Call of Duty Advanced Warfare – Review

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It’s a little strange heading in to Call of Duty Advanced Warfare because I haven’t played a Call of Duty game in four years, my last being Black Ops. The series has come a long way in this, its first truly Next Gen outing. It hasn’t held back on its punches either by drafting big names like Kevin Spacey of American Beauty and House of Cards fame and Troy Baker of all video game voice fame (The Last of Us, Bioshock Infinite).

It’s weird because in a way, Call of Duty is almost a multiplayer game before it is a single player shooter. Sledgehammer Games have come on board along with Raven Software. If you don’t know, Raven have as much good pedigree as Sledgehammer, who created Dead Space and co-developed Modern Warfare 3. Raven have a wealth of awesome titles in their history including Hexen, Soldier of Fortune, Star Wars Jedi Knight 2/3 and Star Trek Voyager – Elite Force. The last game being not only an excellent shooter but quite possibly the best Star Trek game ever made. Just so you know who you’re dealing with.

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The comparisons between this game and Titanfall have been raging since its announcement and of course there are some. Respawn, who created Titanfall and were formerly Call of Duty developers, set themselves very squarely in a futuristic Mech-based vein and Advanced Warfare does at least one of these things and maybe riffs off others. In fairness to the game, that kind of thing is nothing that Halo 4 didn’t do before either of them, and the movement perks of the Exo Skeleton suit aren’t anything that isn’t in Destiny’s multiplayer. So as far as that goes, it’s one of those industry coincidences that happens from time to time. Like every game due for release in 2015 seems to have a monster called a “Kraken”… Trust me, you’ll notice that next year.

PC gamers might want to skip this paragraph. When it comes to the performance of Call of Duty, this game doesn’t disappoint, unlike Ghosts did before it. Everything is at 1080p on PS4 and an upscaled 1080p on the Xbox One. Don’t get grumpy yet. The game downscales as and when the quality is needed on the Xbox One (dynamic scaling) so the game holds a constant 60fps for the most part. The PS4 version does suffer occasionally with frame rate drops although to be honest these are not really that noticeable and are few and far between. So in theory, despite the resolution drops, this could be the first game on the Xbox One that outperforms the PS4. The game holds 60fps mostly though on both consoles, especially in the multiplayer, which is exactly what Call of Duty is known for and what the community has requested. So, job done in that sense, box ticked. The game is absolutely excellent though visually, as you’ll hear later with the work done on the actors. But there’s still something that makes everything feel a little blocky, a little sharp-edged maybe? It’s hard to describe and for the most part it excels in the graphical scrutiny but the city levels and the multiplayer at times feels a bit too angular compared to the complexion and work that is in other areas of the game.

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The campaign, in one regard, plays out like any Call of Duty game has since Modern Warfare – Massive set pieces in recognizable places with different types of military based gaming from tanks to boats, ground assaults, drone attacks and airplane dogfighting. In fact the story begins in an almost lawsuit-inducing similar way to Halo 3: ODST. Without spoiling anything, the story is as trite as an action military based plotline can be, and the series has still found a way –despite being set 50 years in the future – to bomb/assault Baghdad and jab at the North Korean’s with repelling an invasion of the South. Could have chosen anywhere in the world but no, still obsessed with modern Mesopotamia and introverted communist nations, aren’t we… I digress.

The thing is, regardless of whether or not you think the series is insensitive to any particular world view (regardless of the infamous “No Russian” mission), it has never pretended to be anything but fictitious entertainment in a terribly militaristic sense with a slight, possibly unintentional commentary on the state of the world at hand. Much like both versions of Red Dawn, except much better. Modern Warfare 2 had it with the grainy helicopter camera perspective of shooting white human outlines fleeing in a field in shots reminiscent of recent friendly fire footage. This game has it in its sense of accountability and bureaucratic freedom of private security and military forces, which if you’ve ever looked in to are a dangerous and scary proposition to the geopolitical conflicts at large. And, guess what, you’re part of one.

