Why do we play video games?

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Why do we play video games? It’s a question I’ve often found myself asking, but I’ve never had a solid answer to it. That question has always interested me because I could never answer that question for myself. And the more I thought about it the more complicated it becomes, so I decided to dive in and do some research into why we enjoy video games. And the first question I asked was, what is fun?

Now that is a really abstract question, everyone has a different opinion on what they find “fun”. The definition of fun according to the Oxford Dictionary is “Enjoyment, amusement, or light-hearted pleasure”, and that could contributed to anything you do, that being cooking, painting, building something, watching a movie, playing sport or playing a video game, each and every individual on this planet does something that they find fun. Another word that pops up whenever you go researching the word fun is the word “play” These two words go hand in hand when it comes to people enjoying something. Play is usually used when talking about when kids play and how important it is to their health and well-being when growing up. But the same goes for adults, there are many articles out there showing the importance of play for their mental and physical health. But how does all of this tie into video games? Well as it turns out there are cognitive benefits to playing video games, they help with attention span and vigilance, multitasking, and hand-eye coordination. Not only that but they help with overall happiness and well-being.

Anyway, back to what I was saying before, video games are fun to play. But why are they fun? Well there is actually a scientific reason behind it. Whenever you play a game your brain’s pleasure circuits go into overdrive, and they release a substance called dopamine. Let me give you an example of how this happens. Say you’re playing Rainbow 6 Siege, You’re defending and end up being the last man standing against a team of 4. And somehow you manage to defeat the other 4 opponents and win the match for your team. That dopamine will be released when you see your name at the top of the leader board. And it feels good. So you’ll play again, try to do the same thing again, and again, and again. Now there is a downside to this, it’s a good thing in small doses but dopamine is addictive, in fact it’s on the same level as someone addicted to gambling. That’s why we’ve seen such an outcry against loot boxes over the last few years, starting with Star Wars Battlefront 2. That’s why I think it’s best to moderate your time playing video games, so you can get that maximum amount of enjoyment, but not too much where it becomes addictive.

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When talking about video games I think we need to talk about the people and the hardware they play on. With thousands of games being developed by big AAA studios and smaller indie developers means there’s a huge variety of different people playing these games. From people playing on Xbox, Playstation, PC, Nintendo consoles and even phones, we all share a love for one thing, video games. People like to separate themselves from each other when it comes to which device they play on, choosing sides in a ridiculous “console war”. There’s nothing wrong with playing majority of your games on a particular console, PC, or phone. But putting people down for not playing on your favourite hardware is…. Wrong. In my eyes, if someone wants to play on an Xbox, then do it, if someone likes to play a game on their phone then by all means go for it. People enjoy different video games, they are helping make this industry even bigger and better. And I think that’s something more gamers need to get behind. That we should be celebrating video games, not putting people down for playing them.

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But, after all of that, what is fun about playing games? Well now that I’ve done my research, for myself, it’s because they bring out a flood of different emotions when playing them, those being excitement, fear, anger, or love. It’s a visceral experience when playing them, and I ultimately find that fun. For other people it’s different reasons, for some it’s the challenge, of being the best at that game, some people go even further and become professional esports players. Some people enjoy playing them with friends, challenging each other in games such as Halo and Mario Kart to see who is the better player. For some, it’s about connecting with people and experiencing something incredible together. And I think there’s a real beauty in that, video games aren’t just a waste of time, they’re a powerful piece of media that has brought joy and happiness to so many people around the world. I don’t think I can answer why we play games, there’s to many reasons why people do, all I know is that they’re important to people and that games make them happy. And in the end, that’s all that matters.

Halo: The Master Chief Collection. A Long-Time Fans Retrospective.

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(Link to YouTube Video below)

I think it’s about time to talk about Halo: The Master Chief Collection. Those of you that have watched my retrospective on Bungie, Halo, and Destiny know that I covered my experience with the franchise, but I didn’t cover anything to do with the MCC, more focusing on my love for Bungie and the Halo series as a whole and why that got me into playing Destiny. But with 343’s announcement of MCC finally coming to PC and Halo Reach now being added as well, I thought this would be the best time to talk about my experience with it, but also get PC players up to speed in how we got here in the first place. But to do that, we need to go back and look at the development of the Master Chief Collection.

Coming out of the release of Halo 4, 343 Industries decided to do something a little different while half the team were working on Halo 5. They wanted to remaster Halo 2, just like they did with Halo Combat Evolved Anniversary. But that idea soon changed, they realised that they would have all the games spread out between two different console generations, the Xbox 360, and the Xbox One. So instead of just remastering Halo 2, why not give players the entire Halo experience all on one disk? And so the Master Chief collection was born, but there was a problem. While Halo 2 Anniversary would be developed to run on modern consoles, the other games were designed for the 360 in mind, which meant that it would take a huge amount of effort and time to get them to run perfectly on the Xbox One. And while there is no doubt that all 4 campaigns ran really well on launch, the multiplayer side of MCC was having different problems, but they were problems that 343 had yet to see. According to a blog post by Frank O’Connor published on October 2017, Halo MCC’s multiplayer had been tested by people in the company but there had been no public beta or stress test to see if things ran smoothly with actual players. And while trying to stitch together 4 Halo games worth of multiplayer into a single framework is a tremendous task especially for a brand new console, it still wasn’t enough, and ultimately this was MCC’s downfall, but 343 were yet to know it.

