Saints Row 4 Re-Elected & Gat Out Of Hell – Review

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We here at TheGameJar have previously been very positive regarding 2013’s Saints Row 4, as well as previous Saints Row games. I personally however have never been in that bracket having never really experienced the franchise. I know, I’m a bad person but life, other games and just general laziness has kept me from the franchise before. If anything it puts me in a unique position as someone who can come to the newest gameas a new player and see if it’s really accessible to a new generation of console gamers.

But the questions you must be asking yourself, and presumably you ask for every next generation remaster, are these: Is it worth me buying the game again, has much changed or improved and is there any point to doing this anyway?

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Firstly, there might be if you’re interested in the standalone “expansion” pack Gat Out Of Hell, which I shall come to later. Secondly, it is my firm belief that a lot of the final games of this past generation of consoles really stretched them to their limits and having this new tech is a good way to show what their game really could do. This isn’t the first open-world remaster I’ve played/reviewed and I’m pretty sure it won’t be the last.

So here is the thing… I can’t decide if it was worth doing. That’s not a negative yet, so hear me out. The game runs very smooth although its upper frame rate of 60fps is rarely held that high and the game, despite a massive overhaul in textures, still has a lot of jagged last-generation textures in it. Along with fairly flat and uninviting tall building with boring static lights-behind-a-drawn-curtain images that give it a very inorganic feel. It’s touches like this, which also appear in Sleeping Dogs, Watch_Dogs and even GTA V that make you realise that these games are last generation. That’s not a bad thing for the nostalgia kick or if you’re a fan. But this really isn’t too far off the PC version of the original release graphically. Work has obviously been done but it makes it more apparent where work hasn’t been done… If that makes sense. It is certainly an improved and smoother experience compared to what it was, but all that really does is make you realise what it should have been when it was released.

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Which is why you really need to want to buy this game. I’ve enjoyed it, don’t get me wrong. But it is riddled with in-jokes and references to the series’ previous iterations. Failing that though, the game is still the exact same fusion of gaming and pop-culture references piled in to one big comedic world fiction. It is funny. Yes it can be puerile and filled with ridiculous machismo but it is still the right side of funny. Whilst for a new player, the characters are already established lampooned tropes of action movie characters in a Matrix-esque world and plot, the whole thing is still fun to play. Even though for the earlier part of the game I had absolutely no idea who anyone was or what was going on. I can see though, if you’ve played it all before, there’s very likely to be nothing new for you here.

In fact the greatest thing about this isn’t the remaster itself, but the package that comes with it. If you put it off the first time after Saints Row The Third then now is a good time to get back in to it. As the original release doesn’t differ massively in graphics from The Third, this version certainly does. Along with all the DLC and the expansion, it makes a very good cost effective package. And what isn’t great about shooting up aliens in a virtual city and capturing areas, only to be greeted with the ’90s infectious rhythm of Haddaway’s What Is Love when these sequences are over.

Gat Out Of Hell, Saints Row 4’s standalone expansion, sees us take control of Johnny Gat and Kinzie Kensington as you are flung in to hell to save the President (i.e. you) who has been unceremoniously sucked in to the underworld thanks to Matt Miller’s party game going the way of an early ’00s teen horror. Again this is definitely more for the fans of the series rather than a new guy like me, given the plot and people involved, but sadly this game doesn’t really do much more than Saints Row 4 did anyway. The superpowers are changed for arcane ones (flying with Satan’s wings for example), and the world is a new area with the same darkness and gloom as Saints Row 4’s perpetual early evening atmosphere. The plot, involving stopping the president from marrying Satan’s daughter with the help of former adversary Dane Vogul of Ultron, is typical of the franchise but stretches in to the realms of being too over the top. The strangest thing is that the streets and the general art look doesn’t remind me of Saints Row so much as Carmageddon.

