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/

E3 Day 1; The Console War!

Another E3 has once again arrived and the first day has blasted it’s way to the front page of a lot of tech news as we see the `Console War` progress and possibly climax with its next victor.
The first day of E3 was split into 4 major talks, Microsoft, EA, Ubisoft and Sony to round off the day. So lets dive into the first section.
Microsoft
Microsoft;

Microsoft started out their obnoxiously green talk with a little surprise from Konami & Kojima by showing the highly anticipated Metal Gear Solid 5, and open world Afghanistan based game with a plethora of transport options from horses to tanks. The open world mechanics present in the next MGS allows for far more play options for both stealth and aggressive maneuvers and is definitely something to look forward to.
Next up was a surprising announcement that the Xbox 360 would receive another redesign. So from the original 360 we then got; The Elite, The Slim and now this, designed to a similar standard as `The One`, as I call it. This new design is supposedly more sleek and quiet than its predecessor and has possibly been released due to part of the gaming community calling out for blood with the new Online check-ins and such that Microsoft is integrating – On a side note, something that I find very odd everyone is complaining about, these are people with smartphones and tablets yet they hate the idea of having to have their console have an internet connection?
Anyway here is the new 360 and god knows what its name is, 361?
New 360
Microsoft then went onto talk about Gold memberships and the changes to be made there, first off 2 free games are going to be given away each month to everyone new and old to Xbox Gold starting with Assassins Creed 2 and Halo 3, Gold will now having sharing capabilities within your household so that if your child/spouse/friends have a silver account but you have gold then they get access to many gold features. Also there will no longer be the old fashioned 100 friends cap, it has been removed entirely allowing you to make more friends with people you don’t know.
Before launching into games I’ll just round off other news brought to light; Xbox now has a partnership with Twitch.Tv so you can stream gameplay on The One, something I personally find interesting as during the holidays I do enjoy streaming with friends; Microsoft will no longer be supporting Microsoft Points but instead purchases will be made with your local currency. A new tool called Upload Studio has been implemented where you can personalise clips, give them thumbnails, edit them (although to what degree wasn’t shown in detail) and then upload them for all your friends to see, this works much like the Share button that the PS4 implemented.
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Now to list off all the games that Microsoft showed at their talk, remember this is not a full list of Microsoft games, many are exclusives and I will try to say which ones are and are not. So here we go;
SpliterCell blacklist which has been shown everywhere for a while – for more info there will be a later post on the Ubisoft talk in the future
Batman Arkham Origins – The MS talk didn’t show this game off that much but this was readdressed in the PS talk later on and it looks to be one hell of a gritty fun Batman game even though Rocksteady aren’t involved in the 3rd of this epic trilogy. it does however I feel fall prey to the issues of many prequel games which is; It has much better awesome gadgets (because the game series has progressed, users need something new) but it’s better and more advanced so why isn’t it in the `future` games.
Grand Theft Auto 5 which is coming out soon in September.
World of Tanks is coming from the PC now to Xbox so fans of this apparently big hitter may be glad to see a port over to consoles. EXCLUSIVE
Max: Curse of Brotherhood – you play as a child who banished his brother to another realm and must save him, with some quite nice cartoony graphics it looks to be something fun and light to play.
DarkSouls 2 – The epic trailer to this game merely made me even more sad at the fact i’ve still not played let alone finished Dark Souls 1.
Ryse – you play as a Roman Soldier, the gameplay showed off real time fighting but with quick time events thrown in to finish off enemies, I worry this may get a little repetitive and boring as the game progresses. Also I’m sad as originally this game was meant to be a kinect heavy game where as now its rumoured that it’ll only be kinect enhanced, whether that means voice commands I don’t know. EXCLUSIVE
Killer Instinct – This is the game that is being streamed above, a standard fighter with a similar art style to StreetFighter I feel, all the same looks incredibly fun. EXCLUSIVE
SunSet Overdrive – This is a heavily stylised FPS with Openworld that has a cool cartoon look to it with very vibrant colouring, it sounded like the game would be updated frequently with things like daily challenges and other treats to enhance gameplay and change the way you think constantly. EXCLUSIVE
Quantum Break – In this game time freezes and slows in confined areas, meaning you could walk in on an event that had frozen such as an explosion, this game supposedly blurs the line between TV and Games (which in my personal opinion isn’t good, games are their own medium and shouldn’t be trying to copy old technology). EXCLUSIVE
Spark – A game where you can create a world with kinect or smartglass, even villages and enemies. You can even give personalities to items such as giving a rock the personality of a pet, so that whenever you are in a certain range, it bounces and runs toward your character. It was presented in an odd manner but the gameplay stood out and looked amazing, definitely one to buy. EXCLUSIVE
Deadrising 3 – You play Nick Ramos in an open world with absolutely no load times (such a fun perk in games), the same on the fly weapon customisation is still in place and smart glass plays a roll too by allowing for help from other players online. Definitely an awesome game and hopefully there’s plenty more to be revealed.
Witcher 3 – A huge free roaming, 100+ hour game with kinect voice commands to help with quick swaps of equipment or even saying incantations for magic spells.
Battlefield 4 – This actually went wrong at the talk and the speaker nearly walked off stage until luckily the demo started playing – see more later when I talk about the EA talk
TitanFall – A new IP, an FPS game that involves huge Mechs you can get in and control, jetpacks that create a more fun 3d traversable environment and some awesome multiplayer from the looks of the demo, definitely one to purchase. EXCLUSIVE
And Finally HALO 5 – Only a small teaser was shown of the Master Chief walking through a dusty planet before a huge forerunner mech appears from out of the sand. Apparently the first game to run at 60FPS on Console, a definite buy for any old Xbox Fans.
Spark Titanfall Halo5SSO In order; Project Spark (world creation early stage), Titanfall (beginning of a mission), Halo 5 (teaser), Sunset Overdrive (trailer).

