img src=";loc=300;key=key1+key2+key3+key4;grp=[group]" border="0" width="160" height="600"> The inner ramblings of a videogamer: July 2013

Monday, 29 July 2013

DmC: Devil May Cry review (Xbox 360)

 DmC: Devil may cry or Devil may fail?
This review contains mild spoilers.

I'm going to be honest with you right now, the very first time I saw the original teaser trailer for DmC, Ninja Theory's take on Capcom's niche but cult hit franchise "Devil may cry" I was less than impressed by the new direction they were taking one of my much beloved franchises, I hated Dante's new look which has been described on more than one occasion as looking like "a dirty Emo junky" a stark contrast when compared to the original Dante "a stylish, trench coat sporting, silver haired, wise cracking hero" although after Ninja Theory altered his design a little he did look a lot better. Another thing that had put me off of DmC early on was the fact that Ninja Theory seemed all to eager to bash the original games, the original creator Hideki Kamiya, as well as insult the original series fanbase. Needless to say, this didn't exactly rub me up the right way, but never the less I was still eager to get hands on with the game and find out for myself weather or not DmC: Devil may cry held up when compared to the original franchise, or deserved to be left Devil may crying at the bottom of a bargain bin.

Now seeing as the Original Devil may cry game released way back in 2001, it's a little unfair of me to try and attempt to compare the two gameplay wise, and also seeing as DmC: Devil may cry was supposed to be more along the lines of an origin story, it therefore has closer ties to Devil may cry 3: Dante's awakening which coincidently is one of my favourite action games of all time. Now DmC is supposed to be separate from that of the original franchise cannon, regardless of what the ending to the game may suggest, but I feel some comparison needs to be drawn in one form or another so I'll go about doing a little of such in this review.

So first up, Story.

Without going into to too much detail, or trying not to at least, Ninja Theory's DmC: Devil may cry puts us in the slightly scruffy, not so well refined, but still highly capable boots of a newer, younger Dante than we have played as before, but unlike in past games where our hero was the offspring of a human (Eva) and a Demon (Sparda) making him a powerful hybrid of the two, he is now a Nephilim, the offspring of an Angel and a Demon. However Nephilim in this game are considered strictly taboo as their species posses the power to traverse between both the Demon world and the Angel world, wield the power of both Angels and Demons, and can bring about the death of a Demon king. Due to the Nephilims potential threat their species were wiped out long ago, however Sparda (blood brother of the Demon King Mundus) eventually falls in love with an Angel known as Eva who goes on to bore them 2 twins named Dante and Vergil, this however causes an irrevocable rift between Sparta and Mundus, the later of which who then goes on a bloody and murderous rampage to yet again purge the world of the Nephilim abomination, his only potential threat posed by the very existence of the two Nephilim children, and to also punish their parents. Needless to say Mundus doesn't succeed here and Dante and his brother Vergil are separated then put in places safe from Mundus's gaze.

Dante is first introduced to us in Run–D.M.C., sorry I mean DmC: Devil may cry as a young man with nothing to loose, partying all night, one night stands and the occasional deep pan pizza is his way of life right now, well apart from occasionally getting dragged into Limbo (a plain that exists between the human and Demon world) where he is forced to fight and survive all manner of monstrosities, not to mention the environment itself in order to escape. This is all happening while the main Villain Mundus, a powerful Demon King who has gained hold over the human world by masquerading as a human himself, and bringing humanity under his thumb through debt, manipulating politics, and fast food, all while relentlessly scouring the city in order to bring about Dante's untimely demise. Except on one fateful day after partying hard Dante is approached by a mysterious girl named Cat, who wants to introduce him to her "Boss" head of an organisation known as the Order.

So as you can probably tell the basic plot in DmC: Devil may cry is arguably pretty good on paper, unfortunately though the games story suffers from some poor scripting, hammy voice acting, more F-bombs than you'd need to make even a sailor blush, and also some arguably disappointing moments of characterisation. The good I suppose is the fact that even this level of infantile story telling didn't end up killing the game for me, the story might be hanging on a thread for dear life but Devil may cry was never very story centric anyway. The idea of having all of humanity already under the thumb of Demons all the while being non the wiser was a smart move and I give Team Ninja credit for that one, but sadly that is just about as smart as the game tries to be with such a premise. Going off of the events that transpire at the end of DmC I would be very interested in seeing exactly where Team Ninja could potentially take the franchise now, but saying that you could probably get a decent answer to this question by going and playing Devil may cry 3: Dante's awakening, which almost seems like it could have been tailor made to be DmC's sequel par a few plot/story differences.

OK, so now we're at the "combat" arguably the most important aspect of any Devil may cry game. So... How does it hold up?.

Combat in DmC: Devil may cry is honestly pretty good but I would be hesitant in saying it is as good as the likes of DMC 3 or 4, you see in the older DMC games playing as Dante made you feel like a total badass, but I never really got that same feeling from playing as Dante in DmC: Devil may cry, another thing that didn't help was that the Devil trigger was a little disappointing, it gives you a decent power boost but is over far to soon, also because the transformation shockwave throws enemies into the air for you to take out using aerial combos it ended up obscuring enemies from the line of sight at times. That being said DmC: Devil may cry's combat has actually put me in somewhat of a rather difficult position, you see while the game does arguably has some of the deepest combat mechanics the series has had yet, such as allowing for players to alternate between any and all ranged weapons and/or melee weapons on the fly, allowing for such tactics as using light combo attacks with the Osiris (Angel Scythe) then near the end of the combo switching weapons and following up with say, a finishing combination heavy attack with the Arbiter (Demon Axe) it is a pretty neat addition that I would like to see in more future action games. However DmC does kind of fall short in other areas, such as forcing you to have to switch weapons to deal with certain enemy threats, it probably sounded like a good idea early on but in practice I felt it ended up getting in the way of the flow of combat and just really caused unnecessary complications, most enemies in DmC aren't too difficult to manage but once a Angel or Demon enemy appears it impacts your play style drastically, maybe this aspect of enemy combat does add to the challenge but personally I could have done without it.

I wasn't really much of a fan of the redesign for Rebellion (Dante's Sword), Ebony and Ivory (Dante's dual pistols) either, but the new Rebellion made for an interesting alternative to the original mostly because of it being more multi-purpose in its uses, that being said other than say one or two enemies Ebony and Ivory were utterly useless, which is a little unfortunate. Also the style counter is another thing I wasn't too happy Ninja Theory changed, it is a lot more forgiving in DmC: Devil may cry than I think it has ever been before. Getting hit will no longer reset your style counter like it did in previous games but instead will only lower your style, making it pretty easy to achieve SSS rankings on most levels during your first play through, then again using the new Rebellion to drag enemies towards you much like you could with Nero's "Devil bringer" in DMC 4, is a welcome inclusion to Dante's skill set, the skill even lets you go as far as latching hold of enemies and dragging yourself over to them, this does however creates a bit of an exploit. It is all too easy with most enemies to launch one into the air, pummel them to death then latch hold of another, and pull them up into the air, or alternatively latch hold and drag yourself over to an enemy already in flight and pummel them to death as well, rinse & repeat till you have nothing left but the heavys on the ground and a good use for you Demon axe, assuming you ever stopped using it.

Some of the Boss fights in DmC: devil may cry were a little lacklustre, especially when compared to the classics like Cerberus, Griffon, DMC 3's Vergil, Beowulf the Lightbeast, Nevan and the original Devil may cry's Mundus. However the final boss fight certainly made up for some disappointing bosses that preceded him.

To be fair the combat in DmC was most likely made more accessible to allow for newer gamers to play and feel like a pro without actually having to master the combat mechanics like you would in previous games, aka learning how not to get their head knocked off. Anyway if you really want a challenge there are a good few difficulty settings available that will help you scratch that challenge itch, it might not fix every issue you have with the game but it should help fans who want to play DmC but are also missing that challenge the original franchise posed.

