Quick Update

I’ve been appallingly bad at blogging over the past couple of months. What can I say, life gets busy some times!

In the world of all things Digital Salad, I’ve been promoted at work. I’m now officially a Manager in charge of a team. Not bad at the tender age of 24, but now it’s the hard work of actually proving I can do it!

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Work hasn’t been the only thing I’ve been up to though. Although I’ve got the time to game, and even the money to put into it if I wanted to, I’ve been more and more of a ‘filthy’ casual gamer recently. I’m still in a bit of a transition with my gaming, but a quick run down of what’s been happening:

  1. I uninstalled GTA V pretty spontaneously back in August and haven’t looked back since. I took a hard look at whether I was actually having fun and decided it was far from it! Not to say it’s not a good game, I just wasn’t enjoying it anymore. I uninstalled it and haven’t looked back, I’ve not wanted to play it for even a second since – which is far less regrets that I thought I’d have about it.
  2. Guild Wars 2 has made a come back! I’ve reinstalled it and been playing it for the first time in two years. Not that much has changed and I’m really enjoying taking it easy and playing a little bit here and there. giphy (1)
  3. I’m also really looking forward to the full release of Prison Architect this Tuesday. I’ve been following the game in alpha for ages and it’s great to see it finally reach the finish line. I’m looking forward to setting up a new prison full of gangs and (most likely) a lot of chaos.
  4. We’ve also invested in a PS4. A little late to the party, but better late than never! We’ve been really enjoying getting back on to the console gaming train. In particular we’ve been enjoying Assassin’s Creed Unity, which although rightly ridiculed for being so buggy on release, is without a doubt the most fun Assassins Creed game to date if you ask me. I’m really enjoying powering through it, and the multiplayer is even quite fun!
  5. Now that we have a PS4 I’ve also been looking into the many games which are slated for release prior to christmas. I’m definitely interested in Assassins Creed Syndicate and Star Wars Battlefront, as well as some others, but I’m going to wait and see how they’re received on release. I’m a patient gamer these days! giphy (2)

That’s the run down of my gaming, but I’ve been up to far more besides! I’ve been reading Joe Abercrombie’s first book The Blade Itself. I originally discovered the series from the stand-alone sequel The Heroes – which is one of my favourite books ever. I thought it would be a good idea to read some more of Abercrombie’s stuff and I’ve not regretted it at all – I love Abercrombie’s fantasy worlds. I’m hoping to do a review once I’ve finished it.

I’ve also been watching Star Trek Deep Space 9 on DVD. I’ve blogged before about my love of Star Trek The Next Generation since childhood. Aside from TNG I’ve only watched the occasional episode of other series in the canon, so I’ve set to watching Deep Space 9. It’s no Next Generation, and Sisko is no Picard, but its been fun. I’m also hoping to do a blog post about my thoughts on Deep Space 9 once I’ve finished it as well! 
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Last but not least, Life As A Digital Salad has a new look which I’m excited about! Hopefully you’ll be hearing more from me soon.

Digital Salad – lifeasadigitalsalad.wordpress.com

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Salad In A Sticky Spot

I have a difficult choice to make right now.

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Rockstar announced the upcoming release dates of GTA V on PC and PS4/Xbone. I’m tempted, even though I already have it on the Xbox 360.

I want to be able to play GTA V Online with friends (although I’ll have to find some of them on GTA V in the meantime as well!). But, do I wait until Jan 2015 for the PC version or take the plunge and buy a PS4?

I’ve been seriously looking at getting a PS4 with CakeBoxFox. There’s some games coming up that we both fancy; and it would be a replacement for our aging Xbox 360 that is rapidly nearing the end of its natural life.

Thing is, there’s still not enough games on the PS4 to get us running out to the shops to buy one. Maybe there eventually will be; perhaps GTA V could be that watershed.

Extra problematic is that I’ll need a new PC to be able to run GTA V. My current one’s taken a beating for far too long and needs a replacement if I want to do some serious gaming on it.

I react a little like this to my PC right now
I react a little like this to my PC right now

So, either way it’s going to be expensive – but which would be the best? Its the decision a lot of gamers are going through right now. I really don’t know personally, so comment and tell me what you think!

Digital Salad – lifeasadigitalsalad.wordpress.com

Digital Salad Answers

A slightly different blog today, following up from this one over at Healing The Masses. I really enjoy reading J3w3l’s blogs, so reading her answers to the questions (originally from this post) was genuinely really interesting. So, with that in mind I thought I’d give them a go as well!

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  • When did you start playing video games?

Back in 1997 I think was the first time I played a video game – the same year I got an original PlayStation for Christmas.

  • What is the first game you remember playing?