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Yes there are new weapons, new things to do, interesting pseudo religious entertainment tropes and Satan to kill. Including the much publicised Armchair with mini-guns. But the game offers exactly nothing that Saints Row 4 already does, except with a new skin. It feels like it’s interesting and cool for about ten minutes and then you realise it’s just what Saints Row 4 did with a lick of paint and maybe a bit more demonic inspiration and then you tire of it very quickly. That is where this pack does lose its value a bit because you are essentially getting exactly the same type of game, challenges and humour that you’ve probably already grown tired of by playing Saints Row 4 or the Re-Elected version again. I can’t help but think that if this release was closer to the game’s release date (i.e. not 18 months later) then it wouldn’t seem so repetitive. Thankfully both versions of these games are available separately on the digital stores for Xbox Live and PSN and Gat Out Of Hell is available on PS3 and Xbox 360 as a standalone release. So if you think you’d lose out on enjoyment by having the whole thing, there are options for you.

Essentially this game or collection of games is exactly what you’d think it would be. A sharper, smoother version of the over the top, well balanced open world shooter with crazy customisation, and full to the brim of gaming cliches and references that we all know and get. Does it deserve a second term? Maybe, but I’m sure fans would want to see something new instead and for the uninitiated like me, it does make me wonder what kind of game the next one would be. This is a last generation game with the veneer of the new generation loading and processing. It does the job, but in another way it’s a bit like a middle-management role that no one really asked for or knows why it is there, except to contrast against the seriousness that makes up most of our AAA gaming at the moment.

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Whilst Re-Elected is a nice return to something you’ve probably already finished, there’s a certain replay value in the experience but not much more. Even for someone who hasn’t played it before, you can see where it can get repetitive and tiring. Which is why Gat Out Of Hell just feels like it missed the mark. Otherwise, if you’re a fan and you want to add to your collection, go for it. If you really want more of the singular experience of the expansion or the original game then these are all available separately and that might be better for you.

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[tab title=”Good Points”]

– Smoother and more playable experience.

– Still the same Saints Row you know, with the same humour and disregard for propriety.

– As a package it’s pretty good value, especially if you’re new to the series.

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– Very little has actually changed or improved apart from textures.

– Gat Out Of Hell is more of the same, quite literally.

– Can be very unaccessible to new players for early parts of the game.

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[tab title=”Why a 7.5?”]

When the game came out, we originally gave it an 8. It was and is a good well balanced open-world third person shooter with challenges and things to do. But other than texturing and general smoothness, very little has actually changed. That also extends to Gat Out Of Hell, which feels more of a byproduct of the remaster rather than the game itself. Entertaining but nothing we’ve not seen before, quite literally.

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This review is based on the PS4 version of the game.

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Project Cars – Preview

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Project Cars is responsible for a first in my life, my first 4K gaming experience. In an era where open world driving games seem to be the more successful of the four wheeled genre, Project Cars has gone to a very traditional route. One that games like Gran Turismo has treaded and arguably worn out over many years.

Photo-realism in both environments and cars is not just possible but also essential. Manufactures get the final say on the cars they’ve licensed as well as track owners and sponsors having to clear their input as well. We’ve said before, in an interview with Project Cars Creative Director Andy Tudor, that photo realistic driving games should not only be the norm but are practically the only option. The technology is there, the capability is there and the requirement to produce games like this demands it.

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However, pulling off the technical excellence is one thing. Giving a game a feel and a character on top of that is another thing entirely. It’s something we felt DriveClub was lacking. It’s something I find personally with the later Gran Turismo’s. Something about them feels a bit nebulous in the cars and the driving itself. You could argue that I’m being a tad pious but simulations and arcade games should be able to define the cars ability much clearer in these times. Especially when a game like Assetto Corsa is doing it independently of big publishers and money.

So where does Project Cars sit in this? I have to say, especially to a console audience, it sits at the top of the pile. There are many things that games like Forza Horizon 2 and DriveClub have done well independently like great lighting, dynamic weather, day/night cycles and car customization. Project Cars does it all, excellently, from the get go.

Firstly when tackling the selection of cars, this is very much a racing game, not a streetcar racing game. These are the kind of cars you’d see at a weekend at Brands Hatch, Silverstone or Nurburgring. Not just your big DTM, LMPG supercars, McLaren’s and Pagani’s but the other classes and manufactures closer to the street like Ford, Mercedes-Benz, and BMW. The interesting thing is that the vintage cars are well represented here too. From my guilty pleasure of a Ford Capri to my non-guilty pleasure of old Lotus F1 cars, everything is not only perfectly reproduced but the way the cars drive are all unique and challenging in themselves. This is a game for people who know names like Jason Plato, Alain Menu and Jim Clark as well as names like Andre Lotterer and Tom Kristensen.