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No spoilers here, you should experience the game for yourself with its trips to Camp David, New Baghdad, Seoul and Greece, as well as the much-advertised San Francisco Golden Gate Bridge shootout. But in the other regard, the game comes in to its own with the care and attention taken in animating and voicing the two main characters. Troy Baker stars as Jack Mitchell, a Marine who’s prematurely ended career gets given a new lease of life under Kevin Spacey’s Jonathon Irons, and his corporation Atlas who develop military tech and are the worlds largest private security/military firm. The rest of the voice acting is as you’d expect in Call of Duty with Gideon Emery doing his best Jason Statham impression. But the two main names give some excellent performances, backed up by some incredible CGI animation of themselves both in cutscene and in-game sequences. Spacey’s performance is by no means the intense yet disturbingly compelling level that Frank Underwood is but as far as video games go this is a pretty big performance from a two-time Oscar and BAFTA winner and certainly some excellent casting. Both Baker and Spacey add a good bit of depth to a game which doesn’t really push the boat out in terms of narrative, but that’s not something you really care about in a Call of Duty game. You’re happy enough to just sit and be entertained, regardless of vaccum packed bodybags, terrorist threats and coordinated global destabilization that seem to be the go-to military plotlines in our post-24 gaming narratives.

The weapons for the most part seem well balanced, although at times the pistol, the Atlas 45, is completely gutless and other weapons, including a Minigun, seem to take an absolute age to kill people despite aiming for headshots. Possibly this is the trade off of futuristic armour, etc, that you can plough a guy with bullets from 6 feet away and still take 10 seconds to kill him. Despite being Advanced Warfare, nothing is too advanced to be outrageously fictional or space-age and everything – except a particular sniper rifle, EMP’s and interchangeable option grenades – aren’t that much out of the realms of your standard gun+bullet=shooting fare. It’s easy enough to get a grounding, get your preferred weapons and have at it. The little extra modifiers such as the bullet time-esque overdrive are cool to a point, and I do love using the Sonic noise option with the Exo suit and creating a mass of easy targets. But for the most part they only become usable in certain missions where they are designed to be used, like cloaking technology in a stealth mission. So your game style doesn’t really change or benefit from them. Which is a shame because, as you head to the end of the game, it would have been nice to actually benefit from these features rather than just use them like level-based perks. The biggest thing about the exo skeleton suit, the jumping and boost options are again only usable in certain missions so you don’t really get the full effect that you might have been hoping for in the single player campaign. But it has to be said that when you stealth kill some people with your grappling hook, especially when you rip a pilot out of mech suit and smash him face first into the ground, it is quite satisfying, despite the lack of times that you can do so.

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That’s where the multiplayer comes in to play. Super smooth gameplay, well designed maps, interesting gun gameplay and a fairly balanced leveling system which is easy to get up to an intermediate level. The game modes are well tested over years of Call of Duty multiplayer and their experience shows.   The exo skeleton in this mode is where it seems designed for. It allows you to jump farther, boost yourself around with relative ease and it feels perfectly balanced to the pace of the game. Most people I speak to say that Modern Warfare 2 was the height of the franchise’s multiplayer action and if that’s the case then this is just as good if not better. The Uplink mode, which is basically like Basketball or Halo’s Oddball/Headhunter game types, works incredibly well, especially with the elevated goal making use of the exo skeleton. This is certainly ticking all the boxes that the competitive gaming scene have asked for but it feels accessible enough that you can just jump in and have fun, not worrying about being smoked out by people who are already level 30+. At least that’s what it’s like at the moment. If you get used to playing then you’ll do well and for once, it seems like the games are balanced enough that it rewards someone who has a good game rather than people who camp and get cheap kills. At no point yet have I started screaming, “HACKS!” or “CHEATS!” or “Aren’t you aware there’s other games you could play or possibly read a book?” And at no point has my families gender or lifestyle been questioned or insulted in a triad of voice breaking abuse, so I’m happy.

