On why I’m not enjoying Doctor Who

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Yes. You read that title right. I am not enjoying the latest trips in the TARDIS that the BBC have offered us. Me, of crazy Doctor Who fandom and an incredible jealously of anyone who’s able to work on it, is a dream of mine to write for it, and the very show that inspired me to start this current 5 year avoidance of paying tax and not claiming jobseekers allowance; I have not enjoyed this latest series of Doctor Who. And as we are half way through it I thought I’d mention it, come clean.

I want to tell you why though because I have been enjoying Peter Capaldi. I find his terse nature to be quite enjoyable and his stern all-convincing authoritarian nature – to hide the inner admission of guilt that he uses other people for his own end, despite it being the best course of action in general – fascinating. His eyes have it and there are moments where this has shone through. Most notably some points in his debut episode after our clockwork robot friend flew and in the Dalek episode where he tricked the person to sacrifice herself to buy some time for him.

Which is why this series has been all the more annoying because it’s very obvious at times that the writing knows exactly what this character is and can nail it. But for the most part, it has missed the mark terribly. The only criticism I have of the Matt Smith era is that the pacing of the writing and of the episodes plots are so fast that it’s very easy to lose and get confused as to what is going on. In fact the best way to watch the Eleventh Doctor and to understand it fully and get all those little story arc nuances is to power disk it, watch each series all in one go.

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I however don’t think that will rectify this current problem because the problem isn’t in the perception of the audience, although if you’ve read the reviews you wouldn’t know it. It feels like every look by major sites at the episodes are afraid to be critical of it to the degree that they should, maybe for fear of it being taken away. I don’t think the approach to Doctor Who this year has been entirely objective. The problem can be easily pointed at the writing of the show, but in truth, it boils down more to the collective problems of very lacklustre scripts with bad pacing and confusing cuts, editing at such a pace that loses the interest of the viewer and direction that appears to be very undirected from the director and more of the show being in control of itself.

Let me explain my thoughts. There is a definite hangover from Matt Smith’s era and from a writing and character point of view. That hangover could be characterised as Clara. I love Clara, she’s a strong independent woman who reminds me of Ace; eager to help and yet entirely confused and put out by this change in the man she loved. Even though she knew all about the entire regeneration thing and saved multiple versions of him dozens of times. That she has discovered she has a problem with this change is because she loved the Eleventh Doctor. The only way to combat that is to admit that and address it and move on. There was a touching, although slightly discrediting to Capaldi, scene in the first episode where the pervious Doctor talks to her. This is intended to get Clara past that bridge. It didn’t. Mostly because for the rest of the year she been following Capaldi like he was Matt Smith. Which is exactly why the pacing of the episodes has been off, including why the editing has been so quick and jumpy and exactly why the directors haven’t got number Twelve off the starting line yet. They’re still thinking of Eleven and how to give Twelve a non-sexual yet intellectually stimulating addition to their chemistry.

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Capaldi hasn’t had a lot to work with admittedly and the introduction of Danny Pink is good to get Clara out of the frame. The Doctor once again playing a protective father figure is a good thing. It harks back to when Hartnell’s Frist Doctor looked after his granddaughter Susan and basically abandoned her at the right time for her to live her own life (Dalek Invasion of Earth). But he spent that serial making sure that she was in good hands and that’s exactly what he’ll do with Clara. It’s not exactly original but you try being original after 50 years!

But it’s the fact that everything around him is still being designed for a Matt Smith audience in an attempt, I suppose, to keep that younger viewer that Smith got. Despite Capaldi being a more obtuse and argumentative character. The stories have involved quick jumping to everywhere they can very quickly and seemingly pointlessly. There are nice little touches here and there (like Clara being under the Doctors bed as a young boy – despite Gallifrey being time-locked/in a separate dimension/wherever it is) but it has ultimately jumped too much to lock down a narrative to be enjoyed as a whole. Which is why the Promised Land/Afterlife storyline really isn’t working because by the time we get to it, I really don’t care. Although it’s the only time when the pacing slows down enough for me to pay attention to it enough and immerse myself.

