I think a good place to start here would be to thank any of of our subscribers that are still here reading this after we all took a sudden, unannounced writing break over the holiday season. I can promise that over the next few weeks we are planning lots of new content to hopefully kick-start everything into the new year. That is assuming I can remember how to write.
Last week we all had a meeting to discuss how we’d begin the 2013 and we settled on discussing our favourite game of the previous year. Or more specifically Simon, the head honcho here at Game Craic, said, and I quote “pick one game that you thought was belter and write about it.” The choice was really quite simple for me, and if you read much of my work last year it wont come as a surprise that my choice is The Witcher 2.
I think a good place to start here would be to thank any of of our subscribers that are still here reading this after we all took a sudden, unannounced writing break over the holiday season. I can promise that over the next few weeks we are planning lots of new content to hopefully kick-start everything into the new year. That is assuming I can remember how to write.
Before I start with my GOTY 2012 article, I must stress that I haven’t yet had the chance to properly play through Mass Effect 3, Assassin’s Creed 3, Dishonored, Journey, as well as a few other titles that have been regularly appearing on GOTY lists, so if you don’t see a game you were expecting to see in my list, then that’s probably why. You know, life getting in the way, and such.
However, everybody at Game Craic are doing their own GOTY 2012 piece, so expect variety…
For me, 2012 brought with it a plethora of great video games, with many of them being easily worthy of holding the GOTY title, but unfortunately I have to pick just one, which is the headache I have had for the past week. Yes, it’s taken me a week to decide, and truthfully, as I’m typing this very sentence, I still haven’t decided.
My Game of the Year 2012 award goes to…
The whole idea around doing this series was to raise awareness on certain under-appreciated Youtube gaming channels and hopefully provide our readers with a few little gems to help boost their Youtube subscription list. Recently a ground of active youtubers with a far greater audience are attempting to do the same in a form of a competition.
One of the major players in setting up this movement was Nepenthez and here’s a summary from his channel of what the competition involves:
As mentioned in the video, the competition will award the winner £2k to help develop their channel and is currently already into round 3. If you’re interested in following it’s progress you can locate the channel here and they also update it’s progress on their twitter page which is http://www.twitter.com/BOTYouTubers
The competition is heavily populated by Fifa related channels, but my personal favourite, and the one I am voting for, is KGTLegitHD. There are hundreds of Fifa channels out there that all do the same squad builders, road to division 1 etc etc but KGTLegitHD stand apart for their sheer hilarity. I barely even play Fifa anymore but still watch their videos as they’re too funny too miss.
If you want to vote (and you should, especially for KGT) follow this link http://www.futwiz.com/boty
Here’s a sample video from round 2 to get an understanding of what it’s all about, enjoy
I’ve rather been enjoying playing Black Ops 2, which has come as a pleasant surprise. You’ll be able to read my thoughts on the game in greater detail soon but in the meantime I have devised a fairly decent method of gaining large amounts of XP at a good pace to level up quickly. Read on for some top tips.
Tip 1. Use Score Streaks Often
Black Ops 2 is very generous with the bonus XP doled out for calling in Score Streak rewards. As such I would recommend taking the Hardline perk, picking three Score Streaks with relatively low points requirements and calling them in as often as possible.
Tip 2. Weapon Prestige
Completing weapon challenges also gives bonus XP so once you have a weapon at level 20 don’t just let it sit there, prestige it and earn those awards all over again. Or you can just make sure you’re alternating weapons often and always progressing.
Tip 3. Challenges
It’s well worth taking a look in the Barracks and making a note of some of the Challenges on offer and actively working towards achieving them as these too give a healthy amount of bonus XP. For example, after killing 10 enemies from a prone position you are afforded a cool 2500 XP, after killing 5 enemies by causing cars to explode you’re getting another 2500 XP and after getting 10 kills by knifing a foe in the back you’re getting 2500 XP. There’s plenty of little things to work towards that will give you a nice boost of experience.
Tip 4. Play Kill Confirmed
Kill Confirmed is a rather bonkers game mode that gives bonus points for collecting the fallen dog tags of your foes. So, you’re not only getting experience for killing fools but also for rushing around and gathering up as many dog tags as you can. It is ripe for earning a lot of points in a single match. Even I, a player of below average skill, can rake in around 5,000 XP per game on a good day.
Tip 5. Take The Objective
If for whatever reason you don’t take to Kill Confirmed, it’s just what seems to work well for me, I’d at least recommend playing more objective based game modes. A game like Hardpoint for example will give bonus points for capturing points, killing enemies while defending the point, and of course each game type has their own set of challenges to complete.
Putting all of the above in to effect should see you well on your way to rising through the ranks. I’m far from the best Call of Duty player around but I’ve been progressing steadily and enjoying myself in the process. I think the most important thing really is to find a game mode in which you are comfortable and progress from there.
Good luck fellow strugglers.
I say revisited, what I actually means is that I have just recently played and completed Borderlands and was looking for an excuse to talk about how fantastic it is. I think for anyone that has played the first installment of the gun-toting madness that is Gearbox Software’s Borderlands that excuse will be enough, and if you haven’t played it then listen up because I have some important news for you. Buy this game!
