Bears Can’t Drift!? Can They?

I remember the first time I played a kart racer, huddled around a small CRT TV, three friends and I would sink countless hours into Mario Kart – a newly founded concept of the racing game genre. Throughout the years I developed a strong fondness for kart racing games, from playing the likes of Crash Team Racing, Modnation Racers and the Mario Kart series. I adore retro karting action, however, it seemed like this was something that the PS4 lacked.

bears-cant-drift-screen-09-ps4-eu-10july15

Bears Can’t Drift!? is scratching the kart racer itch that I’ve had for over half a decade.

I began to do a little digging, in the hope of finding a kart racer that would invoke the same feeling I had when playing those that share a special place in my heart. I stumbled across an article, on the Unreal Engine forums, written by Arran Langmead. After watching the attached videos within the thread and reading through the features of the game, I quickly became enamoured with Bears Can’t Drift!? – A kart racer being developed by Strangely Named Studio.

The project started as a small Unity made game for the OUYA, developed by a team of two. With a few unfortunate twists and turns, Arran single-handedly steered the ship in a different direction and chose to target Steam and PS4, instead of the OUYA platform. Starting from scratch he made the switch from Unity to Unreal and began utilising Unreal Engine 4’s Blueprint system.

bears-cant-drift_020

I think I’ve found my favourite racer already.

Although the game was made primarily by Arran, seven months into development two new members joined the team. Adam Barton became a business partner and co-developer on Bears Can’t Drift!? with Rachel Simpson working alongside both, as a freelance composer and sound designer.

You can clearly tell that Arran has matured with the same undying love for kart racers that so many of us hold dearly. Taking inspiration from unforgettable classics of the early Nintendo and PlayStation era. Bears Can’t Drift!? features an open hub world to explore while also replacing the traditional menu system.

bears-cant-drift_019

A beautifully sculpted array of colours makes up this stunning oriental themed enviroment.

Players are able to drive through whatever hub they desire to gain admittance to three uniquely themed worlds, each hosting up to twelve playable tracks. Players can dual among other racers by using and combining power-ups to cause frantic mayhem throughout the course. In order to gain access to more challenging difficulty levels, you will need to prove you’re worthy enough by completing a specific task – such as making a challenging jump after drifting around a dangerously narrow pathway rather than just selecting it from a menu.

bearscantdrift

A mountainous, woodland area allows for the grizzlies to drift free in their natural habitat.

The artistic flair and prodigious sound design, that first attracted me to the game, were distinctly reminiscent of my childhood, each aspect of the game creating a sense of nostalgia. Worlds seem full of character in terms of visual design and sound, possibly one of the most admiring features is the inclusion of four-player, offline split screen.

It’s very rare these days that games cater for the offline players, as more tend to focus on the online portion of the game. Rekindling with old friends in this couch, co-op, kart racer will definitely be on the agenda later this summer. Bears Can’t Drift!? is certainly worth keeping an eye on.

To see more recent updates, follow me on Instagram, Twitter and Youtube.

/ CR

 

Advertisements

The Evolution of Video Games at ‘Game On 2.0’

Last week I was given the opportunity to attend the opening night of the ‘Game On 2.0’ exhibition at the Life Centre, Newcastle. This exhibition showcases the biggest collection of playable computer games in the world and I was delighted to be attending, courtesy of Komodo – my place of work. 2015-05-22 17.05.58

The entrance to the Life Centre, Newcastle welcomed by Super Mario and the Game On 2.0 event.

This major international exhibition appeals to all ages. The place was stacked full of playable games, some from before my time; with classics such as Pong, Asteroids and Space Invaders dating all the way to the modern titles we see today, such as Minecraft, Smash Bros and VR titles. The event catered for everyone – literally. We were greeted with lots of waiters dressed head to toe in Super Mario attire, they served a variety of food and drinks, which I happily took advantage of – It was a shame not to see Luigi anywhere though.

2015-05-22 17.15.16

Complimentary food and drinks were served at the event. You can’t go wrong with Fish & Chips and a good beer.

Although the event started at 5pm, we waited in the main foyer of the life centre where there were a few smaller exhibitions unrelated to the event. We weren’t able to attend the event right away and were instead subjected to an array of quite lengthy talks and speeches from those who had hosted the night.

Which was fair enough, but considering mostly everyone was waiting to get in and play some games, I felt as though these could have been kept brief, as opposed to the 40+ minutes they went on for. The night it’s self only ran for 2 hours and most of that was held up by talks. Coming from a gamer and probably speaking for many others, all I wanted to do was jump in!

Once we finally got through the doors we were greeted by a game that many would say started it all – PONG. Although the original cabinet wasn’t playable, we were linked up with original controls and a playable game on the big screen. My competitive nature was straight away revealed and I challenged one of my colleagues, Paul, for a game.

2015-05-22 17.45.46

PONG was one of the games I really wanted to play – having never played it before. It was a barrel of laughs and I can see how it become beloved among many.

The controls were very unresponsive and hard to get used to, as they were basically just dials, which resulted in the paddle on screen moving when you turned it. But what else would you expect from a game that was released in 1972. As soon as the game kicked off the pixels started to increase speed from either side of the screen. I was already in a fit of laughs at how competitive me and my opponent became.

