A Week in Gaming

A Week in Gaming – 1.7.3

This week’s gaming-related news output has been rather strong. More so than usual, anyway. We’ve had Rockstar dissolve the development studio behind Max Payne 3, we’ve seen two new screenshots emerge for the increasingly spectacular Grand Theft Auto 5, a successor to last year’s Arkham City was rumoured to be on the cards by developers Rocksteady and on top of that, the Xbox 360 edition of Minecraft finally saw its first significant update that puts it closer to matching the PC build in terms of content and experiences.

Whilst the news related to video-games has been strong in numbers this week, my gaming activity has not. Despite forays into titles that I haven’t spent time with in many months, I didn’t play anything new nor did I pick up a title I haven’t played for a while and put in significant portions of time in it.

Regardless, let’s get things rolling for this week’s post. 

News Round-Up

Angry Birds trilogy unveiled for Xbox 360, PS3 and 3DS

Rovio’s more-popular-than-it-should-be game Angry Birds has made quite the impact since it first arrived on the scene. It became a phenomenon in the mobile gaming market, eventually spawning sequels and merchandise that took it out of the confines of the smartphone and into the real world. The game is available on more devices that you can count but its absence on the two biggest consoles out there – as well as the biggest handheld device at present – was apparently noted. Now, the trilogy will be seeing the light of day on said devices, as announced earlier this week. 

The trilogy, consisting of the original Angry Birds, Angry Birds Seasons and Angry Birds Rio, will all be packaged onto a single disc/cartridge and released this holiday season. The titles will also make use of the Move and Kinect systems, as well as utilising StreetPass functionality on Nintendo’s gaming device. In short, it’ll be the Angry Birds experience you’ve likely played before, with only a few added extras such as new cinematics and high resolution graphics that may offer anything different.

Personally, I struggle to see why Activision are releasing this on disc as the collection of titles surely cannot exceed more than 500mb. It seems to be a waste of time when they could simply be made available for download on the marketplace, without the unnecessary plastic and discs that go with a proper release. It’s rather bizarre and I can only assume that they’ll end up charging more for the game than they should simply because it’s on disc. This is Activision after all.

As far as playing the game on a big screen will go, I don’t have strong thoughts that it’ll succeed as well as they’re hoping it will. I don’t consider Angry Birds that special on the devices it’s already on but the times I have played it, it has always seemed like the sort of game that was built for mobile devices and wouldn’t work as well on things that weren’t mobile. Besides, will there be any point in buying this if you’ve already played the games on other devices? The lack of exclusive content suggests not.

Source: CVG

Nintendo 3DS reaches the 5 million sales mark.

Nintendo’s dinky little handheld gaming device has not had the easiest of rides since its birth last March. It launched to disappointing numbers that continued for many months until the roster of games began to get better and the sales figures increased as a result. Now, over a year later and with a stronger collection of games to prop it up, the 3DS has passed 5 million sales in the US, transforming it from an underwhelming performer into the dominating force in the handheld market.

It’s no secret that the 3DS’ disappointing launch calendar and subsequent lack of games contributed significantly to the troubles it endured. This became clear when some of Nintendo’s biggest first-party performers, namely Mario and erm, Mario, arrived and achieved healthy sales figures, as well as the device’s sales increasing at the same time. With big releases occurring in the future for the handheld, such as Luigi’s Mansion and New Super Mario Bros. 2, as well as the 3DS XL launching next month, Nintendo are sure to be enjoying healthy sales figures for some time to come.

I’m glad that the 3DS is doing well and I’ve made no secret of my love for the device in the past. It’s such a step up from the original DS, in terms of power and features, that it exceeded any and all expectations I held for it prior to its release. A lot of people believed that the lack of games was the main factor that was adding to its misery and now that that’s not a problem anymore, it’s finally getting what it deserves – success. I only wish that Sony would market the Vita better, as well as increase the quantity of games it has available, as that is the only thing stopping me from purchasing one. The hardware is undoubtedly impressive but that alone will not give it a long shelf-life. Nintendo know that better than anyone. 