I’d somehow managed to bypass this little gem - I seem to recall I was knee-deep in University and World of Warcraft at the time of its release, the latter more than I should have been, and my life just breezed on by without a care for all of the loot I could have been hoarding. That was until I meandered down the game isle in my local Asda Supermarket armed with a wallet low on money but an intent to spend.
The Borderlands Game Of The Year edition was only £15 and for a game including four lots of downloadable content I thought that was a pretty good deal. Plus, I knew at least that Borderlands was a heavily multi-player oriented game and I was desperately looking of something along those lines. My friend and I often use multiplayer games to stay in contact, they’re a useful tool for maintaining friendships. We’d previously worked our way through the Gears of War series and before that we’d jointly levelled characters in World of Warcraft. We’re very fortunate in the sense that our play-styles are incredibly similar, both of us prefer a steady approach to gaming, checking every corner before moving on and taking in content rather than rushing through it. Borderlands provides the perfect scenario for cooperation encouraging gamers to explore content together that doesn’t then somehow detract from the game. Which, when you think about it, is quite rare in the gaming world, especially with triple A or mainstream titles.
So what do you need to know about the first Borderlands? Very little is probably the answer. You begin the game as a Vault hunter in the world of Pandora. The vault is mythical landmark for treasure hunters in the world that promises riches to anyone that finds it, as a lowly level one character you embark on your journey to pursue its questionable existence and the hopes and dreams of attaining unimaginable riches.
Effectively that is all you need to know and will probably take away from the game. Borderlands isn’t heavily storyline driven and aside from a few prominent characters reappearing throughout the game, and some interesting boss encounters, it essentially allows you to create your own stories while playing. Whether that is an epic battle through re-spawns in one of the many instanced zones or whether it’s a tale of that Psycho that appeared out of nowhere to one shot both you and your friend, Borderlands gives you free range in a cooperative world to simply go off and explore at your own peril.
On the face of it all it all seems a little simple, but Borderlands tapped into a market that wasn’t previously explored in the same way. The game merged a fully functioning RPG game with a first person shooter and it was done so well they both fit seamlessly together. In addition, like in all good coop games that entice addictive gameplay, there was a lots of grinding, but not grinding in a way that felt incredibly repetitive, even though it essentially was. The levelling system is accompanied by talent points so there is a benefit to progressing. And there was loot. Lots and lots and lots of loot with colour coordination to indicate if they were common or rare etc. There can be few things better in the gaming sphere than playing cooperatively when a legendary weapon randomly drops while unexpectedly opening a weapons chest in the middle of nowhere.
Another added bonus of Borderlands is the high replayability that it offers. Once you’ve completed the game you can then start from the beginning with all of your weapons and levels and attempt it all again on a much harder setting for much better loot, and lets face it, loot is everything. I am certain we would have restarted the game almost instantly were it not for me having Borderlands 2 sat right next to my Xbox.
Overall, like me, you have somehow managed to avoid this little gem I highly recommend you pick yourself up a copy as it’s incredibly cheap. Especially if you’re one of those players that enjoys the social aspect of gaming. Or if you’ve already worked your way through Pandora, how did you find it?
I understand there are some theories knocking around that link violent computer games to actual real life violence. If there’s any credence at all in such studies I should be very worried about how my style of play in Dishonored might manifest in my day to day activities. I’ve been trying my hardest to avoid actually killing people, so that is one positive, but in lieu of murder I have been engaged in a lot of other equally and occasionally maybe even worse activities.
Stalking is probably my number one crime. I’ve spent a lot of time perched on rooftops or peering around corners just watching folk go about their business. In my defense the vast majority of these people are undesirables themselves, guards mostly. Pesky guards, always running around raising alarms and gathering their friends to hunt me down. Obviously being caught is not in my interests, and so I’ve had to take to watching from afar, studying their movements and, when I thought it necessary, throttling them unconscious and hiding their limp bodies in dark corners. If only they knew I was acting in their best interests.
You see, it’s not the guards themselves that concern me. No, it’s the villainous characters they are protecting that are my real targets. I have been exploring the city of Dunwall as the character Corvo Attano, once the Queen’s personal bodyguard and now a traitor, accused of murdering the very same Queen he had sworn to protect. Of course, poor Corvo has been set up and is now on a mission to set the record straight while enacting some revenge on those responsible.
Dunwall was already a little down on its luck, even before the Empress’ assassination , but now things are particularly depressing. A plague has been spreading through the city, decimating the poorer areas of the city. The oppressive regime that has risen to power in the aftermath has cordoned off whole areas, a strict curfew is in place and the ruthless city guard are out in force. The fantasy world you’re exploring in Dishonored is wonderfully realised, it is a unique blend of fantasy and steampunk with architecture lifted from Victorian London and Edinburgh. While you juggle supernatural powers with conventional weapons - a pistol, sword and crossbow - Whale Oil powers Walls of Light (giant beams of energy that vaporize anyone passing through), Tall Boys (heavily armoured mechanised suit on stilts), and Arc Pylons (stationary defensive structures that blast foes in the proximity with energy). It all might seem a little muddled but it comes together very well and there’s a whole lot of back story in the form of books and audio tapes littered around to flesh the world out even further.