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Along comes November 11th, 2014. The release date for Halo: The Master Chief Collection. The day that many players, and 343 Industries, had been waiting for. This game was meant to be a Halo fans wishlist come true, and it was for many including myself. And even though it sold really well, there were a few problems. Firstly those players that chose to jump straight into multiplayer sometimes ended up waiting almost 30 minutes to get a match, and some of those players that did get a match were sometimes kicked from the session without warning. But multiplayer wasn’t the only part of the game experiencing troubles, some players campaign progress was being wiped, and the playlist progress wasn’t even being saved at all. There were a hundred different problems with MCC, and 343 was in panic mode. They put out a few updates trying to rectify the problems, but it didn’t work. Eventually they decided to beta test an update in 2015 hoping to fix these problems once and for all, as well as give players a brand new Halo 2 Anniversary multiplayer map and adding Halo 3: ODST to MCC, but the beta never happened, and the testing for the new update was completed internally at 343. Even though they had added Halo 3: ODST, which was a welcome addition, it still felt as if 343 were never going to fully fix Halo: The Master Chief Collection.

On October 27th, 2015, a little over a year since MCC first hit store shelves, Halo 5 Guardians was released. This was 343’s way of rebooting the franchise after Halo 4, but it received mixed reviews from both players and critics alike, some players felt betrayed by 343 because the campaign they got wasn’t the one that had been advertised in Halo 5’s marketing. But the best part of Halo 5 was the multiplayer, it seemed that 343 had learnt from their experience with the MCC, building a solid multiplayer platform with a large variety of maps, game modes and spartan customisation. But what about the Master Chief Collection? Well it seemed to the players that the developers had simply given up on the game, that they no longer cared and wanted to focus solely on Halo 5, but this was not the case. In that same 2017 blog post from Frank O’Connor, he elaborates that the disaster that was the Master Chief Collection was still fresh on everyone’s minds. Here’s a piece of that post, he writes: “But that didn’t stop us being concerned about it anymore. On the contrary, in some ways leaving it worse. I mention this not to garner sympathy, we deserve none, but to answer folks who’ve continued to ask, “Why don’t you guys care?” We do. Everyone here puts their and soul and sweat and tears into building our games. I can tell you without hesitation that I have never heard someone here dismiss or ignore or belittle complaints. We always take them to heart. It’s the internet of course, so sometimes folks take it too far, with threats or other inappropriate reactions, but I’d be lying if I said I didn’t understand the anger or disappointment those came from.” But the players didn’t know this, and obviously a lack of communication between 343 and the fans caused many to lose hope and eventually abandon MCC altogether. But there was hope on the horizon, and that hope came in the form of a brand new Xbox One.

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With every new next-generation console that is released by Xbox, Playstation, or Nintendo. There is always improvements being made, with better frame-rates, higher fidelity, and better looking graphics, companies have always brought out newer versions of their consoles over their lifetime. Microsoft’s newest version of the Xbox One was the Xbox One X, supposedly made for the most hardcore of Xbox players that play hours upon hours on their consoles and want the best graphics and power they can. But for 343, this was a way of finally fixing the problems that had plagued MCC since 2014. With many updates to the Xbox One’s operating system over the years and now a bigger and better version of the console on the horizon, 343 took this as a chance to finally make things right, and make Halo: The Master Chief Collection the definitive Halo experience it was meant to be. Right after the announcement of the Xbox One X, 343 Industries held a livestream detailing what’s going to happen with the MCC going forward, and what sort of updates players should expect in the coming months. For myself and many players, we felt that maybe there was a glimmer of hope on the horizon, but we had heard these promises before and we had been let down too many times to really truly believe it. As someone who played a lot of MCC from it’s release through to when this update was announced, I took it with a grain of salt. But when the update finally rolled out, myself and many other players would be extremely surprised.

To say that this update completely fixed all the problems MCC had would be a stretch, but it definitely improved the overall experience. With a brand new UI look that made it easier to navigate the menus to a much better matchmaking system that had players entering into matches in seconds, not minutes, was a huge improvement over what MCC had been like at launch. But this wasn’t the only update that 343 had prepared, in fact they were going to be rolling out even more updates and bug features over the coming months, as well as adding new game types and having seasonal events. All of a sudden the Master Chief Collection was alive again, old players who had given up on the game were returning, and new players with their new Xbox One X’s were joining in on the fun as well, wanting to experience the Master Chief’s epic saga for the first time. But was it enough to save the game? Not for some, with the disappointment with MCC and disappointment with Halo 5: Guardians, some players decided to abandon the Halo series entirely. But those that stuck it out, that kept playing long after 343 had stopped putting updates out for the game, have seen it come to life again. Even all the way up to the end of 2018 343 was putting out regular updates, but the most important part? They were talking to the community, taking feedback and using that to improve the game. The Master Chief Collection was now a playable and fun experience for everyone playing it.

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And that now leads me into what has happened in 2019, as I said at the start of this video 343 Industries announced earlier this month that Halo: The Master Chief Collection was officially coming to PC. As well as Halo Reach being added to both PC and console versions. And people are excited. This is the most I’ve seen people talk about Halo since before Halo 5. And that’s exciting! I’ve realised that this video has not once mentioned what I think of the Halo games as a whole, but I have plans to do a retrospective on all the games individually. What I wanted to do in this video was show the new players that have never played MCC before, those playing it on console or when the PC version comes out, what the Master Chief Collection has been through. I just have to say thank you 343, for giving us the Halo experience we always wanted. And to those of you just joining us, that have yet to experience the Master Chief’s epic journey, let’s finish the fight, together.

