GEEMU! – Bandai Namco’s Level Up Preview

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I’m incredibly westernised when it comes to games. Whilst I love Japan and its food and customs, I’ve never been able to really access its gaming and anime culture like so many of my contemporaries have. So for those of you who do know more about these franchises than I do (which is probably everyone), I apologise in advance.

Earlier in April, Bandai Namco invited us to their Level Up tour event. It’s a nice get together they’ve put on this year, touring the major cities and giving the press amongst others a first look in to the catalogue of upcoming games and a few bits of hands on experience. There’s another game that will be coming separately from this event. But for now I’m going to look at the incredible, and rather large, line-up of Japanese games coming to the UK. Another advance warning, as these are all Japanese games there’s very little to nothing in the way of Xbox here. Sony rules the roost in Japan and it shows with this lineup.

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Godzilla

Firstly, let’s look at something that everyone knows. Godzilla is the now 61 year old metropolis-crushing monster. Recently brought back in to media prominence by the movie of the same name starring Breaking Bad’s Bryan Cranston with less beard and more top hair. So what better thing is there to do than to bring the beast to Sony’s consoles and DESTORY! You will take charge of the titular character and destroy everything in your path to harness G-Energy. Us pesky humans have been using G-Energy as a power source and, much like most fossil fuels, is coming back to bite us and destroy our world by also awakening Godzilla. This time there’s no Al Gore to save us all.

There are around 25 levels to destroy along with an obligator versus mode against other monsters and a build-your-own mode where you can construct the perfect city to destroy. Your Godzilla will grow and level up with more of this G-Energy and apparently will also fly. I think Red Bull might have missed a wing-giving marketing opportunity here. What we have is a monster beat-em-up with smile inducing amounts of collateral damage. The game is coming this summer for PS3 and PS4 although there’s no local co-op or versus play, only online battles.

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One Piece Pirate Warrior 3

So my mind is a little blown here. It looks and plays like Dynasty Warriors, which is easily explained by the fact it s done by the same people. This is the third instalment of the series where you play as Luffy, or Monkey D. “Straw Hat” Luffy of the One Piece anime franchise, a young man with some super powers after eating a Gum-Gum fruit. So begins his adventures on the open waves and many lands to help defeat Doflamingo. You will travel through many worlds from the anime and earlier games, uniting your brothers and even playing in up to date areas like Dressrosa.

Controls, masses of enemies, combo multipliers and crazy mad magic attacks abound, this is pretty typical “Warriors” stuff. it works well and it’s crazy. Of course if you’re looking at this then you’re probably a fan of the series and the game. It’s a nice button bashing game with some awesome anime graphics and specials. Travelling across these worlds nice scenery with completely obscured by mad particle effects and many waves of enemies before big boss battles. Although for me it was made better by one of the characters (Sabo, I believe) looking like Ginx TV presenter and comedian John Robertson due to some great top-hat game. If you’re a fan, then keep your eyes open around August 2015 on your PS4, PS3, PS Vita and on Steam for PC users too.

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Naruto Shippuden Ultimate Ninja Storm 4

I am a giant frog in a straw hat crushing many tiny people who look like ants and beating big rock creatures. I then, after much Warriors like gameplay, jump onto some giant tentacled or armed creature and grind my way down it, slicing it open as I do and dodging fireballs into an anime big battle climax. I’ll be honest, with the gameplay that I played there actually didn’t feel like there was a lot to this game or at least anything that distinctly separated it from One Piece’s superior wave combat. After some research I’m actually a toad with a super katana named Jutso and the PS4’s triangle button charges our attacks. The attacks are simply controlled but are still pretty fun to unleash after you’ve charged yourself up at the expense of many tiny army’s, who have no chance against your massive webbed feet.

What I did get though was some excellent graphics. Violent and vibrant colours filled my screen at breakneck speeds mixed with anime-rendered characters and sequences. You could liken it for cel-shading but the style is all of its own. And out of every game I saw it was this element and this potential that gripped me the most. If the consoles can pull off this kind of magnificence then there’s a lot of exciting things that can come of the art style. At least that’s what I thought I saw, I could have just licked the toad and tripped out. You’ll be able to find out later this year on PS4, PC and Xbox One if the consoles can deliver the full package.

