Master Chief Collection on PC?

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Remember the release of the Xbox One’s Master Chief Collection? Remember the countless updates, the public apologies and getting to play ODST for free? It was perhaps one of the worst releases for the Microsoft, up until it was finally fixed months later. Despite these bugs and endless updates, the game was praised for its sheer quantity of content and graphical updates.

It was a blast to play, and with it came tidal waves of nostalgia for fans of the series. There’s still nothing quite like encountering the Flood for the first time. Well, despite being available on the Xbox One for almost five years now, fans may get to relive that nostalgic feeling all over again on PC.

Next week, Microsoft has promised some exciting news on Inside Xbox, regarding the Master Chief Collection. According to Xbox expert and YouTuber Brad Sams, Microsoft has been developing the game, intending to make an announcement during this year’s E3.

Will they eventually bring it to the PC? Will gamers end up updating it numerous times through the delightful Windows Store? Well, it’s quite possible. Brad Sams is renowned for being correct with his reports, due to revealing the name of Halo’s next game, Halo: Infinity, before it was even announced at last year’s E3. He has reported on several reveals in the past, which are usually all accurate.

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The potential release of the Master Chief Collection on PC is a thrilling thought, and there’s certainly a market for it. Getting to replay Blood Gulch on PC? Cursing at Halo 3’s Cortana’s level on Legendary again? Sure, it sounds like a welcome idea. Microsoft has been very open to the possibility of sharing their games onto different platforms, so this seems like this is almost a given.

Are you interested in the possibility of the Master Chief Collection on PC? Think Microsoft is just announcing that they’ve fixed a different minor multiplayer bug? Want to play Reach again? Let me know in the comments.

Apex Legends? Drop Into Titanfall 2 Already

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Battle royale games! All the kids are doing it. They’ve been flossing their hearts off, they’ve been glued to streams of screaming adults on Fortnite, and now Respawn Entertainment has joined the fray, to help finally change their perception of the genre.

Apex Legends dropped on PC and consoles during the beginning of February, and it has already boasted over 50 million players. You honestly wouldn’t believe this comes from the same developers of Titanfall 2, but heck, Respawn have cracked the battle royale code with an engaging, exciting and ultimately fun free-to-play shooter.

But wait, we’re not here to talk about Apex Legends! Everybody has been doing that. Twitch has been on fire with the new game since streamers realised Fortnite isn’t the sole videogame in existence. No, the focus here will be on Respawn Entertainment’s underappreciated Titanfall 2.

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Titanfall 2? That’s correct, the sequel to 2014’s first game, Respawn Entertainment brought forth a game that expanded the universe’s lore, the gameplay and multiplayer aspects heavily. Under development for two years, the decision was made by the studio to expand on the franchise with a fully-fledged single-player campaign completely.

Basically, despite several accolades, I am under the firm belief that not enough people gave Titanfall 2 the time of day. If we are to examine UK sales though, it rings true. Despite EA expecting the game to sell approximately 10 million copies, they stupidly decided to stick its release slap bang in the middle of Battlefield 1 and Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare. You know, those two forgetful inclusions to their respective franchises.

During its release, Titanfall two fell behind one version of Skyrim, Fifa 2017 and Battlefield. Titanfall 2 had only reached a quarter of the original game’s sales, and for a new sequel that was released on three different platforms, that’s horribly disappointing. If anything, it was deemed a complete and utter financial disaster.

You can blame a bunch of factors. Heck, you can point at Todd Howard and then shake your fist, but EA’s release schedule was way off. They were under the impression that gamers would happily drop their cash on two new releases, but due to the marketing and sheer thirst for Battlefield 1, it completely eclipsed Titanfall 2.

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EA didn’t do much as a publisher to help drive sales, either. With Battlefield 1 impressing the suits with its sales figures, Titanfall 2 had a half-price reduction just one month after release on their digital platform. Despite two years of hard work, it honestly felt that EA pushed it away to one side, in favour of a generic WWI shooter (sorry BF1 fans).

Still, it’s not all doom and gloom. Sales improved ever so slightly, but Titanfall 2 soon made its way onto EA’s Origin Access program, allowing for a whole new range of players to give it a go. It’s been in the game vault for some time now, and with Apex Legends making such a huge impact, hopefully, others will look back at Respawn’s previous titles. Why should you play it though? Well, where to start?

The Titanfall series revolves around the idea of utilising huge, hunkering mechs to take down your opponents. Pilots can either traverse across maps by utilising a grappling hook, or by stylishly wall-running to their objective. Of course, Respawn added the ability of the grappling hook into Apex, but wall-running was not transferred, due to developers believing it would ruin the pace of the battle royale game.

When the time comes, pilots can jump into their mechs, which adds an impressive arsenal to their collection. Each mech is different, and in the campaign, pilot Jack Cooper is joined with the trustworthy BT-7274. Sidekicks are a dime a dozen in single-player campaigns and mostly 90% of the time, they’re completely useless. BT-7274 however, is one of the greatest buddies you’ll ever play with.

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Injecting the Titanfall mechs with personality is a stroke of genius, and you can tell that BT-7274 will be with you every step of the way throughout your journey, due to the simple protocols in his software; ‘link to the pilot, uphold the mission and protect the pilot’. On more than a few occasions, BT-7274 will make sure to prove his usefulness and reliability.

The main protagonist of the story, Jack Cooper, is thrust into the duties of his captain, who is killed by a mercenary group known as the Apex Predators. Now taking control of BT-7274, Cooper must make rendezvous with Major Anderson, who appears to have uncovered plans of a new deadly device, which has the destructive capabilities to dispose of entire planets! We haven’t ever heard of that plot before, right?

During Jack Cooper’s mission, gamers will experience some truly unique level design, which incorporates time travel, crazy platforming and a whole bunch of wall-running. Each level has a different objective, all unique to the last. There are numerous highlights, but one of those includes Cooper and BT trying to determine the whereabouts of Major Anderson.