Co-creator Harvey Smith worked as lead designer on the much-lauded Deus Ex, a game fabled for its freeform approach and Dishonored adopts a similar philosophy. Deus Ex’s freedom let players choose how they would go about completing any objective. You could go all guns blazing, destroying every enemy between you and wherever you needed to be or you could be more clandestine in your approach, scuttling through ventilation shafts and hiding behind boxes to arrive at your destination unnoticed.
Dishonored is much the same, there’s a bountiful arsenal of weapons and powers at your disposal to decimate those ungrateful guards but it is made clear very early on that this is a bad thing. End of mission stats screens tally every kill and award an overall chaos rating. The higher the chaos you are causing the less well off the City of Dunwall seems to be with an increased number of bodies littering the streets, exacerbating the ongoing rat infestation, and a dark twist to the concluding section of the game. The multiple endings in Dishonored aren’t accessible by simply replaying the last five minutes and choosing a different option, they reflect your play style through the whole game.
Each target can be successfully dealt with without you having to actually kill them. So, while it might be more difficult and take a great deal of time and patience it is possible to finish Dishonored without actually killing a single person. Rather than being a binary choice upon reaching your target the non-lethal path will lead you to parts of the level you might have left unvisited and have you completing tasks you’d otherwise never be asked to do. As an example, one early mission pits you against two brothers who are relaxing in a local brothel, a gang leader you meet early in to the level tells you that he will take care of the brothers for you if you can obtain the code to a safe from another of the brothels customers. So, upon reaching the brothel if you can successfully extract this safe code from one of the patrons, you can scuttle back to the gang boss - ransacking the safe on the way - and have your targets dealt with without ever setting eyes on them.
Each level is a platform on which to experiment with the limits of your abilities, prodding and probing at the guards’ AI to see what you can get away with, where there might be a gap to slip through or an opportunity to exploit. Your array of supernatural abilities means there is plenty of room for experimentation, if you’re struggling to creep through an area you could try blinking across a gap, slowing down time to swiftly out manoeuvre a guard or possessing a rat and scurrying across to wherever you need to be. Or, you could go on the offensive, laying traps, throwing grenades, cutting a swathe through the unsuspecting guards.
If you opt for this more aggressive attitude you can windmill your way through Dishonored rather quickly. The combat is slick and extremely rewarding when you’re comboing abilities to tear through areas with style but it’s not particularly difficult, on the standard difficulty anyway, with your supernatural abilities always giving you the upper hand in any situation. I soon found myself reloading previous saves as soon as I was spotted to maintain my undetected status, experimenting with how I could best slip by unnoticed before reloading and perfecting my route.
Early on it can be very difficult and getting caught frequently is frustrating. Sometimes it’s difficult to know just what you can get away with, whether a guard can see you out the corner of his eye or if he will notice you poking out behind cover - although learning to successfully utilise the lean function alleviates this almost entirely. As you progress through the game, mastering and upgrading your powers and figure out some of the nuances of the AI you can start moving through the levels with confidence, but there is a bit of a learning curve and you’ll need some patience if you’re dedicated to going the silent assassin route.
Dishonored succeeds by blending its excellent stealth elements with solid action and a freedom to use either as much or as little as you like. It presents the player with an objectives offers them a bountiful arsenal of weapons and abilities and leaves the rest up to them. Dishonored is one of the most inventive and entertaining games I’ve played this year, it strongly nudges you towards playing with a stealthy approach and some patience is required to play that way with confidence. If you play with a ‘Que Sera Sera’ attitude and simply deal with anyone that gets in your way you’ll probably breeze through Dishonored rather quickly. But if you go the way of subterfuge you’ll spend a lot of time watching, waiting and planning. It’s exhilarating to infiltrate a building, assassinate your target and escape without being noticed and even then I’ve been left with a desire to instantly replay it to see how another tactic might play out.
The latest installment of World of Warcraft, Mists of Pandaria, added another class for us to waste yet more time on. I am of course talking about the Monk class. Monks are another hybrid class and as I have had so much fun playing as a Druid, another hybrid class, over the past few years I thought I’d give this one a try. It didn’t disappoint, or at least it hasn’t so far.
This article will offer a basic tanking guide for anyone potentially looking to level in Brewmaster spec or anyone that has recently created a monk and is having difficulty with the early stages. I hope to continue this on the long grind to 90, assuming I last that long.
So we shall begin:
An Introduction to the Monk Class and Brewmaster spec.
Monks make use of two types of resource: Chi and Energy. Chi is highlighted under your health and energy bar in a similar way to a Paladin’s Holy Power. Energy using spells usually generate Chi allowing the Monk to cast some of their more important abilities and defensive maneuvers.
Brewmaster tanks are heavily focused around damage mitigation, Stagger being the Monks key ability while tanking but managing this feature wont be as heavily important until later in the game and therefore we will only focus on what is absolutely necessary to get up to level 30 as a Brewmaster Monk.