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J-Stars Victory VS+

This looks like a standard cross licence beat-em-up but it isn’t. There’s a lot more than that. As me and Steven (from our good friends at GGS Gamer) sat down and picked up the controller, we selected our battlers from various universes and were shown in to an arena of an old village. There we let rip, with me playing as Goku, and kicked butt in a massive destructible environment, charging up our special abilities and using the scenery to our advantage. Our 2v2 team battle was easily lost when we realised we didn’t know the controls but we thought we were cool and that’s the important thing.

The game is great for manga/anime fans, especially those of JUMP magazine. The game gives you a huge roster of characters and environments from many different series including One Piece, Naruto, Dragonball Z, Toiko and Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure just to name a few. The PS4 graphics are excellent and although we didn’t get a great deal of the game or its characters, it certainly seems to be a one stop shop if you are a fan of multiple series and like cross overs. The game play, whilst a arena style team based fighting game, is an interesting departure from the other games in this feature and could keep you coming back, even if you’re unsure exactly how the story is working. You will play and mix across all the included licences though through that story and we’re going to get an arcade fighting mode. So keep your eyes open this summer if you’re a PS3, PS4 or PS Vita owner.

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Tales of Zestiria

The Tales RPG series has long been requested in the Western markets. For the 20th anniversary of the franchise this latest game, Tales of Zestiria sees you play as Sorey. Your curiosity of history allows you to see a race of invisible people called the Seraphim and leads you to become the Shepherd, a legendary figure in this universe and you will set forth to unite both your human domain and the invisible Seraphim world. Sadly there wasn’t anything of this game playable to us but we did get to see this great trailer. The game is dual voice over in language as you will hear. The game will be available on PS3 in the fall of this year. This game returns the series in to a more action adventure style game but even in last-generation graphics, it looks like and exciting and good looking fantasy environment.

As far as fantasy RPG’s go, we are going to be pretty spoilt in the coming months. Rumours of a new Fallout, The Witcher Wild Hunt (also a Bandai Namco release), Elder Scrolls Online, Final Fantasy and whatever HD remakes are sure to come. But for owners that haven’t yet made the jump, this is going to be a really interesting and beautiful purchase. For all of the slight cliches of the genre in the trailer the world is pretty, magical and fascinating anime landscape that could probably be a last thing for you to enjoy on the last generation of Playstation. JRPG’s have a long history and if this as good as it looks then it’s a fitting end for the console.

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Anther notable game is Project X Zone 2. A sequel to the popular 2013 strategy RPG that sees a huge mix of video gaming licences. You’ll have Tekken and Tales of Vesperia characters from Bandai Namco, Capcom’s Resident Evil and Devil May Cry characters and Sega’s Virtua Fighter and Yakuza: Dead Souls all filling an impressive roster. Again this will be a single play game for the Nintendo 3DS coming in the fall.

 

There’s also Saint Seiya: Soldiers’ Souls. A game that has some excellent anime art based on the TV series of the same name. The premise is that you, being given the golden armour called God Cloths are to defeat the Gold Saints who have returned from the grave. Again this game is due in the fall and will be on PS3, PS4 and Steam for PC users.

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Generation Loss

Here’s another article I’ve written that didn’t get published so you’re more than welcome to have it.

In analogue media terms, generation loss is where something degrades after repeated editing, compression or saving. It affects things such as music and pictures, dropping the quality of such materials the more you save them or have to save them to add other things. Analogue music mixing and subsequent copying made for many different generations in the process. Firstly there’s mastering, then more mastering if you need to add more tracks (large channel mixing was very expensive). Genertaion one. Then there’s copying that to versatile media such a vinyl, CD or tape. Generation two. Then if people copy that to a tape or rip it to a computer in a compressed file format that’s generation three. The cycle goes on and each time the original song loses more and more cohesion which manifests itself in static noise, tinny compression and lower quality. Newer digital technology has eliminated a lot of this but it still can occur.

My generation (the actual human people, not The Who song) are hitting their late twenties and early thirties. A combination of factors completely outside of our control, and arguably outside of the previous generations too, has effectively degraded our chances of prosperity in our economy. Austerity has hit us hard as we hardly had any money to begin with. Jobs are so fiercely fought over for barely liveable wages (and sometimes not even that) with many employers simply unable to afford to keep up with the cost of living. Private renting has escalated to such a unregulated level that demand keeps prices too high and social housing hasn’t recovered for several generations.

These are 2010's party manifestos. Or a employee handbook, a Raisin sales brochure and a bland book you'd likely find on a Wetherspoons bookshelf.

