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For the second year running Nintendo have shown why they are still, after all this time and after the ups and downs, they are one of the most reliable and unique companies in the business. I always approach any sort of Nintendo conference with a certain amount of trepidation. Let us not forget those torturous E3’s of a few years ago with Wii Music and that failed Zelda presentation.

However over the last year Nintendo has shown that they aren’t afraid to poke a bit of fun at themselves and they aren’t afraid to have a little bit of a laugh along the way. And that couldn’t be more evident in this year’s event. Robot Chicken kicks things off in great style. With a cartoon Regie introducing things before being waylaid by Bowser and Wario.

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Things are now picking up a gear as the scene changes and we are then taken to a black room with Reggie and Iwata duking it out in an over the top martial arts fight to the death before picking up their respective controllers to fight it out on Smash Bros. that’s rights. Mii’s are coming to Smash. However not just any old Mii’s. It’s soon explained that you will be able to choose from three different classes which in turn gives your Mii access to around thirty different moves. We also catch our first glimpse of Nintendo’s new physical toys. These are called Amiibo and we are shown how they integrate themselves with Smash Bros. Scanning your Amiibo will bring them in to the game to either fight alongside or against you. The more you use them the more their attributes will increase. They were pretty tight lipped about anything else. However we were told that there will be support coming to Mario Kart 8 soon. This of course was accompanied with a Luigi death stare.

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It was after this announcement that the games and surprises started coming thick and fast. First up was Yoshi’s Wooly World. An attractive enough proposition. Think the aesthetics of Kirby’s Epic Yarn mixed with the sensibilities of a Yoshi platformer. Like I said it’s a nice enough looking game but definitely one for the younger audience.

Next up was a surprise game that I was very excited to see. Especially as a massive Super Mario 3d World fan. Remember those awesome little Toad minigames that were scattered throughout the world map? They were great right? But if I remember correctly they were very far and few between and criminally underused. Well fear not because it looks like we are getting a bigger and better version of those games in a standalone adventure entitled Captain Toads Treasure Tracker coming to Wii U. This will be hitting the console Christmas time 2014.

Then there was another big surprise. I mean we all knew a new Zelda was on the way, but I think we were all expecting it to be Nintendo’s final mic drop moment. Well anyway, as you’ve probably guessed the new Zelda was announced. First of all we were treated to a gorgeously green, lush and vibrant vista.  Aonuma tells us that everything we can see, which is a lot given the draw distance, we can travel to. He tells us that the world will act as one big puzzle. Aonuma then fades out and the camera zooms in on a very Skyward Sword looking Link astride Epona as they are chased by a very Twilight Princess looking villain. As the chase comes to a head Link leaps from Epona and unleashes an attack from a bow which seems to change the elements it possess on the fly. The screen fades and we are told to expect it 2015.

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Then we are introduced to a few more familiar faces of games that we saw at last year’s E3. My game of the show from last year, Monolith’s X, has been renamed and is now flying under the moniker of Xenoblade Chronicles X. we are shown a very beautiful trailer that consists mainly of cut scenes rather than actual gameplay, and given a release window of 2015.

Another familiar face, and a very beautiful one at that, comes in the form of the gloriously hard-core Bayonetta. My favourite character action game of the last gheneration got announced as a Wii U exclusive last year and now has a sumptuous new gameplay trailer along with a date. Look for it in the autumn later this year. Oh I almost forgot. It also includes the original Bayonetta in its entirety! Not too bad eh? Throw in the fact that Platinum games seem to be having fun with some of Nintendo’s other characters by throwing in Peach and Samus costumes and it looks like you’ve got one incredible package.

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Another game that I did not see coming was Kirby and the Rainbow Curse which will be coming to Wii U. Now I haven’t been excited about a Kirby game in years. However the last one that did genuinely impress me was Canvas Curse on the DS released waaaay back in 2005. After watching the trailer it would be a safe bet that this is a direct sequel to that game. Fingers crossed it is as innovative and fun as the original.

