at the same conclusions you did before or would you look back at yourself in distust with how you acted?
However at its heart I think Remember Me is about remembering what is important which is family, friends and that things should be remembered and not forgotten even in the most painful of thoughts.

Remember Me 8/10
Thanks for reading :)

 

Fred Garrett-Jones
http://willza99.wordpress.com/
https://twitter.com/magicalfunbus

E3; Ubisoft vs EA

On the first day of E3 as well as the explosive fallout from this latest console war EA & Ubisoft had their own talks which covered some of the games to come in the next year that neither Xbox nor Sony got around to, so here’s a look at what may have been missed:

EA
EA:
EA started out with what seemed a very serious almost over the top teaser to what looked like it may have been the next Battlefield only to have the wool pulled from our eyes to reveal it was actually Plants Vs Zombies: Garden Warfare, a 4 player co-op 3rd person wave survival game. Players get to play as several different plants all that have their own specialisation e.g. the Peashooter – essentially your average grunt, the Cactus – the PVZ version of a sniper and so on.
EA then moved onto Titanfall – See my previous post for more info on this game.
In incredibly large news that had the entire audience clamouring for more was the unfairly short teaser for the next Battlefront game, something I am looking forward to seeing as I’ve never played the previous versions despite how popular they are. This next BF game will be coming probably 2015 or AT BEST late 2014 and is being made by DICE so hopefully we’ll be able to have fully destructible Deathstars and the like.
The next Need for Speed  game was announced and is called Rivals, something interesting about this new NFS game is the `All Drive` multiplayer, it sounds like an open world full of players where games happen by chance and collision. One awesome thing about the talk was that Aaron Paul came out to talk briefly about the NFS movie soon to be out.
In truly awesome news Dragon Age: Inquisition was shown off and it looks truly awesome, a vast open world which is supposedly much larger than the previous iterations of DA.
EA sports then came out afterward to run off their list of yearly releases, NBA, NFL, FIFA (for which Drake was brought out for no apparent reason :| ) and also UFC which was initially announced by the hype man Bruce Buffer which I thought was actually a cool funny gag to use, however the talk did get weird as 2 champions were brought out for no reason, just like Drake, and Dana White got weirdly `Macho`. However in terms of the game one feature did sound cool, it’s called MMAI which essentially means on the fly change in tactics from enemy AI as if they had a real Corner Man telling them what to stop you from doing, hopefully this’ll make for some more fun & challenging fights.
EA then showed off Battlefield 4 and their Commander Mode – a top down view for mobile devices to help out in multiplayer matches. The demo they did was much better than the one at Xbox mainly due to the fact they actually had 64 people demoing the game. It looked incredibly dynamic in terms of game play as they were able to take out a pillar underground and the tank on the street fell through, so hopefully maps are full of these little awesome traps.
Rounding off the EA talk they announced Mirrors Edge 2, in the short piece they showed off you could see the same wonderful minimal style in terms of colour that makes the game stick out so much. The only annoying thing was the last screen image “Coming….. When it’s ready”. I felt a little annoyed here as even though it’ll probably be late 2014 or at worst 2015 I’d still want a date to look forward to, but then maybe this is just to hopefully avoid push-backs.

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In order: Battlefield 4, Battlefront (believe me there wasn’t much in that teaser), Dragon Age: Inquisition, Mirrors Edge 2

Ubisoft
Ubisoft:
Ubisoft started out their talk with Rocksmith being demonstrated by Alice In Chains, a cool feature is that the game band reacts to you. The tag line that was repeated was “The fastest way to learn guitar”. It was a fairly impressive display if quite over the top, but then again this is E3 and Over the Top is all part and parcel.
Aisha Tyler was hosting the talk and I’d be lying if I said I didn’t want H. Jon Benjamin to come out shouting “lana, Lana! LANA!”, unfortunately this didn’t happen.
Anyway they then moved onto Splinter Cell Blacklist, however not much was actually said about it, I feel Ubisoft put it in just to remind people that it’s coming soon.
However they then moved onto Rayman Legends, it has the same classic look & feel to it, now with daily challenges and some competitive fun such as racing against `ghosts` of your friends or playing football.
Then came a game I’d heard nothing about but looked amazing which was Might Quest for Epic Loot, essentially you get to build a castle and fill it with mobs and such before choosing a hero, then you get to rob friends & strangers alike (and vice versa). So you’re objective is obviously to steal peoples loot whilst defending your own. It wasn’t very clear if you could then use said loot to improve your castle or gear for next time you go looting. Either way it looks an awesome game and a must buy.
Then Ubisoft quickly reminded the audience of the hopefully soon to come South Park the Stick of Truth via a little clip of a move called the Nagasaki Fart… yea on odd one but classic South Park humour.
Ubisoft then moved onto an interesting new game with a new take on the 4 player heavy co-op games (i.e. payday, Left for Dead) called The Crew. You play as one in a four player car heist crew. It has fully customisable cars in an Online persistent world, you can compete against other crews, work as a team or work singularly. Each style of car has specific types of goals and challenges for you to complete.
Next up on stage was Watch Dogs & Assassins Creed 4 – See my previous article for the read up on the live demo at the Sony conference.
In awesome news the team behind Trials are releasing 2 new games called Trails Fusion and Frontier for Next Gen & Mobile, respectively. In the short show of gameplay the player got points for tricks which may point to a new game type where you trick as much instead of just flips or racing. Both versions are meant to work & compliment each other.
To round off the Ubisoft conference they showed off a new Open world online RPG which is based on the idea of our fragile & delicate systems that the world currently runs on and what would happen if a new dangerous pathogen broke out and the modern world collapsed. It’s called The Division and is a Tom Clancy game, truly looks amazing and a must buy.

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In order: The Might Quest for Epic Loot, The Crew, The Division, Trials Fusion.

So that wraps up all of day one pretty much. In the next week or so I’ll be doing some more pieces in depth on some of the games, grouping maybe 3 or so into one article.
Thanks so much for reading and I hope you enjoyed this E3.

Fred Garrett-Jones
https://twitter.com/magicalfunbus
http://willza99.wordpress.com/