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In all seriousness though, the multiplayer is a joy to play, and it’s not often I say that about a Call of Duty game. There isn’t the ridiculous kill perks that constantly wipe out the map every 40 seconds, or anything that really puts you out into a constant sprawl of death. Of course there are several times where you’ll have bad luck or a run of poor form but the game doesn’t make you feel put out or that you’re spefically at fault. It sounds weird but it’s enjoyable enough that you may have a bad game and you don’t immediately rage quit. It’s like the game sort of hugs you a little and says “never mind, give it another go.” The fact that matchmaking is rather quick and the performance in game is super smooth, definitely aids that decision to soldier on and get back to your fragging. Certainly, there are no launch server issues here. This means that even with a few hours play you can make some serious progress in your multiplayer gaming experience. There are several custom loadout options as you go through and unlock all the weapons and armour extras. There is a bit of avatar customization but it isn’t really that in depth, as in depth as you’d like anyway, but it’s a nice little touch in personalizing your online experience with different armour and hats (again something that has already been done quite well in the Halo games). All of the modes are there like capture the flag, deathmatch (both team and free-for-all), big team games, domination, objective destruction and a few modified playlists (like limited HUD and ranked play), with Zombies reportedly to return in DLC. Given that, as I remarked earlier, Call of Duty is almost a multiplayer game before it is a single player it is quite the improvement from previous years and a job well done.

The big question with this game and with the multiplayer specifically is whether the exo skeleton and the futuristic basis for the game really changes the Call of Duty franchise for the better. In one way, no because it is ultimately a plot point in the campaign that could have been any kind of technology and the multiplayer dynamics behind Call of duty Advanced Warfare are very good anyway, so much so that all it kind of provides is a jumping boost and opens a lot more of the maps up along with different combat tactics. In the other way it does because it really brings the franchise up to date with its competitors (Titanfall, Halo 4, Destiny) and has the benefit of seeing what they’ve done for the past three years and how to implement these new gaming styles in to their already well established and tested formula. In truth Call of Duty Advanced Warfare is the start of a new generation for the franchise that appears to have trimmed its last generation fat and stepped forward into a promising future. It doesn’t change too much but gives an entertaining package that you can rely on.

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[tab title=”Summary”]

Call of Duty Advanced Warfare benefits from a big overhaul in its multiplayer but to credit that purely on the exo skeleton would be unjust. The game feels generally a lot more balanced and whilst the suit is the selling point, it’s merely a vehicle for the rest of the fun the game has. The storyline is traditional Call of Duty fare despite the big name cast of Kevin Spacey and Troy Baker giving it some volume. This is a return to form for the franchise and feels like a well balanced and rewarding game and multiplayer, but it doesn’t jump out of anything that we kind of rely on with Call of Duty or push itself to really WOW us. A good, but comfortable effort.

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– Great visuals and performance

– Multiplayer mode is a vast improvement

– Exo Skeleton doesn’t make the game but certainly frees it up

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– It isn’t a huge reach from Call of Duty’s past

– Campaign story doesn’t push the boat out narratively

– Use of Exo skeleton in Campaign too restrained

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[tab title=”Why a 7.5?”]

This game is good. It is a return to form for the series and the exo skeleton does enough to revitalise some of the gameplay, but mostly revitalising the interest and the effort put in to the multiplayer mode as a whole. But, whilst visually stunning and with some good big name performances, it kind of sits comfortably on the Call of Duty mantle without pushing itself out to be the stand out game or completely wowing us. Definitely enjoyable and worth the 7.5 score but just misses on something higher due its lack of drive to really elevate the franchise up to the next level.

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This review is based on the PS4 version of the game

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[author]

The Rising Cost of Add-Ons and DLC

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Somewhere along the line, we lost faith as gamers that we were getting all that we paid for. Downloadable Content (DLC) has become a sticking point for many consumers who believe part of the game they paid for has been held back so the publisher/developer can milk some more heard earned coin from your digital pocket. This is regardless of the price, although this in itself has become more of a sticking point since the Next Generation consoles and game development costs have pushed the price of games up significantly in the past 24 months.