I instantly forget about how old it was, the controls, lacklustre graphics and instead became engrossed in the competitive game play. It was a very close game, with the score going back and forth throughout, resembling the game play itself. In the end I came back from an 8 point gap to win the game (which I was delighted about and proceeded to make sure Paul knew about it).

I can see how a lot of people found so much fun in such a simple form of entertainment. It’s not really about how good the game looks or plays, but how people react to it and what they get out of it.

2015-05-22 17.50.37

A few arcades from around the early 70’s.

From the pong machine there were various other consoles from around that same generation, some which weren’t playable, such as a look into what those from the 70s thought what arcades might look like in the future.

As I looked along the horizon of flashing neon lights coming from the arcade cabinets my eyes caught one in particular – Space Invaders, which had an Asteroids cab sat parallel to it. I was definitely up for both and had never played the games in their original cabinets before. It was certainly an experience and I would love one for home use.

2015-05-22 18.07.26

Standing in line to play the original Space Invaders cabinet. Absolutely love this game.

The next bout between Paul and I was on Mario Kart 64. I’d like to think of myself to be quite the veteran Mario Kart player, having played everyone bar this one. As we both struggled with controls we didn’t get off to the best start, but Paul was soon eating my dust and I took an easy point to make the tally 2-0.

Looks like Paul was going to have to step his game up. I then went on to view a series of older consoles, playing the likes of Castlevania as well as Pitfall on the Atari 2600. It was amazing to get a feel for some of the consoles that basically built the foundations of what we have today.

2015-05-22 17.51.40

There were tons of old consoles and game I’d never experienced before.

Paul eyed Dead or Alive on the original Xbox and we were quick to get it underway. I’d never played a DOA game and had never owned the original Xbox, so I was the underdog for this battle. Paul quickly made sure of that and before I could even get a punch in he’d made it 2-1. As soon as we’d played that I had to find a fighting game In which I’d be able to match or beat him. I spotted Street Fighter 2 and the challenge began.

2015-05-22 18.15.47

Street Fighter 2 – It was a shame they never had an original cabinet. But still great to play this after so many years.

I took the first game to make it 3-1, by using Honda, the match was extremely close. I like to think I fair as quite a good Street Fighter player but just couldn’t seem to deal with the pressure of the competition. I used Ken and folded almost instantly, bad idea. I couldn’t even execute the simplest of Hadoken’s (I blame the fight stick) I was trashed by Blanka and Paul drew a point back – 3-2.

2015-05-22 18.13.10

I’d love to add the Atari 2600 to my console collection. All of the consoles were displayed extremely well throughout the exhibition. 

It was a great idea to show off museum type collections of all consoles past and present. I particularly enjoyed the handheld console section that has been displayed. I’d started my handheld gaming on the original Gameboy, which held a lot of good memories for me, playing the likes of Super Mario, The Legend of Zelda and Pokemon.

2015-05-22 18.19.42

A showcase of different handheld consoles from throughout the ages.

There was also a section that showcased Artwork and Concepts Art from classics such as Jak & Daxter, Lara Croft and Uncharted. This was accompanied with memorabilia from these games, some pieces being very rare.

2015-05-22 18.17.46

Concept Art was featured throughout the exhibition and it was great to see what characters looked like before the ones we know and love today.

There was also a children’s section, it was great to see the younger generation being able to experience games that I played when I was their age. With games such as Animal Crossing, which is probably one of the best games for a child to start on. I have many fond memories sinking countless hours into that series, something that I still often do on the 3DS.

2015-05-22 18.19.05

It was great to see newcomers interacting with classics new and hold.

I then eyed a gamecube, four controllers were laid upon the table, the game running was Super Smash Bros. The amount of hours I’ve played Smash as Kirby is no ones business. I was quick to challenge Paul and a few other colleagues of mine to a game. With five stocks each I was tactfully watching, waiting for the right moment to pounce.

I love how fast and intense Smash is. It’s a right laugh and if you’ve never played the game before I highly recommend it. The fight was chaotic, hectic, like any other smash game. It’s amazing to see how well the Gamecube version still holds up.

Four stocks quickly turned into two and I had the advantage over Paul with one stock up on him. I bided my time, struck at the right moment and made it 4-2 with ease. By this stage Paul new he was beaten, seeing as as though the as the night was closing to an end. Poor Paul.

2015-05-22 18.36.12

Super StarDust HD in 3D on the PS4.

We still had time for a few other games. As I’d never played a game in 3D before, it was great to get to experience that with a Super Stardust 3D on the PS4. This game was a brilliant example of how 3D can work in certain games. It added to the experience, with asteroids shooting out towards me and explosions taking on a whole new dimension.

2015-05-22 18.30.25

There was a fantastic selection of Arcade cabinets on offer.

I was so pleased to see the Oculus Rift at the event. I first experienced this in 2014 at EGX. I was blown away once again, I’m usually not one for “gimmicks”, I like my old school ways – Couch, controller and TV. To me though VR is not a gimmick, if you ever have a chance to experience Virtual Reality as part of the Oculus Rift then please do – you won’t be disappointed.

2015-05-22 18.38.42

Donkey Kong was definitely one of favourites I played throughout the night.

As the night was quickly approaching 7:00pm the doors were about to close, what better way to end the night than to play an arcade cabinet that I can only dream of owning – Donkey Kong. It was brilliant to experience this game for the first time. The colours just looked fantastic and the game play was totally addictive. I can see why this machine swallowed up countless amounts of loose change back in its day.