Spells and Abilities
I’ve tried a variety of ways to list all of the spells and abilities but I think I’ve settled on listing them in order that they will be most important to you in these early levels.
Jab -Jab will be your primary Chi builder in these early levels and will be the cornerstone of your rotation to make sure you have enough resources to use your more damaging abilities
Dizzying Haze - This is arguably your most important tool as a low-level tank. Dizzying Haze is a targeted AOE spell that is cast in a similar fashion to a Death Knight’s Death and Decay or a Mage’s Blizzard. One of the most useful features of this spell is that the tooltip does not disappear once you’ve thrown one keg so you can effectively spam multiple kegs and different targets to attract all of the aggro to you. I have also found that the threat generation of this spell is incredibly powerful so even if you have a trigger happy DPS character in your group you wont have any problems pulling the aggro off them with this spell.
Keg Smash - Another primary spell in the rotation, Keg Smash is a very powerful damaging spell that hits up to three targets. If the debuff is not already applied from Dizzying Haze (but it should be!) Keg smash will add Weakened Blows to reduce the targets damage. More importantly it will also add two very important Chi points allowing you to maximise your rotation. Make sure you use this EVERY time it is off cooldown.
Breath of Fire - Also a spec specific talent, Breath of Fire along side Keg Smash will be your highest damaging move. As you can see via the tooltip, BoF deals more damage when Dizzying Haze is on the target so make sure you either use that or directly after Keg Smash. However this spells works perfectly in your rotation a long side Keg Smash. As Keg Smash generates two Chi and BoF costs two Chi these spells fit perfectly together like a glove.
Provoke lvl 14 - Your standard taunt spell. I’ve only really used this in a handful of circumstances though, as I’ve mentioned, a few shots of Dizzying Haze will send the mob running in your direction regardless of how many hits a DPS character has on it.
Between levels 1-25 if you don’t use any other spells those above would comfortably see you through a low-level dungeon or ensure you could hold aggro on a group of mobs.
Let’s take a look at some of the other spells at your disposal:
Tiger Palm lvl 3 - While leveling Tiger Palm will be quite useful but while tanking a low-level dungeon I’d only really recommend using it to dump excess Chi. It has a nice little debuff that stacks 3 times although it’s not hugely necessary considering how quickly the mobs will be killed.
Roll lvl 5 - A surprisingly useful spell for avoiding or fleeing damage and I discovered a number of uses for it as a tank during a number of LFG encounters but I will discuss this further when talking about tactics and rotation.
Blackout Kick lvl 7 - An incredibly important spell to gain the Stagger buff but up until you gain Brewmaster Training at level 34 this will be invalid. It also costs a lot of Chi. So as for the purpose of this guide I’d pretty much ignore this spell up until that point.
Fortifying Brew lvl 24 - A very nice move for those “oh sh*t moments”, It works in the same way as a Druid’s Barkskin.
Expel Harm - lvl 26 Another one of those Chi generation moves that is so important to the Monk class but as it comes at level 26 you don’t really get much use out of it for the purpose of this guide.
Guard - As Brewmaster tanks place damage mitigation incredibly high in their priority list, using Guard is imperative to survival. However, like Expel Harm, you acquire this spell approaching level 30 so for a basic guide this will not be prominent. This will however feature constantly once you progress further into the game.
Clash - A cross between a Death Knight’s Death Grip and a Warrior’s Charge, Clash provides a very useful tool to pull in those ranged mobs while stunning the melee. To use it effectively requires a little practice though.
Once you’ve acquired these spells this will be your standard rotation for the early levels.
1) Dizzying Haze - Always open with Dizzying Haze as it adds the debuff and is a fantastic threat generator.
2) Keg Smash - This will add those all important Chi points, hit multiple targets and an additional debuff that will allow you to cast:
3) Breath of Fire - Another all important spell that will do a lot of damage plus a DOT that will allow you to keep threat on multiple targets.
Once you’ve gone through this cycle you can then use Jab to generate extra Chi or if you have too much you can always use Tiger Palm while Keg Smash is on cooldown. If you take anything away from this is that you MUST always use Keg Smash.
Once you approach level 30 you will gain Guard and it will be important to add that into your rotation but we will worry about that more in the next part of this guide.
Tips and Tricks
Let’s face it, while leveling from 1-30, especially if you have no Heirlooms, you’re going to encounter a lot of dicks, impatient ones at that. A lot of DPS characters will think that they can tank mobs as well as you can and to be fair, at a low-level, they probably can. That shouldn’t mean as a new tank you should get into bad habits though, and here is a few tricks I have discovered to thwart those frustrating players.