The first video game I remember was one of two games that came with the PlayStation in a bundle. There was a generic racing game (some things never change!) and Disney’s Hercules. I am ashamed to admit that that is the first game I remember playing, and it was pretty decent. Here’s a play through of it which I was amazed to find on youtube:

  • PC or Console

I’ve got to admit to being a PC kinda guy. I recently blogged about my Xbox 360 turning into an elaborate DVD player, for the lack of much gaming going on on it. I still appreciate having a console, but I’ll always lean towards the PC.

  • XBox, PlayStation, or Wii? 

I think the Wii is a fantastic invention in the gaming world, one of the best things to have hit it in a long long time. So in that way, I guess Wii. The one I’d buy if money wasn’t an option? A Playstation!

  • What’s the best game you’ve ever played? 

I’m going to have to pick Mount & Blade Warband for that one. It’s nothing special in many ways, but for the simple replayability and second-to-none modding community its earned every minute of my hundreds of hours of gameplay over the years. It’s my favourite all time game.

  • What’s the worst game you’ve ever played? 

London Racer.

No doubt about it, the worst game I have ever had the misfortune to play.

I bought it on the original PlayStation with my pocket money as a kid, and well, I would’ve got more pleasure from flushing it down the loo.

The most appalling game ever. If you want to see why see this very helpful review!

  • Name a game that was popular/critically adored that you just didn’t like.

Nothing special here, I’m going to say Watch Dogs most of all. I pick Watch Dogs because despite the huge furore it kicked up with its hype-train and failure to live up to that hype-train I wanted to give it a go, I gave it a chance and it just spat on me for trying.

Watch Dogs, I really tried to like you, but you were just crap.

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  • Name a game that was poorly received that you really like.

Back in the day Joint Operations: Typhoon Rising was pretty revolutionary. There was a loyal group of fans that played it, the first ever open world modern battle scenario game, but eventually it just wasn’t mainstream enough and the developer went bust.

Definitely a sad loss, as that means that the fantastic multiplayer is now defunct. I really miss Joint Ops, a modern military game that could still rival any of the big hitters in that category today. It was visionary, ahead of its time, but sadly overlooked on the whole.

  • What are your favourite game genres?

Favourite genre these days would probably be nothing in particular, but certainly including open world. I’ve been spoilt I guess, I’ve come to expect a big and diverse game world and anything short of that just seems half-baked.

I’ve lost the MMO bug though, with are about as thorough as an open world gets, so I’m a complicated one for likes and dislikes!

  • Who is your favourite game protagonist?

I’d probably say Johnny Klebitz from the GTA IV Lost and the Damned DLC. A strange choice, and I don’t even know myself why I grew to like Johnny so much.

*spoiler*

That said, when Trevor ruthlessly murders Johnny in the first moments of meeting him in GTA V, I was shocked. So shocked that he killed off a character I had grown to like over many hours before that I still can’t bring myself to forgive Trevor. It’s the main reason I don’t like Trevor as a character in GTA V. I guess I don’t forgive easily! That reaction made me realise, though, that Johnny was probably one of my favourite video game protagonists despite his flaws.

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  • Describe your perfect video game.

My perfect video game would probably be a GTA V meets an RPG. Design your character, give them stats you want. More focus on buying and upgrading equipment, as well as levelling up, and then buying a property/stuff and making it look how you want.

I know GTA Online does a lot of that, and I want to try it for those features, but I want those in a singleplayer game – ‘cus I’m anti-social like that!

  • What video game character do have you have a crush on?

Thats a really difficult one. Honestly, I wouldn’t like to say. I think there’s such a shocking lack of female characters in video games full stop that it’s a bit ingenuous to name a favourite of the few there are. We need more!

  • What game has the best music? 

Europa Universalis 2 has a soundtrack that sticks with me. It’s purely classical music, so be warned. But as far as soundtracks go it’s perfectly chosen and well placed.

  • Most memorable moment in a game:

Loads of moments stick with me from all sorts of video games.

Probably the most memorable of all is the end sequence of Red Dead Redemption where John goes down fighting. The character you’ve played with for hours and grown close to sacrificing himself for what he believes in.

  • Scariest moment in a game:

The scariest moment time and time again in a video game has to come from Mount & Blade: Warband Napoleonic DLC. With how long it takes to reload, you get very drawn into the process of ducking, reloading and firing. You get in the zone.

I have jumped off my seat when I am going through that, fighting as best I can, when I have spontaneously exploded in the impact of a cannon ball without warning. That is genuinely terrifying when you don’t expect it.

I also hate games where you’re on your own against the world – FarCry series style. I like to have a companion along for the ride!

I don’t play many scary games if you couldn’t tell!

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  • Most heart-wrenching moment in a game?

The most heart-wrenching moment in a video game I have ever played is a small one really.