And now we come to the "platforming"

The platforming side of DmC: Devil may cry, is a certain aspect that has been rather lacking in the series past iterations. So, is the inclusion here for better or worse? Well I actually kinda liked it myself, I mean yes it's linear, yes it's only ever really their so we can get a good look at the twisted beauty that is Limbo (Very pretty place mind) and yes the choppy visuals that comes with platforming in 30 fps does kinda get in the way of split second button presses, leading to Dante missing the opportunity to grapple onto a piece of floating debris , then falling 50 storeys and receiving a pavement facial. But in the end the platforming does what it should do, it gets you from A to B with relatively minimum fuss intended, that's more than can be said for platforming in the original games *cringes* so no, platforming in DmC is not perfect but it works well enough in most cases at least.

OK, so before wrapping up I just want to take a brief moment and talk about how "I" feel DmC: Devil may cry does in actual matching up to the original games.

It must be said that as a character I didn't much like the new Dante, however with that being said he certainly grew on me the more I played and I honestly did end up liking him in the end, certainly not as much as I like the original Dante but enough for me to not mind seeing him in a DmC sequel. For me a key factor that made the original Dante likable was his character flaws, flaws that were brought about by his tragic past and his conflict with being a Demon, the creatures that he shares a deep connection to but must kill daily in order to save human lives) and his human side, he is part human but never truly being able to fit in with normal society led him to become a loner, and a smart mouthed rogue, who drops one liners as much as new Dante drops the F-bomb. I honestly felt that the original Dante being part human made him more relatable but the new Dante certainly has relatable human character flaws, and to be fair he's only had one game to flesh out his character where as the original Dante has had 3 or 4 or at least.

While this reboot might not strike a chord with everyone I think it is fair to say that as a game it does well to stand on it's own merits, maybe if DmC: Devil may cry was made instead to be an all new IP then it probably would have been more well received. If you have yet to have played DmC: Devil may cry then by all means give it a try, it's definitely not DmC as we "the fans" know it but it is well worth playing as an enjoyable action game, and heck it still beats Devil may cry 2 *cringe*.

Well thanks for reading my user review, if you have anything to add or disagree with my points then as always please feel free to leave a comment.
-The ability to string different weapon combos together is a much appreciated addition
-Limbo at times is a sight to behold
-Platforming while not perfect is an improvement for the franchise
-30 FPS causes the game to look noticably choppy at times
-Infantile scripting and the gratuitous use of the F-bomb may put some gamers off
-Glitches, graphical bugs and other such detriments to gameplay are present

Graphics: Graphically DmC: Devil may cry does look pretty good by today's standards, and Limbo is one of the more unique, artistic and visually appealing worlds I have seen in a game for quite a while. 

Sound: The soundtrack, especially during combat is pretty good and sets the mood well, again it's not what most fans of the original franchise have come to expect from the series but this is a reboot and the sound over all could have been much worse. 

Gameplay: Fans of action games will surely find entertainment with DmC: Devil may cry, however the game did appear choppy for me at times and my button presses also appeared to have a delayed response, but this may be due to the fact that the game is running at 30 FPS instead of 60. 

Fun factor: Fans of action games should find much to enjoy in DmC. Although not to everybody's liking given the fanbase split this is without a doubt a solid game. 

Online: No online mode is present however, there are leaderboards.
Overall 8/10

(DmC: Devil may cry is  a worth while action game for any fan of the genre, and is accessible enough for newcomers to not  feel out of their depth.)

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Wednesday, 24 July 2013

Xbox One: the console that divided a fanbase

Let me just get a couple of things out the way before diving into the topic at hand. I am not a fanboy, I know most of you hear this all too often from those who end up being blatant fanboys, but trust me I am not one of them. I've had pretty much every major console release ranging way back from the NES all the way up to my current consoles (the PS3, Xbox 360 and the Wii) and have enjoyed each one of them although obviously some more than others.

I have never passed on buying a console due to me disliking a company or their business approach/philosophy, because honestly there has never been a need for me to do so before, however I fear that I may not be able to say this much longer, and if my fear becomes a reality then Microsoft will have no one to blame but themselves. I know full well that no company is my friend but at least both Sony and Nintendo try to appear as if they respect my intelligence, and above all else respect my desire to play games un-impeded and un-restricted. But wait "Video game companies are about making money" right? we hear this all too often these days as if purely stating such a thing excuses poor business practices, but then who are we who call ourselves "gamers" but those of us who are apparently only fortunate enough to be able feast on the fruit of their proverbial money tree because we provide it sustenance, these companies would do well to remember that without us that money tree they're so proud of would wither and die and with it so would our reason to support them. My point being here is that we needn't tolerate those companies who screw over their consumer base in the name maximising profits, but we do so because we are afraid of loosing the franchises they posses, if only we were brave enough to stick up for ourselves it is more than likely that these companies would sweeten the deal before they see their business crumble at their feet.

Well that's food for thought I suppose.

Anyway, so now to the topic at hand. Ever since the Xbox One was announced along with the controversial DRM plans Microsoft wished to force on us (their faithful longtime consumers) there has been a great divide, a divide between those of us who wish for their consumer rights to remain in tact and dislike the idea of a potentially intrusive and restrictive console entering their homes no matter how "futuristic" some of the other more seemingly positive features appeared to be. And then there are those who do not care about such matters and only wish to play games, no matter how intrusive or restrictive the console they purchase to do so may be, but seemingly all too eager to believe the corporate PR spin that spoke of the original plans for the Xbox One being "the future of gaming" instead of seeing the PR spin for the bait on the end of a lure, there to lure you in so they can yank the hook. Basically, if you're thinking those controversial DRM policies won't rear their ugly head in another shape or form once the Xbox One reaches a decent install base, then I fear you may be being a little too optimistic, Microsoft and certain publishers stand to make considerable profit if such features like the used game restrictions were implemented, but it would a;so be at the cost of our rights to ownership.

I would go into more detail over Microsoft's plans to implement watching TV on your TV through the Xbox One, but I think we've all heard enough about that, if I had to say one or two things about it though it would be this. Attempting to create a games console that is also an "all in one multimedia entertainment device" is an admirable feat, but if these new features come at the cost of our gaming experience then that console may be doomed from the start, the very fact that the Xbox One runs three separate operating systems simultaneously is already a cause for concern because that is taking up additional processing power that could potentially be going towards pushing the boundaries of console gaming, also don't let this "Cloud computing" nonsense fool you, the most reliable and direct answers we have so far is that cloud computing will help improve online gaming by providing improved servers, while those who state that cloud computing will boost the specs of the Xbox One by that of three Xbox 360's have had their claims dismissed by those in high enough authority on the subject to know that such delusions are but a mere pipe dream.

I do realise what I've said so far sounds a little like I'm trying to bash Microsoft and attempting fear mongering, but I'm truly not, all I am trying to do is state my legitimate concerns, concerns I feel that many passionate gamers and fans of Microsoft are not willing to acknowledge due to their un-wavering faith in a company that may not have ours or the games industry's best interest in mind.

Let's talk a little about this years E3 for a moment, now to be honest when it comes to next gen gaming, or more precisely the games shown at E3 2013, I saw few games on any console that I would say truly blew me away (but then again I'm hard to impress) it seemed to me that far too many of them looked like current gen games with beefed up graphics and some added processing power to help handle more on screen action, but that's the problem with trailers isn't it? you don't really get a feel for the gameplay until you get hands on with the finished product. Anyway, when it came to Microsoft's exclusives and their plans for future IPs I wasn't exactly put on the edge of my seat by some of what was on show, Ryse: Son of Rome looks like an attempt to fuse the now tired tropes attached to the post Modern Warfare FPS genre, with that of an action game creating somewhat of an "action warfare" hybrid, but instead using ancient Rome as the setting. It's an interesting concept but the execution looks a little off IMO, and lacking that "future of gaming" factor the devs were so keen to repeatedly mention this year, QTE driven combat, forced linear progression, giant set pieces (sigh) well we didn't really think we'd seen the last of them, right?... but do we really need more games with giant set pieces yanking our heads out of the action like attention seeking infants? Apparently so otherwise us gamers might get bored of the constant generic gameplay... IDK, maybe it was just a bad first impression for me, but you know what they say first impressions count for everything.

We also got to see a "Halo trailer" (or better yet a short teaser to generate hype) but hey I'm a Halo fan, althugh I honestly think the series peaked at 3 and I never really did get hooked on 343's take on the series in Halo 4, but if they can make the franchise as relevant as the original Halo: combat evolved then count me in, however I just don't see that happening but Id be happy to be proven wrong.