Playstation
SONY:
Sony started out their talk by talking about the PS Vita, it has 85 titles coming to it including Final Fantasy 10 and 10 part 2, God of War HD 1 & 2, Killzone Mercenary & Tearaway. As an old FFX fan I nearly ordered a vita there and then.
Sony talked alot more about games throughout and left most of the new tech stuff until the end, apart from the PS4 design (hold on, I’m getting there).
They went on to talk about some of the large games coming to the PS3 and Next Gen including Last Of Us which continues to get 10/10 ratings (EXCLUSIVE), Rain which looked an odd and almost depressing game that I wish they’d said more about (EXCLUSIVE), Beyond 2 Souls where they showed Ellen Page and Willem Dafoe (who is just the creepiest looking man even in game), the gameplay looked interesting, showing Ellen going through training before being assigned the mission to take down a Warlord (EXCLUSIVE), and a better and improved Batman: Arkham Origins trailer showing Bane, Deadshot, Deathstroke and Blackmask (EXCLUSIVE CONTENT e.g. Batman Skins).
Sony then went onto answer the major question burning in everyones mind; “What does the PS4 look like?”. Well, a little something like this:
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with a slight slant in the design the PS4 reminds me of my old PS2 and doesn’t look that far off The One (which makes me laugh at everyone who said The One looked stupid) in terms of general design. Sony then went onto talk about how Sony Pictures were working on a new plan to bring entertainment to the PS Network including Music & Video unlimited, both of which are available day 1 of release for PS4. Also Redbox will be coming to the PS4 for all their US customers and Flixster will be coming later in Autumn.
The PS4 will be released 399 Dollars/Euros, and 349 Pounds possibly near November along side The One.
From there on out the talk remained focused on games both large and small with a little slip being made that PS will support Self-Publishing Content from Indies and the like and also that the PS4 will use Gaikai to stream PS3 games on the PS4 (providing they stream FFX HD and the Jak & Daxter HD Trilogy I’ll definitely be buying a PS4).
So lets run through the Sony games that were put on display;
The Order – A steampunk victorian england where you play as possibly 4 players against some unknown large gangly creatures (possibly werewolves, I couldn’t tell). EXCLUSIVE
Killzone Shadowfall – With awesome action & gus on display as well as some cool gadgets this game only continued to sell me on PS4. EXCLUSIVE
Infamous Second Son – A cool game where you have supernatural powers that seem to revolve mainly around fire – hopefully there’ll be some other powers later in game.
Knack – This wan’t spoken about much but a little teaser was shown.
Super Giant Games showed off their next hit Transistor – same isometric view as Bastion but with a few new art styles in certain places in the game, it looks to be a hopefully great hit from Super Giant.
Don’t Starve, Mercenary Kings, OctoDad, Secret Ponchos, Ray’s the Dead, Outlast, New n’ Tasty Oddworld (HD remake) and Galax-Z were a bunch of indie games that are also coming to PS4.
Diablo 3 – This wasn’t shown but there was talk about exclusive items from other playstation games which is an awesome little touch.
Kingdom of Hearts 3 – Not much was shown but it has the same cool cartoon-esque graphic style fans will be familiar with.
Assassins Creed 4 – The live demo gave a little look into the next AC and it looks a hell of alot better than its predecessor (which I’m struggling to complete as I hate it), this looks to have some fun Jungles and busy towns (unlike AC3 where there were near no buildings).
Watch Dogs – Another Live demo (something which Sony did very well), it showed driving around the world which was very beautiful, the game looked open with options allowing for some very smart play and also allowing help from Mobile players on their tablets to make your mission easier.
Mad Max – Only a teaser but all the same the game looked cool and had a similar wasteland art style that reminded me of Rage the ID software game.