Back when it was released I thoroughly enjoyed playing through Red Dead Redemption. I completed it over a couple of months and grew very fond of my lovely dark brown horse. He lasted until very near the end when he get caught in the crossfire of one of the final shootouts.

I was genuinely devastated. I’d really built up a friendship with my horse; so well done Rockstar on tugging on my heartstrings once again.

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  • What are your favourite websites/blogs about games?

I like to to keep and eye on loads of websites and blogs. I like to dip into them all, so I couldn’t list them all!

Special favourites are those that talk about other things as well as gaming, like my good friend Murf. It’s nice to remember that gaming is a part of us as humans, it’s not the only thing that defines us!

  • What’s the last game you finished? 

Grand Theft Auto 5. A fantastic game, although I don’t think you ever fully finish it I finished the story a few months back.

  • What future releases are you most excited about? 

I’m quite excited about Assassins Creed Unity and The Order: 1886 on the next generation consoles. I don’t have one, but these’ll be the first games that truly tempt me to buy one.

Most anticipated game of the future overall though is Mount & Blade: Bannerlord. No scheduled release date yet, but I’m a big fan of the previous installments, so I’ve got my hopes set high for the next outing.

  • Do you identify as a gamer?

Not these days, no. Until recently I definitely would have done, but somewhere along the line I think I’ve fallen out of the gaming loop. Maybe I’ll catch the bug again sometimes soon, but that doesn’t stop me enjoying my old favourites in the mean time.

  • Why do you play video games? 

I play video games for fun. I watched the Lord Of The Rings films as a kid and I wanted to be in that world (hey, I was a real geek). Video games gave me the best way of being a part of that world, living my dreams and enjoying them. That’s what video game mean to me.

So that’s it, I hope you enjoyed my answers!

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Digital Salad – lifeasadigitalsalad.wordpress.com

 

Digital Salad: Watching Watch_Dogs

Watch Dogs is the latest big release and I decided to pick it up and give it a go. I recently blogged that I’m beginning to realise that I’m something of a classic gamer nowadays; so I wanted Watch Dogs to be, perhaps my last, foray in to cutting edge new games. I wanted to see if it wowed me, to see what I thought of the much lauded new franchise that looks set to stay.

So, here’s the Digital Salad review of Watch Dogs on the Xbox 360; although it is available on all other consoles!

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Ubisoft’s latest offering, Watch Dogs, has been out for a month or so and much has been written about it’s highs and lows. IGN reviewed the game and gave it 8.4 out of 10, which seems a fairly solid score.

I’ve been playing around with Watch Dogs for a while since I picked it up, completing a few missions but mostly just exploring the open world – and more often than not getting myself killed or horrendously stuck. Just open world things!

The first that strikes me, and seems to have struck nearly every player, is the absolutely appalling driving in Watch Dogs. Cars are a big part of the game, they’re the only reasonable way to get around the large map quickly, and you get access to all sorts of different vehicles over time. Its something they needed to get right, but got oh so very wrong.

Granted, Ubisoft Montreal haven’t ever really made a game with driving in before. Given that though, they should honestly have got some support with the driving mechanics because they are so awful it really hurts the overall gameplay and enjoyment. It really is that bad, and is the main reason why IGN marked it down in their review.

Not including shooting whilst driving as a mechanic is another part of the poor overall driving experience, and leads to far more frustrations than it should. I’m right behind the mark I’m tasked with taking down but I can’t shoot them off the road, collision damage is limited and there’s no hacking opportunities nearby – you just have to wait for them to crash themselves in that situation!

Driving is awful in Watch Dogs
Driving is awful in Watch Dogs

Talking of the screenshot above, the graphics look awful on the older generation of consoles. A lot of current generation console gamers took to the internet to vent their frustrations, many accusing Ubisoft of purposefully degrading current generation graphics to sell more next generation copies.

Honestly, I don’t suspect such an underhanded plan from Ubisoft, but it does feel a little bit like they didn’t really try enough with the current generation copy. That’s fair enough, its now a dying platform, but it still feels a little sad that they didn’t both to provide for so many gamers.

The story was touted as a ground breaking aspect of Watch Dogs, playing a hacker who can control the world around himself and use it to his advantage against the dystopian politicians and bureaucrats who use it to – to be honest, generally stop crime. CTOS, the government’s anti-crime system that hacker and protagonist Aiden Pearce breaks into and uses to his advantage, isn’t really all that far fetched. I think Ubisoft wanted that to be some sort of social statement, but throughout the whole game the only person who really is doing bad with it is the protagonist Aiden Pearce.

The story is not all that great to be honest, Aiden isn’t likeable in the slightest and seems like a walking cliche. Not only that but he makes himself into judge, jury and executioner in what is a very grey world of ethics.

