Friday, 11 November 2011

My plans for this blog

Content I know has been a little sparse of late, that's partly due to my moving to London and a new found social life (Lynch mobs were the most common thing to happen to me in Bristol) and the arrival of Onlive which has opened my eyes to a lot more big titles of late. This being the case I'm going to start moving from doing game reviews and articles and start doing more creative works such as flash fiction or short stories. I will still be a gamer however so I will being doing reviews and articles when the mood takes me. At the moment I'm writing an article on the popularity for apoclyptic games right now which should be finished soon if my schedule allows it sleeping, failing to get with girls, drinking and of course gaming (and some studying) all take up a lot of my time and I find myself being rather burnt out of ideas for new content.

O who am I kidding no one reads this I can say anything I like: George Osborne shot and sodomised my dog. He didn't but hey no ones going to read it and UK libel reform should be coming soon (or is it defamation since I wrote it?) any way hope you enjoy reading and that your sexual prowess peaks while reading my stuff........... I'll write literally anything.

Wednesday, 9 November 2011

Onlive is frankly brillant.

The title honestly says it all frankly, if you've been on youtube and before you watch the dancing child or annoying tween singers you may have seen adverts for "Onlive" a new cloud gaming services that honestly blows my mind with how futuristic, here's a quick sum up of what Onlive actually is and does:

Onlive is a free service that allows the user to buy games and play games, that's the normal part that we can all relate to with steam and such like. The mental part of this is you never download the game and once you've bought it you can play it instantly! how is the possible you ask? well from what I can gather Onlive streams the game via a video stream straight to your screen and then lets you play. I know that explanation is a little crap but that's beside the point since I'm not a tech guy and all I know is that it works.

When you launch Onlive after signing up at at the website (Link in the notes) you can instantly play loads of free 30 minute trails of quite a few triple A titles such as Mafia 2 and Assassins Creed 2. games are add to the system quite often with various Pre-order options for new games such as Batman Arkham City, Saints Row 3 and L.A. Noire that reserve your place to play them. with most pre-orders you can get a 30% discount if you are a PlayPack subscriber (more on the playpack later) and also a free £5 code off to use on any future purchases.

The PlayPack is one of Onlive introductory offers that allows you to play a large range of games that vary between Indie and big budget games such Batman AA, Borderlands, Just Cause 2, Saints Row 2, F.E.A.R 2 and way more than I can list. The playpack requires a £6.99 per month subscription fee that with so many games really makes the the money worth it really.

The social aspects of Onlive vary right now. you have a friends list that you can add and view what your friends are playing but right now there is now way of joining or inviting friends to games right now. another aspect of the social scene of Onlive is the Arena which allows you to view random peoples games and then choose to give people a Thumbs up or down. So far when people watch my gameplay I kinda of get quite nervous about what their thinking since i'm terribly shy and I don't need my gaming critiqued as well. I've found when people are viewing your play they fall into to two categories the 1st will be quiet maybe give you a thumbs up if you pull off something cool and then leave after a few minutes and the 2nd will go nuts with the thumb options, yell down their microphone that your a useless C*** which if just lovely.

I'll be honest if you've got a Xbox or PS3 Onlive may not be for you, but if your running a slightly older PC or Netbook at you miss being unable to play top tier games I'd say give it a go and like me you may be pleasantly surprised.

Looking Back Through the scope: Borderlands.

Ok first things first: this retro review is possible due to the service ONlive which in my view is the best thing since the blowjob. I could write a entire article on how good onlive is and never do it justice so i'll just leave a link at the bottom and you can check it out for yourself, add "Cynical hunter" if you fancy a game some time.

Borderlands has to go down as one of my favourite games of the last generation: its a great shooter with the best parts of the RPG genre with a great art style and a sense of humour that has me crying some times. That's it *walks away from screen.... returns to screen at the command of man with pump action shotgun pointed at my head* fine I'll write more.