A few other dates got announced during the show. Look out for Pokemon Omega Ruby and Alpha Sapphire hitting stores November 21st. these dates were also accompanied by some exciting new trailers as these classic games get new life breathed in to them.

We also had a bigger more in depth look at Hyrule Warriors. The Zelda and Dynasty Warriors mash up. And I must say seeing it again seven or so months on it is looking more and more like something I’d pick up. It was revealed that Princess Zelda and Midna (of Twilight fame) would both be playable characters. We were also told that the game could be expected in stores on September 26th.

Nintendo’s last big game that they showed was Mario Maker for the Wii U. This does look impressive. Maybe not on a graphical level, but from someone whose seen what a community can create on the likes of Little Big Planet, a platfromer series that has nowhere near the technical fidelity of a Mario game, I am very excited to see what tough mind boggling challenges people will make. This is a game strictly ties to 2D Mario however so there will be no recreating stages form 64, Sunshine or Galaxy. However it did appear that you can switch on the fly between the classic pixel art of Nes era Mario and the more contemporary hd version seen in New Super Mario Bros U.

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Last but not least was yet another character reveal for Smash Bros. Not just satisfied with giving us the Mii’s we can also expect Palutena of Kid Icarus fame to be joining the fray. Palutena marks the 32nd character to be confirmed for the ever increasing roster.

And that about raps it up. I’ve been typing fervently trying to keep up with all the announcements they were rolled out so quickly. And from a company that really did look like at one point was going to have a weak 2014, there sure seems to be a hell of a lot of games on the horizon for the end of this year and early 2015. Seems like it wasn’t such a bad idea picking up a Wii U after all. Now I just need to buy a 3ds again…..

 

So as I lie here in bed, partly hung over, partly sleep deprived, thinking back on the sensual overload of gaming news I just witnessed a few hours ago. I feel the need to get some of this adrenaline out of my system and write down all the things that made it difficult for me to get some shut eye last night.

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So let’s start with Microsoft. The big boys came out strong last night and like they promised their presentation certainly was all games games games. In fact the ninety minute show was so jam packed with announcement after announcement you barely had time to catch your breath.

Sunset Overdrive was without a doubt the game for me that reeked of potential. This exclusive showcased a very funny trailer that had the Insomniac trademark humour stamped all over it.

Furthermore there did seem to be a bigger focus from Microsoft on indie games this year (I wonder why) and without a doubt the one that left most people salivating at the mouth was the 1930’s inspired animated Cuphead. As a fan of old school Disney and Warner Brothers cartoons I could not be more hyped for this!

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There were of course other exclusive announcements that we were all expecting. There were your Halos and Fables. However Microsoft did deign to throw in a few unforeseen surprises in the form of a new Crackdown game and the beautiful new offering from Platinum games, Scalebound.

Finally, and as per usual, there were the cross platform games that Microsoft either revealed or had exclusive gameplay clips to show. COD Advanced Warfighter of course looked stunning and the new direction is very intriguing, if a little Matrixy. However the reveal that I don’t think anyone was expecting, and certainly got my blood pumping, was Rise of the Tomb Raider. No gameplay was shown but a very enticing pre rendered trailer left me aching for more nonetheless.

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Then there came the EA press conference. A little bit of a mixed bag for me. Ok so let’s get what I didn’t like out the way first. As incredibly exciting as it was to see games confirmed such as Critereons new arcade racer, Star Wars Battlefront, Mirrors Edge and the new Mass Effect game. These were pretty much behind the scenes interviews with developers and either showcased concept art or at the most very early rough footage. This was especially disappointing in the cases of Mirrors Edge and Star Wars as these two games were announced last year and progress seems to be achingly slow. As a consumer I don’t want to hear about a game that’s still maybe three years away and has not a lot to show for itself. I’m fine hearing about it on a website but maybe the main stage at E3 isn’t the place.