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The tracks range from actual circuits like the ones listed above and including many others across the globe like Australia’s Bathurst and California’s Laguna Seca with its infamous Corkscrew turn. But it also stretches to real albeit less licensed areas like the Cote d’Azur or Monaco, as we all know it. There are even some nice fictional road trip areas to the region, as well as the California area, to give you that off-the-track feel.

The real magic of this game is its dynamic environment system. The game has settings that can change the weather randomly or by design, everything from clear days to rain and thunderstorms. The date and time is also customizable with an option to speed up the progression of time so that you can literally experience four seasons in one day… One full day, that is, with night included. You can also historically set the date and time of a race so that it takes historic weather data to produce what was actually happening at the time. June 3rd 1984 at Cote d’Azur would certainly be one of my recommendations.

All of this works perfectly well straight from the off and whilst there are still a few bugs in the preview we played, these are mostly fine-tuning of cars handling and collision dynamics. Make no mistake about it, this is a game that will be enjoyed by the virtual petrol heads, as well as the more casual intrigued racer, but it will take some mastering, as it should do. If playing Gran Turismo has taught me one thing it’s that repetition is key to driving. Project Cars however makes that just a bit more fun than previous genre titles. This is definitely helped by the immersive graphics. These look great on the PS4 preview build we played and it has all the traditional views you’d expect, including the more immersive helmet cam.

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This is where my first 4K gaming experience came in to play however. I was lucky enough to play the game on a PC at 4K, 30fps (the game can handle 60fps, but the TV we were using couldn’t) and with a wheel. At this point the game really blooms. Things that you might not notice so much on the console really shine. For example I went around Cote d’Azur circuit in a generic pre-hybrid Formula 1 car in the helmet cam view. Firstly the things you notice are the things that racing drivers actually do.

Your view naturally turns to look at the corner but your virtual head barely turns. What it does is focus on the corner, which completely alters the depth of field you have to your dashboard and the surrounding environment. It’s a subtle touch that naturally happens anyway if you drive and might even pass you by because it is that natural. Secondly, the lighting changes and the shadows move around the inside of your helmet as you go around a track. It’s when you notice that the game is doing this everywhere that it really begins to impress you. With the future of Oculous Rift support, this game’s immersive racing will be a massive cut above other PC options and definitely a rival to the independent games currently available.

Driving with the wheel certainly left my arm a little sore thanks to force feedback and occasional collisions. But what was certain was that it was far easier and much more fun than using the controller. That deftness of throttle control is hard to achieve any other way and the game certainly rewards you for using this method. Having used a wheel for other games, this game is definitely worth the sacrifice of savings to get a good wheel and seat combo.

The game has had a few delays, which is understandable once you play it and see the work that has gone in to it. Mid-March is the current estimate but I wouldn’t be surprised if it went a bit further back just to perfect it. Because that is something this game prides itself on, its perfection. With a 30fps cap*, the PS4 handles the game well and I would presume that the Xbox One does the same thanks to the newer SDK’s giving more memory usage. Although the release is planned to be 60fps. How the Wii U version will turn out is anyone’s guess. But if you are the kind of person who has the time and money to build a phenomenal PC and can support 4K gaming, then start saving now.

*This cap refers to the experience of the preview build on PS4 that we played. Not the final product.

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This preview is based on a preview build, played on a PS4 and a PC.

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LEGO Annouce Dinosaurs and Superheros (Jurassic World)

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It’s not often we cover news, but this one was certainly too big for me to miss posting about.

Warner Bros Interactive have announced the TT Games/LEGO line up for 2015. These include another Marvel tie in with LEGO: Marvel’s Avengers, new LEGO Ninjago game: Shadow of Ronin and iOS releases of The Lego Movie videogame and Lego Batman: Beyond Gotham (the 3 has been dropped).