CTOS servers in game
CTOS servers in game

The hacking, one of the most core mechanics of the game, is pretty boring. It’s not all that different from the game world, touted as open and dynamic – but, within an hour I was seeing the same info snippets pop up for different random civilians. It doesn’t wow me, the world is just too empty and the hacking too shallow. All you can really do is open some doors, raise some barriers and steal some details. Neither element is all that groundbreaking.

All in all, Watch Dogs feels far too much like a modern Assassins Creed knock-off. Many of the aspects of Watch Dogs, produced in the very same studio as all the Assassins Creeds, resemble those in its Assassin counterpart. Honestly, though, Watch Dogs would have benefitted from taking on a few more of the elements from its successful cousin. The Chicago of Watch Dogs is ready made for the parkour of Assassins Creed, but Aiden Pearce is condemned to the ground or as high as ladders can take him. I really really wished parkour had been carried across to Watch Dogs.

It was almost inevitable that I was going to end up mentioning Assassins Creed in this review, and isn’t entirely fair to compare the newborn Watch Dogs franchise with its older, mega-successful, relation. Watch Dogs is a good game, just nowhere near good enough to justify the intense hype surrounding it before release.

I have had fun with Watch Dogs, but there’s a nagging disappointment for the the expectations it didn’t live up to. Without the hype upping my expectations before I bought the game, that wouldn’t be there and I would just be content playing through what is a good, solid game. I think that’s perhaps the biggest lesson the gaming industry needs to learn right now, hype is not necessarily good.

All in all, Watch Dogs gets 3 out of 5 from Digital Salad. Its disappointing in many ways compared to the hype, but remains a good game that is worth a good chunk of your time.

 

Watch Dogs

 

 Digital Salad – lifeasadigitalsalad.wordpress.com

Digital Salad: Dynasty Warriors 8

I recently bought a copy of the latest Dynasty Warriors, released about a year ago. CakeBoxFox and I have been fans of the Warriors series for ages now, and love it most of all for its sit on the sofa co-op. Getting the latest outing, number 8, was a given for us. If you’ve never played a Warriors game before, give this a read and it’ll hopefully give you an idea of the game – if you are familiar it might help explain whether its worth pushing the boat out to buy the latest version.

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Dynasty Warriors is something really special in the world of gaming for me.

Healing The Masses did a great post this week talking about the most influential games to her. On my list, the Warriors series would feature very high.

Dynasty Warriors primarily is about the co-op. It’s a shadow of itself when you play it on your own, so grab a friend and sit on the sofa for a roller-coaster ride. You will argue, but then you’ll also triumph against hordes of enemies fighting back to back – and there’s no victory better than that!

That’s what Dynasty Warriors is though, and to be brutally honest there hasn’t been much to differentiate previous version from one another. There was Dynasty Warriors, there was Dynasty Warriors Empires, there was Dynasty Warriors Xtreme Legends (bet they thought that sounded cool). Then there was Samurai Warriors, Samurai Warriors Empires, Samurai Warriors Xtreme Legends and not forgetting, Orochi Warriors.

Personally, I’ve always liked Samurai Warriors the best. Orochi is good fun, a fantasy blend of Samurai and Dynasty Warriors together, but my personal choice has always been the Samurai.

Fuma - Saumrai Warriors poster boy and an incredibly frustrating enemy to fight.
Fuma – Saumrai Warriors poster boy and an incredibly frustrating enemy to fight.

Honestly, I think I’m perhaps not dissimilar to the hordes of people who buy every installment of COD one after another, knowing that there’s very little change between each one. My reasons are definitely similar; I enjoy the formula and I’m hungry for more maps and different settings for that same formula. So, I really wouldn’t recommend buying more than one or two different Warriors games unless you seriously like them.

What’s not to like about that formula though? Charging into hordes of enemies and carving through them with ruthless attacks and sometimes absolutely beautiful special attacks. It’s great fun, especially if you’re playing with a friend and do your special ‘Musou’ attacks together – which does a special super attack. They are fantastic fun to pull off and look amazing.

Dynasty Warriors 8 promised to be something special and new though – so is it?

A character using a harp as a weapon. Just Dynasty Warriors things.
A character using a harp as a weapon. Just Dynasty Warriors things. (borrowed picture)

Basically no, to cut it off in its prime.

They really did hype up the new features of DW8, but I can see the ghosts of Warriors past running strong through it. That’s not a bad thing at all, and it remains a very good outing for the series. The thing is though, its not all that special as far as the series goes – none of them are individually special; aside from perhaps the new direction the original Orochi went in. It’s the overall picture that matters.

DW8 has a solid story if you are interested, but its the same old for me and yet I still somehow don’t care. The only thing that gets on my nerves about it at all is that the combat seems to have been slowed down overall. I loved the hyper-fast combat of previous Warriors games, but they seem to have toned back the speed dial on DW8, which is a real shame. That could just be the system struggling though.