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That being said the new Battlefield: Hardline game looked absolutely stunning. It looked like what Payday could have been if it had had the mighty force of EA behind it. A tense looking game of cops and robbers with what appeared to be (in classic Battlefield style) an entirely destructible city, Hardline looks set to impress with it’s over the top Michael Bay inspired carnage. If you need further proof just find the video of the crane collapsing into a skyscraper at the end.

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And of course it wouldn’t be an EA conference without your dose of sports titles. Fifa, Madden and NHL were all here in their shiny glory. However the sports title that got everyone pumped was definitely the new iterartion of UFC. This game was also accompanied by a very sweaty and brutal demo featuring the immortal Bruce Lee.

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Then came the Ubisoft conference. A personal favourite of mine as this publisher has gone from strength to strength in recent years. I wasn’t disappointed. It was such a sharp presentation it could have cut diamonds. Returning for her third year of presenting Aisha Tyler was an absolute joy to watch. Very comfortable in her role she was very happy to throw expletives, sexual innuendoes and racial slurs around like nobody’s business. And the audience loved her for it.

So highlights then. Where to start? Well of course Farcry 4 was a brutal and beautiful introduction to this new, terrifying world to explore. We were introduced to the new antagonist who was a sight to behold and looks to rival Vass in his villainy.

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Assassins Creed Unity also got a lot of the spotlight. Indeed it was its second showing this evening. And on the one hand, yeah it looks like a lot of the older iterations in the series. However there is no denying that the oomf being given to this game form the next gen consoles is at the forefront. Draw distance, amount of npc’s on screen and resolution are all stunning and feel truly next gen in what they accomplish. The focus on being able to play missions with up to three other friends online is also a very tempting offer.

Other next gen titles which were on show were next gen mmo squad based shooter The Division which still looks as it did a year ago. And the epic and extraordinarily ambitious driving mmo The Crew. If you were to just check out one of these two games then The Crews mellow and relaxing trailer featuring driving across all the different environments America has to offer is a must.

And then came the absolute spell binding gem of the show. Valiant Hearts. This new ip from the infinitely talented Ubi Art studio looks like it will be one truly special game. Set during the trench warfare of World War I, it appears that you take on the role of a medic’s dog as he roves from owner to owner, all of which are of different races, creeds and backgrounds. Think Ghibli classic Grave of the Fireflies crossed with the art direction of Triplets of Belleville.

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And Ubisoft went out on a bang. BEYOND GOOD AND EVIL 2!!!! Nah, unfortunaly I’m joking. I think that game has without a doubt gone the way of The Last Guardian. Instead we were treated to the first Rainbow Six game in six years. The demo played out well enough. A squad of four gamers breached a house to rescue two hostages. It looked interesting enough however it did feel a tiny bit muted after the bombastic glory of Hardlines.

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And finally Sony has come BACK to E3! Once again and for the second year in a row Sony came out and proved why they are the best in the business. Why their fans love them so much and why the PS4 is the bestselling system. I’m not going to lie I was very skeptical going in. I didn’t know what Sony had left to show. Boy oh boy did they come out swinging. In fact, not only did they come out swinging, they came out swinging with adamantium grafted to their bones and Wolverine claws flailing.

There is soooo much that they came out with. It was literally game after game and surprise after surprise. Games wise it was all killer no filler and apart from a slight stumble in the middle where we were treated to about twenty minutes of being told how many time the share button has been pressed, it was a performance that completely eclipsed last year’s show.

There was so much good information that I think the only way that I can convey just how much was shown is by doing this in short sweet bullet points. Otherwise I would be in danger of rambling for another five pages.

  • Things started off with a trailer for Destiny. Nothing particularly new but nice to see that a glacier white PS4 will be getting released as a bundle with the game.
  • Infamous Second Son stand alone dlc where you can play as neon wielding bad ass Fetch?!? Sign me up! This was straight out of left field and couldn’t have me more excited to jump straight back in to that world.