2015-05-22 19.00.56

Destroying the Death Star. A great way to end the night.

With five minutes to kill I played a game I’d never seen before, this was a Star Wars cabinet. With the bright, green, neon lines flashing about on screen, I piloted an X-wing through space, destroying TIE Fighters – before descending onto the Death Star to give that final last shot.

With my team of colleagues stood behind me, giving off that true arcade atmosphere and on the clock before the exhibition closed, what better way to end the night than to destroy the Death Star!

All round I had an absolute blast. Sure the pictures aren’t the best, Hopefully an investment in a camera isn’t far off, but I can’t recommend the event enough, especially if you live in, or are travelling to the area soon. The event is open to the public now and runs until 1st November 2015. For more information – Visit Life Centre, Newcastle Game On 2.0 Exhibition.

/ CR

What I’d love to see NeXt from Nintendo

It seems the life of the Wii U has been short and not so sweet for Nintendo. Less than two and a half year into its life and plans for a new console have already been revealed. It doesn’t really say a lot for Nintendo, chucking the towel in already, with not very many upcoming titles announced and word of a new home console already on the horizon. I think it’s fair to say I’d feel a little disappointed if I’d just bought a Wii U. But who can blame them for not wanting to stay on a sinking ship?

They’ve thrown a lot of heavy hitters at it recently to try and keep the console a float. Games such as Super Smash Bros, Mario Kart 8, The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker HD and more couldn’t give the Wii U the sales that were desired. Yet the console still suffers massively and has one of the least appealing line-ups on a Nintendo console to date.

super smash bros wii u review screen

Super Smash Bros. for Wii U offered the best smash game since Melee, but could have reached a bigger audience if the console had sold more.

Now I’ve owned every Nintendo console since the SNES. I was brought up on Nintendo, if it wasn’t for them I probably wouldn’t have gotten into gaming. I was greatly drawn to each home console and handheld system they released, and then came the Wii. Don’t get me wrong the Wii was fantastic console and Nintendo always seem to lead the way with innovation, it seemed to open up the medium of video games for many, allowing them to edge more and more into the mainstream. For me it just wasn’t the type of console I wanted. Compared to the likes of the Gamecube, N64, SNES and NES – the Wii just didn’t seem to stack up.

SONY DSC

The Gamecube holds so many fantastic gaming memories for me.

Wii U wasn’t much better either, the gamepad controller seemed clunky and unneeded, although it may have been useful to some players, I just simply preferred the generic controller, so much so as soon as I bought a Wii U I instantly picked up the pro controller to go along with it. This is something I wish the console had shipped with in the first place.

The launch line up wasn’t much better either, from the start it looked like Wii U was going to continue to get the third party titles it needed. Fast-forward two year and the momentum from the Wii, which the Wii U was riding on, had seemed to greatly diminish. Third party support became a distant memory and the total lack of games made the Wii U an undesirable purchase for many.

original

The Wii U launch games lacked any hard hitters, something that the 3DS also shared but thankfully recovered from.

I still have my Wii U but it doesn’t get half as much of a look in compared to my other consoles, it saddens me to be honest, I remember when I played nothing but Nintendo. Nowadays if they want to grab the attention of the average gamer there’s a lot of changes that need to be made. There’s so much the console doesn’t offer compared to its competitors, but there’s nothing I’d love more than to see Nintendo make a huge comeback!

With the announcement of the NX it got me thinking, what would I love to see in their next home console? Nintendo President Satoru Iwata has already said that a new control method is already in the works for the NX, offering a “brand new concept”. The name is something that got me thinking as soon as it was announced; NX sounds more mature, gritty, sharp and powerful compared to the likes of the Wii and Wii U – it doesn’t seem as out of place when lining it up with the naming conventions of the N64 or Gamecube.

jpg

The New 3DS is one of the weirdest named consoles I’ve ever heard which seems like an unneeded improvement, maybe something to help Nintendo sell more.. along with Amiibos.

To me the NX holds another meaning, rather than thinking of the X spelt ‘ex’ I see it more as ‘cross’, insinuating cross platform, cross device. If Nintendo could some how combine the popularity of it’s handheld consoles and incorporate that into their home console then could that be something that creates vast popularity for both? The Nintendo 3DS seems to stand on a platform that can’t be matched by any other. Also with the introduction of Nintendo ‘s plans to create content for mobile then a home console that can some how combine (or cross) all these platforms together doesn’t seem like a bad idea.

Now before I start ranting and raving about what I’d like to see next I’d just like to say I’m no console or marketing expert, I don’t have all the answers, this is all just my own personal opinion and ideas I’d like to see implemented. First of all, I’d like to see a console that harnesses the same power as it’s competitors, running in 1080p and holding the same frame rate and power of those that it stands amongst it. Seeing the likes of Wind Waker and MK8 in HD was a beautiful site. More power and even better graphic capabilities could do no harm for Nintendo.

81XoXCL6teL._SL1500_

Games such as Wind Waker and Mario Kart 8 looked simply stunning in HD.