1) Using Roll to your advantage - I wasn’t so impressed with Roll at the beginning as I rather shortsightedly assumed it wouldn’t have much of a purpose but it does. Aside from it being a very useful tool for escaping damage or getting out of clart (*Clart - as per the members of Team Wolf, clart is any sort of damaging spell situated on the floor in the form of fire, sludge, gas etc). Roll is also fantastically useful for staying in front of the rest of your party. As a tank its always useful to stay as the front of the group as you will probably well know, those pesky DPS characters like to go charging in first. Roll buys you a little time, at level 15 if you spec into Celerity you will gain the advantage of an additional roll on a shorter cooldown and therefore if you want to hang back and loot it wont take you long to get to the mobs first.
2) Dizzying Haze - This spell is your friend. I don’t care how much DPS anyone in this level bracket is kicking out, a few kegs of this spell will have the mob running to you. Also, using the same example of the point above, if you’ve got a melee charging in head first you could always just hold your ground and cast a few hits of Dizzying Haze. It’s brilliant because not only is a a ranged spell, it has a high threat, no cooldown and it’s spammable, meaning Mr Melee Douchebag is going to get really tired of running backwards chasing the mobs.
3) Not specific to Brewmasters but I thought it was worth mentioning that there is a repeatable quest at the Peak of Serenity that gives you 50% bonus xp for an hour. So it’s definitely worth heading there at the start of your session. You can access it by using Zen Pilgrimage
Stat and Gear Priority
There’s not much to say about this at such an early level. The stat you will be looking for most is Agility, similar to a Feral Druid tank. You shouldn’t have too much of a problem gaining this while questing and running dungeons and there is the added boost of a very nice staff for the Monk specific quest.
As above I wouldn’t worry about this too much yet. As for all tanks the stamina gain from Mining is always handy and I took Jewelcrafting but haven’t paid too much attention so far. However, I always find Cooking and First Aid are beneficial at low-level for those extra few stats or a get out of jail heal. The bandages are particularly useful as it’s so easy to avoid damage as a monk by using Roll.
I’ve been playing WoW, on and off, for many years now and I’ve tanked with a Druid, Warrior and Death Knight at various levels and end game and I have to say that the Monk is so far the best thought out class at low levels. All of the spells appear to be there to serve a purpose and the Chi building spells fit so perfectly with others abilities into the rotation. It is really very impressive.
If you’ve just rolled a monk or are thinking about it I hope this basic guide has been useful to you. I’m hoping to add an updated version later in the year. Also if you feel I’ve missed anything important out please feel free to let me know.
With just one rally left, Rally de Espana, the WRC 2012 season is coming to a close, which means the new WRC game is finally here!
WRC 3 is Milestone’s third game since themselves and Black Bean Games rebooted the rallying franchise back in 2010, and even though the progress has been slow, they’re definitely at least making progress.
Two of the main gripes about the new line of WRC games have been the visuals and the sound, about how they’re lagging behind most other developers’ work, and it doesn’t do too well when directly compared to Codemasters’ DiRT 3 (a stunningly beautiful game), which is a game that it’s put up against so many times in debates on either fan forums or YouTube comment sections.
With one or two exceptions, Milestone, since 1996 (formerly known as Graffiti) have a library of mostly all racing simulator games, so it’s a pretty safe bet that they have a good idea of what they’re doing when it comes to creating a game like WRC. However, that still cannot compensate for a studio that is obviously much inferior to what Codemasters house. So before I continue with this review, I’m not going to compare WRC to any of the DiRT games at all, because it’s just unfair. Well, at least not until the very end. Ready? 3, 2, 1, Go!
In regards to content, there isn’t a rally game available right now that has even come close to reaching the depths of authenticity these new WRC games give rally fans. It’s fantastically satisfying to be faced with so much choice when it comes to selecting car class, manufacturer, team and driver/co-driver before you start sweeping the challenging roads. The old Evolution Studios WRC games used to have the official cars, teams and drivers too, but not as many. The only class ever available was WRC, and they only ever featured the top drivers and co-drivers, like Sebastien Loeb, Carlos Sainz, Tommi Makinen, Richard Burns, and even a budding Mikko Hirvonen back in his Subaru days with Petter Solberg. Milestone gives us all the WRC, SWRC, and the PWRC!
Then there are the events and stages. WRC 3 features 13 official events, from Monte Carlo to Spain, all with their sponsors and popular stage names. However, even though the official stage names are present, I can drive through a lot of the stages and see long stretches of road taken from other stages and put into the one I’m on, which can sometimes dampen the experience to the point where you may get a bit bored with the rally you’re competing in.
Sure, in the WRC season drivers have to tear through some stages twice in one day, but in WRC 3, you will see that there is a lot of road re-used even though that particular stage is a long way away from the last one on an actual map. It’s lazy design and it’s tedious to play, when most of the events throughout the championship in WRC 3 contain stages, which even though you’re on the third stage, will make you feel like you’re still on the first. It gets that bad sometimes.
Laziness in stage layouts aside, the stages themselves look much better than they did in the 2010 and 2011 editions of the WRC games. They now have more colour, more life, and more character about them, from spectator placement to scenery. There is even added attention to detail to the road surfaces, but for the gravel rallies the surfaces look flat and in some cases lifeless. For example, if you looked at the actual roads in Greece for the Acropolis Rally, you instantly think, “crap, how can a car survive that?" But in WRC 3 it’s just a carpet of texture.