Source: Digital Spy

Two new screenshots for GTA5 are released

Few games have such a massive and hyped-up following behind them than Grand Theft Auto. The speculation and excitement for each entry builds up to incomprehensible levels before exploding upon the gigantic release dates. It is because of such that whenever new material is unveiled for the game, even something as small as a pair of screenshots, the frenzied masses raise their heads and absorb it, as was the case this week. 

Tucked in to a blog entry on their website, Rockstar talked about their inability to showcase much of the game at present but managed to appease the baying mob by giving them two brand new screenshots to scour over and drool at. Both don’t reveal anything other than the fact the game looks impressive but still, they have succeeded in wetting the appetite of the fan-base for now.  

I wrote a longer post concerning the unveiled screenshots a few days ago, which you can find here. Needless to say, my excitement for the game is already high but it’ll be in danger of touching the ionosphere by the time the game is scheduled for release. It was bad enough with GTA4 – it’ll be worse this time around. 

Source: Neoseeker

Rocksteady rumoured to be working on Batman prequel

Arkham Asylum and Arkham City both dispensed with the long-held belief that superhero games just sucked. Rocksteady didn’t just make two sublime video-games with both of their attempts at Batman – they created two of the finest superhero gaming experiences that one can possibly find. They captured the essence of Batman that was crucial to the games being a success and naturally, one wonders where they’re heading next. 

Well, if rumours that began to circulate earlier this week are to be taken as truth, they’re heading back in time. The rumours speak about the game focusing on the ‘Silver Age’ era of Batman and drawing inspiration from the 1950s comics, as well as possibly featuring other superheros, such as Superman, and the Justice League of America. These are rumours and unconfirmed, however, so it’s wise not to get too excited about them. 

It’s obvious that Rocksteady’s Batman franchise will continue in some form in the future. Both of their entries have gone on to sell well, become critically praised and win awards, which is tremendous considering that few people ever expected Arkham Asylum to be the game it was before it released. Whilst I adore their Batman attempts and still consider Arkkam City to be one of the finest games I’ve played this generation, I would absolutely love for them to work with another superhero character. I think I’d fall off my chair with excitement if they were put in charge of a Superman game. Few developers have worked with the Man of Steel and made anything particularly good but given Rocksteady’s proven talent and track-record, they would be perfect for the job. Until then, however, I will continue to scoop up anything they release with Batman on the front, and I’ll do so gladly. 

Source: CVG

Minecraft: Xbox 360 Edition updated to version 1.7.3

After releasing back at the beginning of May for Xbox 360 owners, addictive build ’em up title Minecraft took its first significant step into catching up with the older and far superior PC version this week.

Update 1.7.3 brings about huge changes within the familiar Minecraft world; sheep shears have been added, as well as pistons, new textures, a better lighting system and a whole load of other changes that can be read in full from the link included below. It’s still nowhere near as populated with content as its big brother PC counterpart, but this release is the first in a long sequence of planned updates that will move the game further toward its intended destination. 

Of the qualms surrounding Minecraft’s console release, most have been focused on the game’s lack of content when put next to the PC version. It’s true that the game is severely lacking when you compare them but the Xbox 360 Edition has barely been available for two months. It’s still young and has a lot of life left to give and if this update is indicative of the future, we’re going to be seeing some great things. 

The next update planned has been said to be the biggest and most difficult that the team have had to work on. Among other things, it will introduce the adventure mode, creative mode (hallelujah) and the hunger bar, which depletes when you don’t eat food. Due to its size and the way in which it practically rewrites half of the Minecraft DNA, expecting the next major update anytime soon would be extremely unwise. It’ll be a while before we’ll be able to build mega structures without having to go on ten hour mining sessions for the required materials but at least we can shear sheep in the mean-time, right?

Also, a downloadable skin pack is expected to be made available in due course, giving players the ability to make their character look like Banjo Kazooie, Master Chief or even a creeper. Hands up who wants to scare people silly by sneaking up on them in a creeper costume?