Effect and Cause is the name of the fifth level in Titanfall 2’s campaign, and it incorporates gigantic flying beasts, killer robots, a whole bunch of clever exposition which is complemented by time-travel shenanigans. Unsurprisingly, things haven’t turned out very well for Major Anderson, but Cooper receives a new time travel device, allowing for the player to hop from the present to the past at a flick of a switch.

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It’s a clever mechanic, and inaccessible areas can be reached with time-travel trickery, allowing for Cooper to traverse across platforms across time! It’s a fantastic addition to the level, and you can have loads of fun by surprising enemies by sneaking back into the past and then surprising them in the present. It’s an excellent moment in the game, which in general hasn’t been lauded enough for its ingenuity.

It is around this point in the game, where you begin to realise that BT starts referring to Cooper as simply ‘Jack’. After Cooper has placed his trust in the mech, you can see their bond clearly evolving during the story. Of course, this means that you’ll now come to expect BT throwing you to your next objective at almost every opportunity. You’ll also start wanting to hug BT.

It’s refreshing to see such a bond between the player’s main character and sidekick, and videogames have always struggled to find the balance between useful and downright annoying. Some great examples are Bioshock Infinite’s Elizabeth, whereas others, such as Resident Evil 4’s Ashley should just be left with the evil cult that kidnapped her.

Unfortunately, Titanfall 2’s campaign could certainly be a little longer. It just feels that it comes up a little short, with average gamers finishing it within 5 hours. It’s much more rewarding on a harder difficulty, but the story just needs that extra chapter or two. Still, that’s not to say that it isn’t rewarding. The level design is just magnificent, and the gameplay? Well, it’s always nice to have an FPS game with this much polish.

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These days, poor FPS gamers have buggy games shoved down their throats. Fallout 76 and Far Cry come to mind, but Respawn Entertainment have proven themselves with Titanfall 2 and Apex Legends. Titanfall 2 looks incredible, and it plays so smoothly on PC. It helps that the pace of the game never really falters, without tiring out the player. Take a hint, Bioware.

Here’s the thing, though. Another problem with current shooters is the inherent need for it to be a damn sandbox. It becomes really tiring going to point A to B and having to unlock certain areas before continuing. Far Cry has become one of the more recent offenders, offering nothing new to the table with its tired mechanics. Let’s make FPS games linear again. If Titanfall 2 can present gamers with an interesting and awesome campaign, why can’t other FPS games?

Still, Titanfall’s roots are the multiplayer modes. In this game, there are several different modes for gamers willing to test out their mettle in the online gauntlet. Some of the best multiplayer features are Attrition, a standard deathmatch mode with AI and Titans, and Frontier Defense, where four players must survive against five waves of lethal enemies.

Attrition was my most-played mode, with the game starting with a Titan meter for every player. Once that meter has been filled by completing objectives and obtaining kills, you can summon your Titan of choice. There’s quite a selection to choose from, and it’s all based on the player’s personal preference. Want to go in guns blazing? Go for Legion and get that Predator Cannon on the go. Want to snipe from afar and deal deadly amounts of damage? Northstar is your mech.

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It can all seem very daunting at first, and first-time FPS players may struggle to get to grips with the fast-paced action, but the game rewards those who put the effort in. Don’t be afraid of the load-outs, just find out what’s best for you and you’re ready to go. A personal favourite Titan would be Northstar, whose sniping capabilities made it easy to clear out the battlefield.

Frontier Defense is a decent alternative to those who struggle with some of the higher-skilled players seen in Attrition. Waves of enemies come in all shapes and sizes, with players having to fight off Titans and even Nuclear Titans, which are about as much trouble as you could imagine. Frontier Defense is a blast to play with friends and is recommended for newbies before they get their teeth into other modes.

Whereas Titanfall 2’s campaign is only 5 hours long, gamers can be expected to find themselves playing multiplayer for much longer. It’s just very engaging, combat is satisfying, and it’s a pleasant reminder of a bygone era of fast-paced, fun multiplayer. Sure, Call of Duty and Battlefield certainly has its fans, but Titanfall 2 just feels like a completely different breed.

You can obviously see the influence of Titanfall 2 on Apex Legends. Sure, it’s apparently set in the same universe, but it feels just as good to play. Perhaps Respawn will implement Titan drops into a new game mode, and heck, maybe one day that may even happen. I can only dream, right?

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Titanfall 2 reportedly sold at least 4 million copies on all platforms after a year of release. It’s a shame that such a well-produced game failed to capture the attention of most gamers. It does feel that EA failed Titanfall 2, but at least Respawn Entertainment has proven to the masses that they’re one of the best up-and-coming studios around right now.

So, if you like Apex Legends and heck, you’ve been one of the few to make it to the end of a match, then check out Titanfall 2. Are you getting joined with awful squads in Apex and keep dying? Heck, still give Titanfall 2 a go! Respawn Entertainment know how to produce a quality FPS game, and the underappreciated Titanfall 2 deserves your time. Sign up to EA Origin/Access today and get to grips with one of the best FPS games in recent years.

Sonic Mania – Review

It may have taken them a long fifteen years, but Sega has finally released a Sonic the Hedgehog game that fans can be incredibly proud of. Developed by Headcannon and PagodaWest Games, Sonic Mania is a true return to form for the blue speedball, receiving rave reviews almost everywhere.

Unsurprisingly, like the previous games, Sonic Mania revolves around stopping Dr Eggman (Robotnik) and collecting the Chaos Emeralds. As they attempt to thwart Eggman’s plans, Sonic, Tails and Knuckles are thrown back into the past. Now it’s a race through time to save the day once again.

The game is similar in style to the original 2D platform games that the franchise is renowned for. Players are able to play as Sonic, Tails or even Knuckles in a variety of different acts. Some old favourites return with some grand redesigns, along with a small selection of shiny new zones.