Another main feature that has been a struggling factor for Nintendo is third party support. Nintendo just HAS to be able to provide support for third parties if it’s to compete with other consoles. I’m not wanting it to copy exactly what the other consoles offer, but to compete, Nintendo should be able to offer the likes of popular franchises to consumers of their console – games such as GTA, Fallout, Call of Duty, Fifa, Destiny, Minecraft etc.

None of these games would have ever been possible on the Wii U, not just due to the consoles lack of power but because of the lack of support. If Nintendo could create a console powerful enough to harness games of this calibre as well as catering for it’s vast catalogue of Nintendo classics then it would have some of the richest array of games to offer.

On the back of that feature it’d be good to see a reworked identity and online system finally be implemented into Nintendo consoles, an actual profile for my Mii, similar to how avatars are used on Xbox, more customisation options and adding an identity that can be used over all systems, rather than using friend codes to interact with one another. I’d like to see an achievement system that actually offers the user something as opposed to Xbox Achievements and PS Trophies.

U82CzqB

Taking away Club Nintendo seemed like a somewhat odd decision, I’d love to see it make it’s valiant return offering many more features when the new console arrives.

Bring back a reworked Club Nintendo, something that offers the user a set amount of stars for completing a game rather than offering it to them on a plate, then allow the user to spend those stars on DLC for the game, costumes, new characters, game modes etc. Similar to the achievement system on Xbox, and having your stars total up but also being able to buy themes, avatar clothing for your Mii, allow the user to work for their stars and offer better incentives to play for them, rather than receiving them straight out of the box. This is something I’ve always wanted to see in video games, some sort of incentive for finishing your games or putting as much time into them as possible.

nintendomii0627

The community aspect within Nintendo has always lacked any real foundations or structure. I think it’s something that has the potential to do much more, an area that could do with a needed makeover.

I’d like to see more emphasis on local co-op as well as a better online community aspect, it’d be great to find out more about what my friends were playing, what achievements they’d accomplished etc. Make it easier to drop into each other’s games, have a new re-worked controller that took note from the ergonomics of the Gamecube pad, a collection of games that catered for all audiences – young and old.

How about a strong launch line up? hell I’d even keep The upcoming Legend of Zelda for the NX rather than releasing it for Wii U. Releasing it alongside a new Mario game, Animal Crossing, Star Fox, FZero, Metroid a line up that was just to good to turn away from. I’d also like to see some new IP from Nintendo, Splatoon seems like it has the potential there to be an interesting contender, as much as I love the likes of Mario and company, when will it end? Surely it can’t go on forever, can it?

1406-10-E314-Splatoon-Wii-U-Galería-13

Splatoon has the potential to be a great new IP for Nintendo, lets hope no rash decisions are made before release.

There are so many more features I’d add, but I could go on forever. By combining all these with the cross plat forming aspect mentioned earlier I don’t see how this couldn’t be a new introduction of a console that can cater for all gamers. I’d go in the opposite direction of having a media console and focus more on the games.

Offering the likes of Netflix, blu-ray players are great features to implement but the sole purpose of buying a console is usually always to play games, something I think some companies often forget. There’s nothing I’d like more than to see Nintendo back on top and here’s to hoping they can get everything right this time… as opposed to the majority wrong.

Kept you waiting, Huh?

Metal Gear Solid. It’s a game that resonates with many people across the world, me being one of them. Just hearing the name puts a smile on my face. Whether it be fans young or old, those that are new to the series, or die-hard followers that have played Metal Gear since ‘87.

Whichever you may be it’s hard to disagree that Metal Gear Solid is on of the best video game series’ ever made. Although, at times, the story can bewilder even the most seasoned players, it’s one of the best I’ve ever experienced.

It all started in the late 90’s. I remember I’d buy PlayStation magazines religiously with what little pocket-money I was given. To get a demo as a gift with the magazine was a huge deal back then – as this was the only way you were able to try out new games early, without having to rent them. It seems crazy these days, due to how accessible content for new games is now.

MGS-Games

Just a few of the games pictured above from throughout the series.

I remember popping the demo into the PlayStation and selecting a game labelled Metal Gear Solid. The first thing that hit me was the cut scenes, then the voice acting, characters, sound, graphics – it was like nothing I’d ever seen before. I was used to the likes of ‘Crash Bandicoot’ and ‘Spyro the Dragon’, although these were great games, it was a huge step up for what a video game was to me.

maxresdefault

One of the opening scene from Metal Gear Solid 1.

The game felt like a film, at the time I remember thinking the graphics were the best thing since sliced bread! I remember playing the demo over and over, creating my own stories in my head before finishing it by entering the elevator, which is where the demo ended. It was very short, but it really did get its hooks into me.

I think one of the reasons I was so drawn to the game was due to the homage it pays to the James Bond series. I’d stay up late on weekends with my Dad when I was younger and we’d sit and watch 007 films late into the night. It’s something that stuck with me all throughout my life.

Kojima has been quoted as saying the Bond films were a big influence of his when working on the series “The 007 series is what influenced me the most regarding the birth of MGS. The nucleus of the idea of MGS – a secret mission on which hangs the fate of the world, spy-versus-spy, and espionage action – is all there in 007. Were it not for 007 films, modern action films would not be as they are. And without 007, there would have been no MGS.”

tuxedo

An unlockable suit within MGS, The Tuxedo. Paying homage to the influence 007 had on the series.