 

Why Superhero Games Matter

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Why do we like Superheroes? Is it a form of escapism? Or is it just simple entertainment? To myself and many others, superheroes are more than just both of those things. They’re a symbol of something greater. And when I think which heroes best represent the the whole genre, two immediately come to mind. Batman, and Spider-Man. Even though both of these characters were created by two different brands of comics, they both share the same ideals and heroic journey that resonates with audiences till this day. While Batman first appeared in 1939 in DC’s “Detective Comics” #27 and Spider-Man appeared in 1962 in Marvel’s “Amazing Fantasy” #15, they have both appeared out of the pages of comics and into films and television shows, and most recently, video-games. But why are superhero games important? To answer this question, we need to go back to 2002, and look at the movie that pushed superheroes out of the pages of comic books and onto the big screen. And that movie is Spider-Man.

Love them or hate them, Sam Raimi brought Spider-Man to life. While the trilogy had a more Gothic and darker feel to it than the comics, it still stayed true to the story of Spider-Man, that story being about a boy called Peter Parker being bitten by a radioactive spider, getting super-powers, and using them to help others. And that’s the fundamental part of Spider-Man, he uses his powers to help others. He’s not infallible, in fact Peter has several traumatic experiences in his life very early on, but he uses that as fuel to help him be a hero, to help people that are in need. This is also the same for Batman, Christopher Nolan’s “The Dark Knight” trilogy changed the way we view superheroes. The films were more grounded in reality than ever before. Taking inspiration from “The Killing Joke” and “Batman: Year 1” Christopher Nolan shaped the films into a dark and gritty tale of corrupt politicians, corrupt cops, and city on the brink of self-destruction, and in the middle of it all? The Batman. But the films, just like the Spider-Man films, explores the man behind the mask, Bruce Wayne, and how he reacts to the characters and world around him. He’s a man driven to the edge by the loss of his parents at a young age, who uses his anger, determination, and fear of bats, to clean up Gotham city and stop the villains from tearing the city apart.

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But how does this tie into the Arkham series and Spider-Man PS4? Well they give context to how those two games were created. If the Spider-Man and Dark Knight trilogy never happened then the video games we would have got for these two characters would’ve been entirely different. Think about that for a second, these movies helped pave the way for superheroes to become more mainstream. Hell, even my parents (who used to read comic books by the way) watched the Dark Knight trilogy because it was more grounded in reality than fantasy. This is reinforced even more with an interview with Christopher Nolan, who says: “Yes, it’s a superhero, but it’s based on ideas of guilt, fear, these strong impulses that the character has. Bruce Wayne doesn’t have any super powers other than extraordinary wealth. But really, he’s just someone who does a lot of push-ups. In that sense, he’s very relatable and human. I think that’s why I gravitated towards it”. It’s this quote that shows how most people feel about the dark knight. And that leads me into the next part of this piece, The Batman Arkham games.

The Arkham games set the standard for what superhero games should be. Developed by London-based Rocksteady Studios, Arkham Asylum was the first of 3 Batman games, (and a spin-off prequel to the trilogy was also developed by WB studios Montreal called Arkham Origins) in which Batman must fight his way through Arkham Asylum which has been taken over by the Joker. This storyline is continued in Arkham city, but at the end (spoilers by the way) the Joker dies. Now to those people that have grown up with Batman, reading the comics, and watching the movies and television shows, this is a pretty significant event. Yes the Joker has been killed before in other comics, but the Arkham games have this event build up over two whole games, which take almost 20 hours each to finish. That’s a long time to be invested in a superhero story, and just like the comics and Christopher Nolan films, Rocksteady really captured the characteristics of each and every supporting character and villain that Batman comes into contact with throughout the first two games. The third and final game, Arkham Knight, is probably the closest to the brooding Dark Knight trilogy that Rocksteady has ever gotten. It follows closely the effects that the Joker’s death has on Bruce, but is also acts as a bit of a sequel to the 4 part Batman comic “A Death in the Family” published in 1988, in which DC put to a vote whether the then Robin (Jason Todd) was to be either murdered by the Joker or survive. It was also the first time we could experience the whole of Gotham City as the Batman, and with the inclusion of the Batmobile, it made you become the Batman. It was a thrilling conclusion to the Arkham story, and it had a profound impact on the way triple-A superhero games would be developed in the future.

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However, the next superhero game wouldn’t have us donning the cowl, it would have us donning the mask of everybody’s favourite friendly neighbourhood web-slinger: Spider-Man. Released last year in 2018 by Insomniac, Spider-Man PS4 has you swinging through New York as you try to stop a number of villains from taking over the city, (sounds familiar doesn’t it) while the game has many similarities to the Arkham series, it’s not as dark and brooding as it’s counterpart. You really do feel like Spider-Man swinging through the city streets, it feels better than driving the Batmobile. But just like Batman, Spider-Man PS4 wouldn’t of succeeded without it’s amazing cast of characters and villains. Each character has a story ark that they go through throughout the game, they all have obstacles and challenges that they need to get through. And I think that’s where the Arkham and Spider-Man games really shine, both Batman and Spider-Man aren’t the central focus of the story, let me explain. When you’re watching a Batman or Spider-Man film, does the story solely focus on main protagonist? Not fully no, it’s more about sending a message, in “The Killing Joke”, is the story about Batman? No, it’s about the Joker trying to make people see how he sees the world, a world full of insanity. Or how about the Spider-Man films? They teach an important lesson, “with great power, comes great responsibility”, and that saying will stick with all of us for the rest of our lives.