These are 2010’s party manifestos. Or a employee handbook, a Raisin sales brochure and a bland book you’d likely find on a Wetherspoons bookshelf.

The problems we face are the same as everyone else, yet it seems that we are the least vocal about the false promises and the lack of hope. We’re called millennials, as if this is a nice code word for being “stuck living at home due to no savings, lack of jobs that pay or being burdened with debt.” Desperation sees us having to take multiple jobs, I myself have three including self employment and a zero hours contract. Practically none of us have equity thanks to the astronomical property ladder. Our reality is that unless we are paid well, which admittedly some people are, we have to starve ourselves of spending, which isn’t helping us nor an economy already hamstrung by austerity. The more likely reality is if our parents/grandparents leave us enough when they pass on, we can start to be comfortable. We can look at house deposits and the like, and finally leave home for the first or second time.

This is a terribly morbid notion and ever more unlikely due to the increase in life expectancy which is tightening strings at the other end of the age gap. The thing is with our generation is that we’re now at the age where we want to settle down, have families and plan for our future. Yet for many of us the future lies between the next phone call offering a days work and the next glass of cheap alcohol to combat the ever increasing depression of this dilemma.

This collection of bricks thrown down an alleyway in Islington is reportedly worth just under £750,000. That's the same as 750,000 McDonalds cheesburgers

This collection of bricks thrown down an alleyway in Islington is reportedly worth just under £750,000. That’s the same as 750,000 McDonalds cheesburgers

You’d be right to think that we’re quite salty about all of the above, the election promises and the confabulated statistics that support a parties rhetoric. The generation before us of business and home owners suffered massively with the banking crisis that we’re still reeling from today. The generation before that suffered from the economic problems of the late ’80s and early ’90s. The generation below us occupy low paid part-time and zero hours work, as well as working for free to jump start careers, and now WE’RE expected to be beginning the next generation – Starting families and investing in our genetic future.

Our education system was in tatters as we were going through the end of primary and secondary school. Help wasn’t there for people with difficulties in learning. Technology didn’t come until after we left the system, meaning that we just missed the technology and coding boom that our schools couldn’t teach. Our grades, passable or otherwise, are over a decade old and now mean nothing in an experience based, nepotistic world. We’ve lived and are living through the spiralling cost of private accommodation thanks to the lack of social housing, a policy the Conservatives seem set to repeat. Over reliance on the service sector, thanks in part to Labour, completely left us bereft of employment but was a massive lie due to the lack of any career progression. We spent the early part of the decade in now closed call centres selling financial products nobody wanted, leaving us all with frustrating debt. We’re not stupid enough to blame it on UKIP’s phantom job stealers (although some blindly do as a focal point of directing anger) and many of us were sold down a river by the Lib Dems last time out. Trust and optimism was broken and we were hung out to dry.

This is actual generation loss. Which just goes to show the visual representation of how wee feel.

This is actual generation loss. Which just goes to show the visual representation of how we feel.

All of this can be seen as a generalisation. Some people in our generation have escaped this or are just about surviving comfortably. There are both fiscally and socially successful people in every generation who are doing well, but en masse we are not. This is well documented but ill communicated between the lines of optimistic sound bites and manifesto rhetoric. Many generations have suffered from unemployment, public service cuts and the divide of the rich and the poor. Arguably however it is our generation that has felt the combined forces of all of these problems more forcibly and has degraded the most. Like the MP3 file on your music device, we have been suffering from previous generations worth of strain leaving us with nothing but static noise and the tinny residue of a people compressed. The next bunch after us, who are equally disenchanted but young enough to be convinced of false hope, are now the focus of recovery. We’re not even a generation loss but “generation lost”, an unaddressed burden that will haunt the next government (whatever that may be) for years to come.

Dirty Bomb – Preview

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Dirty Bomb is the latest effort from Splash Damage. The PC aficionado out there might recognise the name, but for everyone else here’s a little history. Fourteen years ago a group of online game modders became their own company and caught the attention of Activision and iD after creating maps for games like Return to Castle Wolfenstein and Counter-Strike. The company then ended up working for many publishers, like iD, creating multiplayer maps for Doom 3 and Wolfenstein: Enemy Territory, working on the multiplayer elements of other games as well as making their own games. There have been some lows, BRINK being the most high profile, but now Splash Damage are back making games for themselves and doing what they do best – Online multiplayer gaming.