I will say that if there was one Xbox One exclusive game that surprised me it was "Titanfall" Mechs have always held a special place in my heart so an online FPS with large pilotable mechs running around is a dream come true, it's unfortunate then that it's an Xbox One exclusive, something which is still very odd to me because the game is primarily an online FPS, so even after having purchased the game full price gamers still won't honestly be able to play it unless they are paying customers of Xbox Live (actually you know I've never understood why so many gamers are willing to pay for Xbox Live when they bought the right to play the game online along with the disc, oh well so long as everyone willingly paying Microsoft will keep charging I guess) if it comes too it I'll consider potentially missing out on this great looking game as my way of standing up for my ideals.

I'm almost sure by now some of you probably think me anti Microsoft, right? Well again I assure you that is not the case. I'll tell you now I had every intention of purchasing Microsoft's yet to be announced console before the official reveal, but due to the aforementioned actions of this one very ambitious company I have become incredibly conflicted, you see I still would very much like to purchase the Xbox One once it is released, but I can't in good conscience do so, and that is because I whole heartedly disagree with Microsofts current philosophy, sure they may have gone back on their plans for draconian DRM, always on and 24 hour checkins, but the very fact that they tried to implement such arguably awful features has left a bad taste in my mouth, and to make matters worse we find out shortly after that Microsoft is also in cahoots with the NSA, a notorious data mining company. Coupling this new found knowledge along with the fact that the Kinect 2 "will always be listening" oh I mean except when it's turned off and only listening for key words... Yeah, really not so sure I believe that one, but hey I'm a sceptic by nature.

I can recall someone once saying something along the lines of "why do you have a problem with a company spying on you if you have nothing to hide?" this is kind of a stupid question in my opinion but I'll humour it for the sake of this blog. Well you know what, I can't speak for everyone but I kind of like my privacy, many of us are aware that we are already being spied on, on social media websites such as Twitter and Facebook but look how that's turned out, people say something stupid but innocent or make a harmless joke, and then they get dragged off prison for it. Imagine for example that you're just sitting watching TV or playing a game and then you happen to make an innocent joke about a certain topic of subject matter only to find out your Kinect has recorded what you said and Microsoft then passes it on to the authorities, you could potentially end up getting slapped with a court hearing because of a petty misunderstanding that arose in the confines of your own home, pretty ridiculous I know but it's frighteningly all too possible the way things are heading.

It is honestly more than likely that if Kinect 2 were to be used by Microsoft and the NSA for data mining that whatever gets recorded would just be used to tailor ads to individual customers, not that this takes away from the fact that a company is spying on it's consumers, but it's better than having to be careful of what one says in their own home.

I just want to announce before I end this blog that at the time of writing I am still very much on the fence in regards to purchasing the Xbox One, I have mentioned many reasons why I am currently apposed the Xbox One but most likely Microsoft once having released the console with strive to create a strong gaming community well into this new gen, the issue here then is them having to regain my trust, or on the flip side it may be I who has become disillusioned with a company who wants to be at the forefront of change.

Well anyway, I hope you understand my reasons for being cautious of purchasing the Xbox One and I also hope that no matter how much of a fan you may be of Microsoft that you at least take on board some of the points I made, and not just pass them off as ramblings of a "Fanboy".

Sorry for repeating myself but I just want to stress this point one final time, I'm not anti Microsoft or pro the other two, and if you still wish to purchase the Xbox One then by all means please do so, I simply wanted to voice my opinions and concerns and hopefully make others who are not so much in the know, a little more wise to the situation.

Thanks again for reading my blog, as always if you want to add something or disagree with any of my points please feel free to leave a comment.

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Persona 4: Arena review (Xbox 360)

Persona 4 Arena: The beat 'em up done right

I picked Persona 4 Arena up on a whim recently and honestly rather enjoyed it for what it is, I know I mite be showing my hand a little early here but stick with and I'll let you know just why you shouldn't let this little gem pass you by.

Now I happen to be a huge fan of JRPG's, so it mite come as a surprise to some of you to hear that I've never actually played a game in the Persona series before, of course I always planed too but I just hadn't gotten around to it yet, you know how it is, you keep putting off playing a game only for something new to come out and it just keeps happening again and again, anyhow I digress.

Persona 4 Arena isn't exactly your typical JRPG, as a matter of fact it's not actually a JRPG at all, it's a 2D style beat 'em up set in the world of Persona 4. Now not having actually played Persona 4 or any of the past titles in the series for that matter, and only having a very mild understanding of some of the similarities from each game (i.e. the Personas: Mystical huminoid guardians that in this game are born from the hearts and bonds of the main characters) due to this lack of knowledge regarding the back story I had some reservations going into Persona 4 Arena, thankfully though having no prior knowledge of the plot from the previous game was not a problem, certain plot points from Persona 4 do come up but they are usually immediately explained in "story mode" and are only really there to explain current events and/or drive the plot forward.

Established characters from Persona 4 make a return and are also explained and fleshed out a little, this helps in understanding each of the characters individual goals and motivations, new characters also make an appearance and again are explained in detail during the events of "Story mode".

Persona 4 Arena is brought to us by Atlus and Arc System Works, who's most notable entries into the beat 'em genre are the critically acclaimed "Guilty Gear" and "Blaz Blue" so with this kind of pedigree it's safe to assume that they know how to make a great fighting game, and Persona 4 Arena is certainly worthy of that title, and possibly more so.

I decided to give "Lesson Mode" a go first and I recommend everyone do the same, if you've happened to have played "Blaz Blue" or even "Guilty Gear" you'll know that to fully appreciate the combat you'll need to become accustomed to individual characters special attacks and abilities, fortunately "Lesson Mode" offers a tutorial that helps get you to grips with the simple basics of moving left and right, jumping and guarding, all the way up to special attacks and finishing moves, similar to the "Astral finish" moves seen in Blaz Blue, some of the button combinations to pull of certain moves are a little tricky but if you're an avid beat 'em up gamer you shouldn't have too much trouble.

Once I'd finished with the "Lesson Mode" tutorial I headed over to "Story Mode" you're given a selection of 13 characters, only 4 characters are available at the start while the remaining 9 are currently locked and must be unlocked by progressing through the story. I'll tell you now Persona 4's story is extremely text heavy, It took at least 20 minuets from clicking on "Story Mode" until I encountered my first actually fight, the actual fighting being broken up between very lengthy but arguably important text driven cutscenes. There is some actual spoken dialogue between characters and the voice acting is pretty decent given what we've come to expect from these kinds of dubs, the inner monologue while giving the player a deeper look into the thought process of our chosen character does tend to ramble on at times, and you'll begin to question the point of it especially when characters start pointing out the bloody obvious, it also strikes me as a little cheap at times when your character starts describing theirs or another's actions instead of the game cutting to an actual animated short and actually showing off the event happening, these little animated shorts do happen but they are very far and few between.

It also needs to be said that a good sense of humour and an open mind is recommended when tackling the story mode, the main character Yu's dig of a title for instance "Sister Complex Kingpin Yu" was uttered a number of times during my play through and I imagine that could cause some embarrassment if the game is being played in the presence of others less inclined or willing to to see the humour in it.

Sandwiched between these thick wordy crusts is the actual meat of the game. The fighting is, while a little too short in "Story Mode" a sight to behold, with fancy moves releasing particle effects all over the place and special attacks filling up the screen. Every character has a certain set of special skills that can can either, stun, freeze, electrocute, attack from a distance and/or explode, they all also have a unique Persona, the Persona is essentially a special attack that is assigned to the (Y) and (B) buttons when playing on the Xbox 360, the Persona is also capable of being hit by your opponent and if hit enough times is temporarily put out of action. As well as having both characters individual life bars at the top left and right corners of the screen there is also a special attack bar at the bottom left and right corners of the screen, similar to those seen in both "Guilty Gear" and "Blaz Blue" these bars also have a numerical value over them that goes up in value when you hit your opponent or get hit by them, and goes down when you use your Persona. If the value reaches (00) then you will be unable to attack with your Persona until you raise the value enough).