I’m not pointing the finger at Steven Moffat’s running of the show. To do so would be too easy and incredulous to the team effort it takes to make one of the most popular TV shows in the world and arguably the BBC’s biggest commercial asset after Top Gear. I think a collective rethink is in order though and the pace of the stories needs to slow down dramatically. They need to be a lot more calmly entered and a lot more smoothly positioned in their plot reveals and scene cuts. Because this older Doctor is a different proposition to the young and sprightly Doctors of before and deserves to have a bit more of a psychological and character driven plot that isn’t paced with jump cuts every 8-10 seconds in a frantic “Clara dodges many personal faux pas bullets” kind of situation.

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The thing Moffat needs to realise is something that Russell T Davies might have realised by now and that is how to think of your target audience. Yes they are children and families. But they have been that for about 4-5 years now. They are older children and families. Much like J.K. Rowling adapted the style of the Harry Potter novels and characters to how they grew up as well as how the audience reading them had also begun to age, Doctor Who needs to realise that the audience it had before is growing up and can handle slower things with better story that will stick with them. Children will not get bored of something as long as you give them something to wonder and follow. The adults will not get annoyed if you scale it back a little and give the viewers minds a little room to breath and absorb the story that is happening.

I of course know nothing of the production techniques and problems of Doctor Who in 2014, but I do know as someone who has studied the show to almost an academic level, as well as being academically qualified to have input on it from a writing standpoint, that the Doctor is not yet in. He’s still being flittered about like a younger version of himself and everything about it just needs to settle down a little.

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Dead Island 2 Interview with Isaac Ashdown

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Sean has been at EGX all this week. Here’s one of the many interviews he got, talking to Isaac Ashdown who’s a Gameplay Programmer at Yager for Dead Island 2!

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It must be really exciting to work on seeing how the well the community received the Dead Island games along with some of the critics.

Yeah, it’s certainly a great opportunity for myself, I was a big fan, and for Yager as well. It’s a really great game to be able to take to the next step by making the sequel.

Do you feel, because this is a different development team to the first Dead Island games, you need to do something slightly different, or get a good enough spin on it yourself to establish yourself in the franchise? 

We certainly aren’t letting ourselves be held back by anything in particular, taking it in the direction we want to make our own, and the next gen consoles give us a lot of opportunities to pull out the stops. We’ve got the seamless 8 player connectable co-op where you drop in and drop out of. We hope that will help bring the game to a more emergent level of gameplay.

I’ve played the build of the game, so lets talk about killing things!

Ok!

There’s a lot of death and we had a lot of competitions between the people who played for the highest death count. How much fun is it to programme that complete melee of destruction of zombies and that humorous tone of everything else about it? 

It’s a lot of fun. I’ve worked pretty extensively on the melee systems and the weapon systems in general. So our goals there are really take it in a direction that maintains the visceral nature of the first game, because melee combat was a lot of fun. We’ve expanded on it in a lot of ways, for a number of reasons. Because we’ve got an 8 player co-op, the number of zombies you’re fighting at any one time is a lot more than before. If you’re with a group of your buddies we’ve tried to keep the combat fun even with the amount so it’s been a lot of fun to do.

I got from playing the preview that there’s a very devil may care attitude about the story and everything in the game. There’s the bit with the Peter Fonda “we want to get loaded” speech on the radio. Obviously that’s very different to the original game so how do you see this fun element keeping people in and keeping the co-op going?

The story tone is a little different to the first game. It’s set in California and you’re one of the heroes that’s decided to stay in the state, even though its kind of been compounded by the government. And there’s also all the other guys there who are there for the same reasons but aren’t necessarily new like you are. But they’ve seen it as a new opportunity to build a life for themselves in a way that it wasn’t possible before in modern day life. So that kind of set up is what we’re going for with the whole combat tone as well. So you’re there to have a good time, basically, and embrace the lighter side of the apocalypse.

So the first game has given a lot of stylistic and artistic impressions to the franchise, but what are Yager’s inspirations for their take on the franchise?