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So now we have Dirty Bomb. Set in a futuristic capital called New London, mercenaries and private militias are rulers of all. New London is empty after a dirty bomb was blown up over it. Now people are coming back to loot this city and get money. Those people are of course you and your employers leading this online first person shooter to pit teams against each other with the focus on objectives, mostly attack and defence. We got to play a small beta in actual London and tried two game modes in local online play.

The first game mode we played was a control-based game. The defending team had to stop the attacking getting through a wall and then, once they failed at that, they had to stop the attacking team from blowing up some containers. This was set in a pretty nicely designed map with some good open and constrictive flash point areas.  Secondly we played an objective match in New Camden where we repaired an armored vehicle just to go 500 yards to a medical centre and steal medicine.

I’m probably the wrong person to preview this though as, despite my cynical sarcasm, I’m not someone that regularly enjoys team FPS games and my lack of a PC really prevents me from playing them. I know and watch many of them though and when you see CSGO, Team Fortress 2 and many other online game modes of other games like Battlefield, you have to wonder what the motivation is to break in to the market, or split it in your favour.

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However, I was surprised how easily I got in to the team aesthetic with four people on my team from various European news outlets. So whilst English wasn’t the first language of the team, we all bought in to the communication and the organisation. One reason was because you quickly realised that you needed to in order to accomplish your team goals. But the main reason was that the game made it really easy to get in to, especially for a fairly uneducated, crap player like myself. It is incredibly fast paced and there is quite a solid feeling of achievement for succeeding as a tema, and being the best on your team.

I have no muscle memory of WASD or clouded conceptions of these types of games. So coming in to it from a complete n00b standpoint has made me realise how clean and approachable the game was. Everything in the game was smooth and worked as and when you wanted it to work. From special tools to weapon switching and changing character, everything makes sense and does so without a large learning curve or an effort to buy in to the fiction.

Your loadout isn’t limited to the guns either. You get to choose three different characters, all of which have different classes and ability benefits to your team. And as you die you can respawn as any of them. There are big tank units, medics, scouts and engineers. Engineers are essential for the objective parts as they can quickly arm and disarm bombs and repair mechanical things quicker than anyone else and I spent the most time as this class. They seemed to be the most useful for the game types we were playing, and weren’t too slow or lacking in the firepower.

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The thing is that Splash Damage knows what they’re doing in creating maps. They evocative sense of tradition and arguably tourist-clichéd London is ever present, the design is great to create some balanced and enjoyable team play and works very well in getting you playing. The criticisms I have though is how needed this is. Whilst the game has its own take on the genre, it is almost scared to commit itself to having its own identity, which is understandable given the reception of BRINK. There’s a glut at the moment of both old and new team based online games. Evolve is discovering that it’s hard to move the audience across from what they know and have invested in. The game also has some micro-transactions, which can translate as pay-to-win. The game is officially free-to-win with free characters (mercs) that rotate but there are ones that you can pay for with in game or real currency. The packs that you see in Battlefield/CoD/CSGO/et. al, which Dirty Bomb calls Cases, are also available via contracts in game (so challenges) or by money, along with a Merc starter pack you can get during the Beta. So the micro transaction option is there, but not necessary.

Dirty Bomb so far is an enjoyable game and does everything right and well. But it’s not a departure enough yet to capture a new audience or steal them from other games. It doesn’t really have enough confidence in itself yet to compete. But it will, and if it gets enough traction, it could do good things. It’s certainly on the right path. It is tongue in cheek with its humour and design, it’s visually opulent enough to make your wonder where everything actually is in regards to current real London and who doesn’t love a casual mention of Wheaton’s Law in their trailer? But most of all, it plays well and that’s the most important thing.

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The Bi-Annual Clean Shave

There comes a time, which by the title is usually once every two years, where I have to shave. I HAVE to. I must completely rid my face of all trace of brown, ginger and grey colours and reset myself to default. I must allow my cheeks to breathe and just remind myself that I have skin around the lower part of my face. Some people could see it as a euphemism, a visual receptor to my willingness to begin a new, refresh my current state of affairs. Well I suppose it can be at times, but mostly… I just get bored.

I’ve been able to grow facial hair to a fairly decent capacity since I was 18 and I’m 31 now. I can’t develop it to the size and length that hipsters do, mostly because I get bored waiting, and I’m pretty sure that most of those guys go to the various hair and beauty shops around East London and get their face-weave done. I honestly have never seen a transitional hipster, that phase between lumberjack anti-establishment beard and nicely presentable facial hair. It’s like they’re clean shaven and suddenly BOOM! Beard.