My Brother and I would stay at my Grandmothers most Saturdays due to our parents having to work. One cool thing about my Nan was the fact she loved playing video games. It was one of those weird things you never expected, but she’d have all the latest games, ages before I did, and I’d find myself borrowing them from her when I could.

A few months had passed since the weeks spent playing the MGS demo over and over, I was only around nine or ten at the time, so unbeknown to me the game was already out and to my surprise my Nan had actually bought the game a few days before I was due to stay. I couldn’t believe I’d finally see what was beyond those elevator doors, I was so excited!

iba7z4x7prF1oB

The opening level of MGS will be an unforgettable one for me (probably due to the amount of times I replayed the demo)

The game was just extraordinary. I’d spend full Saturday afternoons, each week, playing the game non stop every time I stayed over, eagerly awaiting to go back each week and continue from where I left off. After a few weeks my Nan just decided to give me the game, as she knew how much It meant to me at the time. Thinking back now, I don’t even think she got a chance to play it.

One thing that totally blew me away was when I first faced Psycho Mantis. To be nine years old and have a boss within a game read your memory card and tell me what games I’d been playing – the game was on another level for me. Experiencing that as a kid for the first time was just mind-blowing, I was unable to comprehend what was happening but thought it was phenomenal.

Metal-Gear-Solid-Psycho-Mantis

Psycho Mantis; one of the best video game bosses ever. Was able to read your memory card to see what you had been playing. The only way to defeat him was to swap your controller into port 2. 

After battling with mantis many times, each attempt at trying to take him down coming to an abrupt halt, I was so confused as to how to defeat him. Realising that swapping the controller from port one to port two, in order to stop him from reading your moves, was fascinating to me – you can imagine the sheer sense of shock when it actually worked.

With each game release I personally thought the series got better and better. MGS 2: Sons of Liberty brought better graphics, bigger cinematics, improved game play and so much more story detail into the mix. Although taking control of Raiden for the first time was a little disappointing at first. Solid Snake had become such an iconic character for me that I didn’t really want to take the reigns of anyone else. But still, I loved the game non the less and spent countless hours playing it.

mgs22

The power of the Playstation 2 brought MGS 2 to a whole new level.

Now I know a lot of people prefer Solid Snake to other protagonists in the series, but when Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater came along, I instantly took a shine to Naked Snake, who was later to become Big Boss. I just loved his story, there was a lot of controversy on the fact you could use different camo’s and would have to eat wild jungle creatures to sustain your health.

It offered that higher sense of realism and made the jungle a more dangerous place to be caught up in. I remember the first time one of my ration packs was eaten by the wildlife. The sheer detail that was put into the game left me staggered.

Metal-Gear-Solid-3-Snake-Eater

‘Big Boss’ is more than likely my favourite protagonist ever.

Hopefully everyone reading this has played the game, if not I suggest you do before you read on due to spoilers that I want to touch upon. Seeing characters and starting to piece the story together a little more with the likes of Ocelot (who you meet for the first time in MGS 1) was great, fan theories became a big thing for me, constantly trying to work out the elongated story and fill in the gaps that were yet to be discovered.

The boss battles in this game featured some of my favourite characters from the series – going up against the Cobra Unit. I remember facing aged, old, Sniper ‘The End’ for the first time. I’d been playing non-stop before we were about to leave for a family holiday, getting as much play time in as possible, knowing I’d not be able to play for a few weeks.

Metal-Gear-Solid-3-The-End1

The End; One member of the Cobra Unit in MGS 3.

When starting up the game after returning home, I was notified that I no longer needed to face off against ‘The End’ as he’d died of old age from waiting to fight me. The scene gave me an injection of nostalgia and instantly took me back to my childhood and the battle between Solid Snake and ‘Mantis. I loved how the game could just do that, breaking the cliche of boring, old, boss fights, giving them a unique spin and once again surprising me.

But the best boss fight I’ve ever played has to be the final one in the game, where you come toe to toe with ‘The Boss’. The whole game builds up to that point, it’s something you feel reluctant to do after building a relationship with this character throughout the game. But everything about the battle is amazing, the speech before the start, the scene, setting, combat it’s just astonishing. It’s what made MGS 3 one of my favourite games of all time.

87795-238047-Fieldjpg-620x

The Boss; One of the most entertaining and memorable boss fights I’ve ever faced.

With the release of MGS 4 getting closer I played through all the other MGS games, mostly on PSP, as well as the spin-off titles such as Metal Gear Acid – which was actually my first PSP launch game. Between Snake Eater and Guns of the Patriots was when I really appreciated Hideo Kojima as a games designer.

I hadn’t really taken any notice as to who designed the games previously, but now video games had become more of an art form to me as opposed to just something you’d do in your spare time. I studied video games history as a module in university and have wrote many papers and essays in relation to the work of Kojima and the effect he’s had on the games industry.

metal-gear-solid-4-gameplay-02

Old Snake shown above, as well as the over shoulder camera featured in MGS 4.

Guns of the Patriots brought so much to the table, and once again MGS had taken a giant step forward, seeing the series evolve first hand from the days of Shadow Moses, into a game like MGS 4 – it was crazy! OctoCamo was an amazing addition, being able to cover any surface area for a brief amount of time and miraculously see your camo change before your eyes was brilliant.

Snake_using_Octocamo_(Metal_Gear_Solid_4)

The OctoCamo, used in MGS 4, being put into good use.