It’s certainly a lot of fun to make such a colourful game. Taking this kind of paradise gone to hell and putting in a real world location like California, it’s a place I’ve been to a few times and have family there, so it’s fun to see a place I’m familiar with that’s been turned in to this zombie playground and still is recogniseable as a real place.

You’ve taken quite a lot of inspiration from the real life California and Los Angeles and how that city operates.

As Europeans, it’s not a place that we can really have a kind of claim to, it’s something that’s such an iconic location in popular culture and Hollywood has done a good job of presenting itself to the outside world. So it’s good as an outsider to be able to run with it, like a fantasy California. Like if the world of Hollywood was presented in this fantasy way, populated by these people who may be anarchistic or want to party, but not taking themselves too serious because… It’s LA.

We’ll see this in Spring 2015, so how’s the development all going?

The demo here we shipped for GamesCom a few months ago has come a long way. We’ve started playtests with the whole world with seamless 8 player. It’s fun to get in to the office, jump in the game and have other people also jump on your server. You’ll be playing and doing your own thing and then your buddy in the next room will jump in and you’ll team up, so it’s been great.

So the next gen tech much have really helped coming along when it did to give you more possibilities and scope?

For sure, the consoles themselves are much more powerful so you can do this open world and we’re using Microsoft’s cloud compute to run our servers so we can do a lot more than the traditional infrastructure of having a bunch of servers in a room somewhere in the world. Being able to spool up servers as you need them, being able to connect people with their friends, all that stuff makes the seamless 8 player co-op possible.

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Dead Island 2 will be released on PS4, Xbox One and PC in Spring 2015. You can check out Sean’s preview from GamesCom here!

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Preview – F1 2014

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It’s time again for Codemasters to let us in for a little preview of their efforts with F1 2014, which in real life has been a new and exciting time for the sport. For those of you that haven’t seen the fallout of Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg this year over the news and the papers, you might be forgiven for even noticing anything different about this years Formula One season. Of course you’d also have been living under a rock that was stuck beside a stalagmite that was in the back of a very deep dark cave that had yet to have been discovered somewhere in the depths of the Amazon jungle that native tribes fear to approach due it possibly containing a soul sucking monster that could only be appeased by the sounds of a V8 engine… I digress.

Engines are a good place to start given that the real world F1 has had drastic changes to it this year. In an effort to be more representative of the current consumer vehicle climate so that manufacturers will stay attached to it, F1 ditched the petrol guzzling V8 super noisy beasts that had been powering them for the past eight years in favour of a V6 Turbo Powered engine linked to a hybrid energy recover system, or ERS. Basically the engine draws power from a battery that charges up kinecticly throughout a lap, as well as petrol. You may remember this as KERS last year which was available as a power boost. Now it is integrated into the car, which lights up the rear tires like never before giving you a squirmy torque nightmare to handle, along with a software adjusted braking system and the return of the rear wing drag reduction system (DRS). The aerodynamic changes, along with some safety improvements, have led to a step nose which is a design to replace the straight noses of previous years. Apparently it’s to stop the cars taking off in a collision but it has created some fairly ugly phallic designs.

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Why am I furnishing you with all of this technical information? Because it will answer quite a lot of your questions about Codemasters newest addition to the franchise. Your first question is “Why isn’t this on next generation consoles?” This is because those rule changes alone have drastically changed the way the game plays, Handling is now a completely different beast and different cars with superior design stick to the road a little better than others. The sounds the engines make has totally changed as well, along with two brand new tracks and a complete change in the way these cars behave aerodynamically. There is no way a next gen version of the game would have been ready. Disappointing, yes. But with the next iteration coming early next year, we hope it will be an easily satiated itch.

Your next question “Is this just another yearly franchise update and why should I get this when I can wait for the next gen version?” It seems FIFA has come under criticism lately for not adding much year upon year, if this years reviews are anything to go by. You could argue that until the classic mode, F1 was in danger of the same. The changes in the sport though require two things: practical testing of making those game changes work, and a comfortable experienced engine in which to implement it. Yes this is a yearly update but a lot has changed in the sport to warrant it, especially if you haven’t brought the recent iterations of the franchise. In fact, I’d say the combo of F1 2013 and 2014 are very clear pictures of several generations of F1 including this newest.