Whilst still not the greatest, the car models look very nice, and it’s one of the bigger steps forward that Milestone have taken with the game. With a higher texture resolution and added reflection detail, the cars no longer look like bland toys, but shiny and expensive machines for you to wrestle with.
Now here’s the massive negatives for me right now; engine and exhaust sounds. For a game released in 2012, based on a sport which has some of the best sounds over a lot of other things in the world, Milestone have managed to make the machine-beast that is the WRC car sound like a soulless box with wheels, and that’s been no different for the past three years. There is no oomph when putting your foot down, and it’s really unsettling because you won’t feel that power that you’d expect to feel when flying down a long straight in Finland. Take the John Cooper Works Mini for example, that car is an absolute monster in regards to the sound it gives off. Its twin-exhausts will rattle your head, but will satisfy you to the point where you’ll be smiling without even knowing it. Trust me, I’ve been a victim of this uncontrollable smiling myself whilst being a spectator on the stages at Wales Rally GB, and it’s always a treat to see and hear that Mini rip round the bend. Here’s a video I recorded back in 2011 on the Dyfnant stage, of Kris Meeke in his Mini. Just listen!
There’s still a slight issue I have with the cars handling too. When taking part in tarmac rallies, I can’t help but feel like I’m driving a hover-craft sometimes, and when hand-braking around corners it’s far too snappy and unrealistic. I don’t enjoy tarmac rallies because of this, and it’s a shame because I usually enjoy them as much as I do gravel and snow. The car feeling like a hover-craft isn’t even down to there being dust or gravel on the road either, it just does it anyway. Don’t get me wrong though, it doesn’t spoil the game, it’s just a disappointment, because the car doesn’t feel heavy enough.
WRC 3 rescues its handling mechanics when it comes down to gravel and snow rallies. Whilst still slightly unrealistic in some places (and that might just be me being extremely picky), the gravel and snow rallies have a superb flowing feel to them, especially when you sweep your way through a cambered chicane; it’s fantastic fun, and really does make you feel like you’re in a rally. Kudos for that.
There are enough game modes featuring those lovely cambered chicanes to keep the average WRC fan entertained right the way into next year. Whilst it’s always a bit disheartening to not have a game based on the current season until there are only a few rallies left, it’s still going to provide you with a lot of competitive fun regardless of Ford not being in the WRC any more, or who’s driving for who in the next season. If you can always look past that sort of thing (which you should be used to by now), then as a WRC fan you won’t be left wanting too much more, aside from a better looking and sounding game.
WRC 3 brings a more refined career mode. Whilst not having to mess about with sponsorship deals and the like, you’ll still be starting from the very bottom of the pile, just without the fuss of doing other things not necessarily related to driving itself, or doing things that are just utterly pointless and annoying. The new WRC Experience career is all about rallying and progression, still with the option to customise your cars performance and appearance.
If you don’t want to go through with the long-winded approach of starting from the very bottom, then you could just start a career mode as your favourite driver from the WRC, SWRC or PWRC. This career mode is extremely streamlined, and will need you to only drive stages and repair the car if necessary. No messing about.
There are still of course options to drive a single stage or a single rally if you want a quick experience to fill-in a gap in your day, but perhaps the most important part of the WRC 3 experience is the Multiplayer, because that will offer the most longevity when it comes to keeping the game alive. The online play is still very much the same as the last game, it’s simple and it’s effective. This time around though you can actually search for sessions. You will be given a host list, where you can view the session type, car class, and how many people are in that session at that time. Think of it as a server browser, because that’s basically what it is. It’s much easier to find a game now than it was in the past, and so far its a lot more stable.
Overall, WRC 3 still lacks the soul and spark that it so desperately needs for it to be among some of the greats of rally games, but because of its official license and content authenticity, with fun and accessible game-play, fans of the WRC must play this game, whether it be by means of renting or buying. Milestone are definitely taking steps in the right direction, but its clear to see that they’re behind the times and maybe lacking in funds and personnel to create the perfect rallying experience. It’s a shame really, because imagine if Codemasters were given the rights to the WRC… Sorry, I was drooling there.
Remember that time when I said I was pretty much finished with World of Warcraft? Yea.. about that. After a couple of weeks hiatus from all things gaming I am back to craic with a vengeance. First on my list is the 4th expansion to World of Warcraft, Mists of Pandaria.
Since starting here at Game Craic I have written quite extensively about my experiences with World of Warcraft, and how I had subsequently grown tired of the game. Even in a recent Podcast I personally debated on whether or not I was even going to purchase the then up and coming expansion. It was fair to say my expectations for it were fairly low. To my surprise Blizzard have managed to recapture my imagination for the world and prove once again why they have been on top for so long.
Before I get into the depths of this piece I should probably admit my whole attitude to World of Warcraft has completely changed. For possibly the first time in five years of playing WoW I find my self approaching it as simply a game, rather than a second life. Whether this adds or detracts from my overall impression of things will probably be for you to decide.