Sonic Mania kicks things off with a stunning little animated short, and immediately this feels like a fresh start for the franchise. Known for his work on the recently cancelled Archie Sonic Mega Drive miniseries, Tyson Hesse lends a hand in animating this fun intro.

There’s a clear labour of love behind the game, as it’s even developed by a number of fans who are known in the community for their hard work on porting and creating their very own Sonic games. Once lead programmer Christian Whitehead approached Sega about this unique idea, the company decided to help publish it.

Thankfully, Sega made the right choice here. After so many previous pitfalls, Sonic Mania finally gets it right. It’s a superb piece of work, which can provide fans with hours of entertainment. Having recently finished the game, it’s safe to say that it should be recommended to those who have even fallen out with the hedgehog.

The zones have such a clever design to them, meaning that Sonic can traverse across any of the acts however the player wants. Due to the way some of them are designed, zones can be ended in various different ways. Don’t care for the water on a certain level? Get dry and travel to the highest parts of the map.

There’s a huge sense of nostalgia when Sonic is revisiting the old zones, but honestly, the new ones are where the game truly shines. For example, Studiopolis Zone showcases just how great the level designs are, and how the developers have managed to add their own flair to an old recipe. There’s so much detail to be seen as Sonic whizzes on by, so don’t hesitate to pause once in a while to admire the vibrant colours and unique designs.

If there’s any criticism to be made about the game though, it’s that we’ve seen some of these old acts before. The nightmare inducing Chemical Plant and Hydrocity zones make a return, along with that horrifying drowning countdown sound. It’s nice to revisit these zones with a fresh coat of paint, but there was a certain desire to see more new content, especially considering the fact they’re so well made.

Despite this minor criticism, it felt that Sonic Mania was severely missing its very own Ice Cap Zone, so no valid complaints can be made there. Bonus stages make a return again and unfortunately, there’s been no improvement here with collecting the blue spheres. There’s also the addition of the Special Zone, which can be accessed in hidden areas. Special Zones consist of chasing down a UFO, which is a welcome change of pace.

The enemies in Sonic Mania are pretty much the same as their predecessors, but there are a few surprise appearances throughout. Fans of the series will be happy to see a myriad of old faces, and some of the more keen-eyed gamers will notice references to forgotten games.

Players will notice the change in difficulty later into the game, and in one case the final boss in Oil Ocean Zone resulted in some short gameplay breaks. When all lives are lost in Sonic Mania, players have to start from the beginning of the first act. It’s not as harsh a punishment from the previous 2D games, but it’s suitable. Practice just makes perfect with these games.

Unfortunately, a small number of glitches hindered my progress throughout the game. So far, Sonic has managed to completely skip an act one boss, and also get himself perpetually stuck in the spinning motion during a boss fight, presumably for the rest of his life. This can be put down to the fact that the game is brand new so glitches like this can happen. Hopefully, these get fixed though, as other players are having issues.

The sprites have never looked better either, and they’re completely fluid no matter what Sonic is doing.  The same applies to the enemies and especially the boss battles, and Eggman’s creations are meticulously put together brilliantly. Hard work and dedication has been spent on bringing this game to life, and people familiar with sprites will end up blushing during the game.

Of course, Michael Jackson isn’t around to help contribute to the music in Sonic Mania (was he ever?), but it is without a doubt the strongest soundtrack in around 20 years. Whereas Sonic Adventure 2 had some decent songs, Sonic Mania provides some solid remixes and fresh tracks that fans will be already adding to their personal playlists.

Sonic Mania took around five hours to complete, but thankfully there’s an awful lot of replayability here. There’s a Time Attack mode, allowing players to finish the zones in the fastest time possible. Competition Mode makes a welcome return (first appearing in Sonic the Hedgehog 2), where players can race to the finish line.

As is the case with all Sonic games, players aren’t truly finished until all the Chaos Emeralds are collected. Medallions can also be acquired in the game, unlocking special features for different characters. Some will even notice that playing as Knuckles results in a different layout for one level.

For those who fond of the original 2D games, it’s certain that they’ll fall in love with Sonic Mania. It’s even a great starting point for the younger player, who will enjoy the fast-paced action. Considering just how cheap it is, Sonic Mania is great value for money, and it deserves to be played. Hopefully, Sega picks these developers once again, and we’ll see more of this sort of thing.

Sonic Mania is available on all platforms, and it’s a downright bargain. Although I claimed that there have been no well-reviewed Sonic games in fifteen years, I’ve admittedly left out the Sonic & All-Stars Racing games, which deserves recognition for being amazing. Sorry about that.

Loot Box City: Won’t Someone Think of the Children?

The sensitive subject of loot boxes was reviewed last week in a post regarding Blizzard Entertainment’s Overwatch, and it appears that their model might be the new standard for video games. One bizarre example of this is the unnecessary inclusion of loot in the upcoming Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor game, which has raised important discussion amongst gamers.

Developed by Monolith Productions and published by Warner Bros., the sequel to Shadow of Mordor was eagerly anticipated by a number of fans, due to the unique ‘nemesis’ system the game employed. However, the sudden implementation of loot in a single-player game has rightfully agitated and confused players.

This time around, Monolith Productions will allow players to purchase loot boxes which can contain a variety of XP boosts, flashy gear and even orcs. It’s a surprise to see that they can somehow fit huge orcs into small little boxes, but regardless, these digital items can be purchased with real money without any guarantee of winning specific items.

The whole scheme stinks of greed, but it brings up an important question regarding this industry. Are some developers and publishers enabling gambling for gamers of all-ages with this new model? And is it a fair system if it allows developers to continue producing free downloadable content after release?

Unfortunately, there are a growing number of companies that have absolutely no issues with this new structure, and one of the most egregious examples of this is showcased in the multiplayer game, Counter-Strike: Global Offensive, in which skins are gambled with players all around the world.