Beyond2Souls KillzoneShadowfall NewnTasty WatchDogs In Order; Beyond 2 Souls, Killzone ShadowFall, New ‘n’ Tasty, Watch Dogs.

That pretty much wraps up the major talking points about the 2 warring Consoles and on a personal note I feel that although I’d love some of the Kinect functionality and the Twitch.TV partnership Playstation may have won me over. If I buy a console at all however is another question, as a PC owner Steam wins every time as it’s cheap as hell.
The major feeling across the gaming network however is the same as mine, Playstation seems to have won this Console War, so hats off to you Sony, well done you avoided the pitfalls you made with the PS3, unfortunately Microsoft didn’t.

Thanks for reading and keeping looking here for more on some of the games being shown off at E3. Soon to come Ubisoft & EA talks.
Thanks again.

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

Facebook Home: First Impressions

facebook home

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Last week Facebook finally launched their new android Launcher, Facebook home. Available at the moment only on a handful of devices, Facebook have promised that it will grow its compatibility over the coming months. Facebook home was eagerly anticipated, although many questioned why anyone would want facebook to be more than just an app. Now launched and available to download, are these beliefs ratified?

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My Week With Android Jelly Bean

jelly bean review

For the past week, I have been using an Alpha version of Android Jelly Bean on my HTC Desire S. This is article details my first impressions with the new operating system however some opinions may change as the ROM becomes more stable.

Last week  I woke up and checked on the CM10 for Desire S thread on XDA developers, as I had done each day since the thread opened. On this particular day, I was extremely surprised to find that there was already an early build of the ROM available to download. The thread had only been open for a few days and the build available the night before was having trouble getting past the boot screen. I scrolled through the comments which gradually reassured me that the ROM, despite being alpha, was extremely stable and was only missing a few features.

I downloaded the ROM and tried installing it via recovery. It froze on the boot animation prompting fear to spread through my body, the thought of bricking my phone was terrifying. Luckily, I wasn’t the only one with this problem. It turned out that this was a known issue and it was easy to bypass by wiping the cache. I did this and was presented with the lock screen I had seen just weeks before in the Jelly Bean demo video at Google I/O 2012. The dotted pattern followed my finger as I swiped across to the right to unlock the phone. Other than the pattern, nothing much was different compared to the Ice Cream Sandwich ROM I had been using for the past few months.

Once into the actual operating system, I did what most people would have done. I tapped on the Google Search bar and set up Google Now. This is the most anticipated feature of Android 4.1, especially since videos online have revealed that it destroys Siri in head-to-head competition.

I spent the next few minutes rigorously testing the new voice search feature. I was extremely surprised at how quick the results showed up. I have been use to using Siri which takes a good few seconds to take in what I have said, and then another few seconds to find me a suitable answer. However Google’s search seemed to recognise what I was saying as I was saying it, and only took a second or two to respond. After tweaking some settings I was able to make it so that images showed up alongside the cards just as I had seen in the videos, and I began searching for my favourite sports team (arsenal) and selecting my locations. If I was to believe Google, within a few days I should expect the phone to recognise what information I need and when I need it. I’d have to wait and see.

Now that I’d finished playing with Google Now, it was time to set my phone up as what it is…a phone. The default SMS application wouldn’t open, but downloading an ICS themed text messaging application from the Play Store worked a treat. It was only at this point I realised how fast the phone was. I’d just visited the Google Play Store, downloaded an application and set it up in under a minute. I’d heard about Project Butter but I never really imagined that it would work very well on my phone, especially in an alpha ROM.

Project Butter seemed like the one feature of Android 4.1 that I could easily live without. I’ve never really though that any ROM or stock UI that I had used in the past felt particularly slow, except when I compared it to iOS on my iPad 2. However project butter completely blows away iOS in terms of speed and smoothness. The animations when each window opens are lightning fast but look great. Each application opens almost as soon as I tap it. One way I tested it was to open up the multitasking menu, which had always taken a while to load on ICS. Boom, the second it opened all of the thumbnails loaded with it, with no delay.