So your final question is “What’s it like and have they succeeded in adapting to the changes in the sport?” Here’s my disclousre of what I played. I did a three lap race in the Mercedes around Australia, a five lap race around Italy in a Ferrari and a three lap race around the new Russia circuit with a Lotus. That way I had all three different engine manufacturers (Mercedes, Ferrari and Renault) and three very different handling perspectives. The car selection actually comes with a difficulty meter now so you can tell which ones are the more challenging.

With the first race, I immediately had to find new braking points. The new brake by wire system does shift your bias quite a lot and with the 8 speed gear box, everything is a bit confusing if you’re a seasoned F1 veteran and are playing with the racing line off. The low growl of the V6 turbos has replaced the echoing roar of previous years and almost sounds a little dull and lifeless compared to the previous years engine. At this moment, there isn’t the raspy kind of sound the real life counterparts have in the down shifts and braking, which is a bit sad because I like that noise but hopefully it will come. The handling is, in the Mercedes, surprisingly responsive. I wasn’t having to correct the car nearly as much as I thought I would be which, when you think about it, is pretty indicative to how the Mercedes have dominated the season in real life. The Ferrari on the other hand was much less stable around Monza, especially after slowing. The first chicane was tricky getting around without the luxury of being glued to the road like before. Hitting your apex will be incredibly rewarding, not just for nailing perfect lap, but also for getting the car hooked up well with enough speed and grip for the next turn or exit. I didn’t notice too much of a change in the engine noise between them but there was slight differences.

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The Lotus was a very realistic representation… Utterly shit. If you’ve been following F1 then you’ll know Lotus’s fall from prominence compared to the past few season’s competitive car has been quick and nasty. Changes of drivers haven’t helped, especially with one of them running up the bill for spare parts quicker than you run up the bill at your works Christmas party bar. It might not have helped that I was driving around the new Russia circuit in Sochi that I’ve only seen in a BBC feature. The track is surprisingly tight and has a lot of potential to create missed braking points and wall collisions. The tightness, especially with kerbs and sharp apexes really make the car quite unstable and the torque bites the car as soon as you hit the gas. It does not have the raw pace of the other two cars which is quite nice compared to the other slightly unrealistic representation of lower grid cars. It presents more of a challenge to you by upping the difficulty of the car, rather than having to rely on upping the difficulty of the AI and of the driver aids.

There’s still a few weeks left before the chequered flag falls on F1 2014 and the last generation of Formula One racing games. In a way, it’s a shame that the rule changes happened for the game because last year’s effort, especially with the classic cars, was a great love letter to the sport, if not lacking more DLC opportunities due to licensing. The current £40 price tag will definitely be a sticking point for a lot of people, especially given the reception for GRID Autosport and its lower pricing. The only thing this game is missing visually is the red stripe of alcohol sponsorship on the Williams, but we shall see, puns aside, if the team at Codemasters can churn out a challenging racing game or an annual iteration. I’m hoping for the former.

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Destiny – Two Weeks On

 

It’s been two weeks since Destiny burst forth into our lives and a week since the scores of reviews had their say on its confusing story and absolute beauty. So how have we all got on since we took our critical hats off and got down to playing the game for ourselves?

Well, frankly, excellently frustrating. That would be my two word comment. I got very lucky not long after our review was published and I got a legendary weapon drop. A Grim Citizen III auto rifle. This thing has been a fantastic help for all the missions I’ve played due to its power and I achieved level 24 very quickly… That’s when it stopped. Of course it can be done, as demonstrated by Twitch streamer N3AC3Y who not long ago became the first person to achieve level 30. But the road to light and legendary gear is filled with the grind of death.

Personally, this isn’t a terribly bad thing once you do something. This is something that you really need to let go of in order to actually accept the game’s MMO properties, and that is to realise that it isn’t Halo. It may feel like Halo, there may be sounds you recognise like the health bar regenerating and its low health alarm noise. There are even nods to Bungie’s former goliath on Mars with a Master Chief helmet shaped outpost (By the way, kudos to the person who found the Destiny easter egg in Halo 3: ODST. That made me grin a very large satisfying grin). But it isn’t Halo and you soon realise that, to coin phrases I hear on YouTube videos, the grind is real.