Source: Eurogamer

What I’ve Been Playing

Call of Duty: Black Ops

My gaming activity this week has been relatively thin in comparison to the previous week and the one before that. I spent a little time with Black Ops, which I hadn’t touched for many months, and I was reminded as to why.

I’ve said before that I consider Black Ops a good game despite its huge list of flaws. I’d play it any day over the travesty known as Modern Warfare 3 and that still stands today, although it doesn’t half make it difficult to maintain that position. The two biggest issues – at least for me – have to be the horrendous hit detection and the lag. Both were absolutely unacceptable back when the game was still fairly new and it remains the same way today. With such resources in play behind the scenes, it boggles my mind that it’s still relatively difficult to play a match without timeout errors or sub-par connections. I seriously hope Black Ops 2 employs a less than horrible networking system or I may be done with the franchise entirely. 

I’ve already made a solemn vow never to touch another Infinity Ward/Sledgehammer Call of Duty title again but I will still give Treyarch the benefit of the doubt. They’re usually the ones who make their games from a different template rather than paste a copy from the previous, although they still suffer from problems that shouldn’t exist. That being said, you could tie scorching hot coals to my appendages and I’d still prefer to play Black Ops over MW3. Yes, it’s that bad. 

Minecraft

Oh Minecraft. If there was ever a game that had the potential to literally eat away at any productivity I have to offer, it would be you. You give me all of these blocks to mine, all of these structures to build, the complete freedom to create whatever I like and then you go and update yourself to drag me back in again. You cruel, cruel beast.

As mentioned earlier, the Xbox 360 Edition received its first major update this week, bringing with it pistons and sheep shears among other things. The arrival of pistons also reminded me to make another attempt at figuring out how to properly use redstone. I’ve spent some time in the past trying to work my head around the whole concept of redstone and its electrical properties and each time I’ve left still scratching my head in puzzlement. This time was no different. 

I understand the basics of redstone circuitry, in that you connect the ‘equipment’, such as the piston, to a switch via redstone placements. I also understand that you can add other pieces of equipment to the same circuit so that they all activate from the same switch. I get all of that. I get confused when things like the redstone repeater are added into the mix, or redstone torches that keep a constant electrical charge irrespective of the presence of a switch. Plus, when you want to create a system of pistons that moves blocks around automatically via a cleverly created redstone circuit, my head aches from the confusion.

Regardless of my complete incompetency with the science of redstone, I continued to work on my single-player world. Things are coming along at a glacial pace but they’re moving nevertheless. I have a rubbish wooden house with a secret entrance to an underground storage facility, a giant lava tower that connects to another hilltop tower, a tree farm and a Minecraft recreation of my own house that I just finished this week. It’s not my SP world that I’m particularly fond of, however. 

I’ve put in many hours on Minecraft Xbox 360 since its release and most of it has been on the collaborative project known as OXM Land. OXM stands for the Official Xbox Magazine and they have a multiplayer server that they sometimes open up to people to join and work in. The obvious downside to such a concept is the sheer amount of fools who join and play havoc with people’s hard work but other than that, some of the things people have created have been spectacular. I’ll include a link below where you can see some of the things that have been created on the server since it was born. It’s very impressive stuff.

Check out this video here. The mine shown at the 0:52 mark was dug out solely by me and it goes on to reach across half of the entire world. Needless to say it took absolutely ages to do! Also, the towers at the 3:58 mark were also created by me (although they are dark because of somebody stealing all of the torches in my absence), as was the pyramid that you get a glimpse of in the background and other structures.

There are other videos that you can check out on the channel that give a wider impression of just how great the work has been on that server. Unfortunately, it’s not as active these days as it used to be back in May but it comes alive every so often and it’s worth checking out, providing you’re not a troublemaker determined to wreck hours of hard work for your own amusement!

So, that wraps things up for another week. I’ve written a lot more here than I expected to so I won’t keep you for much longer. I want to say thanks to those of you who wished me luck and congratulations on my recently acquired writing venture that I posted about earlier this week. It means a lot that people are supportive of my efforts so it’s cookies all around!

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