But the big news is that we’ll get more Chris Pratt, along with Sam Neill, Richard Attenborough and a double helping of Jeff Goldblum. If you’ve worked it out already (without looking at the obvious title), clever girl. Some of the more astute of you who have played and competed LEGO Batman 3 might have noticed this pictured dinosaur in the credits, along with John Williams’s famous score. Personally I blinked and missed the connection. But finally dinosaurs are coming to LEGO.

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LEGO: Jurassic World is a tie in to the upcoming 2015 movie reboot of the series also titled Jurassic World. But it will also include parts of the first three movies: Jurassic Park, Jurassic Park: The Lost World (Dino-Godzilla) and Jurassic Park 3 (Island+Dinosaurs+Sam Neill=Cash). In traditional LEGO game style all of these movie tie-in games will be available for every console (360, Xbox One, PS3, PS4, PS Vita, PC, Wii U, 3DS) along with LEGO Ninjago: Shadow of Ronin being 3DS and PS Vita only.

So a few things we’re looking forward to? Well obviously being able to repeatedly punch Dennis Nedry and the kid from the first movie who got himself electrocuted. We’re looking forward to dinosaur consultant Phil Tippett being brought in and turning TT Games area of Manchester in to a crazy Velociraptor party. But mostly, we’re intrigued as to what LEGO: Marvel’s Avengers is actually going to do.

LEGO: Marvel Super Heroes was already a fairly big game that had bits of the cinematic universe lore from phase one and two of the movie collection, along with comic book versions of properties Disney don’t have the movie licences for. It does seem like it’ll be a tie in to Age of Ultron, wgich is due out later this year, but it promises to include the previous Avengers movie as well (and presumably some more of the recently and soon to be expanded universe).

But I’ll leave you with this fun fact. A Samuel L Jackson character will now have been in three LEGO games. Mace Windu (Star Wars), Nick Fury (Marvel Super Heroes) and now John Raymond Arnold (Jurassic Park). It seems we shall indeed know his name when he rains his blocky virtual self upon our gaming systems.

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Skyforge Preview – Is 2015 a year of Russian Gaming?

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A few things come to my mind when you say Russian to me: Red October, The Dude’s favourite drink, and the orchestral cover of that crap Sting song that Charlie Brooker uses in every Yearly/Weekly Wipe. You might not think gaming is a synonymous word but it really is. From every WW2 shooter under the sun, to Catherine in every Civilization game, Chernobyl in S.T.A.L.K.E.R. and Metro 2033/Last Light, Russia, its landscape, its literature and its history has quite the plethora of gaming inspiration.

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It also has one of the biggest captive markets outside of China for gamers. Whilst the console market isn’t as strong as the West, the PC market and browser based games are a huge draw. My.Com is part of a much larger communications giant in Russia with access to over 100 million users. At several points over the past year, we were invited to look at the three big draws the publisher has to offer. But now seems the right time to look at them, probably because you’ve already finished your second play through of Dragon Age by now.

But it’s not just Russian companies that are in for this market as My.Com have recruited some of the best to work on their titles. World of Speed, an online multiplayer arcade racing game with various real world locations and licensed cars to boot, is being developed by Slightly Mad Studios. You may know them for being the developer behind the much anticipated simulator Project Cars, and various Need for Speed games. It’s a fun game, especially in the 2v2 style of racing that isn’t just positional based but points based as well, leading to much tactical thinking. There’s also Armoured Warfare, which on the face of it is a World of Tanks clone. But the game has a lot more of an arcade “pick-up-and-play” feel to it. It doesn’t have the military history of the aforementioned Wargaming.net game but it is a fun tank shooter in the familiar vein, like a slightly less futuristic Battlezone.

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Armoured Warfare and Skyforge, the main game we’re going to look at here, have something in common. They are being co-developed and optimised for the Western audiences by Obsidian Entertainment. You should know Obsidian… Fallout: New Vegas, Pillars of Eternity and the game you voted as your best RPG of 2014, South Park: The Stick of Truth. Along with Russian developer Allods Team, Skyforge is an MMORPG set in a mixed environment of fantasy and science fiction on the fictional world, Aelion. A very large and visually enthralling world at that. Skyforge represents an entire planet for you to explore with a mixture between the worlds you would imagine from a Iain M Banks novel mixed with visuals from a hodgepodge of Warcraft realms. It’s an incredible combination of a futuristic world mixed with ruins and nature that doesn’t resort to turning things in to a bland destroyed battlefield to give it some visual nuance. In the game’s story you are an immortal (quite convenient) who must rise to become a God and earn followers throughout Aelion.