I have DW8 on the Xbox 360, and with the graphical updates of this version the game noticeably lags out at any moment when you get into a big fight. That’s just when you don’t it to lag, and it gets really irritating. That’s just the older generation of consoles struggling under the burden of so much going on, so I don’t particularly blame Koei for that. Its just such a shame that the technology hampers the impact of DW8 a little.

That said, if you’ve never played a Warriors game, I would really recommend picking up a copy. Grab a friend and play it co-op, the game only shines when you’re sitting next to your comrade in arms – and that’s why I love Koei for sticking with sofa co-op. Warriors games are the king of sofa co-op.

Creepy stock picture of co-op gaming with friends
Creepy stock picture of co-op gaming – Dynasty Warriors 8 is co-op gold

It’s a shame they didn’t put DW8 on the next generation consoles, because I’m sure it would have shined there. That said, Koei have decided to go PlayStation exclusive with their next games, which will be on both the next generation and older. Yet another reason why the PS4 gets the Digital Salad vote in the next generation console face off!

 

Digital Salad – lifeasadigitalsalad.wordpress.com

Digital Salad: Who Is Buying Next Gen Consoles?

Next Generation consoles, the PS4 and Xbox One, have been out since November. Despite a very slow start to exclusive next gen releases, the consoles have been selling strongly (according to the companies themselves at least!). I was wondering exactly who was buying the consoles though, so I put on my Geographer hat and delved in to the demographics. It’s a more interesting dig for info than you might think!

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The consoles have settled in now, getting on for 6 months after release. Games are still short on the ground, but more and more are trickling out – like this week’s Titanfall for the Xbox One. The big question before release was which console was going to win the war?

That question has now, largely, been answered. PS4 had a wider launch (48 countries versus 13), Sony has claimed to have sold 4.2 million consoles versus Microsoft’s claim of 3 million consoles, and the PS4 remains the cheapest. Nearly every poll, as well, puts the PS4 just slightly ahead of the Xbox One for desirability.

So, the PS4 takes the crown from the Xbone for now.

That argument has now been settled. I wanted to look a bit past that and look into exactly who is buying these consoles, whichever one they pick.

Being released in November, the real big target was Christmas. The previous installments of both consoles topped Christmas lists for kids for years. Christmas 2013 was a little different though, with the PS4 and Xbox One falling behind other toys such as LEGO (as a childhood LEGO fanatic I was amazed to see that it was Number 1 this year!). current generation video games and even Ipads. Apple seem to have pipped both Sony and Microsoft to the post when it comes to making their product desirable to the teenage market.

Christmas is a massive crunch time for console sales
Christmas is a massive crunch time for console sales

Even more fascinating is that neither console featured at all on the Christmas list for girls. Add to that figures that say only 25% of those wanting to buy next generation consoles are female gamers, when around 47% of gamers are female – it seems like neither console has gone down well with the female demographic. Why? I’ll pop the Xbox One advert in here, give it a look.

What really struck me about that was that there was only one female in the entire advert, and she wasn’t even a gamer! Clearly, and probably without particularly meaning to create a sexist advert, Microsoft have created a sexist console image that does nothing to interest female gamers in their console. I’ve heard female gamers refer to next generation consoles as ‘guy’ consoles, and I’d be inclined to agree based on the advertising – and it seems more so than with previous generations of console.

Another interesting point is that those buying the consoles are generally older than previous consoles. Neither console hit Christmas lists particularly well, with Apple in particular shoving them down the list. Kids would now rather have an Ipad than an Xbox One/PS4. That’s understandable in many ways.

There’s also the point that the Playstation 2 was £300 on release, whereas this generation are upwards of £450. Since the Playstation 2 though, the world economy has shrunk significantly, so family’s can’t really afford to spend so much on such an expensive present anymore.

Xbox One release night - who are these people and why are they buying it?
Xbox One release night – who are these people and why are they buying it?

So who is buying the consoles?

Well, it seems that those buying the consoles are men who, according to the statistics, are over 21. The next generation consoles have sold themselves to the stereotypical crowd. To a certain extent that makes sense from a business point of view. However, if they really wanted to make an epic business success out of these next generation consoles they needed to break out of that mold much more. They need to get all gamers on board, and a lot more besides.

The Wii was the classic success it was because it broke through the barriers and into ordinary living rooms. The next generation of consoles will not be doing that, and its a big missed opportunity.

Digital Salad – lifeasadigitalsalad.wordpress.com

Xbox One & PS4: The Salad Perspective

One of my very first posts back in August (wow time has flown!) was about the next generation of consoles. It was the buzz topic back then, we’d got our first peaks of the two rivals and were getting some idea of the specs and exclusives that we’d be getting. Of the two I decided that I preferred the PS4, its a fair amount cheaper for essentially the same thing with exclusives that interested me much more. Aside from that, I also decided that I wouldn’t be buying one in the near future. So, now that we’re in the midst of the releases has the Digital Salad suddenly decided to go out and buy a release day Xbox One instead?