Along with the new streamlined view and over-the-shoulder camera for aiming, as opposed to the overhead third person camera and now dated controls of previous instalments, the game was technically flawless. For anyone who’d played the earlier games, especially MGS 1, were in for a real treat. The game made reference to it a lot, tying up loose ends with memorable characters, using a familiar set of boss fights that referred back to the original bosses of MGS1 and even allowing players to venture back to Shadow Moses!

image_metal_gear_solid_4-8712-899_0010

Going back to Shadow Moses was a trip down memory lane for those who’d played Metal Gear Solid 1.

I could go on and on about the Metal Gear franchise – covering the story, my time with the series, characters, boss fights, game play etc. There’s just so much to cover, which is why it’s such a beloved series of mine and always will be. This week was a big week for Metal Gear Solid fans, with a number of announcements cropping up over the past seven days. We finally have a fixed released date, for whats said to be the last Metal Gear Solid game worked on by Kojima – Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain.

2663560-metalgearsolidv_phantompain_tgs_mgstpp_tgs_23_web

Venom Snake (Big Boss) & Quiet; featured in Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain.

Thankfully the game will release on this date, worldwide. We also saw a very special collectors edition, featuring a half scale replica of Venom Snake’s bionic arm, which is featured in The Phantom Pain. It’s safe to say I pre-ordered the minute I had a chance. Watching trailers, seeing new screen shots, reading news and generally hearing Kojima speak about it brings all the nostalgia, excitement and memories flooding back to me.

Metal-Gear-Solid-V-The-Phantom-Pain-Collectors-Edition

The collectors edition featuring a half scale replica of Snakes Bionic arm. 

There’s no doubt this will once again be an amazing game to hopefully round off one of the best video game series’ there’s ever been. For those new to the series I advise to at least play a few of the games before picking up MGS V. Snake Eater is a great place to start and there are many videos and forums that will give you a heads up on previous events related to the story. But Metal Gear Solid is a series that should not be missed and if you love video games then I strongly advise you to jump in if you haven’t already.

/ CR

A Disappointing Destiny

When this game was first announced I couldn’t wait to get my hands on it. It quickly became one of my most anticipated titles to date. I’m not one to shy away from MMOs and usually they have me hooked from the get go, so I could not WAIT to play Destiny.

A few problems arose for me around release – so I wasn’t able to pick it up from day one. The comments from friends and family seemed extremely positive, so as soon as payday came round I decided to put down some of my hard earned moolah and pick the game up.

I chose to go with Exo, a race of humanoid machines. After a little research on the class systems within the game, I soon jumped in as an Exo Hunter. I’d played the Destiny Beta so the game play leading up to the tower was very familiar. After scouring my surroundings and spending a little time in the tower I was left unsatisfied with the interaction I was able to have with other people. About ten missions in, I still felt a lot of isolation, only ever grouping with people to complete challenges to then quickly disband and move on to other things.

maxresdefault

Character Creation isn’t as expansive as I first hoped.

I don’t think I’ve ever felt so much isolation in an MMO, I’ve felt less lonely in single player games, due to significantly more engaging NPCs. This isn’t due to the players themselves but from the poor array of tools offered to hold any form of interaction others.

As I continued to play I felt as though there was barely any tutorial or help at all to describe my surroundings. I was harvesting spin metal and didn’t really know what purpose it served; this was relative to many other parts of the game too. After killing enemies there was very little direction to what was and what wasn’t loot, it didn’t seem prominent enough when dropped and was left scattered and almost blended into the playing field. I missed out on a lot of loot early on due to this, a brief explanation of this would have served me well.

Although the planets and landscapes are visually beautiful and the view from the tower is quite a breathtaking feature, I felt let down by the maps themselves. I’d have liked nothing more than to descend towards the city below and explore it for all it was worth. The linear driven maps and sceneary quickly became as tiresome as the variety of missions. Having to complete similar tasks over and over again become tedious, very quickly and I felt as though the missions could have had a lot more scope in terms of story, plot, character interaction and variety.

02-F1kjHT9

Although beautiful, the landscape has very little to offer in terms of exploration.

I felt as though the story was lacking, it seems like Destiny has a fantastic lore and back-story to offer and I’d have loved for them to focus on this a lot more. Yet I found myself muting cut scenes and instead chose to listen to a podcast later into the game. There was just nothing engaging about it at all. I found myself using my sparrow a lot to quickly travel from point A to point B. There proved no point in exploring much of my surrounding, it just felt empty with nothing to offer.

I’m a big fan of being able to switch between first person and third person within RPG type games like this one, seeing my characters progress and evolve, especially aesthetically, is very pleasing to me. The amour and clothing equipped by my character looked great but being unable to remove my helmet to see my characters face when outside of the tower was baffling. I soon found that most pieces of armour within their icon avatars looked quite different to what they did when wearing them. As I reached later levels I found that nearly everyone else at my level within my class looked very similar, a problem pointed out by many others.

One part that I couldn’t get my head round was the choice of changing your ship. Although the only time I ever got to see it was in the incredibly long loading screens when travelling between planets and missions. To manually take flight towards other planets within it, the option customize it and even engage in dog fights in open space would have been a brilliant addition to the game.

Destiny-Beta-earning-points

The Crucible is a great addition and breaths more life into Destiny, if broadened it could even work as a stand alone game.