Video game developers Valve introduced this new program a few years back and countless players have wagered items on several third-party websites, where ridiculous amounts of money have been exchanged. There’s hardly any regulation from Valve, who are allowing players of any age to take part in this shady gambling scheme.

Thankfully, a few publications have already picked up on Valve’s new business model, and the sheer level of profit is currently unprecedented. Unsurprisingly, some of these third-party sites really abuse the system, which is addressed by popular Youtuber h3h3productions, in this informative and entertaining video below.

It certainly feels like Valve is mostly to blame for this recent surge of ‘gambling’ though, as they first introduced a similar arrangement in their multiplayer game Team Fortress 2. A game which was renowned for having some of the best balance for a shooter was abruptly tarnished by digital hats, crates and an assortment of new weapons.

For some, including myself, it was enough to stop playing a game I had engaged with almost every day. New weapons were effectively changing the way people played, and this new fascination with cosmetic items in Team Fortress 2 felt a little peculiar.

Whilst Team Fortress 2 opened the floodgates, it was Overwatch which really put a strong focus on loot boxes, thanks to their seasonal events. As has previously been addressed, their loot boxes haven’t been well-received by a number of players. However, Blizzard Entertainment is making some positive changes, so it’s not all terrible over there.

There are other games that attempt the same model of Overwatch, and that means we shift our focus towards the massively disappointing Gears of War 4. The Coalition provided gamers with the option to buy ‘Gear Packs’, which can help with progressing through Horde mode, whilst supplying fans with special skins.

Not content with people buying the game and the season pass, The Coalition even announced a $100 loot box package which gamers could purchase! In addition to this, they restricted exclusive content for some weekends only, because they still want money from the few people that still bother with the game.

You simply can’t justify the pricing of a loot crate package costing around $100, and thankfully the questionable actions of some of these developers have already caught the interest of government bodies, such as the UK’s Gambling Commission.

With new regulations coming into play, it’s clear that there’s a growing problem here. It seems to be raising eyebrows everywhere else too, with Chinese gaming regulations forcing Blizzard Entertainment to reveal the drop-rates of their loot in Overwatch. The country already has issues with gaming addiction, so adding gambling into the mix is one hell of a nasty concoction.

Sure, there might be some gamers who are not personally affected by this, but it doesn’t change the fact that gambling is wrong on a fundamental level. It can deeply affect people in different ways, where younger players are more susceptible to such habitual, nasty habits.

For instance, studies from a leading UK survey company in 2015 have shown that 11% of respondents aged 11 to 15 years have gambled in online games, with 2% of them having done so in the past week. The number seems to be slowly expanding, which is a worrying sign.

It’s normalising gambling, which can lead to problematic issues further on in life. Young people can often feel rewarded for betting their money on these digital items, and that can have a hugely negative impact, leading them to believe it’s a completely normal activity without any risk involved.

Loot boxes appear to be replacing season passes and paid downloadable content now, and Overwatch is clear proof of that. These crates have paid the way for free content since its release, and even EA are now adopting the same model for their upcoming Star Wars: Battlefront sequel.

It’s amusing because EA’s season passes for the first Star Wars: Battlefront completely split the user base in half once substantial content was eventually released. The price of the pass also felt extortionate for a game that wasn’t even finished. So, in all honesty, the idea of scrapping passes is a welcome one.

 

source – kotaku (au)

Season passes need to be fine-tuned though, as gamers have been fooled into buying season passes by the Assassin’s Creed franchise, and Gears of War 4, to name a few. For all the astounding work that CD Projekt RED has provided us with The Witcher 3, we’re still being supplied pathetic offerings from other companies.

Still, loot boxes just aren’t the answer to resolving this complicated problem with video games. Sure, some developers may vehemently disagree due to the sheer profit they’re making, but luckily gamers are beginning to stand up against loot. The exceptional PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds has also recently introduced crates which have to be paid to open, and players are already showing their clear disdain for it.

It’s a massive shame that this is happening because PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds has just become one of the most-played games on Steam, and despite this resounding success, the developers Bluehole still feel the need to slap loot crates into the game. Of course, servers are expensive and they need to be maintained for such a growing community of gamers, but there must be other ways to help finance further support for it.

So far, few games have managed to do it correctly. It’s possible, and that’s been proven with the original Mass Effect franchise and The Witcher 3. Significant downloadable content for those games has ultimately been worth the gamer’s time and money. Heck, even Nintendo, who are relatively new to the concept of DLC, have managed to set a decent standard with Zelda: Breath of the Wild.

There is a way to give gamers cosmetic items without having to find them in countless crates, and Titanfall 2 accomplishes just that. The game allows players to purchase specific skins and attributes for the entire roster, and so far it looks to be working. It’s all affordable, and obtaining unique animations keeps those Titanfall 2 devotees happy.

Loot boxes are soon becoming the new way to finance games after their release, and we’ll be seeing much more of it from the industry in years to come. If you don’t like it though, and you believe it’s supporting a form of gambling, then vote with your wallet.

Sure, your online character might not look as cool as the others, but then you’ll be happy with the knowledge that you didn’t waste your money on gambling for superficial items, so there’s that.

Overdone?

Now surpassing a staggering 30 million players worldwide, Blizzard Entertainment’s massive online shooter Overwatch has seen some of the strongest support in the industry today. It’s a magnificently polished video game, but now a year after its release has the game actually maintained gamer’s interest?

A thread I recently discovered on Reddit appeared to suggest otherwise. The question was posed to gamers whether they were still playing, and out of approximately 1,300 comments, the majority had stated that they had drifted away from the game. There were a number of reasons for this, such as users complaining that the game had grown stagnant, to the toxic community and timed events ruining Overwatch.

It was a surprising discovery and of course, it goes without saying that this is but a tiny fraction of gamers that have touched Overwatch. Blizzard’s colourful and entertaining shooter is loved by millions, but why do some gamers, including myself, feel completely burned out with the multiplayer game?