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  • Little Big Planet 3! Did not see this one coming! To be honest it was a bit of an awkward demo. But it was nice to see new ideas being implemented as well as new characters.
  • A stunning demo for The Order 1886. The frame rate and graphical fidelity has been really tidied up since the last gameplay footage we saw. Looks suitably terrifying and is definitely back on my radar.
  • An absolutely awe inspiring gameplay demo of Farcry 4 was shown. Complete with wing suits, grapple hooks and weaponised elephants. Not to mention the incredible announcement that on PS4 and PS3 you will be able to invite anyone to your game who is on your friends list….EVEN IF THEY DON’T OWN THE GAME! An incredible announcement and again exclusive to Sony platforms.
  • Shu came out to introduce the darkly gothic and grossly beautiful new game from From Software. Bloodborne looks set to be just as unforgiving and brutal as anything else from the Souls series.
  • The makers of the iconic Journey also introduced us to their new project. A game that very much looks like a spiritual successor and aquatic version of the aforementioned game. Abzu looks to be one of the most atmospheric games of the show.

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  • GTAV is coming to PS4. And in a startling move not only will you be able to transfer your online saved data from your PS3 to the PS4 but also from your Xbox 360. Well done Sony. Well done.
  • We got told that not only is the Ratchet and Clank movie coming along nicely, but we can also expect a completely ‘rebuilt from the ground up for the PS4’ version of the first R&C game to be revealed soon.
  • No Mans Sky pretty much stole the show with it’s ground breaking and infinitely ambitious….ambitions. A timed platform exclusive it shall be coming first to PlayStation.
  • We also got treated to the first in game footage of Mortal Kombat X. It looked like a very next gen version of Injustice. But hey, if it ain’t broke. Suitably and gloriously violent.
  • My personal announcement of the show. Grim Fandango baby! It’s coming back in a remade version exclusive to PlayStation. Indeed my right hand is still bruised from where I punched the chair I was sitting on in excitement.
  • The Last of Us showed up in a spoiler filled trailer. It looked incredible, as expected, and we were also treated to a release date of July.
  • The new Metal Gear Phantom Pains was as promised, a harrowing and brutal watch. Things have never looked more mature for this series. A lot of screaming, child soldiers and Snake with a blood soaked face.
  • Batman won me back with an absolutely mind-blowing gameplay trailer. Gotham has never looked so vertical, gothic and dark. It really looks like it will be a pleasure to explore.
  • And we were also treated to our first proper teaser trailer for Uncharted. What else can I say except ‘HYPE’! We see an older more world weary Drake replaying a conversation with Sully in his head. He looks tired and alone. Things definitely look a lot darker thematically in this latest instalment.

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And there we have it. These are the things that stuck out for me the most at E3 last night. As I said in the beginning this isn’t an in depth look at everything. Just the things that tickled and stimulated me.  I haven’t even talked about #Driveclub, Forza, PlayStation TV or the mad scramble for Battlefield beta codes. This has been one of the biggest E3’s of all time so far. Which is saying something considering last year was the big console reveals.

And as I look through bleary red eyes, after only three hours sleep and then staring at a laptop screen for a further three, I realize I’ve got Nintendo’s press conference to watch in five hours. I need to refuel. Thanks for reading and goodnight J

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Let’s get two things out of the way straight off the bat. One; TSOT has some loading issues. I mean some serious loading issues. I don’t know why Obsidian find it so hard to ship a game before ironing all of the creases out of the finished product, but hey, that’s life. Now I don’t mean loading issues as in that the game is stuck on a loading screen for five minutes when you enter a shop. In that regard the game performs admirably. I mean that every time you move from one screen to another, or things get a bit hectic in battle, boy oh boy does this game lag and slow down to a near halt. An issue further exacerbated in a battle system that requires precise timing to pull off moves. Two; whoever was in charge of writing the magic tutorials in this game needs to be hung, drawn and quartered. Throughout your time in South Park you will be taught various magical fart techniques from different characters. Taught poorly I might add. As you mess up an instruction for the twentieth time only to have the npc chastise you and then explain to you again in a long vague manor makes for some incredibly frustrating moments.