It also seems the higher costs appear to be based around publishers Activision and EA over most other publishers. How do I get that? Well I could have done some very deep research but the truth is that I didn’t have to. Here’s a list of Season Passes on the PS3 Playstation Store… Yes, there’s a dedicated section for them:

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  • Call of Duty Ghosts – £34.99
  • Alien Isolation – £24.99
  • Defiance – £24.99 (It is worth noting that Defiance is now a free-to-play game)
  • Sniper Elite 3 – £24.99
  • Destiny – £34.99
  • Battlefield 4 Premium – £39.99
  • GRID Autosport – £24.99
  • Assassins Creed 3 – £25.99
  • Assassins Creed 4 Black Flag – £15.99
  • Little Big Planet 2 DC Comics – £19.99
  • Borderlands 2 – £19.99

 

I’ve only selected some here. There are a lot that are free or that have dropped in price like The Last of Us. But it is easy to see why people are beginning to get angry when they are paying arguably the cost of a new game (based on internet retail prices) for DLC. This is a new area for retail where the availability of internet speed has basically made the retail space redundant for them to sell this extra content and they can price it as accordingly as they want.

Why do I mention the retail space? Because before DLC was the done thing, it was Add-Ons. In some cases they are still called that but the distinction for me in the current gaming industry vernacular would suggest that Add-Ons are physical copies of this extra content. This is something that has been in gaming for many, many years. Sonic and Knuckles was one of the first physical game add-ons although this was also a game in itself. Westwood had several different releases for the Command & Conquer series. Heroes of Might and Magic, Grand Theft Auto: London 1969, Half-Life… The list can go on and on.

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The biggest cash cow for this is undoubtedly the one that completely changed the market. It didn’t give the game much extra other than things to use in the game, and some extra spaces but that didn’t stop its rise to being one of the most profitable franchises in gaming history. The Sims had seven expansion packs which roughly retailed around $24.99/£19.99 from what I remember (I am looking for confirmation on prices and will update the article if they come). The Sims 2 had eight expansion packs and ten extra content packs. Although these all did add things to the games, if you had them all you would have spent well over $300 on getting them all. It’s hardly EA’s fault really. They had a product that people were willing to throw monumental amounts of money at and they said “fair enough”, and provided them with ways to do that. Regardless of your thoughts on EA, it was good business. And if the cost of their packages had an effect on the industry and kept prices stable then it would have been great. I suppose you could argue that historically, additional content for a game in the form of an expansion pack, or more common nowadays a season pass, has roughly been around half or 2/3 of the original game’s retail price.

That is possibly the problem though. There doesn’t seem to be any industry standard as to what a recommend retail price for add-ons or DLC should be. Partially because the content can vary so much as to what you get and partially because the publishers have to decide on the offset of profit versus development cost recovery. That’s sadly just business, any business. Regardless if us as gamers want to hear it, we should know that behind the art we love is a business that needs to survive under the insurmountable pressure of rising costs and international market difficulties. Don’t worry, I’m not looking for an argument or defending any one company here, but it needs to be said that there is a business behind us being provided with this entertainment.

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The problem with that business is that the regulation on it appears to be quite sketchy. PS Store, Wii Store, Xbox Live are all digital retail spaces. Physical retail stores (supermarkets, specialist retailers, etc) will also sell this content by code card. So there must be some portion of this that has to be compliant with fair pricing across the board. But the consumer does seem to get a bum deal out of all of this. When you buy Battlefield and Call of Duty (the latter arguably having the possibility to have the best selling game of the year, as it always does), you are paying around $44.99/£38.99 on average for the retail game and now with the next generation, that’s more like $64.99/£59.99. You expect to pay some money for some extra content but the amount of content that these games are providing, with mostly extra maps and gameplay modes (which the game must be ready to support at launch otherwise it’d be a major code rewrite), can cost a massive amount of money to the consumer in total. That’s not to say that you don’t get a lot of extra stuff though. In the case of Call of Duty Ghosts from Activision, the Onslaught, Devastation, Invasion and Nemesis packs (the Dynasty map is pictured), gives you 16 extra maps and some extra weapons along with episodic content for the Extinction series. In the case of Battlefield 4 from EA there are five extra packs, China Rising, Second Assault, Naval Strike, Dragon’s Teeth and Final Stand, making an additional 20 maps, three new game types and a load of extra weapons.