Here is a stereotypical hipster, waiting around a generic East London estate area, presumably waiting for his Dad to invest in his Crisp Sandwich Pop-Up business.

Here is a stereotypical hipster, waiting around a generic East London estate area, presumably waiting for his Dad to invest in his Crisp Sandwich Pop-Up business.

I haven’t clean shaved for nearly two years and that is with good reason. It has nothing to do with laziness, fashion or my weight… Ok maybe a little bit about my weight but it’s more to do with self-confidence and more precisely, fear. The last time I clean shaved was in August 2013. I did it for a job interview at a theatre in London. I got myself sorted for this swelteringly hot summers day, which was already made uncomfortable by me having to dress appropriately for the interview. I decided, slightly on a whim and slightly because I felt my beard wasn’t looking the best, to trim my beard. As normally happens whenever I need precision trimming, this ended with me trimming a bit too much and ending up with uneven beard. So it had to go. No question.

The problem is that I’ve always had terrible fickle skin. If it was an alibi it’d be OJ Simpson’s glove. Through bouts of Acne and dry skin, my face has always been quick to betray me. This interview was no exception. Everyone gets stubble rash and a few nicks here and there and I thought, for once, that I’d got away with it. From the morning at home, the commute to London, the few hours work I put in where I was working before I went to the interview AND THE SECOND I LEFT…

Here's a completely realistic job interview with a trainee psychopath.

Here’s a completely realistic job interview with a trainee psychopath.

I started bleeding. Underneath my chin. I had to have a a piece of tissue on it during the entire tube journey to Leicester Square. It didn’t stop. I went and got some more tissue and made my way to the interview to be suitably early. It didn’t stop. I talked to my friend in the theatre lobby for a while as they were running behind on the interviews. It didn’t stop. I got taken to be interviewed in an upstairs bar, while a performance was on, nervous, stressed, looking like a lobster from the heat outside and inside the theatre.

It didn’t stop.

There is literally nothing you can do. The interview is already fucked before it’s even begun. You look like a twat because you’re holding several different tissues to your neck which come back with spots of blood from the SMALLEST LITTLE CUT that took six hours before it decided to bleed. So I did the only thing I could. “I’m really sorry,” I said, “I normally have a beard and I decided to shave for the interview and on the way here a cut just started bleeding.”

“Oh, ok,” they said.

The elephant was out of the room and the awkwardness was averted but the interview was long lost. It will go down as one of the worst moments of my life and is one of the direct contributors to me trying to forge my career over the past 18 months. If you’re keeping score, I have still had only three proper job interviews since graduating and that was one of them.

Future beards may occur with sufficient gains in arm ballast.

Future beards may occur with sufficient gains in arm ballast.

So put simply, I don’t shave until I can get in to a position where my utter boredom, or my skin, dictates that I must. Therefore, today I decided was my bi-annual shave. I should be starting some part time work soon to supplement my non-existent income. I’ve had a few entry level career jobs opportunities that didn’t give me a look in and I recently turned 31. So it’s time to shave and to stop hiding behind the beard.

Maybe it is a bit of a “turn a new leaf” kind of thing. Trying to persuade myself that general life and career attempts aren’t just futile exercises in send many emails to no avail. I go in to year two of career forging with a literal fresh face and a few realistic promises that I need to make to myself, which I shall list here.

1) Stop getting pissed at the world, it doesn’t hate you it hates everyone equally.

2) Get your flabby ass to the gym, son!

3) Never grow a beard until you get a job interview, or can look like Triple H.

There’s more but I think they’ll be blog posts for another time.

Battlefield Hardline – Review

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“Sir, Mendoza’s last run in the field, no offence, was a total clusterfuck.”

It’s hard to not see Khai Ming Dao’s first critique of her new partner as a tongue in cheek look at the last Battlefield outing. Battlefield 4 was one of the titles badly affected by EA’s 2013 of discontent… Ok it wasn’t really called that. But Battlefield 4’s online issues and subsequent board and legal battles are well documented. Enter in to the fray 2015’s Battlefield Hardline. A game in itself that was delayed twice after an arguably poorly received Beta last year.