That’s what I’m trying to get at here, it’s that we can relate to these heroes more than anything else. The creators of these two characters wanted them to be as relatable to the reader as possible. Take this quote from an article written by Stan Lee titled, “How I invented Spider-Man” back in 1977: “When the time came to create a teenaged hero for Marvel Comics, I decided to depict him as a bumbling, real-life teenager who by some miracle had acquired a super power. He’d have to be bewildered, insecure, inept, ungainly, and often out of step with those around him.” How many of us felt that way as a teenager? But as time has gone on and we have grown up, so did Spider-Man. He changed, and we changed. And most importantly, our perception of him changed. We wanted more dark and gritty stories, and that’s exactly what we got. And of course with the rise and success of the MCU and amazing movies like “Into the Spider-Verse” we are seeing more of Spider-Man than ever before across all kinds of media, especially games. But not for the Batman, with the Justice league movie falling flat and the departure of Ben Affleck as Batman, maybe we won’t see another Batman game by Rocksteady, maybe it’s time for us to don the blue tights and the red cape.

But when it comes down to it, I think that’s why superhero games are so important, they let us, the players, be more than just ordinary people, they allow us to be extraordinary. Especially for those of us that grew up with these heroes, that have seen them fall only to rise again. But with heroics, comes sacrifice, do you know how both these games end? With a traumatic experience, with the hero losing a loved one. And so the heroes story comes to an end, but do they stop fighting? No, they don’t, they keep fighting onward because who will? And I think there’s an important lesson to be learned from these games, and even the superhero genre as a whole, it’s that no matter who you are, you can be a hero.

 

 

 

Why I love Bungie, Halo, and Destiny: A Retrospective.

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This isn’t my first time writing this retrospective for Destiny, Halo, and Bungie. In fact I had the review for Destiny 2: Forsaken done and ready to start editing and doing voice recording for. But as I read through my review over and over again I felt that there was something…. missing. Something that I hadn’t properly conveyed. And I think I know now what that missing part is, I reviewed Destiny 2: Forsaken by itself without the context of the Destiny franchise as a whole, or even about my own personal experience with Bungie’s other games. I felt that just doing a review on Forsaken wasn’t doing Bungie justice. So this review is going to be a little long and a little different, so here we go.

My first ever experience playing a Bungie game starts in 2009, with a little known game called Halo 3. Halo 3’s release was a international phenomenon, this was the end of the most epic Sci-Fi First Person Shooter trilogy in history. News outlets all around the world were talking about it, it was plastered all over bottles of Mountain Dew and packets of Doritos, and who can forget the amazing “Believe” trailers that were all over the internet and television. This was my first introduction into the Halo series, yes I had heard of Halo but I had no idea what it was about. All I knew is that you played as a guy in green armour that shoots aliens and saves the universe. As a 13 year old that was good enough for me to want to play it. I remember playing through the campaign with a mate of mine, and subsequently my mind was blown. The game play felt incredible, every gun felt fun to shoot, the level design was interesting and creative, and the narrative it told was one of not only saving the universe, but the revenge of the human race against the homicidal Covenant. I was hooked, and needed to know more about this amazing universe. So I played through Halo Combat Evolved and eventually played through Halo 2. And as I did I became more and more aware of the studio behind the games, I had a fascination of how these people created something so spectacular, to me the developers at Bungie were my heroes, and my naive mind thought that Halo games would be made by them forever. That was, until Halo Reach was announced.

Halo Reach was to be Bungie’s last ever Halo title, since Microsoft now owned the rights to the Halo series, Bungie decided to move on to make their own new IP. After Reach they passed the torch to the newly created 343 Studios, who went on to create the Master Chief Collection, Halo 4, and Halo 5. But it wasn’t the same. For me my journey with Halo was only just beginning. You would be surprised to learn that I’ve spent the most amount of time playing Halo Reach above every other Halo title. To me, Reach was the combination of everything Bungie had wanted in a Halo game, this time you didn’t play as the legendary Master Chief, instead you played as Noble 6, a member of an elite Spartan unit tasked with protecting the planet Reach from a Covenant invasion. Although Halo Reach’s story might not of been on par with the rest of the series, we as players knew enough about the universe and lore surrounding it that it didn’t matter. The campaign was thrilling and and incredibly fun to play through, but also heartbreaking. We see a Noble team be killed off one by one trying to save Reach, but it’s futile, the Covenant are just too strong. And even your character comes to a bloody end. But as I finished the campaign, and that memorable scene comes on with Cortana telling you how your Spartan’s sacrifice was not in vain, that she and The Master Chief found a way to stop the Covenant and save the Universe, it hit me. This was the end of an era, and the start of a new one.

In 2011 Bungie signed on with Activision to make a whole new original IP. This new mysterious game was immediately on my radar, all I wanted was to know what this new game by the now legendary Bungie studios would be. And in 2013, we got our answer.
The new game by Bungie would be…. Destiny. A Sci-Fi first person shooter with an emphasis on loot, almost like a Borderlands. You could also play with your friends and random people you met online to do missions and public events with. To be honest I was blown away at how amazing it looked, it looked like Halo but better. But what Bungie were really going for was a more personal player experience. You didn’t play as a character with their own backstory like the Master Chief, you played as a Guardian, a warrior brought back from the dead by magical powers bestowed upon you from the mysterious “Traveller”. It looked like an epic tale of adventure spanning the entire solar system, and I was ready for it. And on the 9th of September 2014, Destiny was released to the world.