Playing the game is incredibly open, and I don’t mean in the worlds but in the characters. The UI and combat system is pleasingly simple and is pleasantly just above spamming the keyboard all the time. This is mostly because your combat talents are actually pretty cool. There are lots of things depending on your class that you can do like fire a snowball that grows and collects all the enemies in its path. But the key in this is the character progression system and the ability to change your class. The progression tree, which is called the Ascension Atlas here, works in a very open way, much like a web. In fact, if you’ve played Civilization: Beyond Earth, the selection is very similar. Some things take longer to research and what you research opens up other classes and skills like a web. And, as long as you aren’t in combat, you can change your class. This is particularly intriguing as you can change what you are dependent to what you need, as can anyone in your party. It’ll make raids especially interesting. Just change from Paladin from Cryomancer in a couple of clicks. Easy.

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All of this is unlocked via prestige. And as in any MMORPG you unlock this via quests. Quite like Dragon Age Inquisition is at times, quests are attained locally rather than via a singular point. Which means instead of going to a quest giver, just entering an area will activate a quest. You’ll be able to see that quests are available in an area via the big sky globe map on the space station, called the Divine Observatory, circling Skyforge. Battling and killing enemies, will unlock prestiege, unlock levels, better attacks, more attack slots, etc, etc, etc. Normal fayre for your MMORPG. There’s no word yet on buy-to-play bonuses with this. But you can earn it in your standard PvE and PvP ways and if you can get a good group of people together it could be quite a fun distraction for those of you who seek new challenges after World of Warcraft, Elder Scrolls Online, ArchAge, etc. Something that will be interesting is the Guild PvP mode which will be coming in the future.

The game was certainly fun to play when we were playing it although it does have a very big audience to try and capture in the West. The Russian end will certainly warm to it quickly as long as they have a fairly good PC so it certainly won’t be a dead server zone. There’s no specs yet that are confirmed but it looks like it’ll need a decent package at least athough MY.Com promise to keep it as technically accessible as possible. The game is currently in Beta which you can sign up for now at their website. It’s PC only at the moment but as most players are PC based that’s probably a good thing. Obsidian are working mostly on “Westernizing” the game. We’re pretty sure that doesn’t just mean language translation but optimisation of where things should be on a UI, how stories are communicated in quests, etc. It’s quite amazing, when you look at how universal a lot of games are (WoW, LoL, and other Upper case-Lower case-Upper case acronyms, for example). Our recommendation? Give it a go. After all it will be Free-To-Play, so why not?

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Are Boxing Day sales over for games?

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It was good to walk in to my local GAME store and see people queuing to buy games this past Saturday. Obviously the glut of online retail sales and their frankly aggressive marketing hasn’t dulled the public’s taste for high street shopping. And given that my town has either GAME, a CEX, or a very small (practically non-existent) section of WH Smith’s for entertainment sales, there truly isn’t anywhere else to go except online. Or maybe a supermarket but I always find it weird that these big chain stores are becoming the only non-online outlet for my hobby vices. I’ll have sale copy of NBA with my clearance advent calenders and family pack of Wotsits, please… My shopping receipts probably look like I have marijuana munchies all the time.

Which is why it has surprised me that big old Amazon, the internet terror that has dominated the retail and server-scape for the past decade has had no games on sale during the Boxing Day sales period. I mean quite literally ZERO. I know, I’ve been watching it like a hawk. DVD’s and Blu-Ray’s, yes. Xbox One console sales, yes. But games themselves? No. GAME itself had better prices on games before Christmas, which all went up after Saturday.

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But cast your mind back to Black Friday. Games galore were on sale. Mostly Shadow of Mordor and a few others. But there was certainly far more options at that time than there is now. I even highlighted on twitter how the Xbox store has an old game at effectively double the price compared to the US store. Although the discounts on PSN/XBL rarely get to be really… discounted.