Due to certain other commitments and life choices I am no longer able to game long into the small hours of the morning. Gone are the days where I’d religiously log into Warcraft every day even if I didn’t particularly want to. Progress has been slow, I’ve played probably a maximum of 11 hours, but my god am I enjoying it. The progress that I’ve missed out on through approaching a game like this so casually seems to have been dwarfed from my overall appreciation of almost everything around me.
I wouldn’t say I’m much of a role-player, but in my head I suppose I do get into character while playing. For example, the character I am playing helps dictate my play style. Don’t lie, how many of you thought I was going to say I like to sit at my computer in full Moonkin cosplay? While playing my Night Elf hunter I was incredibly passive and would hardly ever engage in PvP whereas on my Undea Horde hunter I engaged with anything that dared move in my vicinity. Much of this often gets lost when you get down to the level grind after repeatedly chain quests all night, whereas now I find with a few breaks into between sessions I’m much more focused on my individual character.
I hadn’t played enough pre-expansion to continue with one of my current 85’s. And the poor server that they’re on couple with the fact that I no longer play when most of my friends play helped me decided that a change was necessary. All of this considered I opted to re-roll on a high population server and start fresh with a new Pandaren Monk.
I was fortunate enough to gain access to the beta test and had already explored large portions of the starting zone and I was relieved Blizzard had addressed a number of issue such as drop rates and slow mob respawns that made leveling in the beta almost impossible at times. Back then I purposely ignored the quests text so to not spoil it for myself once the game was released and I’m delighted I made that decision as I found it polished and engaging.
From my own perspective I’d probably argue that Blizzards story telling in-game has been something to be desired in recent times, particularly in terms of character starting zones where lots of material could be perceived as filler content rather than setting a story for your chosen race. The Blood Elf and Draenei zones were probably the worst offenders at this. I can happily say that this isn’t the case in Mists of Pandaria, where it would be hard to argue that anything could be left out in this short and to the point starting zone.
The story is set as Shen-zin Su, a giant turtle providing the home to the whole of the Pandaren, is injured as an Alliance Air Ship carrying Horde prisoners crashes into the island causing the great turtle to hemorrhage blood.
This is where the story of your freshly level 1 character begins as a promising student tasked with finding what has caused the island harm. The island itself is quite breath-taking in its beauty drawing a strong influence from ancient China and oriental styles
Where the story becomes particularly engaging is when the Pandaren are introduced to both Alliance and Horde factions and how both sides are supported by different leading NPC’s. If you’ve decide to create a Pandaren character you have the unique position to be able to choose what faction you are going to represent after you have completed the quests in the starting zone. This is where my own gripe so far with the expansion exists. As I’ve played through the Pandaren zone I struggled to see why such a peaceful race would then opt to fight each other by representing one of either Horde or Alliance factions. It seems odd that just because these groups have crashed here should they then decide to take up arms against each other. I know the possibility of a 3rd faction or a neutral faction would be almost unworkable, but if there was ever a case for one it was with the Pandaren. Blizzard tried it’s best to show early signs of animosity between the Pandaren as two major npc’s argued over how best to heal Shen-zin Su. The Horde favouring NPC deciding it would be best to blow the ship out and risk further injuring the turtle whereas the Alliance favoured looking for an alternate option but that rift didn’t particularly seem big enough to then start battling with your own people over issues that didn’t affect the race as a whole.
As is probably quite clear the starting zone storyline really captured my imagination and I felt involved with my character before I had even reached level 10, this was even more so the case once I’d chosen the Horde faction and set off to introduce myself to Garrosh. As soon as I arrived in Orgrimmar, with the hustle and bustle of a high population server, I felt like a Pandaren that has just arrived here for the first time. As I walked into the entrance my character was abused by Goblin NPCs on how silly my appearance was and this feeling of an outsider was pushed further once I’d finally found Garrosh. As most of you with a knowledge of WoW will understand (actually I don’t think anyone who has never played WoW would have read this far) Garrosh was, as expected, a total dick. As I was rudely introduced into the Horde by the arrogant and aggressive leader, he further set out how I’d have to fight fellow Pandaren who chose the Alliance. Not content with being a total jerk he then forced my character into the Trial of Champion arena to fight some giant elite mobs to ‘test my combat skills’. Charming.
At present I find myself around the level 25 mark slowly making my way towards the level cap. Will I make it to max level? Who knows, at present I am just enjoying playing a game again that was once so dear to my heart. Good job Blizzard.
It’s been a week now since I returned from an exhausting weekend in our nations capital. Me and a few of the other Game Craic crew gathered at Earls Court to sample some of the finest ales and tastiest food Earls Court Road has to offer. I stumbled off a train 6am last Monday and have been recuperating ever since.
While tiring our visit to the Eurogamer Expo 2012 did allow us to get to grips with some of the biggest games due out in the next few months - and a few hidden gems too. Here’s what I have to say about a handful of games I managed to have a go with:
Aliens: Colonial Marines
The queue to play the latest Aliens game from shooter veterans Gearbox Software wound around their booth so that for the vast majority of the wait you had the pleasure of watching Sega employees play as the Aliens. Lurking in the shadows, bounding up walls and scuttling through ventilation shafts to pounce across the room and pin an unsuspecting marine looked like amazing fun.