There might be a few reasons for this, but we’ll engage with the topic of loot boxes first. To continue free support for the game, Blizzard implemented a loot box system that allows players the opportunity to win new skins, emotes, sprays and voice lines for all characters. They all differ in rarity, and boxes can either be purchased in bulk lots or acquired by completing arcade modes and levelling up.

The loot box system was a welcome idea at first because it allowed us a new way to gain fancy items for favourite characters. These boxes are set to have random drops and if players are lucky enough, they’ll even discover a rare ‘Legendary’ skin inside one! Blizzard appeared to get the system correct, unlike other games that adopted the same method, such as the atrocious Gears of War 4.

However, when Blizzard decided to kick off their first season event for Overwatch, loot boxes quickly became a topic of concern with fans. Whereas all previous items could be purchased via in-game currency, the Summer Games event contained items which could only be found in loot boxes.

With the introduction of 112 items, players had to act quickly if they wanted the desired item, due to the timed exclusivity of the content. It was actually a decent first event, and it was clear that this was Blizzard simply dipping their toes into the ‘loot’ waters.

Blizzard listened to the community’s complaints regarding the exclusive skins, and following events were changed so gamers could purchase whatever item they could afford. Since then, there have been at least five different events with their own unique items. Some of those have been incredibly entertaining, such as the Halloween Terror and Uprising events.

Something started to happen with every new event though, and the community soon realised the exponential number of rare items that were getting included. Whereas the first event began with six legendary skins, the latest Anniversary event boasted a surprising eleven legendary skins, and 24 ‘epic’ emotes!

By all means, fans don’t need all of the items, but if collectors wanted all of those sought after skins, they would have to spend 33,000 of their hard earned credits. If they wanted the superb dancing emotes, at the cost of 750 credits each, it would set them back 18,000 altogether. Sure, some of us tried their luck with loot boxes, but then the drop-rate for the experience was exasperating.

In some instances, users were finding that the money they had spent on loot boxes resulted in severely disappointing results. Some of the wilder players that were spending upwards of £50-100 on boxes were finding that they only won three legendary skins in approximately 50 boxes. The whole event felt like a joke to those who wanted to collect the majority of the content, and you couldn’t blame them, as it was all brilliantly designed.

Of course, Overwatch’s skins and various offering are not essential to the enjoyment of the game. Unlike Team Fortress 2, they’re purely cosmetic and don’t affect gameplay, but the drop rates of loot boxes have still raised important discussion online. Has it been a fair system? Is Blizzard getting a little too greedy with how much-timed content they’re putting out?

It’s a tricky subject. Overwatch’s lead designer, the great Jeff Kaplan, has insisted that these events aren’t intended for gamers to manically collect everything in such a short amount of time. If they have a favourite character, then they should simply focus on getting their new accessories.

That’s a fair point of course, but then I didn’t acquire a skin for my favourite character until the last few hours of the timed content. Standard duplicates were constantly being found in the majority of my loot boxes, and it really soured the entire experience.

Despite how exhausting the loot boxes became, Blizzard Entertainment has actually listened to their community in regards to their events. There are some actual improvements on the way, with drop rates set to increase and the possibility of old skins making a return. That’s fine, but I can’t help but feel that those susceptible to gambling habits have been badly affected by Blizzard’s system so far.

It’s great that Blizzard listens so well to the community, but then that leads us to one of the more important reasons for not continuing to play Overwatch on a regular basis. The community in the game, especially in competitive mode, can be completely and unnecessarily toxic.

Sure, competitive gaming is notorious for bad behaviour, but then due to the anonymity, the desire to win, team gameplay and the dislike for some characters – people can get real nasty in Overwatch. It’s a massive shame, and I’m almost certain that almost everyone who has played competitive has experienced toxic behaviour in some form.

It’s disheartening to have someone yell down a microphone because they’re not happy with the state of the team or a character, or even if someone makes a simple mistake. Their ranking in competitive is so damn important to their lives that they will berate anyone who ruins their chance of climbing up the ranks.

Competitive mode on Overwatch has shown me just how fickle some people can be with video games, and on occasion, I’ve received abuse for not picking the character they want you to be. When you have teams consisting of 6 players, apparently there is just no room for error. Here’s a handy tip for those who suggest you be a healer, go to the character select option and pick Mercy. It’s as simple as that.

Judging by people’s opinion of the community, levels of toxicity are almost up there with League of Legends. In my countless hours of playing Team Fortress 2, there was hardly any abuse thrown around. Players were there to have fun, which some people appear to forget about during Overwatch.

Sure, it isn’t the only game to suffer from hateful players, but then the objective based gameplay just easily angers some folk. And to those who solo queue, you are some of the bravest souls who play Overwatch. Personally, the toxicity has completely put me off competitive, because it’s just not a nice environment to be in.

With so many playable characters and their whole host of abilities, tweaks are regularly needed to help balance gameplay in Overwatch. Unfortunately, some changes have affected the viability of certain characters in the game. The tank class has gone through some of the worst changes recently, with Roadhog mains getting the worst treatment to date.

Several changes have often had a number of negative effects, and players will remember that one time when Bastion became completely invincible for a short period of time. It’s weird that this is happening though, as Blizzard seems to regularly ignore the problems that testers raise. Mostly everybody cried about the Roadhog alterations, but nothing was done.

It certainly isn’t the worst thing that ever happens to Overwatch gamers, but in the past, one of my most played characters D.Va received a decrease in armour and a change to her damage. Suddenly, one of my regulars received an undesirable nerf that negatively impacted the way I play. These fluctuations for the game’s roster aren’t completely game-breaking, but it’s a slight annoyance that has occurred on numerous occasions.

Don’t get me wrong, Overwatch is a brilliantly made game. It has some of the best designs I’ve ever seen in a game, but it’s just not grabbing me the same way it used to. Unlike some users in the aforementioned Reddit thread, I don’t agree that the game is poorly made. Perhaps updates could extend to a little more than just a new hero or map every once in a while because entirely new modes might pique my interest again.