So much is available that the season passes seems to be the obvious way to get it all for a cheaper price. In the case of those two games (you can see the prices above on the Playstation Store list for the most recent releases) the season passes are nearly the price of another game. These are all for extra maps which you have no idea if you’d enjoy and in a way are forced to buy in order to continue your full enjoyment of the game. Why? Because someone WILL buy them and so will many others and if that stops your online enjoyment with everyone playing the new stuff you haven’t got then you either buy it or ditch the game. In the case of Xbox and Call of Duty, and Playstation with Destiny, these expansions are mostly exclusive to that console and the expansions are the selling point. Which when you think about it is a completely ridiculous concept when you just want to buy a game and could arguably be damaging to the industry. But again that is just business. Look at how television handles exclusivity of certain shows/licences to get subscribers to their packages or advertisers to their viewers, and how that’s damaged the public broadcasting sector.

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The price of those season passes you could argue is roughly in line with the price idea I made earlier and that the model is still fairly accurate; Half or 2/3’s of the original game’s retail price. But in the case of these games, like Destiny, we have no idea what we are getting for these season passes and if they quantify the amount of money we’re spending on them for the entertainment value we receive, regardless of work being put in. The two Destiny add-ons that are coming don’t appear to give us new planets or places to visit, but additional missions and story in the existing worlds. In fact we know so little about them that our cynicism is being unintentionally qualified. Watch_Dogs was another example of not knowing what the game will give us. We have a few extra modes for the in-game mini-games and now a new single player story add-on. But how much content is there that takes the developer more money than was already spent on the game at launch? How much money are these companies looking to make from the post-launch additional content? And how justified is it to market your game or your console’s exclusivity based on these maps/modes/skins/extras? Our cynicism is based around a game already having the additional content spaces ready and that the content we buy is merely assets for it, updates for it or just a patch that unlocks it. Before when this content was physically brought, we were kind of assured that there must be more than we had before otherwise what would be the point in having a new disk for it?

The rising cost of Add-Ons and DLC can partially be paired to the rising cost of games in general. But as the internet and journalism has begun to open the debate on this, and the gaming consumer becomes like any other consumer in a tricky economic climate, that being incredibly savvy and questioning, the conversation is only just beginning. Also with certain games being re-released with everything included some 12-18 months later for the same price as the original game, or with updated graphics for the new generation as well, this will add more focus on what makes good sense to a consumer. With the Christmas period around the corner and the publishers needs to release games on a yearly basis to maximise profit, we’ll see how this new generation handles the consumer when we feel that we are not getting enough for what we’re shelling out. I predict that some games will be guilty of doing less with their content in this regard and we can probably make predictions as to who will be more guilty than others. But in the next 12 months we’ll see how people will react to paying nearly 75% of the cost of the game for extra in that game, and I’m sure we’ll find out how much of that could have been included at launch.

[author]

Destiny – By The Numbers

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So it’s almost upon us, that time we’ve been waiting for since E3 2013. The time when Destiny comes to us and the Traveller will occupy our time solidly for the next 3-4 months.

So how many of us are actually waiting for that? And what is the deal with the numbers behind it? Let’s have a little run down, shall we?

Publisher Activision have said, although developer Bungie have disagreed with this in part, that Destiny has cost up to $500 million to make. That would make it the most expensive video game ever developed. A record that is currently held by Rockstar’s Grand Theft Auto V. Take Two and Rockstar reportedly spend around $115 million to develop the game and $150 million on marketing it, making a grand total of $265 million in total development cost. That figure would be nearly doubled if Activision’s account of costs are true. Bungie have said that the development costs went no where near that figure and that Activison would need to tell you how much they’ve spent on marketing. Although Take Two’s Q3 profits for 2013 thanks to GTA 5 were $1.62 billion so I’m sure they’re happy.

GTA 5 also shifted 32.5 million copies to make that figure. Destiny has already got a lot of pre-orders going for it, more than Watch_Dogs. The figures suggest that Destiny has beaten Watch_Dogs previous record of being the most pre ordered game for next-generation consoles and is the most Pre ordered new IP (intellectual property) in history. So how does this work out? Time for some maths:

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The Pre Order chart for the US (dated the week ending 23rd August) shows the Destiny pre-orders at that time. That was three weeks ago though so this could have grown quite exponentially. The next-generation console pre-orders total up to around 1,584,897 copies in the US alone. (we couldn’t find the EU figures unfortunately). All format pre-orders make that total 2,016,517 units. Now looking at Amazon.com, the prices of the two most readily available copies, the standard edition and limited edition, are priced respectively at $59.96 and $99.99 for all formats. Some numerical jiggery-pokery makes that an average price of $79.98. So how much have the pre-orders potentially made them? Well that would be a cool $161,281,029… That’s just over $161 million.