Lets start with the shooting shall we: Borderlands was released with the boast that it had over a bazillion guns to use to rain down death on the inhabitants of Pandora and you know what? THEY WERE RIGHT. The only time i've seen the same gun twice is when they are drops from certain bosses such as Sledges Shotgun which at the level of attainment can be stupidly over powered. Every gun has its own maker and specs which makes choosing a weapon not just which one does the most damage but which ones handle right for you. one gun may have loads of recoil, high fire rate and a large clip while a other will have no recoil, slow fire rate and small clip making choosing a gun for you if a case of trail and error honestly, which some may like while others don't. Guns sadly can't be modded which was a fact that surprised me but with so much choice already isn't a big deal. The shooting it self is great fun as any class and with any weapon, be it a automatic pistol to acidic rocket launch.

On the RPG side of things; there are 4 different character classes to choose from: The soldier who leads the fights with turret ability, the siren who can phase through different dimensions, the hunter who acts as sniper and commands a hawk to attack the enemy and the berserker who smashes foes with his fists. All of the classes have there distinctive strengths and weaknesses, that said I've honestly find the soldier to be the most well rounded for both team and solo play due to his turret pet just being overpowered in certain cases. As you go through the game you can customize your skills by choosing from a variety of different skill trees, meaning that in teams of 4 of the soldiers there will be some difference in play styles between each of them, which can be handy but I'll explain during the multiplayer section. All characters can equip grenade mods that change the way grenades act for example a transfusion mod will steal health from the enemy and give it to you, this combined with class mods can make each character different in how they approach the situations at hand.

Multiplayer is the surely the main piece of the Borderlands ensemble with up to four people blasting their way through changing environments, picking up loot, killing midgets (there are a lot of them), driving across the wasteland, killing more midgets and getting your ass handed to you by Crawmax the secret last boss. Each member of the group scales the difficulty up so it doesn't become too easy, this scaling of difficulty becomes more noticeable when you have people who aren't similar level; For instance I was playing with a group of 3 mates all around level 17 when a level 47 entered the server, this made the enemies stupidly hard and the three of us quickly wiped while the new guy just griefed us before we learned we could kick him and make the server private. There is a slight bug I've noticed on the steam version of borderlands that makes on of the first quests of the game always appear on the quest log as incomplete which quickly becomes annoying when it becomes apparent that the quest is almost viral in its nature and anyone who comes into contact with your character becomes infected as you did making it some quest based STI.

Borderlands is a blast of a game and well worth a look at if you haven't already. Borderlands 2 is on the horizon in 2012 and if it comes to Onlive i will most certainly be picking it up and hope to see you on Pandora.