Blizzard has done a superb job with building a rich universe within Overwatch, and they have also provided us with some of the finest animated shorts as well. It begs the question though; where is our single-player mode? The interesting lore they have built upon needs to be made into a fully functional campaign.

Unfortunately, they have absolutely no plans for that anytime soon though, which is a shame considering how well the Uprising story went down with fans. The entire history of Overwatch could be explored and surely knowing Blizzard’s skills, it could be turned into an engaging story mode.

It’s a damn shame that I’m not finding myself returning to the game regularly, but then some of the points made earlier showcase why the game is currently collecting a thin layer of dust right now. It’s a solid piece of work, but the toxic community, the loot boxes, the nerfs and buffs and lack of any substantial update just isn’t bringing me back anytime soon.

At the moment, I’m currently finding myself enjoying Titanfall 2’s crazy multiplayer modes and the new season of Diablo 3. Sorry Overwatch, I do like you; we’re just taking a break right now.

Play Wolfenstein You Jerks

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Do you enjoy the idea of killing Nazis in space? Well then, Wolfenstein: The New Order is the game for you. Despite strong sales during its release, I often found that a staggering amount of gamers hadn’t bothered with the first-person shooter. Perhaps this was because it was a Wolfenstein game, but then the joke’s on them; as The New Order is the best FPS in years.

Released in 2014 and developed by MachineGames and published by Bethesda, The New Order follows veteran William ‘B.J.’ Blazkowicz, who attempts to stop the Nazis from continuing their reign of terror after winning the Second World War. It’s a fresh reboot for the series, introducing compelling character development to the main protagonist for the first time ever.

During its release, the game was mostly met with critical acclaim, with critics praising its narrative structure and intuitive shooting mechanics. It seemed weird to see a Wolfenstein game receive such positive reviews, but then again, they weren’t wrong in the slightest.

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Providing William Blazkowicz (or ‘B.J.’ for short) with much-needed depth and emotion was the best idea that MachineGames came up with for this game. For so long now, the games have only provided little more than a grimacing face but now, B.J. appeared in The New Order with a love interest, a personality and a much greater motivation for killing Nazis.

During the game, players will take Blazkowicz through an extremely unforgiving war, taking place amongst the Allied forces in a deadly fortress, to an asylum where he awakens 14 years later, towards a forced labour camp and even a lunar research facility. The game has it all, even allowing Blazkowicz to commandeer a German U-boat in the meantime.

Of course, the narrative also requires the gameplay to be fun, but thankfully MachineGames decided to make this one of the craziest first-person shooters around. When there’s no need for stealth, gamers can go in guns blazing, wielding some of the finest guns known to the series. If they really want to use both hands, B.J. can even dual wield, therefore making it easier to take down enemies.

Some moments in The New Order don’t always require stealth to complete sections of the game, as it’s up to the gamer to decide on how to tackle certain enemies. Alarms can go off though, and that’s when the Nazis appear in droves. Their deadly machinations though, need to be tackled with much more finesse than other enemies. Just you wait until B.J. encounters some of the big dogs, oh boy.

It cannot be understated just how much fun gamers will have with Wolfenstein’s action-packed gameplay. Thanks to the polished combat mechanics, it’s an absolute delight to play as Blazkowicz. Thankfully, there’s enough variation throughout the game, so players won’t get bored with the same weapons. As they’ll find out, there’s a whole selection of methods in taking down Nazis.

The level design in Wolfenstein is another thing that really stands out as being outstanding, and that is immediately noted during the beginning fortress attack. Despite some of the maps having a linear structure, there’s still room for Blazkowicz to explore certain areas. Levels are designed in a way that players can navigate throughout them however they please, using whatever tactics they see fit.

The New Order really captures the grisly reality of war at first, and it later expands on how the Germans took over parts of the world. The game maintains a certain disturbing atmosphere wherever players take B.J., and I often found myself looking around at the finer details found on specific levels. The propaganda that can be found in the game was usually quite interesting.

The story in The New Order has some fascinating development during B.J.’s journey in taking down the Nazis, and gamers are presented with two different choices in the beginning of the game which affects the narrative later on. The narrative somehow manages to have a wonderful blend of emotional, downright terrifying and crazy ideas throughout. It’s a rollercoaster ride from start to finish.

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The length of the campaign is around 12-15 hours, depending on how long gamers want to take with certain extras. It’s a sufficient amount of time for a single-player mode, and it’s a mighty relief to see that MachineGames never bothered to tack on a multiplayer mode onto the game. Too many games nowadays have watered down multiplayer modes, taking up developer time that should be spent on the single-player aspects (obligatory Mass Effect: Andromeda mention again, sorry – not sorry).

It appears that Wolfenstein: The New Order was a nice little surprise for reviewers and gamers alike, who didn’t expect much from the game. The previous 2009 entry was rather unremarkable, so having a Wolfenstein game implement a proper story, strong character development and polished gameplay mechanics was totally unexpected.

The success of The New Order allowed for a small expansion a year later, The Old Blood, a prequel story focusing on Blazkowicz in 1946 Germany. During The Old Blood, players have to infiltrate Castle Wolfenstein to obtain the location of The New Order’s main antagonist, ‘Deathshead’.

Whilst the additional content upheld the solid gameplay of the original game, The Old Blood slightly suffered from having a story that just wasn’t as impressive or as interesting as The New Order. Still, it’s certainly worth playing if players are itching to take down more Nazis as the effortlessly cool B.J.

This year’s E3 saw the surprise of new Wolfenstein II footage, showcasing a bunch of outlandish action that the series is now known for. This time, it appears that the Nazi regime is at its strongest in the occupied countries, and a returning Blazkowicz is now ready to help turn the tide once again. Even if he’s in a wheelchair, he’s more than able to kill the enemy.