PHEW! Glad I got that off my chest! Because here’s the thing, it might sound like I’m attacking TSOT, I’m not. I just needed to get those two niggles out of the way so we could focus on what makes The Stick Of Truth one of the funniest, well written and enjoyable licenced games of all time. Let’s begin shall we?

As I just said TSOT is one of, if not the, funniest game of all time. From the minute you start playing the game to the second you finish watching the credits scroll I guarantee you’ll be in hysterics. The game focuses around you, the new kid in town. After creating you’re character from a very generous character creation screen you are whisked away into Trey Parker and Matt Stones gloriously vulgar and satirical world. As the new kid in town it is your job to do what most new kids in town do. Go out and make friends. And it’s not too long after leaving the confines of your parents’ house you bump into Butters who in turn introduces you to everyone’s favourite fat ass Eric Cartman. It seems that all of the children of South Park are currently playing a Dungeons and Dragons style role playing game which has led to an all-out war over who controls the stick of truth and ultimately the universe.

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As expected, and in true South Park fashion, events quickly spiral out of control as the government, aliens, Nazi zombies and underpants gnomes get involved and swept away on the tide of beautiful ridiculousness. In a master stroke though, it never really leaves behind the fact that the events mostly play out in the background. Never losing sight that the children are just playing a game with each other. Having Matt and Trey write the story was perfect as you could probably easily cut all of the cinematics together and have one of the best seasons of South Park ever made.

The true star of the game is South Park itself. Apart from the occasional slowdown when transitioning from screen to screen it looks and feels exactly like an episode from the television series. From the jilted shuffling way everyone walks, right down to the camera angles and southern twangs on the guitar. Almost every building is open for exploration and literally stuffed to overflowing with references to past episodes. I’m not even kidding. I’m an avid South Park fan and have been since it started and I can’t think of a single character or item that isn’t represented or at least referenced in this game. One of the collectables in the game is the Wild Wacky Action Bike for crying out loud!

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The game doesn’t just draw on past glories to get laughs out of its audience however. It also does one of the best jobs of satirising modern videogame culture I’ve ever seen. From the constant Skyrim references that surround your characters ability to use fart magic, to a very memorable moment on a ufo collecting audio diaries that have been left by a disgruntled prisoner who just whines about the uselessness of audio diaries. It’s very fresh and very very funny. And then there’s Canada. Oh my days Canada! But I’ll let you discover that treat for yourself!

For anyone who played and loved Costume Quest then the battle system will feel like very familiar territory. Also not entirely different from the systems used in the various Mario rpg’s the fighting here is all down to your timing and reaction speed. Casting spells and attacking will require various waggles of the analogue sticks and button presses and defending yourself involves hitting the correct button when an enemy attacks you. It’s not perfect by any means as the response time can seem a bit out of sync and, as I mentioned, if the screen stutters when you’re at a key point in a qte that can sometimes mean a game over screen will shortly follow. Had it been in any other game I would probably be a bit harsher on it. However in a game where fights consist of things like Jimmy playing the ‘brown note’ causing enemies to soil themselves in diarrhoea and Kenny impaling himself by accident on his rainbow unicorn, it’s easy to forgive the game some of these things.

I feel that going into much more detail about what you do and who you meet would spoil some of the surprises that are in store for you, so I think I shall start winding my review down here. One last thing I will mention is the controversy over the censorship in certain scenes of the game. I caved in and paid the extra money to get the American version as I wanted to experience the game in its purest form. I have no personal experience over how the game is affected by taking these moments out. However after talking to a colleague of mine who is playing the UK copy, he said that the ufo scene (the first heavily censored one in the game) ended up feeling disjointed and broken. He is still enjoying the game though so I guess the only real question you need to ask yourself is how much does it mean to you to play the game without the little snippets breaking the immersion for you.