While Halo had been the catalyst as Bungie’s rise to a respected and highly praised studio, Destiny on the other hand, had a bumpy start. It’s main campaign was short, there wasn’t much to do except run the same missions over and over again after you beat the main story. While Halo’s story was rich with lore and the games really did a good job in building the Universe around the player, whereas Destiny was the opposite. The story did little world building except give you a reason to shoot at enemies. Even though the worlds you visited were mysterious, not much information were given to the players on a surface level. But if players wanted to know more about Destiny’s universe, they could access the Grimoire Cards. These cards held small snippets of information regarding characters, places, events, enemies, even information on the different weapons the players used. The world of Destiny was there for people to discover through the cards, some players felt that this was the way for Bungie to get around having to write an interesting plot. But for most of us, this was just an exciting way to find out more of the game we all loved.

The part of the game that kept me coming back for more was the shooting mechanics. I’ve heard other people talk about this before me, but the shooting in Destiny is some of the best I’ve ever felt in a video game, even better than Halo. It’s just so satisfying, and every weapon felt different to fire. But even then, there just wasn’t that much to do in Destiny. But we didn’t have to wait long for more content however, the first post-launch expansion was called “The Dark Below”, which was released in December of 2014. The Dark Below didn’t really bring much new stuff to the game, it was a new story to run through as well as a brand new Raid, which had interesting and difficult puzzles that a fireteam of Guardians could complete for Exotic and Legendary loot. The same goes for “House of Wolves” which was released on May 19th, 2015 and was Destiny’s second expansion. House of Wolves added another smaller campaign that added to Destiny’s story, as well as a new player vs Enemy arena called the Prison of Elders in which Guardians must hold off against waves and waves of enemies in the hope of getting loot. This is when Destiny really started to take off for me, there was suddenly so much content to run through that I was jumping on most days to play with my friends. Little did we know that we were only seeing the beginning of a good game.
Then Bungie released The Taken King, officially marking the end of Year One, and the beginning of Year 2. Little did we know how different Destiny was going to become.

The Taken King marked a fundamental shift in the direction Bungie was taking Destiny. Players were blown away at the magnitude of changes that the expansion brought to the game. Not only was there a whole new area to explore called the Dreadnaught, but players were surprised to find out that Destiny’s main campaign had been changed slightly. One of the biggest changes being that the Ghost’s voice actor had been changed, originally the Ghost had been voiced by Peter Dinklage, and now Bungie had replaced him with Nolan North, the voice actor behind Nathan Drake from the Uncharted series. RIP Dinklbot. Not only that, but there were a magnitude of different changes to the inventory and loot systems and ways that Guardians interacted with quests. As well as a whole new enemy type, the Taken, who were the minions of their master, Oryx. Bungie changed Destiny completely, and for the better. The Taken King was what Destiny should of been on release. And the same goes for Destiny’s final expansion, Rise of Iron. While Rise of Iron wasn’t on the same scale that The Taken King was, it still added even more of the same amazing content that Taken King did. Rise of Iron had a whole new story campaign, Vanguard Strikes, and puzzles to unlock. To the fans of Bungie it seemed that they were unstoppable, Destiny had become an amazing game with an incredible community of players. But fans were desperate for more, they wanted more content for Destiny, but they didn’t have to wait long. On March the 30th 2017, Bungie released their new trailer for the highly anticipated Destiny 2.

The trailer for Destiny 2 was enough to tide over fans until the release date of September. But for long time fans there seemed to be trouble brewing. The trailers that Bungie and Activision were showing were full of Guardians fighting through hordes of enemies with a variety of different weapons. All the trailers were almost akin to Call of Duty trailers, full of action and scripted events, but no mystery and awe that the first Destiny had. It seemed that Bungie and Activision were trying to expand Destiny to a broader audience. Looking back at the promotional material leading up to the release of Destiny 2 this is painfully clear. And on September 6th, 2017, Destiny 2 was released to the world, but it wasn’t the Destiny that we thought we were going to get.

Destiny 2 was highly praised by critics upon release for it’s focus on delivering an excellent story driven campaign, there were some people that didn’t think this way, myself included. The campaign has your Guardian returning from a mission only to find that the city is under attack from the Cabal, an enemy who we had fought before in the first Destiny. Their leader Ghaul, was here to steal the Light from the Traveller from which the Guardians get their power from. You then must go on an adventure around the solar system to gain your light back, rally the Vanguard, and defeat Ghaul. Throughout the campaign we see Ghaul struggling with how he should use the light, and why he isn’t worthy to be a servant of the Light. Bungie made him an interesting character (even though he does look like an over size grunt from Halo) but it still wasn’t enough to save the overall campaign. The story felt short, and as I previously stated, lacked the mystery and awe that the first Destiny’s campaign offered. In fact Bungie had even stated before the release of Destiny 2 that they were dropping some of the main story lines from the first Destiny, meaning we weren’t going to figure out what the darkness was, or how it destroyed humanity. And while there were more areas to explore, more missions and strikes to complete, I stopped playing Destiny 2 only a few weeks after release. There was no point in playing it until the DLC’s were released, there was nothing to strive for, nothing to unlock. I felt let down by Bungie, how could they go from The Taken King to this? This was even more apparent with the first two DLC’s Curse of Osiris and Warmind. I was hoping that Curse of Osiris would start to fix Destiny 2’s problems, but it didn’t.