That figure is of course conjecture and not at all official. That does not however show any figures for the EU and other territories and obviously cannot legislate for how many people will actually buy it on the day of release either. Those records are currently held by Grand Theft Auto V.

The records that GTA 5 holds are incredible and it would take some monumental effort to beat them. The Guinness Book of Records shows that GTA 5 sold 11.21 million units in its first 24 hours. For Destiny to do that pretty much everyone that owns a PS4 would have to buy it and at least half of the people with an Xbox One if console sales figures are to be believed. GTA 5 made $815.7 million in the first 24 hours which is more than Marvel’s The Avengers and Guardians of The Galaxy films made in their opening weekends combined. Destiny has that potential but we’ll have to wait and see. The three records Destiny could potentially break at launch are: Best selling video game in 24 hours, Highest grossing video game in 24 hours and Highest grossing entertainment product in 24 hours.

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It is something that Bungie have done before however. When Halo 3 was released way back in 2007, it completely smashed then record holder Spider-Man 3 as the biggest US entertainment launch in history, making $170 million at launch. That also beat the final Harry Potter book as well and was helped by the 1.7 million pre-orders of the game.

The figures will be interesting given that, except for Watch_Dogs, this is the most high profile next generation release. It will dictate how many other games will go about their business in the years to come of this generation. I’m pretty sure the pre-order figures for the US also don’t include any console bundle pre-orders nor do they count the digital download platforms of Xbox Live and Playstation store. We’ll know for sure at the end of the week but one thing for certain is that the business end of Destiny will be talked about for as long and in as much detail as the game playing side will be.

[author]

Xbox Report – GamesCom 2014

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It’s that time of year again where the post-E3 glow has faded and another mid-summer pep up is needed to remind you to spend your Autumn cash. However before we go in to anything, I feel that, given the fallout from earlier, a glossary is needed for your understanding. So here we go:

Exclusive: A game or DLC that is only available on one console.

Timed Exclusive: A game or DLC that is available on one console for a period of time before being released to other consoles/platforms.

First on Console: A game that may already be out on other platforms but will appear on this console first, before others, with a time not determined.


 

So here is the big news of the day:

Rise of the Tomb Raider, the sequel to the incredibly well received Tomb Raider reboot of 2012 and the definitive Next-Gen editions, will be an Xbox exclusive. You might well have already seen the meltdown that this has caused on social networks and a fairly glib press release from Crystal Dynamics as to their reasons why. The facts are this: Sony’s twenty year relationship with heroine Lara Croft is at an end. The numbers we are assured add up, despite 10 million PS4’s being sold and supposedly outselling the Xbox One 3:1 along with the previous game outselling on PS4 2:1. I’m sure more will come over the coming months to explain what is seen as a very corporate and business based move.

Xbox One - WhiteSecondly is the big news on console packages that are being released. FIFA 15 will come with a console package as will, curiously, Sunset Overdrive with an exclusive white console. These are the standard Xbox One’s compared to the package shipping with Call of Duty Advanced Warfare.

So far, you’d be forgiven for thinking that the new Call of Duty was an Xbox One exclusive. It’s not but the communications certainly feel that way both in magazines and in the press. The timed exclusivity of DLC for Xbox is the only thing about the game that is completely Xbox for the time being. However the new package of a custom skinned Xbox and a digital version of the Day Zero edition along with a custom pad and (this is the big unit shifter) a 1TB (read that TERRABYTE) hard drive. That is actually a pretty sweet package and the single player gameplay footage looked very good. You may have many comparisons already but none of your games have Jason Statham sound-a-likes saying “bastards” after the Golden Gate Bridge is reduced to rubble.

In fact that swear made me note how the trailer for Sunset Overdrive was censored for saying ass. The console package is a strange one for this exclusive as there is an uncertainty about the game, if it is as good as it promises to be and if Xbox are putting way too many eggs in their basket. It looks very colourful, crazy and anarchic. But so did Brink… Remember Brink?