I was also disappointed to find out that I couldn’t engage in any PVP combat while traversing planets, instead I had to enter the Crucible, to which I was met with level 32 players while only being a mere level 10 at the time. Although weapon stats were levelled to accommodate all contenders, I quickly found that those of a higher rank still managed to keep there skills that they’d obtained when levelling up, this resulted in lower level players quickly becoming disposed of. Although not been able to match make I felt like Crucible was a strong part of the game and one of the only parts where I felt as though the game succeeded.

The point where the game comes alive is with friends. I suggest rounding up a group of your closest Guardians as this is where the game really shines and salvaged it for me a little. I really wanted Destiny to be this big phenomenon for me and to a lot of people it is. But I was just so disappointed with so many aspects of it that I found it hard to push myself to go back. My friends list of Destiny players has since dwindled as other have lost interest in it and moved on to other games.

As much as I’ve tried, I’ve just not been able to agree with others on how great this game is. I felt as though it lacked so much, although does have so much potential to be so much more. On paper it seemed like a perfect game, but that’s not always the case when facing it hands on.

As negative as I may have been within this article, Destiny is worth picking up, especially if your going to be playing with friends. The crucible adds a great break from farming but those looking for an in depth MMO should really only rent or completely avoid this one.

The reason I may have seemed so harsh was due to the expectation I had prior release. I’ll more than likely work on Destiny until I receive the platinum, but I really can’t see it being a game that I may reminisce on further in the future. It seems my Destiny within the game is not the one I hoped for, I hope the series is able re-work the potential it has and expand on this within a future instalment.

/ CR

Escapism and Video Games

This is something I wanted to touch upon at later date, but I think now is a fitting time to address it. Escapism from life into video games. It’s something I’ve never really felt part of, I’ve never really felt as though I’ve ever needed to escape my real life problems and venture into a virtual world to forget them. When situations like this arise I’ve always looked upon gaming as exploring another world to forget the trivial ­day to day occurrences in my own. By this, I mean to experience the world of another character or avatar and relive their stories, rather than trying to use gaming as something to mask my own life problems.

But for the first time ever, I’ve used video games literally as an escape, not in a negative way as to say I’m running from my problems, but to escape something negative that may have happened, or be happening and turn that into something positive. Sometimes work leaves me frustrated and stressed out, just like it may do anyone else. We all have these problems whether it is work, studies, how life may be treating you in general, family/friend problems, tragedies or anything that may bring you down in the real world. Whatever it may be, there comes a time where you just feel like closing the door on everything and forgetting the world for a while. Recently this is exactly how I’ve felt, due to similar problems – problems with friends, feeling financially tight, generally feeling down in the dumps, but mostly, feeling unaccomplished with work.

Whatever it may be, there comes a time where you just feel like closing the door on everything and forgetting the world for a while

I love my job, but as a designer my work is always being judged and faces a lot of criticism from others. Now I don’t mind criticism in the slightest. How can we improve if we are constantly lavished with praise? But what I don’t like is criticism that just isn’t in anyway constructive. Lately I’ve fallen to a lot of that within work, mostly from clients, and not much of it has been constructive, meaning it’s harder to work out where I’m going wrong, leaving me little chance on fixing my mistakes, if any.

This hasn’t left me in the best of moods lately. When this is combined with all the other stuff that’s going on, it just brings me down sometimes, but hey, that’s life. When times like this arise I usually try to deal with them first hand but when something is totally out of my control, I’m not able too.

Screen Shot 2015-02-07 at 14.01.09

I’ve been playing a lot of Diablo III recently and it’s a game I’ve absolutely loved from the get go. Over the last few nights when I’ve came in from work, mentally exhausted and frustrated with what the day as thrown at me, I’ve sat down and literally just played Diablo 3 non stop, on PS4. Whether it’s working towards another trophy milestone or farming bounties with friends, I’ve played from the minute I’ve arrived home to the moment I lay down to rest. It’s the first time I’ve ever looked at it as an escape from life, or to be more specific, from the monotonous, frustrating and unaccomplished past couple of days I’ve been part of.

Screen Shot 2015-02-07 at 14.00.41

I wouldn’t class it as running away from my problems, as I always like to face them head on and find a solution on how to move forward, but sometimes there literally isn’t anything you can do. Which is the case here, rather than sit around moping I wanted to fill that void, channeling that negativity from those problems into something positive. So transfixed onto the screen I ploughed away at given tasks within the game, feeling a sense of accomplishment as I done so. I finally levelled my hardcore character to level 70, thus unlocking the reward for the said requirement.

Screen Shot 2015-02-07 at 14.01.26

I also focused on leveling my other characters while farming bounties with friends. I managed to hunt down the 100 treasure goblins and smash through the high tier of bounties like an unstoppable steam train. Each night I’d put all my focus into these tasks, to at least achieve that feeling of accomplishment that I couldn’t from work.

Each evening I’d come in, start the game in a stressed state of mind, feeling down and not in the best of moods and I’d come out the other side, usually at around midnight, with a sense of fulfilment, a feeling of accomplishment and generally came away happy. It’d make the next day easier, I’d use the same focus within my job as I did within the game, trying to finding that sense of achievement, I’d come home start from where I left off and just power through each night. The next day I’d try and mirror this within work. As it came to the end of the week I found that I had achieved the platinum by finishing every given requirement.