The enemy AI in this game also gets pretty challenging as you progress, often when missing with an attack and leaving an opening for a counter attack my opponent would exploit it without hesitation, in later levels a simple miss timed combo would more often than not see me get knocked to the other side of the screen or suffer a devastating combo attack, this is the kind of beat 'em up that forces you to learn and adapt to your opponent, and as a lover of beat 'em ups I found the actual fight mechanics in Persona 4 Arena to be thrilling.

Needless to say though, if you're the kind of gamer who dislikes reading mountains of text and inner monologue similar to those found in Japanese graphic novel styled games, is less than impressed by the Japanese sense of humour, and/or just wants to get to the action and bust some heads in an easy to learn but hard to master brawler, then I recommend you steer clear of the "Story Mode" and head straight to "Arcade mode" where the story is scaled back in favour of the fighting and where the absorbingly entertaining fight mechanics really get a chance to shine.

All in all Persona 4 is not only a very fun and immersive beat 'em up, but a well rounded and enjoyable game. The painfully slow early portion of the story mode and seemingly endless text windows between battles may put some gamers off the story mode altogether, as could the sometimes cheesy and awkward dialogue, however the game makes up for these minor shortcomings with Arcade mode, along with other modes such as Versus Mode, Score Attack Mode, Tutorial Mode, Challenge mode, as well as online multiplayer. If you can bring yourself to look past Persona 4 Arena's minor flaws the game is very enjoyable and definitely worth your time, if you're fan of beat 'em ups you owe it to yourself to give this game a try.
-The fighting is fun with enough depth to keep you coming back for more
-Entertaining story and intaresting characters
-Music and sound effects are good, the BGM is fun to listen too if you enjoy Jpop
-Story Mode drags on, this is highlighted more by seemingly never ending text
-Cheesy dialogue/awkward moments may make playing a little uncomfortable for some

Graphics: It's a 2D HD beat 'em up so you can't really go too far wrong graphics wise, 3D environments look good too. my only complaint here is some of the anime cutscenes look a little cheap, other than that no problems.
Sound: I personally loved the music in this game. The voice acting is also better than average especially from what we're used too from these kinds of dubbed games.
Gameplay I honestly can't fault the actual gameplay, everything works exactly how it should, the fighting is fun and has plenty of depth, the fight mechanics are easy to learn but hard to master, and the challenge ramps up at a decent pace while remaining fair. What more could you want?.
Fun factor Persona 4 Arena is without a doubt one of the best 2D beat 'em ups available, if you are a fan of fighting games or have been looking for a decent one to try out, you owe yourself to play this at least once.
Online: Never played it online.
Overall 9/10

This game should not be missed!.

Thanks for reading my review, and if you like please leave a comment.

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Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance review (Xbox 360)

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A worthy addition to the Metal Gear canon or a bad fanfiction?

Silly name aside "Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance" holds it's own very well when compared to other games of the hack n' slash genre, although that's not too suspiring considering PlatinumGames "Hideki Kamiya" also responsible for the critically acclaimed Devil May Cry 3 & Beyonetta,  did a fine job with the fight mechanics. Incorporating the "Zandatsu" (Cut & take) mechanic into the game was by no means an easy task, one that even Konami themselves had struggled with, but in the end PlatinumGames managed to bring the core gameplay mechanics together in a way that feels both balanced and intuitive.
Of course being a Metal Gear game, Rising is also plagued with a lot of cutscenes and dialogue, not quite as many as previous Metal Gear games mind you, but enough to sometimes break the emersion aspect. Many times I had a NPC chatting away at me and I could do nothing but walk around with the camera glued to my back (much like in Gears of war or Resident Evil 6) it's not a huge gripe, but they really could have had the some of the chatter going on in the background while I was busy cutting up cyborg fodder.

blog metal gear rising 2

The "cut-and-take" gameplay mechanic (aka Zandatsu) has to be one of the most fun, interesting and original gameplay mechanics to have been implemented in a hack n' slash game. The ability to carefully aim and slice open your enemy, reach in and rip out their cybernetic battery then crush it to replenish your own energy, is a process that when coupled with a variety of unique enemies to tackle never seems to grow old.

The free cutting mechanic, as well as being really fun to pull off is used a lot during boss fights, I won't go into detail but the final boss really does put your skills to the test, so if your like me and you hadn't completely mastered the free cutting mechanics before reaching the final fight, it's safe to say that you will have by the time you actually manage to beat the bloody final boss. Honestly though, the Boss fights in Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance are some of the most original and enjoyable that I've personally experienced in the genre, each boss is unique, presenting a vastly different challenge and for the most part the game leaves it up to the player to carefully work out how best to go about taking them down.

There are a few sections in the game where stealth can used to progress through areas undetected, but I honestly never even tried not to get noticed and often dove head first into every potential fight, so the option to avoid some enemies is there but I don't remember ever having any reason to. There are lots of items scattered about almost ever level, ranging from stat upgrades to sub weapons and even hidden VR missions, there are collectibles in the form of "left arms" the idea here is you cut off the left arm of a humanoid type cyborg enemy and which contains all of their personal information, it's not integral to the game at all and is mostly just an extra like collecting dog tags in Metal Gear Solid 2.

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I finished my play through of Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance just clocking in at around 6-7 hours but you could probably knock 2 of those hours off, since I was faffing about with the VR missions for a good bit. There is some replay value mind, but mostly only in regards to the aforementioned VR missions.

As mentioned earlier, I didnt quite get to grips with the combat mechanics as quickly as I probably should have, now that may just be my personal skill (or lack there of) but I'm generally pretty good at action hack n' slash games, so I feel inclined to attribute my difficulty in familiarising myself with the fight mechanics to a lack of explanation and in depth tutorial, that being said though, there really isn't a whole lot of depth to the fight mechanics beyond understanding how to best take down the various enemy types. Once you have finally gotten to grips with the fight mechanics though, a lot more fun can be had. Speaking of fun, I really enjoyed the cutscenes and Rising being a Metal Gear game there are naturally quite a few of them, most were well done but unlike other games in the canon they never seemed to out stay their welcome, although some of the voice acting seemed a bit hammy at times (but hey, video games) it never seemed to sour the overall experiance. Music is always going to depend on ones personal taste, but personally I liked it for the most part and felt  that some of the boss themes added another layer of enjoyment to the game.

All in all, I feel Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance is an enjoyable, well polished game, could it be better? Yeah probably, but I feel it brings jut enough unique game mechanics to the mix to let some of its short comings slide. So I'm going to recommend Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance to anyone who is a Metal Gear fan and/or a fan of hack n' slash games, if however you're a Metal Gear purist and already have reservations about Rising being too "different" to previous titles in the franchise, then it might be better to give it a pass, especially if you're not a big fan of hack n' slash games in general.
Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance may have it's fair share of flaws, but it's a well rounded action game that will keep you on the edge of your seat from start to finish.

Let's talk about hype

Hype, is somewhat of a double-edged sword, on the one hand it's an incredibly important marketing tool that allows company's to make potential customers aware, that a certain product they may be interested in will be becoming available in a disclosed or undisclosed amount of time, and more importantly it gets those potential customers
excited about that product.

We see hype in many forms, from countdowns on websites for potential new games, or elaborate marketing stunts like Kojima and his gradual unveiling of "Metal Gear Solid Ground Zeros" and "Metal Gear Solid V The Phantom Pain" respectively, to short trailers of Master Chief wandering alone in a desolate wasteland.

But on the other hand, hype often allows for misrepresentation of a product. How many times have you seen an ad for a game on TV or while trying to watch a Youtube vid, and some small text appears on screen that reads "The following is not actual gameplay footage"? It's funny isn't it? I mean why show an advertisement for a game that doesn't show us the actual product we'd be purchasing?, well that's basically because the ad they did show us was most likely some fancy CGI trailer specifically created to get us all excited for that game, OK that's fair enough right?, they did put the small print there after all (Due to legal reasons mind you) and we do have the Internet at our fingertips now so most of us will just search for any available gameplay online anyway if the game looked interesting enough.

This is what I would call acceptable hype, we know what we saw is not what we'll be getting so if we end up disappointed with our purchase we can't really blame the publishers for false advertising, after all they took the necessary steps to make us aware that the footage shown was not in fact representative of the actual game. So what would be unacceptable hype? Well you can probably already guess but for the sake of this blog I'll explain. Unacceptable hype is when a game is advertised and the footage shown is used to "deliberately" mislead consumers into believing that the game they purchase will look, sound and play the same way.