Curse of Osiris is one of the worst DLC’s that Bungie has ever released. It follows Osiris, one of the most important Guardians of all time in Destiny law who can travel through time, and you have to help him save the universe from the time travelling Vex. Throughout this story you barely get to know Osiris, and he leaves right after you defeat the Vex boss with little more than a “thank you”. Not only that, but the DLC also introduces a procedural-generated area called “The infinite forest” on Mercury. This was an interesting idea on Bungie’s part, but it ultimately fell short. The procedural generation has different platforms spawn in front of you which makes battles interesting, but after you run through it a few times you start to see that the platforms all spawn the same way, and you don’t even need to kill all the enemies on the platforms, you can simply run straight past them to get to the end.

Warmind improved slightly on Curse of Osiris. It has a bigger patrol area to explore on Mars, as well as an interesting story about the Golden Age Warmind called Rasputin (who we learn a lot about in the first Destiny) and the Bray company who is a major part in Destiny lore. I’m not going to go into the lore here, there are other people and YouTube channels that do an excellent job discussing the lore side of Destiny. Warmind also introduces a new type of public event called Escalation. Escalation has you and a bunch of other Guardians fighting against hordes of Hive in a limited time frame. It’s difficult for lower light level players to complete, but once you do and defeat the boss on the last wave, you can unlock a chest with a certain key to get powerful gear. It’s an interesting spin on public events and makes Destiny feel fresh again. But even then there was something missing, we needed our Taken King of Destiny 2, we needed something to bring Destiny 2 back from the dead. And that’s when we got…. Forsaken.

Forsaken is Destiny 2’s biggest and most ambitious expansion yet. It has everything that a Destiny fan could want. An amazing story, a bunch of new and interesting bosses to hunt down and kill, two new patrol areas to explore, new weapons and armour, as well as bringing back what Destiny 2 has been missing all along, lore! Lots and lots of lore! Now I’m going to go into a bit of detail about Forsaken here, so if you don’t want spoilers move past this part to the next section of the review, you’ve been warned!

Forsaken’s main story campaign has our Guardian travelling to The Prison of Elders to help stop a massive breakout. There we join up with Petra Venj and Cayde-6, and we work with them to help stop the inmates from shooting their way out of the prison. We make our way through the maze of hallways and bridges to get to the core of the prison, where both Petra and Cayde have found out that the maximum security part of the prison has been opened. The writing and cut scenes in this first part of the campaign are incredible, we see Cayde do something incredibly dangerous, and he finds himself face to face with the Forsaken Barons. He tries to hold off against the onslaught of enemies, but he fails. And out steps the one person us Destiny Veterans least expected, Uldren Sov. Brother of Queen Mara Sov who had died all the way back at the start of The Taken King’s campaign. And he shoots Cayde, killing him in cold blood. To me, this was Bungie literally killing off the old Destiny 2. (I’m no longer going to be talking about story spoilers!) Destiny had always been a dark and mysterious universe with danger and horror around every corner. Destiny 2 was light-hearted, concentrating more on the action and jokes which drove a lot of the long-time Destiny fans away. Forsaken changes this, our Guardian is no longer on a mission to save the universe from an imminent threat, we are on a mission for revenge. It’s a dark story about slaughtering the Barons one by one until you find Uldren.

Killing all the Barons is the most interesting part of the campaign, each Baron has a different personality and uses different weapons and abilities. One is crazy about explosives and throws grenades at you while making you disarms mines. While another rides Pikes and makes you chase her through a wasteland on a pike of your own, and another uses decoys to trick you while he shoots at you from a different position. It’s refreshing to have bosses that use different abilities instead of fighting a normal enemy with a yellow bar like Destiny 2’s base game used to do. The two new patrol areas are also incredible, The Tangled Shore has heaps of secrets and mysteries to find. You will spend your entire time here until you beat the campaign, then you will have to unlock a key to gain access to the Dreaming City, the second Forsaken patrol area. Exploring the Dreaming city is my favourite part of the DLC, there’s so much stuff to do and mysteries to solve that I could spend an entire review just explaining them all. My friends and I just recently completed a dungeon called “The Shattered Throne”, which only appears every 3 weeks in the Dreaming City. It was almost like a miniature raid with puzzles and interesting bosses to fight. That leads me onto Forsaken’s raid: The Last Wish. I myself have not completed it, but in typical Bungie fashion once the first fireteam completed the raid, a bunch of new quests and activities (including the shattered throne) were unlocked for all Destiny 2 players. And this leads me onto the last part of this “review” or “retrospective” of Destiny and Bungie.

Most recently Bungie split from their publisher Activision. Bungie was signed with Activision for a 10 year deal to make 4 Destiny games. The research I’ve done paints the picture that the relationship between Bungie and Activision was strained all the way from the very start, even before the release of the first Destiny. It seems that Activision was pressuring Bungie to make Destiny titles with its corresponding DLC as quickly as possible. It seems that Activision was disappointed with both Destiny 2’s launch and the launch of Forsaken, they weren’t performing as well when it comes to sales compared to Activision’s other IP’s (Call of Duty to be specific). Activision was very vocal about this, and was even thinking about implementing even more micro-transactions to boost revenue. This was far enough for Bungie, and they were also very vocal at about how they were proud of the release for Forsaken, that they were making Destiny for the players to enjoy and not just for money. Now I’m not going to go into how awful Activision is when it comes to terrible and shady micro-transactions (all you have to do is look at their recent attempt to sell a red dot for $1 in COD Black Ops 4) but what I am going to say is thank god Bungie have split with them and have gone independent. It’s going to be a long and hard road for them, going independent means they can’t rely on Activision to fund anymore of their game development. Mind you Bungie recently gained a $100 million dollar investment from Chinese company Netease, so that might be influencing this sudden move. But aside from that, Bungie can now do what they like with Destiny, and that’s fantastic.