The reason I say that it isn’t a bad thing is because, compared to my experiences on World of Warcraft, EVE Online and other MMO’s, I’m actually having quite a lot of fun for the most part shooting the crap out of many heads/bodies/eyeballs in order to collect my bounties. The problem has come from how many times I’ve had to do the same missions to collect these on various difficulties. In fact around half of the strike missions now can be easily traversed within 10-15 minutes if you’ve got a good team. But the frequency of the drops of legendary gear, or higher light level armour at the least, is incredibly frustrating. Games like WoW have so much wikipedia presence that you could probably take a good guess at the available loot in a dungeon and what it will do to help you progress further, therefore choosing your experience to help you level how you want to or need to. Destiny does not have that.

There have been farming points noted by people, like the cave in the Skywatch area of the Cosmodrome which is a glorious alcove of drops, and doing the strike playlists help you to get those Vanguard Marks so you can buy the gear. But for the most part, it can be a long and repetitive struggle to up your level to a point where you can now do a raid… I haven’t yet been able to do a raid. There are lots of cool things that Bungie are doing though to keep our interest. The new Queen’s Wrath bounties (her of the strange Rift throne and jerk brother) give you another different way to collect tailored legendary loot outside of the crucible factions. There’s the now traditional “kill the devs” multiplayer fun which will earn you specific emblem kudos. My friend got an Exotic bounty randomly which will grant him a legendary or exotic item upon completion. So there are things there but personally, having been stuck at level 24 for nearly a week, the lack of progression is frustrating.

Which is why I think I’d have liked better rewards for finding the Golden Chests that are scattered about the four playable planets. Some are easier than others to find but more often than not, the loot is only a slight bit better than if you found normal chests. Another issue is the lack of anything in vast swathes of the Venus and Mars maps. Bungie have been excellent at utilising the space in other games to hide different things and, even though you can find the Ghosts for Grimoire rewards, there is a lot of places where sneaky and useful things could have been hidden. This is made all the more frustrating by the repetitive nature of the strike playlists at times. There’s only so many ways you can play the Summoning Pits on the Moon for only level 16 decoherent engrams when you’re a high level on a high level difficulty. Speaking of maps, I’ve found the lack of in-play maps to be quite frustrating too. Just to know generally where you are on a map, or where you’d like to go would be quite the addition. It’s a bit of a personal niggle because I enjoy looking at where I am when free roaming a world but the only accessible map is the tower map and that’s in the tower. I think we could do with some of the planets too.

Destiny’s patch updates have nerfed some of the difficulty in removing some ultras from the game. I’ll be honest, when I was starting at a lower level I agree that this probably needed to happen. And if my fireteam suddenly becomes two people instead of three then it does make quite large portions of high level strike missions incredibly difficult. But it is a bit sad because when you do have a challenge and your team pull together and create some kind of unspoken unity and tactics, even without voice chat and via random matchmaking, it feels very satisfying. So to lose those harder people is a bit sad. It’s a shame the game couldn’t just adapt its own difficulty dependent on the amount of people playing as well as their level but I’m guessing that’s a super technical thing to do so if nerfing is the answer then so be it.

Another thing that I have needed yet seem unable to find in drops is the Ascendant Energy needed to upgrade my super cool gun. I’ve got the high level drop of Ascendent Shards coming out of my ears but unless I find a random public event and get a daily reward, I seem unable to get them. I don’t know if this is because my level is too high so the game drops it less due to it being a lower level item, or if I’m not playing on the right difficulty level to get it. But suffice to say I’ve been six days into the final upgrades to my weapon without the energy I need and, whilst it shouldn’t be easy, it shouldn’t be this hard either.