Hype as a marketing tool will only get you so far, even when you manage to sucker in consumers they will more likely than not call foul when they realise they have been duped. Need an example of this? how about Gearbox's now infamous blunder with their public trailer for Aliens: Colonial Marines? You'd be hard pressed to find a more textbook example of how not to go about hyping up your game, if you don't want a mob of angry fans knocking at your door or a lawsuit filed against you for false advertisement that is.

I still to this day hear some gamers defending A:CM but In all honestly I have no idea why, sure the game might be genuinely enjoyable in some places but is it really worth defending? or better yet is it the game we were promised? do you remember sitting through all those developer diaries and listening to Gearbox employees tell us all about what big fans they are of the Aliens franchise? well I sure do and I can tell you I was very disappointed with how the final product turned out. Maybe I let the hype get to me with that one, maybe I would have been more cautious with my purchase, but let me ask you this, what good is an ad or trailer for a game if it fails to make you anymore aware of what the game is about or plays like before you even watched the footage? Still I would rather that than no genuine gameplay footage and getting flat out mislead.

Now I don't really want to keep bashing Gearbox, it's just most of us know the story already and it's just that much easier to use them as an example. Obviously Gearbox are some pretty talented devs, they've done great work with Borderland and Borderlands 2, but that in no way excuses them from the travesty that was A:CM and its ad campaign, Gearbox certainly weren't the first to go about misrepresenting their product but what made the whole situation worse was how they kept defending their actions, the cost of making such a mistake can usually be lessened by admitting you were wrong, apologising to everyone you wronged, and then explaining to them how you intend to make up for falsely misleading them, but needless to say that's not Gearbox's style.

I think I might have wondered slightly off topic there for a bit, but anyway.

The best form of hype I would say that a company can generate, is when they can allow potential consumers to be as sure as reasonably possible that you know exactly what they'll be getting, case in point, take a look at Ubisoft's Watch Dogs trailer, well over 10 minuets of un-edited gameplay footage of a very intriguing and genuinly fun looking game, that can't help but generate hype and interest in most gamers that witness it, the same can be said of Konami's MGS V, the trailer offered some genuinely interesting gameplay footage along with the franchises trademark cutscenes to help explain events show, and also we have Sucker Punch's Infamous: Second Son amongst a few others that actually managed to captain the hype train right.

Will all of those games I just mentioned from E3 live up to all the hype? well who's to say really, but given the fact the trailers shown for them offered a good glimpse of what playing them would feel like, I think it's safe to say that we shouldn't be too worried, but if all else fails always do try to make sure to look up a trusted reviewers opinion first before finalising a purchase, and that goes for pretty much any game.

And so now to summarise some of the points I just made.

Hype isn't a bad thing but it does exists to part you with your cash, and now with the advent of pre-orders that parting has never been easier, just remember that a fancy looking CG trailer isn't worth getting duped over, and that even when footage is shown we never truly know how representative it may be to the final product.

Thanks for reading my blog and I hope I made some good points, if you have anything you'd like to add or disagree with anything I've said please feel free to leave a comment.

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What makes a game great?

The reason for me writing this blog is because I received a message from a fellow gamer recently, it read as follows.

"Earlier I was told via the internet, that I shouldn't like Bayonetta as much as I do. It being my favorite game this gen, its clearly too "niche" and "not even AAA" so how could it be any good? Another human being said that to me. *shrug* I turned to my fiance and said well it has beautiful graphics, amazing
art direction, animation, sound design, some of my all time favorite music, and the best game feel of any action game I have ever played. He agreed it has all the trimmings of a AAA game but not the budget, I think thats a rare thing nowdays."

So this comment got me thinking, what actually does make a good game? or better yet what makes a game great? Now I know a lot of it comes down to personal taste and preference, but for the sake of argument let's say that a great game is one that implements certain features so well that when they all come together in a single package it stands as a work of art, you mite not be a fan of a certain game per se, but you should be able to appreciate why others mite be. I've said many times before how I'm not a fan of Uncharted, but I respect the franchise and I understand where the appeal is coming from even though the games are not appealing to me.

As far as Bayonetta goes I think it is a great game, the music, the art style, the gameplay and the story... alright maybe not so much the story, but pretty much everything else is all very well done, and it all seems to work so well together that it escalates the game into "greatness" it may not appeal to everyone but like I said a great game needn't do so.

Now I expect many would argue that the high production value behind a game is indicative of its overall quality, however given the fact that many AAA games rely almost solely on good graphics and generic gameplay in order to appeal to consumers, it simply is not the case. It's not correct at all to assume that a AAA game must be superior to a game that was created with a lesser budget, after all we needn't look much further than the indie scene to realise that greatness is not solely limited to the amount of cash that's poured into a project, with games like Journey, Flower, Limbo and Bastion having received critical acclaim while more and more AAA franchises like Dead Space, Resident Evil and the like are getting paned by critics for being bland and generic.

I hear many times over how fans of AAA franchises snub other games and genres, because they believe their chosen franchise to be above that of games like, Bayonetta , Dark Souls and many others that have a lower production budget, but honestly those two games I mentioned have a lot more originality and appeal to me than that of tired, over milked and generic franchises. Now don't get me wrong, I'm not saying big budget franchises are naturally bad, sometimes a popular franchise goes on unchanged for a long time purely because the devs are busy appealing to their core fanbase, but it does seem AAA franchises are the first to change in the name accessibility and mass appeal and often at the cost of what made them great.

I discussed before how watering down a game or franchise in order to widen the games appeal only ever ends up creating a bland experience, so then it stands to reason that in order to create a great game it's necessary to carefully target your audience, for example it's pretty obvious that when either Bayonetta or Dark Souls were in development the devs didn't much care for appealing to fans of FPS or Sandbox games like GTA or Infamous, but instead decided to create a game that would appeal to fans of Action games (Bayonetta ) or challenging RPG style dungeon crawlers (Dark Souls)

Not every game is the same and it's likely you will simply not enjoy certain types of games, but I do urge you to at least try out a game before dismissing it as bad, and even if you end up disliking it, ask yourself is it because the game is truly bad? or is it because it simply holds no appeal to you?.

Just so I don't get labelled a AAA hater, there are some AAA titles that have pulled off a truly great gaming experience, titles such as The Last Of Us for example have proven that the use of tried and true gameplay mechanics isn't necessarily a detriment as long as they are implemented properly and not just thrown in, in order to tick boxes. In truth, TLOU uses many gameplay mechanics that have already been done before, like stealth, decoy tactics, an upgrade system and looting, but merges them into one game so expertly that it lends to the emersion factor, basically TLOU shows us how a AAA title should be done, it didn't need a AAA production budget behind it to be a great game but the Story, gameplay and game mechanics along with the high production polish helped escalate it above and beyond most of its peers.

So let's recap a bit. A great game is one that does almost everything that it's trying to do right, whether it be original or not, has great graphics and/or AAA polish is not important, what is important is that the whole package comes together to create a fun and entertaining experience that caters to a demographic that would find the most enjoyment in playing it.

So that's pretty much my views on what makes a great game.

Thanks for taking the time to read my blog, and if you want to add something or disagree with any of the points I made, please feel free to leave a comment.

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The cost of AAA game production is putting a chokehold on creativity in the mainstream

The needless expense of AAA video game production is killing creativity and originality in mainstream console gaming

It has been said by countless game reviewers and bloggers before me, but I feel I must say it yet again. The practice of throwing insane amounts of cash at AAA projects causes a need to adhere to generic tried and true formulas, as well as attempting to appeal to as wide an audience as possible in order to cover the cost of production and marketing, inevitably leading to more and more generic gaming experiences.

We know this to be true for the most part, heck we've seen it happen all too often after all, yet it's still being allowed to continue. You needn't look much further than popular franchises such as Dead Space, Resident Evil, Gears of War and Assassins Creed, to see what I'm talking about. Many franchises that were once at the peak of their respective genre yet due to the expense of AAA production have become either monotonous, predictable, un-characteristically action oriented or have simply lost their identity all together. So who's to blame here? Well we are, that's if you were to believe certain publishers that are pushing for such games.