As I was scrolling madly through the app drawer to admire the speed of Jelly Bean, I received a notification. It was an e-mail to my Gmail account which had landed in the notification drawer. I pulled down the bar and remembered what had happened in the demo conference of 4.1. Notifications now expand to show you more information than they would before, without you having to open the individual application. Unfortunately, it didn’t work in the build I was running. Shame.

A few days after my initial download of Jelly Bean, an updated build was released. New builds were added to the thread just about each day, but this one offered a number of fixes. For one, the phone now worked without me having to be in loudspeaker mode. Obviously I wouldn’t have been able to put up with this for long, but I had no plans over the week so it was no trouble until it was fixed. Another fix was the camera. I quickly downloaded and flashed the updated build to my phone as the camera packed a few new features in Android 4.1.

The camera works very well with Project Butter. One of the new features is that after taking a picture, you can swipe to the right and view what you just took. You can also pinch out to see the recent photos in a different view. Both of these gestures bring a very nice animation which fits in with the beautiful animations of Project Butter. The inclusion of the animations in the camera make the entire operating system feel so much more smooth and like it’s together. I’ve always felt that Android has had trouble organising it’s applications into one operating system, it never feels together like iOS. That’s changed now.

In the latest build, the notifications were fixed. It’s a much bigger deal than I thought it would be. I can now expand text messages, e-mails, screenshots and a number of other things to show me more of what I am about to open. To be honest, I could see this being an annoyance on previous builds of Android, as it wouldn’t have been smooth enough to pull it off elegantly. However it works very well through Project Butter, and I now find myself swiping away things I know I don’t want to open, rather than opening the application itself.

While the updates for my Jelly Bean are still coming out regularly, I feel that the build I have at the moment can’t be improved much. There is still a few parts of it that are unstable but it is more than enough to use as my daily ROM, and I feel that I am in a position to give a pretty accurate description of my feelings of Android 4.1.

At first glance, Android Jelly Bean looks almost identical to Ice Cream Sandwich. The search bar is a different colour and the lock screen has some fancy dots, however all in all it’s the same. Where Jelly Bean really shines is the hidden features. I could go on for paragraphs about how good Google Now is. It’s learnt what I do and often tells me the directions to places I have searched, just like we were told at I/O 2012, however the thing that impresses me the most is Project Butter. When the iPad 3 was released, I was told that you had to see the retina screen to believe it, and I was left very underwhelmed when I actually did come to trying it out. However, Project Butter is something that really does need to be seen before you can believe it, but it might only benefit people who have previously used Android. I’m sure even the most dedicated Android user could admit that more often than not, it would lag when unlocking the screen or scrolling fast through the app drawer. However Android 4.1 is faster than any other mobile operating system I have ever used.

CynanogenMod 10 ROM for Desire S – Link

Sony MDR ZX500, a Review

Last month I reviewed the Sony MDR ZX700 headphones, which for quite a high price, offered a lot of comfort and decent sound quality. The MDR ZX500 is the cheaper equivalent to those, but despite the considerable price drop, they aren’t much worse than the 700s.

The MDR ZX500 is very lightweight, but that doesn’t mean that it feels cheap by any means. In fact, i’d even go as far to say that it feels just as high quality as the ZX700.

The overall design of the MDR ZX500 is almost identical to the ZX700, except with substantially smaller cups. Personally, I prefer the larger cups as I have always thought of larger cups as the comfier option, however there are many who feel the opposite. The very light weight means that the MDR ZX500 is very comfy to wear for long periods.

I have been trying out the white version of the MDR ZX500, which is a lot more flashy than the black version. That said, just like the MDR ZX700, they don’t attract too much attention to themselves which is a very nice touch.

The sound quality of the MDR ZX500 isn’t going to blow you away. It is no competitor to some of the high-end headphones on the market at the moment, but for the price, you wouldn’t expect it to be. However the sound is impressive considering the small price tag.

The MDR ZX500 specializes in bass boosting meaning that if you listen to a lot of dubstep, electro and dance music, this would be right up your street. I have never come across a pair of headphones for this price which can perform so well on heavy tracks like that. However the noise isolation does suffer as a result of offering very heavy bass.

Overall the MDR ZX500 has a very nice design, which is both great to look at and very comfy to wear. The light weight design means that you can listen to music through them for a number of hours before you even start to notice them. The sound quality leaves a lot to be desired, but for the price I have never tried out anything that performs so well with bass and I’m pretty sure I won’t for a long time.

4 out of 5

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