I think when I’m playing Destiny with my friends and talking about it over our fireteam chat, the one thing that stands out is its potential. Whilst we have all these little niggles to what we feel is an excellent shooting game when we’re playing it, we still see the large areas where cool things could happen. Not where it could improve or where things could be nerfed. In fact the frequency of higher level drops is the only real gaming niggle at this stage that I really have. For all our moaning about the story, or to be more precise the lack of it, the game is more enjoyable to play at this stage because there isn’t any story in the narrative sense and you don’t even care about it anymore. If someone had just got this game, I’d say complete the story. Grind it out a little bit just to up your level and get the “things you have to do” element of it done as quickly and as smoothly as possible. Yes it’s a confusing story but in the scheme of Destiny’s later game, the one you’ll ultimately spend the most time doing, it is of practically no consequence and for your level, you’ll get a cool gun at the end. That maybe a slightly strange bit of advice when coming to a game, especially a Bungie one, but in a way the lack of narrative keeps the end game so open that we don’t really get closure and feel like we want stop playing. I have no idea if that is what was intended but in my case, that’s what they’ve achieved.

The game is still beautiful though so I’d recommend it purely for that and, two weeks on, I still want to play. I still want to max out my two subclasses, I’m still hunting trophies and despite the grind and the lack of drops for me. But that fact that I’ve managed to sink nearly two and a half days of total play in to Destiny, I can see myself staying for a long time. And if you have a group of friends that you can play with, or you have some fun experiences with a small randomly matched team and complete various missions, that is when Destiny is at its best. Because after all, there’s nothing better than having a dance off at the tower or between your friends after a successful strike.

Destiny Xbox One Competition

THIS COMPETITION IS NOW CLOSED and the winner has been notified!

Destiny has been out a week and if you are one of the few people who haven’t enjoyed it yet then this is for you!

We have a digital copy of Destiny for the Xbox One up for grabs, meaning one lucky winner will be joining their friends by dancing in the tower and enjoying the light of The Traveller. You can check our review here!

We will be picking our lucky winner randomly from one of the following ways to enter, so get your entries in on Facebook, Twitter, and commenting on the site for multiple chances to win! Good luck!

You can enter via Twitter, Facebook and here on the website. You’ll find the details below for Twitter and Facebook, or you can enter simply by commenting at the bottom of the post.

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HOW CAN I WIN?

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Enter on Twitter

It’s easier than a tutorial mission, just RETWEET the message below and make sure you are following @TheGameJar on Twitter.

 

You can enter more than once via Twitter, Facebook, or the site for extra chances to win. [divider]

 

Enter on Facebook

1. ‘Like’ us on Facebook.

2. SHARE the post below with your Facebook friends.

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You can enter more than once via Twitter, Facebook, or the site for extra chances to win.

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Enter on the Website

Don’t use social media? Not a problem – head to the bottom of this post and leave a comment… it’s that simple!

You can enter more than once via Twitter, Facebook, or the site for extra chances to win.

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SMALL PRINT

The competition closes Thursday 25th September 2014 at 6pm UK time, with the ONE winner chosen at random from all the entries and announced on Friday 26th September. Entrants on Twitter and Facebook who haven’t “liked” or “followed” our Facebook or Twitter will not be counted. Full competition terms can be found here.

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Destiny – Review

Destiny is quite possibly the most ambitious console game we have seen, other than Grand Theft Auto V. Quite the statement I know, especially given what you have already read elsewhere. The traditional review calls for positives followed by negatives and then a summary. But I think what is needed more is some objective input on those negatives that we’ve heard.

The first thing I will mention though is the story. It is not very good and, despite everything I’m about to point out, it is fragmented too much in its linear progression to hold the attention of you, the player, during the minimal times where we get expositional dialogue. The exposition is garbled and that is because it is trying to convey a lot of information and lore far too quickly. It makes Peter Dinklage’s Ghost sound as apathetic as Robert Webb doing TV advert voiceovers. It sadly makes Bill Nighy as wooden as Michael Gambon’s Gandal-Doore Prophet in Elder Scrolls Online. But once again, out of all the well-known voices in this game, it is Bungie regular Nathan Fillion of Firefly/Castle/Halo fame providing some amusing and enjoyable sound bytes.