[Nick Mendoza - Greener than a field of grass in the spring time]

[Nick Mendoza – Greener than a field of grass in the spring time]

Rolling the DICE this time around is Visceral, a studio best known for the Dead Space series (although they also had quite a run of 007 games in the past). And as a departure from the more futuristic armed forces based gameplay, we enter the world of the Miami Police Department and their never-ending war on drugs. Nick Mendoza, a police detective who is also a refugee of Cuba, comes fresh faced in to the department and starts by helping to botch a simple search with his partner, Stoddard, stumbling upon an worrying development in the cocaine trade. Nick then gets partnered with Kelly Hu’s character, Khai Ming Dao, and the two unearth worrying revelations about the force they work for as well as the drugs trade they’re trying to curb.

I’m not giving away any spoilers, although you have probably guessed at this point that Nick ends up as a prisoner and there’s a lot of shouting and comedic lines. That’s because they’re all in the trailer. To be perfectly frank, despite the TV presentation, this is just a B-movie script. You’d see this plot in the summer movie list starring someone like Jason Statham or the never-ending ream of former SNL comics who straddle the action movie/funny man circuit. It’s an entertaining don’t-think-too-much romp of gratuitous gunfire, explosions, criminal underworlds and broken trust. In fact the only thing missing from its action movie stereotype is some pathetically carnal whimsy between the main characters. Although you will get you comical tech wizard sidekick and his crazy Ex who you’d never have pictured him with – literally ticking all the boxes of a mindless audience approval screening for a formulaic American TV detective show.

[Press X to administer Savlon to wound]

[Press X to administer Savlon to wound]

There is something with the episodic format that works though. It worked very well for Alan Wake, it’s worked very well for TellTale games although that’s become more strained as they become more generic in their design, and Battlefield Hardline is no exception. However, because the whole game is there from the off (as in you don’t have to wait months for DLC or the next episode) and you could easily complete the story within a days gaming, you could very well miss these nuances. The “Next Time on…” and “Previously on…” segments simply don’t exist unless you save and quit out of an episode. All of the little nods to the popular TV formats are there, from characterization, multiple layers of intrigue, secrets, lies, etc, etc. But it doesn’t make a game. It makes for some entertaining cut scenes and moments but the gameplay of Battlefield doesn’t really match it. And personally I can find it quite jarring when the 30fps cut scene changes in to the 60fps player controlled shooting time.

The mechanic in the game is the ability to be non-violent. The reward for not spraying bullets into a zone is that you can unlock and upgrade weapons, attachments, etc, for arresting people rather than mercilessly capping them. In effect, the reward for being a pacifist is that you unlock newer, more customisable, shinier ways to kill people. Once you’ve hit level 15 and you’ve found all the case files to unlock everything, that’s it. With the recent issues with policing in America and what is seen as a militarisation of the force and a reduction in accountability, there’s probably been better times to release a game where a major part of the gameplay is arresting, or killing several unnamed Latino racial stereotypes for bonus points. But once you’ve earned those points, the hypocrisy can begin and you can start playing the game the way first person shooters are meant to played – Like a mindless, bloody, hilariously over the top, unaccountable hero: Utterly empty

[I know it's American but I want a Swag bag, not loot]

[I know it’s American but I want a Swag bag, not loot]

In that regard, absolutely nothing has really changed in the game since Battlefield 4, at least not for me. Yes, there’s been little changes to the gameplay here and there, the removal of grenades from the single player changes the game into a bit of a Metal Gear Solid stealth simulator (albeit a pretty poor one), but very little actually changes the game or how you play it. The graphics on the Xbox One version run at a lowered 720p so that the frame rate can be consistently hit. The PS4 version does run at a higher resolution, but a lot of the game is, simply, quite messy. Certain areas are graphically very poor, which isn’t surprising given the resolution. But the textures at times are shoddy, the aliasing is abysmal and the whole thing plays like a faster frame rate past generation game, and not the HD re-release kind. Yes there are some awesome moments in the game that take in sound and visual cues like the hurricane hitting the mall, but for the most part it really is sub-par. I’ll be honest, I’ve not been impressed with EA’s flagship engine. The Frostbite 3 engine seems to be either beyond the capability of the consoles it’s running on or no one knows truly how to get the best from it. In fact the best game using the engine so far has been Dragon Age: Inquisition. Hardline is most definitely not a good advert for the engine, away from the high-end PC hardware acceleration.