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And so we come to an end of the review. I loved this game. It is definitely not a perfect game and like I said, it has its fair share of frustrations. With that being said I have never laughed out loud so much and so often at a game, or dare I say it, an episode of South Park, as I did whilst playing TSOT. It is a game that will constantly have your jaw on the floor as you move from one outrageous task to the next. And to be honest, any game where I can go into work the next day and casually say that I fought a load of aborted, Nazi, zombie, baby foetuses last night, is a game that I’m proud to have in my collection.

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Don’t let the understated and almost mute appearance of Strider fool you in the opening of this game. What is about to follow is one of the most explosive and action packed metroidvania games released in recent memory.

Developed by Double Helix Games, the people who also bought you the Killer Instinct reboot on Xbox One, players once again assume the role of Strider Hiryu in this revisiting of the classic 1989 arcade game. However Double Helix have done more than just take the original and slap a new coat of paint on it. Rather than do that they have completely rebuilt and refocused the game from the ground up.

As I mentioned, Strider is now a metroidvania type game. And why is this a good thing? Well apart from being possibly the greatest videogame genre out there, it now gives us a chance to experience being Strider in his purest form. With the amount of backtracking, exploration and combat now implemented in to the game you really get a feel for being the all-powerful ninja like never before.

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For the first few minutes of the game it’s business as usual. You run from left to right, spamming the attack button. Don’t worry folks, Strider’s trusty Cypher is still in play, and his trademark laser katana makes very short and satisfying work of many of the cyber enemies you face early on. However after a few of the early bosses have been vanquished and you’ve upgraded you’re Cypher and abilities a little, you suddenly realise that this isn’t the Strider of old. As you cast cursory glances over your map you can see that various areas that were previously inaccessible you can now gain access to. Perhaps you had the wrong element Cypher for a certain door that you can now smash through. Or maybe that double jump ability you just acquired will now let you reach an impossible looking ledge from earlier. And this exploration is really where the meat of the game is. Straying from the path is a fun, and to be quite honest, necessary past time. Doing this will gift your Strider with a whole host of new upgrades. Be it energy tanks, health increases or just different costumes. Oh and did I mention that some of the unlockables offer up new bonus challenges outside of the main game? Well they do. These range from timing based platform sections where your nimbleness will really be put to the test. And combat challenges that pit you against ever difficult and challenging enemies.

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Now I say that backtracking is necessary as the difficulty in this game can spike in a couple of places. After you’ve played the game for a couple of hours you will really be getting into the swing of things, annihilating enemies with absolute ease, only to suddenly come up against an insurmountable boss who can obliterate you in a couple of screen filling hits. Now like I said this only happens in a couple of places and can be frustrating even with a fully upgraded Strider. However I believe that it is important to remember that this is and old school game with old school sensibilities. Perseverance and pattern memorisation is the key. Stick with it and the sense of achievement is palpable.

I think that the real place where Strider stumbles is in the music department. The whole affair is a rather muted one, with only a couple of little jingles and sound effects standing out. Honestly if you asked me to hum a tune from the game I couldn’t. Even with the music turned right up to the max in the settings it just seems to fade into the background.

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But with that being said that is the only quibble that I have with what I consider to be a phenomenal reboot. If you had played the Vita or 3DS versions of Batman Arkham Origins earlier on last year but found it to be a bit plodding, dull and trite, then believe me Strider is the shot of adrenaline you need. The well-paced gameplay is perfectly balanced with the, mostly, challenging difficulty curve. Bombastic, crazy, hard and always beautiful to look at it is a game that can without a doubt stand side by side with the likes of Guacamelee!, Metroid and Symphony of the Night.

Left Behind Review

Posted: February 22, 2014 in Reviews
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So after two extensive playthroughs and finally managing to pick my jaw up off of the floor, I figured it was time for me to weigh in on my opinions of Left Behind, the only single player DLC to come to Naughty Dog’s The Last of Us. Just a quick word of warning, I am going to try and avoid getting into spoiler territory, however as the game is quite short it’s going to be quite difficult to talk about it without mentioning some key points. So if you want to take the game head on without any idea of what’s going to happen then take my word that this is an incredible piece of content and I wholeheartedly recommend it!