With the game out later this year, there is no better time to get caught up on Wolfenstein. It is the most fun I’ve had with a first-person shooter in absolutely years. Whereas games like Titanfall 2 provided a decent campaign, games such as Wolfenstein went the extra mile and delivered a solid story with rewarding combat.

Wolfenstein: The New Order should be fairly cheap to purchase now, so you’ve got no reason to not pick it up. MachineGames are cementing themselves as a great video game company, and with the current sequel out soon, let’s hope they continue their success with Wolfenstein and many other games.

Mass Effect Andromeda and how The Witcher has ruined me

Since its release, Mass Effect: Andromeda has received a very mixed response from gamers, who just aren’t happy with Bioware’s latest offering. Based on the original hit trilogy, Andromeda is the fourth instalment in the science fiction video game franchise.

Taking place in an entirely different galaxy, Mass Effect: Andromeda introduces two new protagonists to the mix, Sara and Scott Ryder. Their aim is to establish new worlds for mankind, as they leave the Milky Way to discover new technology and new opportunities.

As they explore this uncharted galaxy, the Ryder family discovers something that threatens the very existence of life in Andromeda. To examine and combat this deadly threat, players will have to discover new worlds with the aid of their very own squad.

After completing the main story along with a huge selection of side-quests, is it fair to say that Andromeda deserves some of its unfavourable reviews? With an average 4.7 on Metacritic, it almost seems like this is Bioware’s worst Mass Effect yet.

But does Andromeda even stack up to the previous three games? Is it a complete trainwreck? It’s hard to say, but here’s my verdict, based on a playthrough with Sara Ryder.

Andromeda begins its expansive journey by literally throwing the player onto a new planet, as Sara follows her father to discover a strange abnormality. An N7 Pathfinder, Sara’s father Alex is voiced by Clancy Brown, and he provides an example of just how cool N7 recruits are. Just like fellow N7 Commander Shepard, Alec simply kicks alien ass.

When players begin the game, there’s a clear sense of mystery and adventure. Set with intrigue, players will be enveloped by the terrific atmosphere that the game presents. Ryder is quickly paired up with fellow human Liam Kosta, a response specialist who later becomes a valuable teammate.

At first, Bioware nails that all too familiar feeling that the franchise is renowned for. Harking back to when Shepard first encountered Saren, or when the Collector’s attacked in ME2, Ryder’s brief incursion on this new planet feels new and exciting.

But then, you notice something the second you pull a gun on the enemy. Where’s the detailed combat wheel that every Mass Effect game has featured? Suddenly, the ability to control my teammate has been removed entirely.

Yes, for some inane reason Bioware have done away with that truly solid system that enabled players to coordinate a plan of attack. Instead, they’ve replaced it with a poorly designed and ultimately forgettable system for equipping abilities just for Ryder. It seems like a huge step back.

Whereas Mass Effect previously allowed players to construct their characters’ story around whatever class they begin with, Andromeda allows the player to swap their profiles on the switch. This may make for some interesting combos, but it sort of feels a bit cheap.

Thanks to this weird decision, players now have way too many powers to select or boost. Excluding specific enhancements, there are roughly 24 different powers that can be equipped. Having previously played as a biotic god before, it did seem wise to select throw, singularity and overload for good measure, but there are just too many options to choose from.

However, Ryder is much more mobile than Commander Shepard has ever been, thanks to the inclusion of a new snazzy jetpack. Allowing the player to boost forwards or upwards, it does get you into those hard to reach areas, and it adds a quick getaway solution when facing enemies. It also makes a nice sound, so there’s that.

Along with the departure of controllable teammates, Bioware also decided to rid the player of customisation options for the entire team. ME2 didn’t necessarily have an amazing variety of options, but the ability to equip different weapons for different characters allowed for further freedom.

Oddly enough, this just isn’t an issue for Ryder. If anything, you’ll notice there are just too many options for the main character. There are four sets of armour for Ryder to wear, including the helmet, chest, arms and the legs. You can research and develop these armour pieces, but there’s a countless range of different designs.

Remember how annoying the inventory system was for the first Mass Effect? Well, buckle up, because congratulations should be awarded to the development team for somehow managing to create an even worse system than ever before. With long lists of options and modifications for weaponry and armour, players will just end up getting lost in the midst of the menus.

There really is just too much, and it doesn’t help that most armour pieces can be upgraded at least ten times, as long as players have the ridiculous amounts of resources. Those resources are acquired soon after you leave the first planet, and brace yourselves – as you have to probe for them!

If players thought ME2’s system was monotonous, they’ve seen nothing yet. This time, you have to travel long distances on various planets until a mining area is unlocked. Once it’s unlocked, gamers will still have to drive around until a rich source is discovered! Whoever thought this was a good idea, needs to rethink their positioning in the industry.

Players will notice that when evaluating planets, they’ll spend most of their time in this new six-wheeled vehicle. Thankfully, it can traverse planets with ease, but it doesn’t excuse the fact that most of the exploration is done in the damn vehicle.

Anyone who has had the pleasure of using the Batmobile in Batman: Arkham Knight will know that it was an unnecessary addition that took over a majority of the gameplay, and in Andromeda players will be using it for around two-thirds of the game. Oh, it doesn’t have guns by the way. You have to awkwardly exit to engage in combat.

Some planets are lush with wildlife, but there’s no need for Ryder to travel across empty desert dunes to get to a certain point on the map. In some cases, most areas feel just as empty as some of the lifeless planets from the first Mass Effect! You know, the entry to the franchise which was released in 2007.

Players will soon realise that they’ll encounter the same enemies on different planets as well and that the galaxy severely lacks a diverse ecosystem. There is a reason for this which is explained much later in the story, but it feels like a bit of a cop out to save the designers a bit of time.