Screen Shot 2015-02-07 at 14.01.51

The game had gotten me to that point, the point where I could think clearly again, my stress had cleared, my problems shifted and work was looking up. Sometimes life just throws you curveballs, whether it be your job, studies, your loved ones, stress, things not going your way or just problems in general – life gets hard. In these situations sometimes we’re left powerless, we feel powerless.

So how liberating is it when you can just disappear into a world where you have ultimate power, where you can vanquish evil, save the world, become the champion or just head towards the horizon. Maybe that’s why we love games so much, because when the chips are down and we’re at our weakest, games are still there for us. They can help us overcome hurdles that life stacks in front of us and allow us to tackle problems similar to how we may do so in video games, teaching us to try harder when something may not be going our way, to change our approach when we can’t move forward or just to fulfil that sense of accomplishment when everything else seems lost.

/ CR

A new year, a new chapter, a new saved game.

I suppose I best introduce myself, I go by the name ‘CreativeRhino’ and this is the start of my new blog. So, another place where someone talks about video games. Just like the thousands of others that do it. So why should you use your precious time to sift through my blog posts? why am I the special one? The truth in the matter is, I’m not someone who thinks they are. Here at ‘WhatRhinoSaid’ isn’t somewhere that will spurt out the same old rubbish you may see everywhere else.

You won’t be seeing the 2,449,254th rendition of ‘Minecraft: Lets play part one’. No.. This blog is for myself, it’s views, points and opinions are of my own. I’m not here to do what every other tom, dick and harry is doing. Because what would be the point in that?

I love video games as much as the next man.. woman.. or thumb wielding, nocturnal, pixel junkie. I want somewhere to share my experiences, something to look back on in years to come and think wow I remember those times. Like a virtual diary of gaming nostalgia. I want it to be somewhere to talk about these points with people who may share similar views, whether they agree or not.

I want to use it as a pedestal to lavish the games I love.. and those I don’t. I want to share my view on the industry, my nostalgic throwbacks to the old days and what the future may hold for video games and throughout it all I want you to listen, experience and share it all with me.

So here’s how I want to start. The new year is here, 2015 is already upon us and a week of it has gone already. I have a lot of big plans for this year and one of them is to game my rear end off. The dexterity within my thumbs and fingers has not been taken advantage of as much as I’d of liked it to have been and my mind lacks the wondrous adventures it so desires.

The last year was a great one for me, I got the job I’d always wanted, lost weight, built up a portfolio of work through it all I’ve had such a supportive family, friends and girlfriend by my side but throughout the last year I’ve not found as much time as I would of liked for gaming due to this busy schedule.

We’ve seen a few big game delays in 2014 meaning the year ahead proves to be an even greater one for Video games. So this year I’d like to list a few game related resolutions I’d like to stick too, hoping by the time 2016 comes I’ve stuck to or completed all of them. Firstly..

Complete more games: I tend to pick up a lot of games at once and depending on how much I’m into them I’ll play continuously for days on end and then after a few days/weeks, depending on what life is throwing at me or if Ive picked up a new game, the old ones tends to get left in the past and I usually don’t get round to going back to them. This annoys me personally. I look at my shelf full of games stacked with titles I’ve barely even touched upon and think why do I bother buying new games without first completeing the old ones . Completing those games is something that needs to start this year, Which brings me to my next point.

Stop buying games I don’t need: I have a seriously bad habit of buying games and then just not playing them, due to either already having to many im already working on or not enough time to play them all now i don’t mean not playing as in; do a few missions, spend a few hours completeing various tasks in the game then never going back to it. No, I mean not playing them at all – the bloody shrink wrap doesn’t even come off! As of now i have thirteen games sat on my shelf which still remain in that shiny cellophane.. Thirteen!! And I’ve not touched them since I walked out the shop with them. Hopefully 2015 will put a stop to that.

Focus on my Most wanted List: Now this in a way contradicts my last two points. If I’m to keep up with the latest games, but have to stop buying them how will I experience them? Now I usually make the mistake of buying so many games in one go I just play bits of each and can’t keep up with them all. Other games come out, news releases hereand there and I just fall behind in the whirlwind of those virtual worlds and never get to finish any. So this year I want to just focus on my most wanted titles which will be covered in another post.

Clear my Backlog: probably one of the most dreaded words for any gamer to hear… Just glimpsing at the backlog I have in front of me sends shivers down my spine. So many games, so little time. Sometimes I feel like creating a cut off point, turning my back on all of it and starting afresh. But something makes me stick at those that already remain in my collection. Don’t get me wrong this may sound like I’m making it out to be a chore rather than something that’s fun. It’s not, but when you know that all the games will take hours and hours to complete, taking up time you could spend catching up with current releases it makes me quiver.

Stop becoming so hung up on Trophies: Ahh trophies, those virtual dings we hear when completing various tasks throughout a game, those shiny pieces of pixlated silverware that I long for along like so many others. Some may not care, others obsess over them. Well now If a game has a trophy list that may seem off putting, who cares. The time is hear to stop worrying about these sometimes mundane tasks and to start enjoying the game for what it is.

So there it is, a little intro to myself and some motive to continue into the new year itself. Hope everyone has had a great start and here’s to making 2015 a great one!

/ CR