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I’m going to do a big spoiler here, I didn’t decide to go out and buy an Xbox One or a PS4 on release day, just like I decided back in August. The main reason is the cost, they’re a lot of money. Talking of money, I can’t help but wonder whether in times of economic trouble whether putting the releases so close to Christmas might have been a slight misjudgement. I guess Sony and Microsoft’s marketing departments decided that it would make for ideal ‘this is the perfect gift for …’ adverts, but with budgets so tight most people I know of are putting it off until at least after Christmas even if they really would quite like one.

Needless to say, the consoles have broken sales records of consoles. I just wonder if the sales would have been more if they had been released earlier in the year.

You'll need a lot of this if you want a new generation console this side of Christmas
You’ll need a lot of this if you want a new generation console this side of Christmas

Even if the patron saint of gaming (Saint Sony has a certain ring to it) gave me £500 to splash out on a console of choice and as many games as I wanted I wouldn’t honestly go and buy either. I’d much rather spend that on a whole range of other media before buying a console.

I’d rather buy gem cards for Guild Wars 2, I’d rather buy DVDs, I’d rather buy a few Xbox 360 games I’ve prevaricated about buying for years. Heck, I’d even rather buy a load of books before I spent it on a new console, because I don’t think I’d honestly use it enough to justify the cost.

A very dusty and unloved Xbox 360: probably the way a PS4 or Xbox One would end up with me after a few weeks
A very dusty and unloved Xbox 360: probably the way a PS4 or Xbox One would end up with me after a few weeks

Now that the consoles are hitting shelves and the games are beginning to be played for the first time we’re beginning to see and get more of a feel for the next generations exclusives. At the end of the day, with a console its value is in the games it can play. So how do the exclusives, that only these new consoles can play, stand up?

Forza 5 isn’t a great deal different from Forza 4, which has suited me just fine for around a year on the Xbox 360. Forza 5 is quite a big jump in graphics, especially the sky and weather effects, but the graphics on Forza 4 are still better than the majority of games being released today – so I’m not all that excited by that. Forza is one of those games that you don’t really need to buy every installment of, they’re that similar and always that well done. Essentially, it’s a game that I’d buy if I was given an Xbox One, but I wouldn’t buy an Xbox One for it.

Forza 5 showing off its graphics
Forza 5 showing off its graphics

Ryse: Son Of Rome was much lauded for the Xbox One exclusive line up, but it seems that have fallen pretty flat on the implementation of what was potentially a great idea. The combat is repetitive, even in official trailers you begin to see the same quick-time-event kill cut-scenes beginning to be repeated.

I appreciate having a Third Person Slasher in the Xbox One line-up, its a bit outside of the usually very traditional Microsoft box, but it could’ve been so much better. The early reviews coming out are hardly glowing – Gamespot’s was particularly brutal, giving it just 4/10. So, Ryse has not allayed the early fears that I had back in August about it failing to deliver on all that it promised.

Ryse - a game where generic metal clad men do generic metal related things
Ryse – a game where generic metal clad men do generic metal related things

Deadrising 3 turned out quite well, and is probably the most tempting of the Xbox One release exclusives to me. There wasn’t much news or detail on it back in August, so I wasn’t too sure what to expect other than the precedent of the mindless Zombie mayhem of the previous installments in the series.

Deadrising 3 delivers pretty well on the whole. There’s killing hordes of zombies with a multitude of weapons and vehicles, that was pulled off really well. Add to that pretty funny humour of the game and you get a pretty solid release. You can run around dressed as a lego brick man wielding a lightsaber if that floats your boat. Your friends can come and join you in co-op as well, which is a nice touch that I like to see. Not enough games, let alone highly promoted exclusives, have co-op modes and I always appreciate a game that does.

Deadrising 3 is the same kind of humour as Saints Row 3 and 4, which is fun for a while but will get old eventually even with the added bonus of killing zombie hordes.

Deadrising 3 - I wasn't lying about the lightsabers
Deadrising 3 – I wasn’t lying about the lightsabers

As for PS4 exclusives; Killzone Shadowfall looks amazing but, oddly enough, seems somewhat boring at many stages. There’s no big battles, with you spending most of the game wandering about from sniping skirmish to sniping skirmish.

I like to compare Killzone to the recent releases of Battlefield 4 and Call of Duty: Ghosts. I think Killzone is closer to COD now that we’ve seen it, and probably is better at what COD does than COD this time if you ask me. That said, I’d still rather have Battlefield 4 over both other games, and that doesn’t require a next generation console!

