Category Archives: Editorial

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On Grand Theft Auto V Reviews

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Grand Theft Auto V, arguably the biggest title of the current console cycle, is releasing to a lot of controversy. Some of it big and some of it small. Not being particularly interested in it I decided to check some reviews, particularly ones from Gamespot and The Escapist.

The Gamespot review is by Carolyn Petit and she has had a history of her reviews incorporating different social agendas. Most of the time it is done decently enough but her review of Grand Theft Auto V left a lot to be desired.

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The Game Pricing Debacle

Author’s Note: This article was written three months ago when the PS4 was first announced. However, with the current situation with the Xbox One, the points in this article are even more relevant.

The next generation of gaming consoles is nearly here, and people are preparing to pay big bucks on new hardware. However, what is more concerning than the price of the hardware itself is the new standard price of retail games. Nintendo has finally raised their game prices to $60 (along with $300+ for the console itself), but how much will Sony and Microsoft raise their game prices (if there’s going to be a price hike at all). A few weeks ago, Sony gave us some comforting news that PlayStation 4 games will have a wide variety of game prices, from $0.99 to $60. It seems like Sony doesn’t plan to raise game prices for PS4 games, however, EA has other plans. During their next-generation press conference this week, EA announced they expect game prices rising to $70 on the PS4 and the next Xbox. If that’s not bad enough, EA also announced that they’ll be implementing their controversial micro-transaction system in every game they release in the future

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This image will never get old

Gaming has always been criticized for being an expensive hobby and practices like those above aren’t helping matters much. Many find it ludicrous to pay hundreds of dollars for a game console and then have to pay $50 or more for each new game. Some were able to get around this via game rentals and borrowing games from friends but the expensive stigma remains. Despite this, things are looking bright for gaming in the digital space, with smartphone and social gaming bringing new people to experience and appreciate gaming as well as digital stores such as Steam and premium services such as PlayStation Plus providing “hardcore” games at cheap and reasonable prices.

But for the traditional gaming industry, things don’t look so bright. Game sales at retailers have been decreasing year after year, with some game developers failing because their games haven’t sold as much as they needed to break even, much less make a profit. Due to the poor economy, people are spending less on games, and if game publishers are expecting customers to pay $60 for a game and even more on downloadable content on top of that, it’s no surprise that people are switching to cheaper alternatives with mobile gaming, or at the very least, sticking to game franchises that they are familiar with. In order for such a market to keep its relevancy, the industry needs to change in the following ways:

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A Feeling Once Familiar… (Bioshock Infinite)

After my brief exposure to Bioshock Infinite over the weekend, I felt the need to write something about the experience. I wouldn’t say my faith in gaming has been waning over the past years (mostly over fear that it makes me sound old and jaded), but I once remember a time when games used to instill a real sense of wonder and discovery. Lately I’ve been feeling that I’ve seen it all. I’m seeing a lot of the same corridors, the same landscapes, the same enemies etc. and I’m not even playing that many shooters anymore. Don’t get me wrong, many of my favourite games came from the last few years, but they still feel few and far between.

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Spec Ops: The Blurred Line

Spoiler Warning: There are minor spoilers for Spec Ops: The Line in this post as it pertains to the game’s tone and plot progression. No specific story points are mentioned.

You know, I never would’ve thought a shooter would be the source of one of the best storytelling experiences I’ve seen in a game. I thought Adventure games and RPGs had the best storytelling ability, what with the writers having potentially less interactivity from the player to work around but…I guess I was wrong.

But it seems fitting that a shooter would be used to show us the darker side of war, the side none of us thinks much about as we play them. After all, they’re just games, right? I’m only shooting bits of code designed to look like people, not actual people…right? I shouldn’t care about them…should I? These seem like odd questions to be asking, especially about a game that’s definitely a game…unless it isn’t. Perhaps it’s a riveting journey into the human psyche, showcasing the effects of combat on a soldier’s mind.

One soldier in particular. His name is Captain Walker. You are him. He is you. You’ll both see the war in different ways, him, through his own eyes and you…from just over his shoulder. This is Spec Ops: The Line. Be sure to enjoy yourself.

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EA: The Biggest Loser

EA has been getting a lot of complaints from gamers recently. From Origin to the infamous Mass Effect 3 ending, gamers are not happy over EA’s current games and business practices. Although the constant complaints of milking franchises and lousy customer services are nothing new, gamers have been favoring EA after scorning the actions of Activision and the controversial remarks from company CEO Robert Kotick. However, because they’ve been removing their titles from digital distribution sites, such as Steam, and forcing customers to use their file-scanning malware service, cutting content from their games in order to sell them as DLC, and having the same problems of milking franchises and horrible customer service, gamers are beginning to get fed up with EA’s practices. Even with the negative publicity, EA continues to do well with its games and franchises and is still being praised by many gamers and critics, so should they not worry about the growing hatred against them?

Apparently not, as business website The Consumerist had their 7th annual “Worst Company in America” competition, where thousands of readers have voted EA as the United State’s most ethically corrupt corporation in comparison to companies such as Bank of America, Comcast, AT&T, and other gaming companies such as Gamestop and Sony. This title has been reserved for some of the most shady, corrupt, and morally discerning corporations around, such as banks and oil companies, but news reports by Kotaku and forum threads like the one on NeoGAF have encouraged gamers to vote for EA as one of the worst companies of 2012. Previous winners of this online poll have ignored their title and continued with their agendas, but EA, on the other hand, have commented on their award, saying:

“We’re sure that British Petroleum, AIG, Philip Morris, and Halliburton are all relieved they weren’t nominated this year. We’re going to continue making award-winning games and services played by more than 300 million people worldwide.”