Of course you want to know about Halo and what we learned. Well, not much that we didn’t already know. We got to see some excellent footage running at a slightly weird 60 fps (weird as I’m so used to not seeing that in a Halo game) and that the new Netflix-esque Halo Channel (a newer sibling of Halo Waypoint) will give us exclusive game reward based content, social experiences and a whole lot more, including of course Halo Guardians.

The best news though is that the silence has broken over Quantum Break. Ever the coolest dude on planet earth, Sam Lake graced the stage and presented a time-bending third person action adventure where you can manipulate your world to your advantage in an effort to fix time, which has been broken by a big mean corporate baddy. Think the bullet time mechanics of Max Payne, or the Lucasarts game Fracture or Sierra’s Timeshift, with a story kind of like The Philadelphia Experiement (younger readers may need to search that one) that meets Quantum Leap/Sliders. But it looks pretty cool, even if we aren’t entirely sure why.

Fable Legends gave us a peek into the eye of evil, allowing us to play as THE bad guy, as opposed to playing a guy making evil choices. Forza Horizon 2 looked and played like a glossy Need for Speed Rivals cum Burnout with a bigger car set. Infact they also released the first ever Rolls Royce for a racing game and the new Formula E Renault Spark car for Forza 5 for free download, the latter of which is actually sitting in front of me in reality.

The casual mentions of Grand Theft Auto 5 were there along with a load of exclusive footballers for FIFA 15’s legends in Ultimate Team. Presented by Peter Schmeichel who effortlessly picked himself and his countrymen, the Laudrup brothers. The new mode has the England legends of Sir Bobby Moore and Alan Shearer along with Irish man mountain Roy Keane and Jay-Jay Okocha… Yes, you read that right.

The big kudos has to go to ID@Xbox, the indie game division. Because the line up for that is outstanding. All of these will be first on console (see your glossary) and include such big hitters as Plague Inc. Goat Simulator, Smite, Speed Runners (that should be excellent on consoles) and the fantastic Space Engineers. All of which have lit up steam and YouTube for the past year. There’s also Fruit Ninja Kinect 2, Frontier’s exclusive SteamRide (a Rollercoaster Tycoon/PAIN hybrid) which is an interesting development given the big IP that Frontier currently have that has been touted to grace consoles in future, and the very very quaint and exciting prison RPG The Escapists from Team 17, who will also be giving their back catalogue to the Xbox. Another indie exclusive is the beautiful art platformer Ori and the Blind Forest for which will also come to PC with its Trine/Child of Light-esque visuals and reality warping puzzles. Very pretty.

Down on the floor I got to get a hands on with Call of Duty, Halo 2, Forza Horizon 2, Minecraft Xbox One edition and Dying light along with some lovely demonstration gameplay of everything else. Keep your eyes peeled to TheGameJar and our twitter feeds throughout the week.

We got to see some videos of other games which were certainly interesting but not exclusive. The big story here though is the massive coup, if you want to call it that of snagging Tomb Raider away from what’s seen as its rightful home, new consoles and a great batch of indie games. The console maybe be statistically falling in sales to the PS4 but don’t count out the Xbox One yet. There is life and that life does indeed look very exciting.

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Why Can’t We Lose? – A Treatise on Multiplayer Gaming Behaviour

The other day, I was minding my own business, driving a tense 3-lap multiplayer race in a Williams at Brazil on F1 2013. I was running second and my teammate was ahead. I was catching. Turn 4, the Descida do Lago saw my teammate miss the corner entirely, going off in a straight line and promptly disconnecting. Here was my chance for my first victory. No one had deliberately smashed me off the road yet, or missed braking at a corner due to lag. Somehow I was slow coming out of turn 11 and the Lotus of “random number 1” closed in. I held the racing line all the way to the final kink in the start-finish straight. My opponent moved to undercut me using the pit lane entrance. I held the line (which uses that part of the track), making my car wide with minimal movement and blocking his path. I crossed the line, I felt relieved and ecstatic.