As you can tell from this “retrospective” I’ve grown up on playing Bungie’s games, from Halo 3, to Halo CE and 2, through to Halo Reach and of course, Destiny. They defined both my childhood and the start of being an adult, and I don’t know who I would be without their games. As you can see by the length of this review I feel very passionately about Destiny and the community that plays it. I wanted to make a review that is informative to those people that have never played Destiny, and also to those long-time veterans like myself. It’s always good to look back at the road we’ve been on to help us look forward to journey ahead. Bungie have crafted something special with Destiny, and I can’t wait to see what they do next. See you star-side Guardians, over and out.

 

 

 

Apex Legends: A Battle Royal I’m happy to play.

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So Respawn has released their brand new Battle Royal game called Apex Legends. A game set in the Titanfall Universe, but with no Titans. It’s a surprising move by the studio but a welcome one. Jason Schreier from Kotaku tweeted on sunday that there were rumours that Respawn would announce their new game on Monday, but he wasn’t sure whether it was a new Titanfall or something else entirely. And he was right, Apex Legends is a Battle Royal game, but with a twist. Instead of having generic characters like in PUBG or Fortnight, each character has a different personality and unique set of abilities. These abilities help the team in some way, Lifeline can heal players using a healing bot, and her “Ultra ability” can summon down a drop pod with armour and health kits in it for herself or her teammates, while Gibraltar uses a defensive shield to block incoming fire, and also bring up a bubble shield for himself and the team. There’s many more characters to choose from but I won’t go into too much detail here.

The whole reason I wanted to do this small review was to discuss the one thing on everybody’s minds, is there going to be a Titanfall 3? Those of you that follow my blog or on YouTube know that I most recently put out a review on Titanfall 2, saying it is one of the best first-person shooters of this generation. And it is, and I would love for Respawn to make a Titanfall 3 to continue on the story of Cooper and BT. But it looks like we aren’t going to get it for awhile, and that’s fine by me. The best part of Titanfall for myself wasn’t even being in a Titan, it was running around as a Pilot. And that’s exactly what Apex Legends is, it’s the best parts of being a Pilot mixed in with amazing new abilities. In Titanfall 2 winning a multiplayer match depended on how well you controlled your Pilot. The controls felt like an extension of yourself, every twitch and hand movement you did would register in the game, meaning that it was up to your skill whether you won or not. The same goes for Apex legends, the movement of your character depends on how well you play the game and whether you and your team will emerge victorious.

Speaking of teams, teamwork is of utmost importance here. Teammates can pinpoint areas of interest with a click of a button. As well as even revive dead teammates. The way to do this is to pick up the downed teammates “card”, and go to a re-spawn point. But be careful, you can be shot quite easily if you’re standing still too long. Communication is also important, being able to talk to your teammates about the position of different enemies will give you a upper hand on a team that isn’t communicating.

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I’ve already seen many comments online of people complaining that EA stopped production on Titanfall 3 and forced Respawn to make Apex Legends instead. But the majority of research I’ve done seems to confirm that Respawn wanted to make Apex Legends, this was the game they wanted to make instead of Titanfall 3. And that’s completely fine by me. I can tell that the developers have put a lot of hard work into this game to make it work. Plus to showcase a game and release it on the same day is unheard of in this industry, and I’m all for it. Player feedback is the best kind of feedback, there’s no need for huge different tiered beta’s like Anthem or The Division 2, it gets far to confusing for the consumer to figure out exactly when a game is going to come out if its bundled together with 5 different beta’s and 8 different tiers of pre-orders.

Apex Legends does include loot boxes as well. To some people this would be a reason alone to not download the game (I did forget to mention that Apex Legends is free) but like Fortnight, you can progress up levels to gain new skins for your characters and weapons, or you can purchase them with premium real-world currency. Seeing as this is a free game it makes sense for Respawn to add micro-transactions, those developers need to be paid somehow! You can’t currently purchase the premium currency, but rumours are that the most expensive pack will cost you $20 Australian dollars.

So would I recommend Apex Legends?  Most definitely. It’s a fun and exciting spin on battle royal from one of my favourite game studios. Thanks for reading!

 

 

 

The Hong Kong Massacre: Slow-Mo Insanity.

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(Video review at bottom of the page)

 

So I was scrolling through my Steam the other day trying to think of a new game to review, hoping something would pop out to me as inspiration. I’m about halfway through my Destiny 2 review and wanted to do a smaller game on the side, something that was quick and easy. And that’s when I found this small indie game called The Hong Kong Massacre. It looked like a John Woo film with it’s crazy gun fights and super slow-motion with a Hotline Miami style of game play. It immediately grabbed my interest so I bought it. And god damn is this game FUN.

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Firstly here’s a bit of info about the game. It was created and developed by Swedish studio VRESKI, which is actually only two people and it’s heavily inspired by John Woo films. You play as a former police detective seeking revenge for the death of his partner. To be honest story isn’t a major factor in this game, most of the writing is laughable at best, but it still gives just enough context to give the player a reason why they are going to these places and shooting everything up. I mean there could be a hidden meaning on how the protagonist uses violence to fix his problems and thinks that killing his partners killers will ultimately bring him peace. But also portrays a message about how video games glorify violence and blurs the line between what’s real and not real….. Oh wait, that’s Hotline Miami. Wrong game. Let’s continue on shall we?