Upon reaching the front of the line it became apparent that as all the Sega employees were controlling all of the Aliens the only part left for us to play was that of the hunted marines. The marines are armed with a motion sensor and more conventional weapons than the Xenomorphs acidic bodily fluids or retractable maw with an assortment of pistols, shotguns and assault rifles with which to defend yourself.
The only objective, so far as I could see anyway, was to stay alive and shoot aliens. A classic Team Death Match style scenario only where one side were on the attack, and the other on the defense. Rushing off on your own inevitably ended in death so our group of soldiers huddled together, blasting at aliens as they swarmed around us. It controlled well, and shooting aliens was undeniably entertaining, but the game mode seemed rather pointless. It lacked the tension of the Alien vs. Predator games and without any objective we basically camped in one place and waited for Aliens to come to us. That said, I can see some objective based gameplay, particularly if it forces the squad to split up. I can’t see it being a classic but it seemed solid enough, I’ll be keeping an eye on it.
Assassins Creed III
I’ve heard talk that there was a demo showing off some of the ship combat, but I didn’t get to see that. When I sat down to fiddle with the 250th Assassins Creed game it was more traditional Creed fare: scaling a tower, sneaking past guards, stabbing folk in the neck and free running across crumbling rooftops.
There were some nice new touches like when Connor grabs a freshly stabbed foe as they collapse and drags them around a corner to conceal the body but otherwise the climbing, free-running and combat all feel very familiar. If you’ve played any of the many Assassins Creed games since Assassins Creed II then you should know what to expect with the moment to moment gameplay, and that’s not necessarily a bad thing. The confines of a single mission with strict parameters aren’t the best environment to show off an Assassins Creed game for me. I’m looking forward to trudging out in to all of that snow and exploring the American wilderness. The demo itself didn’t show off anything new or exciting, but the game itself still promises a great deal.
One of my most anticipated games before the show and it certainly didn’t disappoint. The Dishonored demo showed off one stage where you are tasked with kidnapping a man named Solokov. You are afforded an array of equipment and abilities to help you achieve your goal and then you are set on your way, being plonked down in an alleyway and left to your own devices.
I tried a number of approaches; blazing a trail of destruction with both crossbow and blade, sneaking silently in the shadows and, of course, rat possession based infiltration. How you go about reaching Solokov, incapacitating him and extracting him from his residence is open to a great many interpretations. And, while I could eventually manage to reach him without raising the alarm, making my escape proved a far greater task. The freedom to play whichever way you like, and the multitude of environmental factors that can be used to your advantage, or not, were all in evidence. This was definitely one of my top games of the show, and I can’t wait to get my grubby mitts on it come Friday.
I approached Hitman Absolution with a little trepidation. I have been a big fan of the previous Hitman games and some of the discussion about this latest incarnation had painted it in a less than favourable light: more actiony, more linear. That certainly wasn’t the case with the mission I played.
Like classic Hitman you arrive on the scene, scope out your target and then assess how you would like to go about ending their life. And, there are plenty of wonderful ways you can go about doing so. Planting a bomb under their car, poisoning their food or the classic sniper shot from afar. The trick of course is to do all of this and get away scott free, but you can go balls out and start dropping bodyguards, civilians and police to your hearts content if that’s what you’re into. I prefer the silent assassin approach. Either way, I can happily report that Hitman Absolution is definitely a Hitman game. It looked fantastic, the streets were bustling with activity, there’s a whole lot of stuff going on and there’s still a number of weird and wonderful ways to kill people.
Probably the most exciting game I played the whole weekend. Hotline: Miami is GTA meets Hitman with a retro aesthetic and an extreme tendency towards violence. You play as a particularly ruthless hitman shooting, clubbing and aggressive door opening, your way through a number of levels-come-puzzles. It’s super slick, insanely violent and extraordinarily entertaining. There’s great satisfaction to be had meticulously planning how to take out a group of armed thugs while armed with nothing more than a baseball bat and then pulling it off, standing atop a heap of lifeless bodies.
Hotline: Miami is due out on October 23, and you can pre-order it right now. I recommend that every single person reading this does so. It is tremendous.
Another game I approached not entirely confident I was going to enjoy what was in front of me. However, the opening segment of Tomb Raider seems to be perfectly good and not the entirely linear, QTE laden experience it could have been. Of course, to think that would be the case was slightly silly of me, but you could see how I might have got that impression.
Tomb Raider looks stunning and controls very well, Lara moves around her environment freely and jumping and climbing seems to be super responsive. It’s difficult to tell sometimes where the cut-scenes end and the bit where you’re supposed to be pressing buttons begins, which is testament to the incredible presentation on show. The demo only showed off some very light platforming and bow on helpless deer combat but it was enough to quell my fears. The campfire based leveling system is probably a bit too much RPG in my Tomb Raiding for my liking, but I can’t see it spoiling what is looking like a triumphant re-imaging for Lara Croft.