In its defence however, and I suppose to play devils advocate a bit, Destiny’s story is a very complex and intriguing experiment in creating a universe, not a linear narrative story. The company that brought us many Halo’s will always have a torch held against it to produce compelling single player narrative. This game doesn’t actually set out to do that except for establishing you in its universe. The stories are your own to make and whilst the back drop of galactic war and Dune-esque family creepiness in the Awoken give you a sense of a history, the game leaves you completely in charge of how you experience it. Which is quite the gamble when you think about it, but it works once you’ve leveled up enough to get some good gaming time with your friends. It’s also worth pointing out that I cannot think of an original MMO IP which has a decent story or hint of a narrative. Remember, the Warcraft universe had been going for 10 years before WoW. Lord of The Rings, Elder Scrolls, D&D, Star Trek, even DC Universe, all had long established canon and lore before an MMO license came along.

What I’m saying is, yes the story is a bit droll and lacks any kind of empathy to its characters. But it isn’t designed to do that from what I can tell. It’s not an excuse for lackluster dialogue though, which I’m sure is hurting Dinklage as much as it is the creative team at Bungie.

The universe that they have created is visually spectacular. Bungie’s application of lighting and atmospherics has never been in question, regardless of if you liked or disliked Halo. The next generation of consoles finally has a champion of graphical power and beauty. Little inclusions that you’d never think about make this game incredibly immersive. If you’re on the moon and you look at the International Space Station debris long enough, you’ll see a few satellites flying over. You’ll also see the Earth experience its dynamic night/day cycle. The Mercury Crucible map is a great example of a map with real environmental challenges and a glorious Sun enveloping the landscape. Venus’s terraformed world with its abandoned buildings are a thing that Bungie have done for a long time, and they excel at it here. The difference between the Xbox One and PS4 versions is negligible even to the tech wizards at Digital Foundry, thanks to the freedom of memory from Kinect. It is, in a word, beautiful.

Of course you end up playing little games to yourself as well, exploring the world and trying to find little things that amuse you. I like to listen to the soundtrack, which has Marty O’Donnell all over it, and try and find where new composers have tried to make their mark. They haven’t. O’Donnell’s trademark use of soft brass instruments with choral arrangements and string based tension heighteners, completely eclipse the other music in the game, despite their efforts sounding like a decent homage to Murray Gold’s Doctor Who work. But the sound design itself is incredible. The guns sound amazing and sometimes it’s chaotic and frenetic trying to have a party chat whilst the destruction around you is filling the audio channels. My favourite part so far is not only discovering that your Swallow has a reverse warning noise like a car, but that when one goes past you like that, you get a Doppler effect from it. It’s some amazing attention to detail.

The game itself is an experimental hybrid between MMO, RPG and FPS that few have achieved. Borderlands does, without the scale of the online element, Call of Duty does, without the RPG element. Destiny, in my opinion from the game play point of view, completely achieves the fusion they were looking for. Vast areas to explore with different enemies, excellent replay value, well designed multiplayer modes and levels, fun to use guns and an excellent leveling system that allows you to really play your own way and use what you want to achieve that. The quest for Legendary and Exotic items will keep people playing more than they’ll admit and from that point of view, Bungie have got the basics of this game nailed.

The criticisms of the game though are well known and, I hope, easily addressed. The 3-person size fire team limit is too small. But the Crucible can handle a 6-person fireteam and the maps handle multiple teams, so I’m sure that the number of people can be increased. Even if it is by one, that’d still be great. I’d like to add another niggle though and that’s the lack of loadouts. The difference in the style of play between levels, and the PvE to PvP modes, are great and allow you to use multiple weapons effectively for different things. But the inability to save a set of weapons and quickly change to them is a pain. Especially when you forget and have to spend about a minute standing still and change them over in game, losing your secondary weapon’s special ammo. In fact this is quite the oversight to the mode.

A further criticism, and this ties back in with the story and the lore, is the enemies, namely the amount of them. There are essentially five different races in the game: The Guardians, The Fallen, The Hive, The Vex and The Cabal. This really doesn’t help in progressing the already confusing narrative and lore. Which one came first? Who is the worst? Who is wiping out who? Why do they give a toss about The Traveler or Earth? It’s hinted that there were pre-human structures on Venus that were being investigated before the collapse. So a timeline of the universe as the story goes on gets sketchier and sketchier, and a race could possibly have been cut out if I’m honest.