Those of you who’ve played a Codemasters F1 quick race will know how infuriating it is and almost impossible to win due to other players. So after I left the game, I was surprised to find a message on my Xbox Live account from none other than “random number 1” which read, quite literally, as such:

“y the f%@k did you block me i was goin to win you d*$k”

Call-of-Duty-Ghosts-Multiplayer 2Far be it for me to rise to this and point out that this person had not only missed his lesson on how to spell but also the lesson on the ethos of motor racing (virtual or otherwise), I simply blocked his communication. But it played on me, why this person was so intent that I’d wronged them, and why the win was so important to either of us. I was reminded of a Call of Duty: Ghosts livestream I watched last week with a well-known YouTube gamer. He’d had a very good game and at the end of the match (which his team won 75-46) one of the opposing team, “random number 2,” voiced his discontent at his other teammate’s kill/death ratio as follows:

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“Really? 2-15 and 5-19, get the f%@k off you guys f@%king suck. You guys are f%@king garbage.”

It occurred to me that the necessity to win completely obliterated the desire to win for these people and as such the enjoyment in playing a game. So much so that people will shift any kind of blame away from themselves, or refuse to concede that luck or skill did not favour them at that particular moment. This isn’t confidence and self-belief in refusing to fail, but more of a childish response with very little concept of failure and over inflated self-entitlement. So what is it about games (multiplayer modes in particular) that make some people revert to a very basic childhood behavioural trait?

As far as I’ve found, none of the psychological studies (and there are some very damning, ill researched and downright deliberately discrediting studies out there) actually take in to account adults in the effects of playing video games, at least not past the age of 21. Most studies revolve around teenagers and children, which to me is quite shocking. As I started searching the general psychological consensus on this kind of “must win” mentality, all of the studies revolved around children playing games. Not video games in particular but all games. A blog I found pointed out “children take great pleasure in their victory – and in our defeat.” With young children, “one typically encounters a fantasised self possessing a staggering array of abilities, virtues and talents.”

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I’m sure that all of us at one point pretended we could fly and did so by running with our arm raised in front of us. It never occurred to us that we couldn’t actually fly and were actually just running around. Until someone – probably a maths swot that no one ever liked but in 25 years time became the most attractive, intelligent and happiest person (if stereotypes are anything to go by) – pointed out that we couldn’t fly and just looked stupid. To which we all replied, “No I don’t” and carried on. But the shame and sense of failure we had resonated and slowed our running down to a crawl. We had lost this battle of imagination against reality and suitably picked up our imaginary cape and licked our wounds.

But the key word there when it comes to video games is “lost”. Video games by definition do not reflect winning or losing. Yet the nature of games involves a player having to beat something. A scenario, points, challenge, antagonist… Whatever it is, you feel that you are achieving a landmark victory in the battle against the artificially created obstacles in your way. When you do, you get an endorphin rush that satisfies you. You cannot however lose. You may stumble, you may rage quit, you may even put a game to the side to cook dinner, or get married or something crazy. But you never, ever lose. At worst, you only delay winning. Of course there are a couple of exceptions but for the most part that is the case. So, back to the psychology, how do you teach someone to lose, gracefully or otherwise? After all it is a highly important aspect of our development of maturity and continuation of life, no? The blog I found suggests not “lectures” or “strict reinforcement” but “practice” and “emulation of admired adults.”

MLGSA1-2012-DRG-victoryWhen it comes to video games and especially broadcasted gaming the level of positive role models are extremely low. There are very little examples of dignified communication between players. If you’ve ever watched a competitive MLG FPS tournament or some such event, and seen how the competitors speak to each other and act, dignity isn’t an applicable word. Dignitas is probably more applicable. Unlike the multiplayer days of old which involve two people looking at the same screen in the same personal space, the disconnection of physical players takes away an important factor in your behavioural response, that of being judged poorly by the other person.

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Which is what leads me here to my conclusion in this fairly ambiguous treatise. One of the reasons it is so important to win – to the level of being personally insulted by those who experience defeat with you – is due to the fact that there are little to zero positive role models currently to communicate this important life aspect of how to lose, in an environment specifically tailored to solely winning.

The other reason is that these people are simply tools.

However, until we can teach these players to treat and react to other players as if they are in the same room as them and get them to behave accordingly, I’m just going to have to put up with the constant abuse of my poor online gaming skills and continue hitting that “block” button.

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Links: PsychologyToday

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