In truth the culprit, or rather culprits are the publishers, the publishers I'm referring to are any who choose to green light development for generic, un-inspired games that do enough to tick all boxes needed to appeal to a wider audience while avoiding challenging and/or upsetting any potential consumers by being too slow, scary, hard, different or whatever else that mite put off a consumer from purchasing a game, that when it was still pure in the head of the original creator was most likely not intended to be targeted towards them in the first place. This is not how games should be created, Dead Space 3 while still being a decent enough game, suffered due to this kind of approach to game development, the same goes for many other AAA games such as Resident Evil post RE 4, Gears of War Judgement and even Assassins Creed.

Now please do try to not misunderstand me, I'm not saying that any of those games I just mentioned above are bad games or offer no enjoyment at all, after all people find enjoyment in all sorts of games so who am I to judge? And to be completely honest even I found some enjoyment to be had in them. I guess what I am trying to say here is that a game should be created for a fixed audience, if for example you're going to make a survival horror game we expect it to be scary, remember your core audience is probably used to scares so holding back so you don't scare off the casuals just won't do, also don't undermine the tense atmosphere needed to pull off a survival horror game by throwing in a bunch of out of place explosions and action oriented cutscenes, you can still have the odd one here and there, but even in action games they loose much of their impact if they happen around every bleeding corner.

Let's try looking at the state of AAA gaming as if it was fine dining, or better yet appreciating your favourite type of wine, now fine wine is always going to be better appreciated by those who have a taste for that particular brew, more so than it would be if it was watered down to the point that the wine becomes palatable to everyone, much like this certain gamers are just not going to appreciate certain game genres unless that game is heavily altered to the point where it may be more accessible but now lacks the same appeal it once had toward it's core demographic.

Publishers have a way around this issue and that is "graphics" who was it that said originality and depth should be sacrificed for prettier graphics and expensive special effects? I can't think of anyone so it seems quite odd that publishers are so eager to do just that. Many games have gotten a free pass in the past because they had exceptional graphics even though the gameplay was more than lacking to say the least, but with AAA games looking great being the norm these days more and more of us are becoming less likely to give a game a free pass based on their pretty looks alone, unfortunately it seems the majority of gamers still place graphics above gameplay and I think this is a mistake, great graphics are after all one of the easiest things to pull off these days, pair them up with some Michael Bay esque action scenes and tons of explosions and you have yourself what some mite call the "spectacle" the eye catching stuff that most competent developers would use sparingly if and when the story called for it, but too often the spectacle becomes the game itself and slowly but surely the spectacle begins to wear off and then we realise that there's really not much else going on.

That's where the plot comes in, publishers have a long list of tried and true generic plots they could butcher and force into their current game and/or game franchise for our assumed amusement, but more often than not the plot is there to thinly connect one set piece to the other until the credits roll, and let us try out a few toys along the way. Now that works great sometimes but the problem is the plot has to suffer the same ill fate as the gameplay often does, and that is being forced, predictable and un-original, maybe it's because I'm in my mid 20's now and would just like to see a video game villain I could actually feel sympathetic towards, a main character that breaks the mould a little by not being a walking tank, and a game where a girl wearing a wet suit isn't somehow required by law to have the front of it zipped half way down to show off her cleavage... (I mean come on it's like in every game! I honestly have nothing against cleavage but Resident Evils Jill Valentine is not in the line of work where she would want any extra flesh on show!) Anyway, yeah AAA video game story's could do with a little more variety and originality too I think.

I don't want this blog to be me just constantly bashing publishers, but seeing as they are the ones responsible for the AAA games being released on console it's hard to point my finger elsewhere, they aren't all bad obviously but if any of them chooses to green light development for projects that are doomed from the start to meet their ludicrously high expectations for profit, then they really should not be in the business of creating entertainment in the first place, to force their developers down this foolish path that has already claimed many development studios is irresponsible and apprehensible, I feel as though enough damage has been dealt already and as consumers we must demand that high development cost of AAA games be scaled back to allow for new ideas and possibly the return of past franchises that are currently being shelved due to publishers not being prepared to take risks anymore.

With all that being said, it's not like we as consumers aren't worthy of some of the blame. We do in the end choose which games we want to purchase and given the sheer amount of video game reviews one can find after a short time searching the Internets, we are usually aware of what we are getting so pleading ignorance and blaming publishers and developers when having made a poor purchase is a little uncalled for. Having said that though, publishers and developers have a duty to ensure their products are up to scratch, that means being as bug free as reasonably possible and looking how they were when advertised or better.

So to summarise. Firstly, I feel the cost of production for AAA games must be scaled back, as it stands now it is far too expensive to be considered a practical business model and the expense is only being passed onto the consumers. Secondly, when developing AAA games Publishers should make sure to cater them toward the audience that would find most enjoyment in playing them instead of watering the experience down in order to appeal to everyone. Finally, games are more than just pretty graphics and spectacle and we know that they can convey so much more, because of this AAA games should be doing more to really push gaming forward instead of relying on photo realistic graphics and explosions, many indie games look pretty awful in comparison but they do better in regards to story and atmosphere than most AAA games have in recent years.

I honestly believe if these few changes were to actually be implemented it could only be a positive thing, I'm not sure how we can make this happen but I believe whole heartedly that we must somehow if we want AAA console gaming to start delivering more fresh ideas.

Well hopefully I got my point across, I know I'm not the only one with these views but I just wanted to get them out there and get people talking about all of these points openly.

Thank you for reading my blog, if you want to add something or disagree with me then as always please feel free to leave a comment.

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Xbox 180: A victory for gamers.

I've been planning to write more on the Xbox One and it's restrictive, invasive DRM for a while now, but I also wanted to wait and see how it all paned out, or at least wait until the news calmed down a bit and we could all get a more clear cut and accurate picture of exactly what Microsoft are attempting to implement, and why exactly they felt the need to segregate consumers with such a divisive online requirement that would inevitably cost them potential sales.

With that being said, the sheer unprecedented turn of events that happened only yesterday, has spurred me on to to writing this inevitably drawn out rant of a blog on my feelings and impressions regarding MS's complete Xbox 180... or better yet, their new policy.

First of all I want to congratulate everyone who did stand up for their consumer rights, as most of us know all to well by now, being a gamer it has become common placed to accept getting shafted with unfavourable policies & requirements that exist primarily to part us with our hard earned cash while holding our gaming hobby to ransom, so the fact that more and more of us are getting tired of this, and are beginning to stand up for ourselves and our rights is a sign that I believe things are starting to turn in our favour (the gamers favour) so long as we stand in unison against that which threatens to cause our hobby harm, then we have a chance to improve gaming in directions we see fit instead of that of greedy, out of touch publishers, so with that being said, CONGRATULATIONS!

OK, better start getting to the point now. While I think most of us were aware that MS's policies in regards to the Xbox One's DRM would eventually have to change, I don't believe many of us saw this change coming before the console had even hit the shelves, especially when we have countless interviews/videos with MS corporate execs stating that they have no intention of changing anything. Major Nelson was quoted as saying " We're really not going to change anything" and Don Mattricks infamous verbal blunder "If you don't have an Internet connection buy an Xbox 360" certainly gives the impression that both corporate execs had no plans to remove the Xbox One's online requirements or DRM at the time.

So the big question knocking around in my head right now is, if the bad press Microsoft received at both the Xbox One reveal conference and the E3 show wasn't enough to convince them to remove the restrictive/invasive DRM, then just what was it that did?

I have a few theories that all culminate into one prominent theory on the matter, one being that Microsoft somehow realised that creating a wall (a insurmountable wall for some) between potential customers and the Xbox One, was not the brightest sales strategy, so they have been racing back and forth to fix this issue while trying to save face.

My next theory is that Microsoft simply did not expect such a PR shit storm to ensue following the Xbone reveal, lets be fair here, if you're going to announce to your potential consumers that they will need a constant Internet connection to play games, must register online at 24 hour intervals, can no longer resell their games and must install their games on the Xbone's hard drive before they can even play them, well then you've got to expect some backlash right? except MS doesn't honestly have that much respect for our intelligence it seems, they most likely hoped that all the fancy gimmicks would be enough to woo consumers into ignoring all the negatives and focus on the positives, positives like TV, Halo TV series, TV, COD DOG, TV, Kinect 2, TV, NFL, TV, Madden and TV and more TV. Because as a hardcore gamer those things somehow appeal to me... Wait, what?