You’ll also find a lot of parables in the enemies and the way to play against them that are incredibly reminiscent of Halo. The Hive are the new Flood, Cursed Thralls are suicide Grunts, The Vex take traits of the Flood’s Hive Mind, The Cabal’s Phalanx’s are defeated in the same way as Halo’s Jackal’s, a Cabal Centurion is a Hunter, and it seems that every race at every point are using Forerunner-esque ancient structures. The visual designs are great though. The enemies look very cool. I love the way the Vex Goblins feel like Terminators with their red eyes and keep coming whilst beheaded. And the shift of weak points does keep you on your toes, even if the AI doesn’t after a while. The Vex themselves also feel like Bungie looked at Halo 4’s Promethean units and sneakily thought that they could do a lot better, which they have.

The thing is with Destiny and the plan for the game is that it is fluid. It is going to be constantly in flux and added and expanded upon. The end game, despite some repetitive grinding, is intriguing and rewarding. The whole game is especially rewarding with friends in the same way that Halo’s co-op campaigns were. What Destiny lacks in compelling narrative and confusing lore is certainly compensated in the short term by its beauty, its size and its scope. In the long term, the expansions and extras may make more sense of the very in depth and expositional lore we have already and keep the gameplay just as entertaining and enthralling as the “just one more round” addictiveness they currently have. It is by no means perfect and as consumers, critics, hype revelers, gamers, lovers of Bungie; we expect a lot, possibly too much. But for what Destiny is, a successful cross over of massively online multiplayer, role playing and first person shooter genres set in a hybrid science fiction and fantasy universe with mind blowing graphics and atmosphere, it is the most ambitious console game we’ve seen, other than Grand Theft Auto V. Certainly that is something to experience and that is something for Bungie to be proud of.

Summary
What Bungie have set out to achieve has largely been successful. The game combines the Role Playing levelling element of fantasy MMO’s with its own take on online open worlds and blending in their expertise with art, audio, level design and first person shooters. Sadly that is at the cost of their normally excellent narrative style.

Good Points

– Visually spectacular
– Successfully fuses genres
– Amazing online experience

Bad Points

– Confusing narrative and set up
– Too many enemy races
– Team size limit too small

Why a 7.5?

The story isn’t great, but we’ve played a lot worse. The success is the fusion of genres, the ambition behind it and the beauty of its worlds. A triumph and an excellent showcase of what the new consoles can do, even if it is narratively lacking.

 

New Magicka 2 Trailer Karaoke Competition, More Exploding Cats

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The lovely people at Paradox Interactive have just sent us over their new karaoke trailer for Magicka 2 and… Well I am in no way, shape or form going to describe it to you. You should just watch it below.

Suffice to say that my personal highlights, other than a tune that is completely stuck in my head and is making want to go and fish out my old Yamaha DX7, is the poor dog shedding a tear over the thoughts of many exploding cats and fire… Mans best friend is a sensitive creature. I wonder if the dog from Fable feared such feline combustion? I also cannot help but enjoy the faux VHS tracking effects and the inescapable reminder of how strange it is when karaoke videos are playing in Chinese restaurants.

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The trailer is not only a bit of fun and has Vlad dancing around in his robe, but is also a competition. You budding Wizards with dreams of Lost In Translation style, karaoke booth entertainment (there’s a cross over that you never thought would be mentioned on a Friday afternoon), get the chance to upload your own Magicka karaoke music video.

That’s right, you can download an instrumental version of the song and create your own video, your own lyrics and upload them in order to win an awesome prize. As far as gaming launch competitions go, this is one of the most intriguing. Oh and if you do enter it, do not set fire to any cats. If you’re interesting in winning a yet to be announced prize (I’m hoping it’s a set of deluxe robes and staffs so I can go around the town pretending to set things on fire), you can enter at www.magicka2.com/singalong.

If you want to see more of Magicka 2, as there is some gameplay in the trailer, you can check out our hands-on preview from Gamescom. The game itself will be out in early 2015 for PC and PS4.

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