Of all the games discounted this period, the big ones have to be Assassins Creed Unity, a game that was incredibly broken at launch and has received such a bad reception that a price drop was needed to shift the units, and The Crew, a game also with bugs at launch and that was mostly downloaded for free because of the issues with the former game. In that regard, any sales are good for those games. But there appears to be, compared to other times of the year, a massive absence of games on sale, or games that weren’t already on sale beforehand at better prices.

So is this it for the traditional “Boxing Day” sales time for games? Retail seems to have so many different sale periods these days that it’s hard to even define a sale period. No doubt the Easter period will see some of the better deals for gaming sales, or the same games at further discount. But the availability of digital platforms, of digital stores and the fact that every big release this year seems mostly to be part of the annual franchise brigade that holds their price until they become worthless in two years time, suggests that our linear interpretation of sales is probably at an end.

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Which is a bit of a shame because if anything us gamers have had to become more thrifty. I read a tweet recently about how even freelance journalists like myself can’t afford to buy all the games they want to play. I can’t either, I’ve just played some discounts and Tesco vouchers rather well. So all of us have to make use of good timing and good searching if we really want something.

Of course this probably has more to do with the success of Black Friday rather than anything else. I had a word with the management in my local GAME store, just casually, to discuss the prices. It was a bit crazy where Xbox One versions of games were cheaper than the PS4 versions and even pre-owned was more expensive than the new copies of games like The Last of Us. In the space of four days, The Crew had gone from £25 to £35 and back down to £30, presumably when someone realised that £35 was probably too high. The distributors and the console “powers-at-be” set these prices and amend them if they need to. So really, it’s got very little to do with the outlets selling the games as to what deals we get.

But Black Friday’s massive success has thrown a spanner in the works. From a business point of view, the January sales are great for showing profits and accounts in the black over a typically poor quarter for retail (as the pictured graph shows). The strength of the first month makes the rest of the financial quarter rather mute. What Black Friday has done has moved that to before Christmas and the success of those sales seem to have thrown everyone off. The price setters have already done what they needed to in order to drive sales so they don’t need to discount so much in January to drive those profit margins. It’s something that could unsettle our economy a little bit if the companies don’t adjust their predictions correctly.

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A great example of this is the rumour that the Xbox One is going back up in price to $400 in the US. That would knock on to the UK and see console prices likely return from the £320 mark to about £360-380. Given that you could have purchased an Xbox One during Black Friday for £269.99, enough units appear to have been shifted to start raising the prices, ready for when past generation game production finally starts to slow down. So when people are “forced” to upgrade, the prices will be higher, but enough has been sold already to inspire a higher amount of game production for those consoles. It’s a bit cheeky but it’s business.

What that means is that the traditional time of purchasing games appears to be at an end, something my local GAME agreed with despite queues to buy products. Steam certainly makes buying video games very fluid and their sale periods seem to be an event unto themselves. Online/High Street retail seems to have three periods that will shift units, Black Friday, Christmas and Easter. But Boxing Day, a time we used to love for having a wallet full of generously donated notes, looks like it will join that great retail gig in the sky along with Woolworths, Our Price and C-List celebrities opening Supermarkets.

[author]

TheGameJar Awards 2014 – WINNERS!

TGJ AWARDS 2014

Yes you voted for them in your fractions of thousands and I’d even put some of the games in the same category twice (ED – thanks James, I noticed too late). But you saw fit to cast your choices and we’ve come up with your favourite games for 2014 in a nice little video below. So without further ado, here are TheGameJar readers 2014 Award winners. Enjoy!

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The Winners

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Best FPS

Wolfenstein: The New Order

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Best Point and Click

Broken Sword 5: The Serpent’s Curse

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Best Sports

NBA2K15

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Best RPG

South Park: The Stick of Truth

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Best Action/Adventure

The Evil Within

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Best Remaster

Metro Redux

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Best Platformer

Oddworld – New ‘N’ Tasty

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Best Online

Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn

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Best WTF?

Jazzpunk

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Game of the Year 2014

The Wolf Among Us

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