My third and final theory is one that I share with many other users here and have seen floating around N4G recently, but now I hope to flesh these views out a little more as I believe it to be the more influential piece of the puzzle, I commented a good bit of my views on the blog of another user the other day so I'll expand upon it here. You see even though MS may be pulling a Xbox 180 (sorry couldn't resist) the fact that they even had the intention of following through with these anti-consumer policies in the first place speaks volumes of where Microsoft's loyalty's truly lie, they are still very much on the side of the publishers, and if you ask me this change of heart is more to do with a fear of loosing big on Xbone sales due to a rise in bad press.

It should come as no surprise to anyone that the rumour of MS going back on their controversial DRM policies came shortly after the Jimmy Fallon show, where seemingly unanimous cheers of praise from the audience where directed toward Sony's PS4 and their un-restrictive stance on used games, the people cheering in the audience are not gamers like you and me, they are commercial driven, ignorant consumers who move from fad to fad based off of whatever is the "in thing" at the time, the ill informed masses that buy what they are told and care little for the eventual poor state the industry may be left in if MS's damaging DRM policies were to become the norm, they are representative of the target consumer that I believe to be the core demographic MS was counting on, the consumer that would be willing to purchase the Xbox One without knowledge of DRM or used game policies, but unfortunately for Microsoft it would appear that those who MS where counting on being their core demographic (the commercial driven casual crowd) have caught wind of all the bad press and like any consumer who values their "consumer rights" at least when they realise it is being threatened, have chosen to stand against that which they feel threatened by.

Now I'm sure even after reading through this blog there are still many who plan to purchase an Xbox One, so if you are one of these people I have just one thing to say. Always remember this, MS had every intention of screwing over all of us by implementing online restrictions and intrusive DRM, so don't think their philosophy has changed just because their current policy has shifted due to fears of loosing out this coming gen, you wouldn't forgive a person trying to steal from your home but who then decides against it when caught because they realise everyone who finds out would think less of them for it, right? so then why forgive Microsoft when they pull a 180 for fear of alienating consumers and loosing out on sales? They are shifting direction due to necessity not compassion... Anyway I expect these issues of DRM and restrictions to rear their ugly head again when the Xbox One receives a decent install base, I doubt MS have honestly learned their lesson, not yet anyway, the features that they have removed like game sharing will be back but with strings attached, you can count on that.

Well I think that's pretty much it, these three points I feel combined are responsible for Microsofts hasty removal of the Xbox One's controversial DRM, well other than the NSA's PRISM program and data mining concerns some European countires have raised when the Kinect 2 is thrown into the equation (and quite rightly so) but I honestly can't say how much influence that had on MS's new direction.

Anyway thanks for reading my blog and as always please feel free to leave a comment, if you disagree or have something to add please do so.

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Xboned: A bleak future for gaming.

I'll apologise now because this may very well be a long read, so first just let me get this out of the way so I can get on with the topic at hand.

As much as it may be hard to believe regarding most gamers these days I am in fact not a fanboy, I'm a gamer 1st and foremost, I pledge no loyalty or allegiance to any of the big 3, that being said I have enjoyed all of the consoles since the NES all the way up to the 7th gen, I certainly have had my preferences but they never got in the way of my purchasing a new console to play an intriguing exclusive, however this coming 8th gen I will for the 1st time not be buying each of the current gen consoles, this is due to the shockingly ludicrous restrictions MS wishes to impose on their consumers with the release of the Xbox One, or better yet the un-endearingly but oddly accurately nicknamed, Xbone.

I had asked myself months prior to the Microsoft reveal event "what direction could Microsoft possibly take with their inevitable nextbox?" the answer didn't seem to be quite as obvious as that of Sony and Nintendo's new direction, which I remember being pretty much on par with what I had expected, Nintendo announcing a new controller interface and continuing to push out their popular franchises along with the hopes of gaining more 3rd party support, and Sony's move to integrating social media while focusing primarily on the games, bar a couple of surprises like the Nintendo tablet controller and Sony's neat little share button function which is nice if no restrictions are enforced, I soon realised that the trouble I was having understanding where MS was heading next was due to an apparent lack of direction the company had been showing, sure MS had been adding more indie game titles and applications like Netflicks and many other media applications, I had just passed this off as making the fee for Xbox Live gold seem more enticing to potential customers, but where were the games? Halo, Forza, Fable and Gears can't keep exclusively carrying the Xbox brand especially when MS keep loosing what exclusives they have.

And here we finally get to the the matter at hand.

After the Microsoft reveal it became all too clear that MS no longer plans to even try and run in the same race as Sony or even Nintendo for that matter, nope they have their eyes set on bigger things, they want a slice of that "Apple pie" and by that I mean they want to turn the Xbone into be the next iPhone, and by that I mean an all in one multi-media entertainment device that aims to fulfil pretty much every entertainment need you could desire, from watching TV on your TV to accessing social media websites and even ordering Pizza, and most of these functions can be done hands free by using the voice commands made doable by the Kinect 2... now the fact that MS even developed the Kinect 2 should be enough for most gamers to realise how out of touch they are with core gamers, but hey if the core gamers are no longer MS's core demographic then it makes a lot of sense right? So some of you may still be thinking "Hey that's pretty cool, count me in" right? well no, and here's the thing, this WILL all come at a price, and that price unfortunately is your consumer rights.

So how does Microsoft's Xbone try to strip away your consumer rights I here you ask? well for one thing you no longer own the copy of a game even if you bought it brand new, all you are doing is renting the rights to play the content on the disc, and speaking of on disc content, hard copy's of games bought for the Xbone are now nothing more than glorified installation discs, as every game must be installed on "your" console and tied to "your" separate user account in order to actually play it, the biggest kicker for me is the restrictions being placed on second hand games, now if you don't already know this in order to play second hand games on the Xbone you must pay a fee to the publishers, I'm hearing rumours that the fee will be equivalent to the price of a new game, doubtful although history has taught me that when it comes to MS if it's too bad be to true it probably is...

The problem here is that second hand game retails will no longer be able to sell used games at a profit, actually given the new information that has come to light on MS's official Xbox website, only selected stores will even be given permission to sell second hand Xbone games, so good by second hand game retailers, but why should you care right? publishers don't get any revenue from the sale of used games? well true but second hand game retailers are necessary, for one thing they help keep the economy going with literally hundreds of games being brought in daily for trade or cash back and then those same games being sold on again to new gamers, also it's literally impossible to prove that the sale of a used game effects the sale of a new version because chances are most gamers buying used do so for lack of funds to be able to purchase new in the 1st place, "but why don't they just save up for longer to buy it new?" I hear you ask, well for one thing the sale of almost any second hand product is considered legal and most company's, like the manufacturers of cars, bikes, instruments, even movies don't much mind the second hand sale of their items, well to be honest none of them are happy about it but it is a consumer right to be able to sell and trade that which you own, with MS's Xbone however they want to strip away that consumer right in order to monopolise the distribution of their games, so what do you think happens when Microsoft have full control of when, where and how you buy, play and sell your games? well if you think it will lead to lower prices think again, if anything a company having the monopoly of a product has only ever been a negative, you can expect a slow transition over to digital only content which will not be followed by a drop in price, but will most likely make any attempt to re-sell your game pretty mush impossible because as of yet their is no way to trade games in a digital format.

Now if all this wasn't bad enough you should also know that Microsoft has come under accusation of participating in the NSAs (National Security Agency) PRISM Data-Gathering Schemeare, basically this company performs data mining "whats that?" well see, there are many other well know names affiliated with PRISM, such as Google, Facebook, Twitter and more, and each one is able to pass along your personal information, such as your Google search history, Facebook pictures, birth date and so on, so that they can tailor Internet ads and other such profit making applications to meet your liking, this all seems to be in the name of maximising profits, but if you have not signed up for this or are un-aware of it entirely then you may very well not feel comfortable with your personal information floating around online for others to view and exploit in the name of profit, not to mention that their is no way in knowing exactly who is privy to all this information, not so long ago now Microsoft where caught spying on peoples conversation over Skype so who's to say they won't be doing the same thing with the Kinect 2?.