The stunning, but somewhat empty, world of Killzone Shadow Fall
The stunning, but somewhat empty, world of Killzone Shadow Fall

What I like about Sony’s offerings for the PS4 is the variety, there’s the standard fare of First Person Shooters like Killzone but there’s also all sorts of other games. One really out of the box is Flower, which is not much more than an interactive tour of one of the most beautiful video game landscapes ever (much better than the graphics of the PS3 version allowed all those years ago), but for the equivalent of about £4 you really can’t complain.

Resogun is a similar, essentially glorified mini game, that has been really well made and I would most likely buy for its reasonable price and flawless and enjoyable play. Trouble is, Flower and Resogun aren’t enough of a reason to make me run out to the shops and buy a PS4.

Flower on PS4 - demonstrating the best graphics I have ever seen
Flower on PS4 – demonstrating some of the best graphics I have ever seen

Destiny will be coming out on both the PS4 and Xbox One, and I am quite excited about it from the gameplay videos that are beginning to surface. Although it is reported to be much better on the next generation consoles which it was predominantly designed for, it will be coming out on the older generation as well – so I reckon Destiny might well be the last blockbuster Xbox 360 game worth buying. It’s no reason on its own to buy a new generation console.

Showing a range of the classes in Destiny
Showing a range of player classes in Destiny

The Order 1886 still hasn’t seen much more information released, or even an official release date announced, but I’m still pretty excited from what they have shown us so far. But, without any more news it’s not a reason to go out and buy a console just yet.

So, there’s some fun to be had with some of the games released for the Xbox One and PS4. I would probably enjoy playing on several of the games that have and will be released on both consoles as the older generation gets gradually retired. I just don’t find any of the games reason enough to go and buy a console.

I still lean towards the PS4 more than the Xbox One, but I would be buying that mainly for the promise that The Order shows and a belief in good games to come after that, which may well never arrive. I’m going to keep my money for now and even if Saint Sony comes to me in a flash of light and offers me one of the consoles I’ll have to disappoint him.

 

Digital Salad – https://lifeasadigitalsalad.wordpress.com

Next Generation Consoles

I’m going to start this blog off in earnest with the hot topic of the moment in gaming circles. That is, the imminent release of the Xbox One and Playstation 4 consoles, both due in November 2013 in the UK. Many, many print and digital columns have been dedicated to the pros and cons of each of the consoles. That said, and after reading a fair few of the information releases, I can say right now that I won’t be buying either for at least a while yet. I’ll say why, but I want to go over a few points and compare them as fairly as possible first.

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Price & Value For Money:

For me, this is pretty important. Money doesn’t grow on trees, especially in tough economic times. So, upwards of £300 up front cost of a console means it had better be worth the cost.

Importantly, with these two consoles you have to consider the running charges. As it stands, out of the box the PS4 would cost you £349 whilst an Xbox One would cost you £429. An £80 difference, a fair amount, but it might be worthy of that if it was much better.

One point goes to the Xbox One because that has the Kinect camera included for that price, whereas the PS4 does not – which would cost another £50, but still leaving a £30 difference. Although, the choice is with you whether you buy the PS4 camera or not, as not many PS4 games won’t be using it and it doesn’t really take my fancy to have my console connecting me via video, so I probably would just skip the expense personally.

xbox_live

The trouble with this is that the Xbox One requires an Xbox Live Gold Subscription to work at all (they have back tracked on this a little, but its still pretty clear that Microsoft expect you to have Xbox Live with your Xbox One, otherwise it will be very minimal operating). The PS4 will also require a Playstation Network Plus subscription to work on online multiplayer. Those costs factored in equal another roughly £5 a month, so long as the price of the subscription doesn’t change.

So, overall, after one year the PS4 (if you wanted to play it online with a camera) would cost you around £450 whilst the Xbox One would cost you around £480. The difference between the two is that you choose whether to buy the subscription and camera for the Playstation 4, and I would probably skip the cost of both of those and play games offline, meaning that I would make over a £100 saving if I bought a PS4 instead of an Xbox One.

Now that’s a lot of money, so its a big commitment to buy either of these consoles. But, critically, are they worth it?

Games:

For me, what really counts is what games are coming out on the consoles. This is, at the end of the day, what makes the console a games console. Neither console will have backwards compatibility, so you really have to focus on the handful of games currently scheduled for the consoles for the coming months.

Assassin's_Creed_IV_Black_Flag

Big titles coming out on both consoles include Assassins Creed IV, Battlefield 4, Call of Duty: Ghosts, Watch Dogs as well as a raft of the compulsory annual EA Sports offerings such as NFL 25. Frankly, none of these interest me very much. I’ve played all the Assassins Creeds and have found them to be getting progressively worse, and without getting in to a full blown explanation of why I would definitely recommend Zero Punctuation’s review of Assassins Creed III (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dZimXBB3gUQ).