 

In my opinion what The Hong Kong Massacre does REALLY well is it’s action. Your character has a variety of different weapons to pick from, ranging from dual-wielding pistols to a AK-47. All the weapons feel good to fire but also look amazing. The art style really compliments the look of the bullets flying around the room, this is especially true when there are multiple enemies in one room, the room will explode in a shower of rubble and shattered glass as you dive out of the way of incoming fire. What makes this game so interesting is the fact your character can dive out of the way of bullets but at the same time fire back. It makes gunfights feel that much more chaotic, and look amazing at the same time.

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Another mechanic is the slow-motion, players can slow down time at will making it easier to hit targets as well as dodge out of the way of bullets. It’s an interesting mechanic that also looks really cool when there is a room full of enemies and bullets are going off everywhere. And you need it, enemies are like John Wick that will shoot you within a nano second. It’s a brutal learning curve that you need to learn quickly, otherwise you will die over, and over, and over, and over, and over, and over again. But once you learn how to master the games mechanics and figure out where enemies are placed throughout levels, you will become a super effective killing machine. And that’s where The Hong Kong Massacre really shines, when you master a level you feel like you could take on the world. Especially if you beat a level without slow-motion. You take out enemies with ease, not wasting a single bullet in your gun. And you start to think that you’ve finally mastered this game. Then you go to the next level, and you die by the first enemy you meet. And so you start over again, learning the level like the back of your hand and mastering it like you did the last four levels, it may be repetitive, but it sure does feel good to beat those levels.

 

There are also boss levels at the end of each chapter. These levels are different not only because the boss has a health bar, but they only run in one direction. While most levels throughout the game follow the same sort of layout with rooms all connected through doors and windows, boss levels are multiple rooms all running alongside one another in which players must dive through windows and use cover to avoid the boss that is continually firing their gun at you. These levels are probably the most infuriating part of the entire game, when the boss is shot they quickly do a dive out of the way to avoid the rest of the bullets you are firing at them. Not only that but the windows that you’re firing through take one or two bullets to shatter, so by the time you destroy the window the boss is already moved to the next window and is spraying bullets everywhere. These levels are probably the weakest parts of the entire game and really stop the flow that you get into when playing through the normal levels.

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It might just be me, but these sort of games are like a breath of fresh air. I’m so used to having to sit down to a game like Red Dead or Destiny and put in hours upon hours of time into, not only that but pay attention to the story and what each character is doing in the game, it’s basically AAA game fatigue. That’s why it’s so nice to be able to go and play a game like The Hong Kong Massacre, it’s fun but challenging game play that you can just sit down and play till completion without having to think about it. I would definitely recommend it, it’s one of the best indie games I’ve played in a long time.   

       

RESIDENT EVIL 2 – 1-shot demo. (You guessed right, it’s spooky)

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(Video review at the bottom)

 

Well here we go again, diving back into another Resident Evil game, I didn’t think I’d be back at it again so soon. It felt like only yesterday that I played through Resident Evil 7 on my PS4, getting spooked while playing it in VR (I would not recommend that by the way). The fact of the matter is I don’t do horror very well, I actively avoid it, in fact those that know me know that I jump at any loud noise, even if it isn’t a horror game or movie. But Resident Evil 2 is different, yes it has the usual jump scares, but it’s the atmosphere mixed with the music that REALLY makes it scary. Now here’s the thing, I have never played the original Resident Evil 2, now before you go clicking out of this review in disgust, please just look at this as someone experiencing the game for the first time. So here we go, this is my very short review of the Resident Evil 1-shot demo.

The demo starts with our protagonist, Leon Kennedy entering Racoon Cities police station trying to find safety from the hordes of undead roaming the streets outside. In which he finds the police station empty (of course). He then goes to investigate where everybody is, and what do you know, the police station is overrun with zombies and Leon needs to find a way to escape. Now to those familiar with the original Resident Evil 2, the game used a fixed camera, meaning that the camera was separated from the player and had to change position every time the player walked around a corner or up a flight of stairs. But now in the remake the camera is over the shoulder in a third-person perspective, making the scares feel even more personal. It’s incredible how much this has changed the game, after watching walkthroughs of the original Resident Evil 2 it’s safe to say that the developers over at Capcom have really nailed the look and feel of a modern horror game, but not straying too far from the original game.

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What’s even more interesting to me is the improvement in the the way zombies move and react. They stumble toward you like the did in the original, but now since the game is over the shoulder you can now aim for specific parts of the body. The easiest way is to aim for the head. But sometimes it might take 3 or 4 shots just to take one down. To me that’s the scariest type of zombies, not the ones that sprint at you like in I Am Legend or World War Z, it’s the zombies that are slow and strong and are almost impossible to kill.

The demo ends just as everything starts to ramp up, we’ve explored the police station collecting resources and even acquiring a shotgun. The police station is also filled with puzzles that we need to complete, but the demo only allows us 30 minutes of play time, and you can only play it once. By the looks of what research I’ve done online you can actually finish some of these puzzles, but you need to be quick about it and you probably won’t finish the demo. Yes the demo does have a definitive end to it, you don’t expect Capcom to spoil the whole game do you?

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I think that Capcom really has something special here, it’s a remake that has been lovingly crafted for players that have played the original, but is also bringing in new players to the Resident Evil franchise. I can’t wait to play the full game on the 25th.

And with that, I give you my very short review of the Resident evil 1-shot demo, I will do a full review when the full game is released, so see you next time for my review!