So what does this all have to do with gaming anyway? I mean many of us are only just hearing about the NSA and PRISM right?, well here's the thing, if Microsoft are collecting personal data/information, which they most likely are since they've been caught spying on people already, then what is it for? well it could all be completely harmless, if MS want to make their new console a multimedia entertainment device then incorporating data mining and tailoring desktop ads and other such information to meet the potential desires of each individual user, well that sounds pretty interesting, especially since they wish to integrate their system with social media sites such as facebook and twitter where data mining is also going on, then the ability to customise the users experience with content tailored to their needs would certainly be interesting and definitely something yet unprecedented, however that's if we all are willing to ignore a couple o' things.

It is very likely that your Skype calls will be being listened in on for buzz words or any such thing that could be used for you or against you, the Kinect 2 is able track your movements and can even tell how many people are in a room at once, it is also possible for Kinect 2 to ascertain your current mood, so in theory Microsoft would have access to what you like and dislike what, what makes you happy and what makes you sad and then use all this information in order to sell you more content they believe would strike a positive vibe with you.

Now look, I'm no conspiracy theorist, I don't stay up at night wondering if my laptops listening to me, but I think it's important to look at Microsoft's direction and ask if it's really the direction that would benefit consumers, or one that is to simply maximise profits no matter how invasive or restrictive the means may be.

At this point the games MS announce at E3 mean little to me, there is too much information that has not yet come to light, there are too many questions left up in the air, the potential for the Xbone to be a surveillance box that restricts gamers consumer rights they have enjoyed since this hobby began, the invasion of privacy posed by the fact that Microsoft are pushing for a camera in everyones living room, and the fact they are affiliated with a data-mining agency just does not sit well with me...

To summarise, what worries me here is what if these restrictions on consumer rights and invasions of privacy start becoming the norm amongst each and every platform?

Well, If you've made it this far then thank you, and I'm sorry this was such a lengthy blog, but as you can see I had a lot to say and I didn't want to leave anything I deemed important out.

Anyway, as always thanks for reading my blog, I'm aware that not everyone will agree with me and if you still wish to purchase the Xbone, well that's your choice, I personally believe that by doing so you will be contributing to the downfall of gaming as we know it and the freedoms we enjoy, but again that's entirely your choice.

As always please do leave a comment.

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EA & Microsoft's attack on the second hand games market

So, MS's depressingly underwhelming new console reveal has come and gone and we have now been introduced to their next gen console known as the "Xbox One" (I assume in an attempt to mess with numerical categorisation) anyway, there's really nothing more about the reveal I can say that hasn't already been said, so I'll get straight to the point.

Recently it has been rumoured or announced depending on the source we're going by, that in order to play second hand (or used games) on the newly announced "Xbox One" you will be required to pay a "mandatory fee" which will give you "permission" to play a second hand game... now if you're not frothing at the mouth with disgust by this news you really should be.

My concern here is that how can a Video game store continue to sell second hand games at a profit when consumers know that in order to play those games they will have to pay another fee? most people purchase second hand due to not being able to afford a new copy, but this new "fee" could potentially jack the total price up to above the price of a new game, given that possibility the price for used games would have to be slashed to such an extent these stores who survive soley off of second hand game sales would be forced to close, and I for one do not wish to see that happen.

Despite what you may think second hand game stores are necessary, they are a great place to find titles that may not be available new and allow many gamers to continue enjoying their hobby at a reduced cost, it has also been argued that if someone enjoyed a used game they very well may go on to purchase its sequel new, you may argue that companies do not receive revenue from the sale of a "used" game, but the game in question would have been new at some point so all a consumer who purchases it is doing is "recycling" it's the same as when you sell an item on eBay, you gain profit from the sale but the original creator gets nothing other than what you spent on buying the item in the 1st place, nobody seems to cry foul when this happens so why are games treated so differently? Personally I feel gamers and publishers are to blame, we are all made to believe that a game needs to sell over 2 million units to be considered a success so we want everyone to buy a game new in order for publishers to green light it for the devs to continue developing the next game in a franchise we enjoy, this all boils down to the insane amount of cash that is thrown into developing and marketing a game, if publishers used some self restraint and reduced the cost of development there wouldn't be so much need to expect unrealistic sales figures.

I'll admit it, a number of times I have insinuated or more accurately out right accused publishers in the games industry for attempting to indirectly kill off the used game market, I still stand by my previous statements but I think this time I have all the evidence I could ever need.

Like I said previously, any game that is second hand was once new at some point so the revenue from the sale of that game would have already gone to the publisher, right? OK, now look I understand that publishers wish to make profit off of the sales of their games but is forcing people to pay a fee to use a second hand game they most likely already payed for "used" actually the best way to go about it? well yes, if you're a greedy, money hungry company void of morels and integrity, so naturally MS and EA are leading the way on this one.

I believe as consumers we must not allow this to happen, do we not already offer enough of our hard earned cash away to these companies, if $60 games, endless DLC and online passes do not generate enough revenue to keep the likes of MS, EA (and any other pub/dev that may intend to follow suite) happy and content then nothing will, if we do allow companies to demand payment for an item we already legally purchased/own then we have lost and may as well cut out the middle man and offer up our bank accounts to them.

I may be going a little overboard here but that's only because I am very passionate about gaming, I want pubs and devs to get the cash they deserve but not if it means over stepping their boundaries and potentially forcing consumers to pay for a product that they by all rights already own.

As always thanks for reading, please feel free to comment and let me know exactly how you feel about the "mandatory fee" or anything else I mentioned above.

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EA's falling out with Nintendo seems oddly reminiscent of a scorned lover

Apparently EA has had a falling out with Nintendo, I can't honestly think of any reason why but how else do you explain EA's decision to no longer develop for the Wii U?.

One of the things that really gets on my nerves is people who enjoy spreading misinformation, so for EA's Bob Summerwill to say the Wii U is less powerful than the 360 is one of the most incredibly untrue and ludicrously stupid statements I've heard come out of EA, bear in mind this is the company who in recent months put Sim City out on shelves, a game literally unplayable at first due to EA's servers being down and then went on to try and pass off DRM as the game being an MMO!

So I guess the thing that struck me as even weirder than a company notorious for lying through their teeth continue to do so, is apparently not only do people believe what EA's Bob Summerwill said but they are in agreement, look I know it mite be fun to bash Nintendo for not being yet another console that you can play multiplats on but it's kinda grasping at straws when you have to circumvent reality.

Now before anyone cries (FANBOY) I don't at all have a problem with people hating on Nintendo but if you must do so then why not at least hate them for genuinely valid reasons?, like say for example re-releasing old franchises with barely altered gameplay or for indirectly breaking your TV screen because they used cheap plastic? it carries a bit more weight than "company I dislike makes weaker console I wouldn't have bought anyway because I prefer Sony/MS" but I digress.

I honestly can't believe that nonsense about the new Frostbite 3 engine not working well on the Wii U, I'm not saying their wouldn't be any graphical compromises and such but when has shoddy game design bothered EA in the past? I mean if you can believe that excuse then you're either very gullible or probably still stay up at night to catch a glimpse of Santa Clause.

The fact is EA could have optimised the frostbite 3 game engine but they are choosing not to and I'm very curious as to why that is, if I had to hazard a guess I'd say they are trying to appeal to the core gamer who are all currently taking it in turns to curb stomp Nintendo for you know, being Nintendo. It seems kind of unfair really, it's like hating a band for only knowing one genre and who just keep remixing their greatest hits every few years, yes they could play something new and different but once they try you'll only tell them they're crap compared to the bands you actually like so they mite as well not even bother and just keep appealing to their core fanbase.

I expect EA to pull a 180 on this whole anti Nintendo thing once the Wii U's install base increases over the next few years or whenever they remember that three consoles selling their games equates to more money, something EA couldn't be any more about even if they switched they're logo out for the $ sign.

Anyway I can't say I'm too surprised by all of this, the fact that even EA a company with about as much business ethics and positive morels as a Nazi German tank, could garner favour by tweeting a widely popular if not completely flawed opinion is nothing new.

So I guess I'd better end this on a positive note. When EA eventually releases their new Star Wars games for all 3 major console platforms this gen, I sincerely hope they make good use of the Wii U tablet screen.

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