Watch Dogs interests me, but I’m reserving judgement until more gameplay is released. As it stands though, its look like Watch Dogs might fall foul of the same problem as the Assassins Creed franchise; that is their publisher Ubisoft. Essentially Ubisoft is in the business of making as much money as possible from an idea for a game, milking it for all its worth, adding gimmicks to make it make a little more money; thereby killing the idea totally.

I know all these games will sell massively, but I won’t be rushing out to get any. Part of me wonders whether Call of Duty and Battlefield will have massive sales because people want the game, or just because all the multiplayer players they play against will move to the newest version more than anything, which to me suggests that the game itself doesn’t matter all that much – and I suspect it will be the latter.

So the games don’t get my pulse racing. What about the exclusive games? The Xbox generally has the edge on this, with Forza Motorsport V, Ryse: Son Of Rome, a bunch of generic first person shooters primary of which is TitanFall (read Call of Duty: Modern Warfare part 2 for that) and, true to Microsoft form, a reported Halo reboot at some point against the PS4s Killzone reboot. None of these do much for me either, although the Xbox One exclusive Dead Rising 3 could potentially have me interested, but that said I feel that zombies have already been done to death (excuse the pun).

250px-Mount_&_Blade_-_Warband_cover

I have Forza IV, which I think is fantastic, but once you’ve played one you don’t really need another, the cars don’t go out of date all that quickly and it still plays as brilliantly as everyone has come to expect from Forza. As for Ryse: Son Of Rome, I’ve watched a lot of the publicity for it and have been decidedly underwhelmed, and the quick time event happy nature of the gameplay has put quite a lot of reviewers off before it’s even released. On the whole though the combat, although very fluid and nice to watch, doesn’t have quite the gravity to it that I was hoping for. If Ryse: Son Of Rome appealed to you as an idea I’d recommend Mount and Blade: Warband for PC instead (http://goo.gl/Mg4Niy). That’s a fantastic game and although the graphics aren’t amazing, the gameplay is the best I’ve ever played. Its an incredibly addicting game online as well, with a strong and loyal community of players who continually create new mods for the game to keep it fresh and exciting.

One PS4 exclusive which could be good is the steampunk inspired The Order: 1886, but there’s very little information as yet on that one to decide with. It certainly seems like keeping an eye on though.

All in all, the games on the new generation of consoles don’t do much for me. For the most part they’re reboots or the next in a series, which generally are starting to feel more like cash cows than games produced for their excellence. I was wanting some new ideas, some new groundbreaking games like the original Halo was for the original Xbox, and Ryse: Son Of Rome for the Xbox One had that potential. But, now that we’re closer to release date, it seems that neither console has pulled it out of the hat on the games.

Specs:

As for the specs, expect the graphics and CPU to be pretty much the same. The CPUs are even made the same company, so the gameplay and feel will be pretty much exactly the same. Certain elements of the PS4 are significantly more powerful than the Xbox One’s equivalent, but it probably won’t make too much difference. Supposedly the graphics and gameplay will be 10 times better than their previous brother consoles, but we have yet to see enough evidence to see either way on that.

Kinect-2-for-Xbox-One-640x353

The Xbox One’s Kinect camera is certainly far better, as you would expect when it is central to the game experience unlike with the PS4, but this comes with certain disadvantages. The Kinect has voice recognition, which has never worked in the past and I’m sure won’t with this – plagued forever to be confused by anything other than the Queen’s English. Yet, the Xbox One has been developed with the idea that you will use the voice recognition to tell the console when you want to stop playing, save and then watch tv all with your voice. The thing with that though, is that it inevitably won’t work as it should. What it also means is that the console must be permanently on, permanently listening to you and permanently watching you. Big Brother eat your heart out – and it even looks like something straight out of 1984! So, whilst overall the specs don’t have much between them, the massive advantage of the Xbox One in the camera sector is actually its biggest downfall to me.

Overall:

This blog post has been pretty massive, but I guess it had to to include all the different debates swirling around the immanent releases of the Xbox One and PS4.

As it stands I think both are expensive and lack any really groundbreaking games that make me want to play them. I won’t buy either, but if I had to I would buy the PS4. I appreciate the way the PS4 allows you to decide whether you want to purchase a camera and whether you want to play online at all. I also generally prefer the PS4’s games, I find the Xbox One’s exclusives too generic first person shooter-like, the type of games they make straight from the same mold of the old game and still sell like hot cakes.

Hopefully everything I’ve put down helps. Personally, I would rather put the money I’d spend on either of these consoles into upgrading my PC gaming equipment, but I know that’s not for everyone.

 

Digital Salad – https://lifeasadigitalsalad.wordpress.com