Wednesday, 2 November 2011

Looking back through the scope with Cynical Hunter : Batman Arkham Asylum

To express how I truly feel about Batman Arkham Asylum, and to get the whole game of the month thing going I decided to write a plagiaristic poem.
Gunmen are red
Detective vision is blue
Harley Quinn is fit
 Don’t you think so too?
Wasn’t that fun? Now own with the review.
Batman Arkham Asylum. Where do I start? At the beginning I don’t hear you cry out since this is coming from the past.  Batman AA starts on a dark and stormy night. Batman has brought the Joker to Arkham. As you (as Batman) walk through the corridors of the asylum your ears are burning with little snippets of story bait. Has Batman has won against the harlequin hoodlum. BAM KAPOW CRASH and the Joker has broken loose. So we have the setup to the brilliant story ahead of us. With guest appearances from your favourite villains. This surely promises to be the caped crusaders darkest and finest hour.  
First a little bit of history and context: We’d all waited years for a superhero game that truly delivers on the promise of making us feel like a superhero; there are a few games that made me feel like a one of the all powerful: Spiderman was well realised in Ultimate Spiderman and Spiderman 2. Superman had his dignity pounded over a barrel in his game outings and the X-men just decided to beat the crap out of each other in their games. Batman has had his fair share of video game outings with his first being all the way back in 1986. In recent years Batman got a movie tie in game based on Christopher Nolan’s film Batman Begins. He’s appeared in the DC vs Mortal Kombat and even appeared as a LEGO character in LEGO Batman (if your surprised by that I advise you see a doctor). But none of these gaming outings have ever made me feel like the dark knight.  First announced in 2008 by relatively unknown developer Rocksteady;  Batman Arkham Asylum played its card’s on the table with its first teaser trailer; gone are the camp “holy hotdogs” of Adam West and Joel Schumacher’s pun based crime against humanity that is Batman and Robin. Here we had a game that was faithful to the source material of comics. It’s clear to see elements of comics such as The Killing Joke and Arkham Asylum woven deep into the games DNA. Of course the cartoon show inspired a lot of the game’s character. A lot of voice talent from the cartoon is carried over to the game and it sure helps; with Mark Hamill (Luke Skywalker) and Kevin Conroy (someone) returning to their roles of the Joker and Batman respectively. Thats the nasty lesson out the way on to the game!
First let’s start with the graphics and ting. Batman AA was made using the Unreal 3 engine, the same one that was used for Mass Effect and Gears of War franchises. It’s hardly surprising then that most of the character models look like they are steroid abusing junkies, but in world of where Killer Croc can exist I think we can overlook that. All Major and named characters look pretty good. In some of the lesser characters such as Guards Cash and Boles the faces look a bit odd, but since I bought the game to look at Batman and the Joker I don’t really mind. The model for Batman looks very good, with the model becoming beaten and battered as the night goes on, which adds to the idea that this is Batman’s worst night every. The environments are great looking with both wide open and indoor areas looking very detailed. As the night progresses the island of Arkham does change with *SPOILERS* huge plants trying to kill you (the Bat-weed killer would be an appreciated gadget.) and all these changes are well realised with previously easy sets of terrain now becoming perilous hazards (the insane inmates being a particular nuisance). All the environments are littered with Riddler challenges, which give you a great reason to explore for little references to Batman characters with visual clues hidden all around. Aside from the wonderful little Batman lore snippets, another role of the Riddler’s challenges is to give you XP to level up your Batman to do all sorts of crazy stuff, which in my world leads us nicely to the next topic.
Combat in Batman AA is sort of divided into two main sections: predator mode and badass bar room brawler mode. Predator mode is the stealth section of the game. When the henchman have guns and a direct “your mumma so fat” approach will end in buckshot in the frontal lobes you go stealth mofo on the bad guys. When entering predator mode it’s usually wise to grapple to handy gargoyle (even the sewers have these) once up on your perch, detective vision is the next wise course. From your vantage point you can survey the area and plot your how to take each of these henchman in the most efficient/badass way. As the game progress the foes you face will become more fiendish, making old tactics useless for instance: putting proximity mines on the gargoyles is clearly the result of a diseased mind. Due to the henchman AI every foray into predator mode is different with some travelling in pairs or running off on their own in fear. The second section of combat is the brilliant ‘Free-flow combat system’ which works with the player to allow you to pull off huge combos (my Record combo is 89) . Combat starts simply with one button punching, another counters and that’s pretty much it to start with, however very quickly you can do special moves with your cape to stun your foes, you can throw them at their chums or simply break their arm and snap their shins in twain. Most of the gadgets you attain during the campaign can be used during combat, while some are more useful than others it can be fun to use the line launcher for to do a flying drop kick right in a henchman’s in the face. By the way if anyone found a way to comatose a baddie using the sequencer gadget I will award you a leg of your meat of your choice.
I don’t think I can go any further without mentioning detective vision. Detective vision was basically Batman’s way of identifying where henchmen are, Riddler challenges, points of interest and more. This mode is your most useful tool and when the game was first released reviews would often say that detective vision was too useful and it was possible to have it on all the time. I personally found DV (I’m tired of typing detective vision) really not to be that much of a problem. I can see how DV could be seen to be a pest but to me it was just another tool designed to help me kick ass.
After you’ve finished the game you can continue travelling around the island to hunt for Riddler trophies or you can do challenge mode which is made up of predator or combat challenges. Each different predator challenge map has certain special objectives that increase your score such as “Beat thug old cold using a shoe” (more realistic examples are available. In combat challenges you score points by building up a massive combo using as many different techniques as possible, in this mode you get the more points for never getting hit by thugs or by keeping the combo up the entire round. Each challenge has an extreme mode that makes things very difficult but very satisfying indeed. By the way anyone who managed to beat ‘Shock and Awe’ on extreme is a Witch and will feel fiery justice in hell.
  Batman Arkham Asylum is my all time favourite superhero game (sorry Ulitmate Spiderman and Prototype) I’ve yet to play Arkham City but from what i’ve read and seen i’m sure it will deliver on my hopes for more Batman goodness.