The graphical difference is very clear in the multiplayer modes. Battlefield’s multiplayer relies on not being graphically heavy so it can withstand the big team nature. Personally, I find the amount of people and the utter chaos utterly confusing and frustrating. The now tried and tested CSGO style of earning money and unlocking weapons and bonus packs is in full force here but those feel incredibly difficult to achieve thanks to how tough the early level options are to use. The game modes, mostly variants on Capture the Flag and Control game types slightly amended to suit the policing theme, are fairly obvious rehashes of normal game modes with swanky names and aren’t a massive departure from Battlefield’s past. Whilst it can’t graphically hold a torch to Call of Duty in these modes the more realistic and frenetic gameplay does aid certain game types, but only once you’ve racked up multiple deaths in your effort to level up. At least a lesson has been learned from the previous release and the servers are plentiful and fully operational. The benefit of having what is essentially a good, competitive multiplayer environment is that the infrastructure is finally there to support it. And for all its entry-level difficulty, once you do get some success and push on through the levels it can be very enjoyable. Much like many other recent online games, it benefits a lot more from having a group of friends that are all in on the action and playing regularly.

Whether or not it is the right time to release a game based on heavily armed police forces full of corruption against a nameless, seemingly replaceable, throng of Hispanic and Latin organised criminal gang members is slightly contentious. But it’s recent events that have dictated that the game can be perceived as insensitive, not the initial conception and plan that must have been drawn up 18-24 months ago. Sadly the game hasn’t really improved or built much upon any lessons within that time since Battlefield 4. For all of the criticisms, the beta feedback and the delays, the game hasn’t grown like, and it’s a bad comparison, Call of Duty has in the recent years. In fact, its distance from Activision’s franchise in the release cycle has certainly brought more of the series’ faults to the fore, at least more so than normal. This one is certainly for fans of Battlefield’s multiplayer and is definitely focused to capturing an audience that is willing to dedicate time and form groups to play it, much like its PC online FPS cousins. For the rest of us though, it’s a short-lived action romp and getting the box set of The Expendables movies could better scratch that itch.

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Battlefield Hardline excels in what it does best. Which is really frustrating for the game as it spends a long time trying to avoid it – That being the frantic shooting of all manner of bullets against the enemy. The police drama is a good enough B-movie and the style certainly works as a format but the content holds very little for video games like this. A consistent and functioning multiplayer hides a game confused between a pacifist setting and a all guns blazing FPS format.

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[tab title=”Good Points”]

  • Interesting change in game focus
  • Multiplayer is fully functioning and well supported
  • TV style and Episodic format works very well

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[tab title=”Bad Points”]

  • Incredibly poor graphically for next generation consoles
  • The usefulness and novelty of hypocritical non-violent gameplay wears off quick
  • Very little improvement on Battlefield 4

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[tab title=”Why a 6.5?”]

This game has tried to change the landscape a bit. It hasn’t been too overly brash about itself or claimed itself to be a new frontier in gaming. TV episodic tropes are tried and tested. But beneath the good intentions lies a game that is incredibly hypocritical of its pacifistic direction due to its FPS roots, a game that is graphically shoddy and a difficult multiplayer for entry-level players. It is at least stable and works, but all in all is confused and lacking.

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This review was based on the Xbox One version of the game.

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[author]

Monday Morning

This is a story that was published in the “Just Met 2013” writing anthology by London Metropolitan University and also won a prize for best fiction. Judge & Poet Catherine Smith: “The twist at the end is heart wrenching. A really well-realised story, perfectly framed.”

 

Monday Morning

By Sean Cleaver

It’s a damp, muggy Monday morning. You just missed your train by seconds. Already you are irritated. The day has hardly begun and you’ve successfully pissed yourself off. The weekend ranked between a failure and a casual relaxing event. You stomp up the stairs to the platform and decide you want a coffee.

When you enter the little coffee bar, you see a girl who’s just packed her big flowery bag on the side table. She’s in your way. You start the process of hating her until you look up and realise that she is very pretty. Not only that but she is smiling at you. Not a smile that’s a general “sorry, I’m in your way” but more of a coy “I’m sorry, I really like you, you seem different. But it’s Monday morning and I look like shit, so don’t take it personally. I hope I see you again soon or I might curse myself for missing this chance.” You reply with a smile that says “it’s ok, I understand” and walk to the counter.