Still, one of the most important questions remains unanswered. How is the new ensemble that helps out our main protagonist throughout their journey? Well, they’re surprisingly okay. As is tradition with Bioware, they have managed to include a mind-numbingly boring human character into the mix, but it’s not a terrible effort.

If players are playing Mass Effect properly, they won’t be focusing on the humans in their squad anyway. Everybody remembers just how painfully dull James Vega was, and now the biotic Cora can now join his ranks as an ultimately forgettable, one-note character. Instead, players should shift their focus to the new Asari and Krogan for example.

During the playthrough, two members never left my side; Peebee and Jaal. An Asari with an interest in ancient technology, Peebee seemed like the perfect choice. She’s certainly different compared to my top-tier wife Liara, but her impetuous attitude is a welcome change of pace. Obviously, she became my romance, because she’s Asari. Duh.

Jaal belongs to a new species in Andromeda, the Angara. His personal story in Andromeda has the most weight and taking him along for missions felt essential. Having Jaal and Peebee travel hostile worlds with Ryder also provided some pretty entertaining conversations between all three characters.

Considering that these new teammates will constantly be compared to the original trilogy’s characters, Bioware has done an alright job. It was a mighty task to introduce a new squad that follows in the footsteps of Garrus, Wrex or Tali, but they made a commendable effort. If anything, Jaal may become a favourite for some and heck, even Liam has his moments.

What some players will immediately realise is the significant lack of well-known voice actors. The main VAs in the game are perfectly fine, but the original trilogy with rife with big names; Keith David, Martin Sheen, Carrie-Ann Moss and Seth Green. Hell, Seth Green was in every game and Yvonne Strahovski voiced a teammate.

There’s only one recurring character who has a recognisable voice, and that’s doctor Lexi. Voiced by Natalie Dormer, she makes a few appearances during cutscenes and is often found in the medical bay. Considering the franchise has been known for boasting such big names though, it feels like a bit of a disappointment. If anything, it used to add a certain gravitas to the series.

Specific quests need to be chosen carefully, as there are just too many fetch quests dotted around the numerous planets. It is unfortunately slightly reminiscent of Dragon Age: Inquisition, and often completing various quests can feel like a massive drag.

However, what is utterly baffling is Bioware’s decision to incorporate a major plot point in one of the tedious collectable quests. Something that can be entirely missed throughout the game, adds an extra layer to Andromeda’s story, which should’ve been prominently featured at some point of the game. For fans, it’s almost essential viewing.

It cannot be stressed enough that all of the allies’ quests should be tackled because they result in some of the better writing witnessed in Andromeda. Funnily enough, the two humans aboard Ryder’s ship have some of the more entertaining loyalty quests, with Liam’s having some funny, sharp dialogue throughout.

Unfortunately, the same can’t be said for the final quest. The main villain that has plagued Ryder during the game, the Archon, is a terrible attempt at creating an interesting character. For a franchise that has given us Saren, the Collectors and most importantly the Reapers (here’s looking at you Harbinger), the Archon completely fails to deliver.

Bioware appeared to have missed the memo for creating villains in Andromeda, as the Archon is hardly intimidating or even remarkable. The writers have supplied no interesting backstory and no sympathetic reasoning for his cause. He simply hates other species because Bioware forgot to come up with a valid reason.

Some may deem it unfair to constantly compare Andromeda to the previous trilogy, but it sure doesn’t feel like it. Andromeda has been in development for years, and the last entry was released in 2012. The first entry is almost ten years old now and it even that does a better job with the animation!

Shepard will always be the greatest of all time, but at least Ryder is somewhat serviceable. She’s inexperienced, and that is reflected during the game. She’s burdened with a mighty task, and her development is somewhat entertaining to watch. Hopefully, later games will fully expand on her story as well.

It is rather difficult to recommend Mass Effect: Andromeda to gamers, let alone fans of the franchise. It might not deserve some of the sheer hate that it’s currently receiving, but then it’s part of a genre that has been almost perfected with the original trilogy and games like The Witcher 3.

Perhaps we have been spoiled in the past, but thanks to games like The Witcher 3, a new standard has been set in the RPG genre. Developed in less time than Andromeda, CD Projekt delivered something that was rich with great storytelling, solid animation and superb attention to detail.

Yes, it’s all Geralt’s fault. After having spent numerous amounts of time on the game, taking in the beautiful landscapes and defeating monsters whilst romancing a hot sorceress, I realised that I had experienced a game like none other.

It’s funny because at first, I hadn’t appreciated The Witcher 3 for it’s worth when I started the game. With time though, it soon became clear that this was a game developed with a clear love for the material and its characters. Both of the downloadable content offered even stood up against full video game releases.

CD Projekt ruined my gaming experiences with the RPG genre because it completely set a new standard. Perhaps not every game developer should aspire to be like CD Projekt, but it wouldn’t hurt. When you get a franchise like Mass Effect which is adored by thousands, it should be treated with care.

Bioware reportedly handed down the fourth game to a different development team, whose previous work on the franchise was Mass Effect 3’s unnecessary multiplayer, along with some of the downloadable content. Of course, most of the team behind the previous games are no longer with the company, but it just seems utterly bizarre to see it handed down the development line.

Maybe to some, it came as no surprise to see the mixed response for the game. Dragon Age: Inquisition ruffled some feathers, but here it feels like Bioware completely dropped the ball on one of their biggest franchises.

For fans of the series like myself, it’s a massive disappointment to see that Andromeda failed to deliver. Bear in mind, it isn’t the worst game in the world and I didn’t particularly hate the experience. It just felt very lacklustre, especially for a Mass Effect game.

So, does Andromeda actually deserve the criticism? Yes and no. Some might find some elements of the game enjoyable, so check it out when it’s cheaper. Also, Bioware has responded to the criticism and they’re apparently listening. So there’s that. That does not condone some of the abuse that the developers have received, however.

Anyway, I’m going to talk Saren out of working for the Reapers again to be reminded of how great science fiction games can be. Shepard.