Many gamers and gaming journalists have denounced the successful campaign of giving EA this title. Some are complaining that Bank of America deserved the title because of their previous scandals and hidden charges while others are criticizing participating voters as “butthurt” over the recent controversies. Even with this title and the current buzz surrounding it, does it really matter?

The short answer: no.

EA is one of the biggest gaming corporations on the planet with many million-seller franchises such as Madden, FIFA, and Battlefield. The vocal gaming community makes only a small fraction of their sales even if they finally decide to boycott their games (which they won’t seeing their past history of boycotts). The millions of consumers who do not follow gaming or the Consumerist will continue to buy EA’s games without any concerns.

With this in mind, why would EA care about some random website’s online poll and why do people bother in trying to defend them?

Some of them will argue that other corporations deserved to win more than EA, such as runner-up company Bank of America. Their history of raising interests rates at random and being a cause of the 2008 economic crisis by giving mortgages to people who aren’t economically stable enough to handle them are big factors in being one of the worst corporations in the United States, but again, why does this competition matter?

The Consumerist’s competition was nothing more than a [un]popularity contest decided by everyone who goes to the site. It was a way to gain more hits for the site, and, with the current controversy with EA, they have succeeded. If online polls have this much of a meaning, does this mean that Launchpad McQuack is the greatest gaming sidekick of all time, even with most of the votes coming from 4chan and Reddit viewers trying to troll everyone?

The majority of the people who voted for EA probably realize the horrendous things that the other companies have done in the past and realize that they’re more fitting for the title. Their main goal with this poll hijack was to troll EA and their fanbase as well as (for those who think this poll actually mattered) to show people of the shady business practices EA does with their games. The people who think this competition is going to make any sort of difference are delusional, and the people who find EA’s new title from some website as a serious detriment need to calm down.

EA and their fanbase have been trolled by the gaming community and fell for it by acknowledging it. Even if it was just a simple comment trying to defend themselves, making a big deal over something as trivial as an online poll is ridiculous, and the gaming press and fanboys are not making anything better by defending (or in internet terms, “white knighting”) them. Other corporations that have won the title have ignored it and continued to be successful with their businesses, but EA failed to realize their stance in the game industry and now everyone is making a big deal over nothing.

In conclusion: you got trolled. Move on.

SSX: It’s Lacking Something

 

 

The rebooted SSX has been met with acclaim from both critics and fans, being praised for its addictive gameplay and well integrated online features – and rightly so.

By taking advantage of technology that powered EA’s ‘Autolog’ system in Need for Speed, RiderNet allows a seamless online experience that provides a constant challenge for players, with constantly updated times and scores inviting players to beat their rivals across the game. A global challenge system allows players to join open events which reward faster times on a predetermined drop with higher amounts of in-game cash, without the need for potentially laborious lobby loading or issues with latency.

It is indeed a novel idea, one that has led to many extended play sessions since I purchased the game. Similar to hot lapping a track in GT5 or Forza, the progression felt through shaving a few hundredths of a second off a personal best is something I find addictive and enthralling. This, coupled with a huge amount of content; whether that being drops, events, or the afore-mentioned global challenges that allow asynchronous online play, it is a game that you’d be hard pressed to criticise for being overpriced.

However there feels like there is something missing in the package overall, something which many may view as unnecessary, but one that I feel is a ridiculous oversight – and that is simultaneous online play.

 

 

A key staple in almost every suitable game these days (and often provided anyway irrespective of aptness) online play feels absolutely perfect for this type of game. While many may question it’s necessity when a capable system is already in place, it also isn’t hard to view its omission as a glaring oversight on EA’s part.

The Global Events that are provided serve their purpose, but do little to actually provide a sense of competition – overall leaderboards are replaced with brackets which only highlight key times. Whereas a lack of simultaneous play could be somewhat forgiven (although, I’m sure the reasoning for it’s absence would be interesting to hear), it seems like a leaderboard system is almost demanded in a title of this sort and it feels detrimental to the whole experience when it’s absence is so blatent.  While the game does push the fact that global events are ‘live’, current competition is shown as a collection of ghosts moving around the mountain at different paces, which a player will be hard pressed to see on any given run – and will likely ignore anyway, with the player only invested in events happening via their input.

While this provides a better focus on securing the best times possible, it also limits any number of events that can occur during well implemented simultaneous multiplayer. There is no good start gained by learning from an opponent, nor is there the tension of numerous players attempting a risky manoeuvre in to a shortcut at a seconds notice, and the nature of SSX’s multi-faceted courses provides sufficient backbone for such spontaneity (various lines are presented with some faster than others – different areas open up across levels of verticality, while some tracks provide blind drops resulting in death). Even an option to race down a mountain from a set start with friends is absent, unless you want to sit with a party on XBL and choreograph a simultaneous drop.

Just like Forza 4  and other titles have been praised for their leaderboard integration, one of the things that keeps players coming back is a competitive environment to race simultaneously, with the ability to chat to rivals and yet this is absent here as well, and this is absolutely baffling – there is no reason why these two types of play cannot co-exist, nor is it necessarily right that one should be absent over the other.

The  ‘Trick It’ mode (which allows each drop to be used as a playground for combining ludicrous stunts which calculate to an overall score) thankfully feels suited to the existing style of online.

RiderNet in conjunction with Global Challenges is by no means a bad thing, in fact I’d love to see more developers take a hint and integrate asynchronous online – providing rivalry between friends on a wider scale.  But when your primary ‘Race-It’ mode simply exists as some sort of global time trial, a time trial which lacks basic functions like a leaderboard (apart from friends) or even positional placement, any sense of intense rivalry ultimately feels dropped from the game, something at odds with the whole ethos of the experience.

As such, it’s hard not to feel like SSX is a few features short.