You order your cappuccino and take stock of your situation. The pretty girl has moved down the platform now, so it’s safe to evaluate things. She had straight, very light ginger hair, red trousers, pretty grey eyes and a Cath Kidston pink flowery bag. She was shorter than you, about shoulder height, and slim. Not athletic but nice. She’s exactly your type. You look to see you are the only person wearing jeans in a sea of suits and in spite of your messy receding hair and unkempt stubble, you do look younger than most people on the platform. You are the epitome of casual in your jeans, leather jacket and Star Wars t-shirt with the Millennium Falcon on it. You are cool? The question is too big a concept to consider and you quickly discard the t-shirt as being a deciding factor of coolness as your coffee is ready. The person serving you is griping to her colleague about the “crap” on the radio. Some cover of a decade old pop song, sung by a girl on a piano, is playing that you recognise from a television advert. “How many times is this guy going somewhere for her to go? It’s too bloody long if you ask me.” You laugh in appreciation at the effort of the person serving you, even though you don’t really care about her opinion at all and you make a mental note to search the internet for the song when you get home.

You get on the train and open your book, Bright Lights, Big City. There’s nowhere to sit so you stand in an awkward position beside someone’s fold-up bicycle and obstructing the First Class doors. The compartment is almost empty and inviting. You notice that a man is asleep in there and wonder if he’s paid extra for that privilege. Adopting the most uncomfortable position you can, you lower your head try to read as the train departs. You quickly lose all conviction to read as soon as you finish the first few lines. After fraudulently turning a few pages, you look up and see the girl again. She is right next to you. The train moves a little too violently and knocks the unprepared girl into you.

You both smile at each other and have a little laugh with yourself. “Sorry,” she says.

“It’s ok,” you reply, “it’s a big bag! Cath Kidston, yeah?” This is the first time you’ve spoken to a girl like this in two years and there’s a very good reason why you don’t do it. You’re fucking terrible at it.
“Yeah it is,” she looks pleasantly surprised and a tiny bit suspicious. “How d’you know?”
Stop. The next answer could end the conversation and your chance to impress this girl. You are either one of three things: Into fashion (which is unlikely as your t-shirt proves); Gay; A well-researched present giver. You go with a joke and hope for the best. “I’m not gay, if that’s what you’re thinking.” You both laugh.

Stop. You realise that you may have got away with that one but it’s only temporary, and you now have to explain how you know this. The truth is that an ex girlfriend liked it and you brought presents for her. Answering this truthfully, specifically the word “ex” will end this straight away. You compromise. “I used to know someone who liked it.”

You quickly change the subject. “What do you do?” Well done, you sarcastically tell yourself in your head.

“I work in accounts, you know, boring stuff.” Her reply is wistful like she knows she can do better and her eyes open a little wider. You wonder what she is thinking. “How about you?”

“Oh, this and that.” You say with a smile so it sounds rather more mysterious than it is. “At the moment I’m studying but I do a few odd jobs here and there.”

She begins to look down slightly and you hope she doesn’t ask the most cliché over-asked question you always get asked and are bored of replying to.

“What are you studying?”

She’s asked the most cliché over-asked question.

“I’m studying books, writing, that kind of thing.” You hope this sounds more interesting than giving a straight answer and she looks back up again. You appear to have survived negative judgement for the moment.

You both exchange some small talk about how busy the train is, what books you like and even talk a bit about Star Wars, including making the Wookie noise you’re good at doing. You make each other laugh with little quips and are getting on very well. The conductor announces that you’re nearly at your destination. “Well,” you croak slightly losing the confidence your voice had. “Would you like to meet later? I mean here at the station. You know…” She is laughing a little at your stumbling and smiling. You have succeeded in being the correct kind of cute. “We could get the train back together, or maybe a tea?” In your mind you are like a Hollywood movie star appearing tall, gallant and oozing sex appeal. In the reflection of the glass in the train door, you see that you look on the verge of a panic attack.

“Yeah, I’d like that,” she replies.

You agree to meet and swap numbers. As you do, you realise you haven’t asked her name. As you go to ask, the train moves violently again, throwing you in her direction. You crash into the bicycle and look around to hide any embarrassment from the other passengers. The girl isn’t there. You’ve day dreamed through your entire journey after losing interest in the page you were pretending to read. You feel a small bit of pressure underneath your ribcage and consider yourself a complete fool for imagining yourself being cool and not looking like a complete bum.

As you get off the train, you look ahead to see a way through the crowd disembarking and you notice the girl and her bag. You wonder if you can go up to her and be the man you imagined you could be, but you decide not to embarrass yourself further. After all it is Monday and you look like shit, so you don’t take it too personally.