Ok so let’s set the scene. Oh and spoilers here if you haven’t even played the main game. So where does Left Behind fall chronologically in Naughty Dogs post-apocalyptic earth? Well, remember at the end of The Last of Us Ellie tells Joel that when she was bitten in Boston she was with her best friend Riley? And Riley was also bitten? Well guess what? You’re about to play through those harrowing events. Fun right? There is also a tie in comic by the name of American Dreams that is set just before the events of Left Behind. Don’t worry if you haven’t read it. It’s not essential, however there are a couple of references that you will miss out on and it is nice to see the world fleshed out across different forms of media.

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Now you might think that going into this DLC and knowing what the outcome of the story is might work against Naughty Dog in bringing us a new perspective on the world of TLOU. I am very very pleased to announce that it doesn’t. In fact if anything this three hour emotional rollercoaster is just another example of how much of a daring developer Naughty Dog is. In the space of time it takes you to complete Left Behind they have thrown so many new ideas and innovations your way that it really did put me in mind of playing Portal for the first time. Not that this is a funny puzzle game. But the fact that like Portal, Left Behind manages to squeeze so many fresh and exciting new ideas into its short play time that you do have to sit back and think to yourself ‘why can’t other developers show this amount of creativity in a massive 40 hour long game?’

Again it’s really hard to talk about a lot of these things as they are so much fun to discover on your own that it would be a shame to ruin them. I will talk about my favourite one here though, so if you don’t want to know then I’ll let you skip onto the next paragraph. As Riley and Ellie are exploring the mall they come across an old arcade. Now of course the game cabinets are broken and derelict but Ellie really wants to play one. Riley takes her over to The Turning cabinet starring Angel Knives. Remember her? Ellie talks to Joel about it when they come across a similar cabinet in the future. Of course the cabinet doesn’t work. However Riley takes Ellie’s hands and tells her to close her eyes. As Riley then commentates on what is happening in the game a fighting hud appears around Ellie’s face as she takes instruction from Riley and you, the player, are given button prompts on what to do. Throughout the whole experience all you are looking at is Ellie’s face. But as she gets drawn into her imaginative game and it concludes on her smile of pure adulation you can’t help but smile along with her as you see the joy she is experiencing. It’s an incredibly touching moment. And definitely one of many.

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However this is The Last of Us, and as we all know a piece of DLC can’t all be about two girls hanging out at the mall. Time to talk about the combat. Now I’ve read in at least one other publication that they thought the combat felt forced and got in the way. I have to disagree. I think that every time you are facing enemies, be they Clickers or humans, it felt completely in context with what was going on in the story. It’s also really nice to be controlling Ellie in combat again. As she is a much weaker and smaller character than Joel you have to rely on stealth a lot more. There is also the new mechanic of luring Clickers and infected to human targets and watch them take each other out. Very satisfying indeed. I also feel that had there been less combat then the climactic finale would have felt a little flat. Word of warning, just when you think you’re safe is when you’re at your most vulnerable 😉

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To be completely honest I think that the only gripe anyone could possibly throw at this miniature masterpiece is the price of entry. Sure if you’ve already bought the season pass and are getting the most out of multiplayer then this hasn’t really set you back more than a couple of quid. However if you, like me, are mainly interested in single player content then you would have had to pony up £11.99. Now I know that this really isn’t cheap at all as far as dlc goes. You could also argue that the length of the game, 2-3 hours, doesn’t justify the asking price. Trust me. Play the game. Enjoy the story. And marvel at the revelations. Then tell me it wasn’t worth it. Furthermore, like I’ve said, I’ve already played through it twice and am now gearing up for my Survival play through.

It might not seem that I’ve talked about a lot but believe me this gripping adventure is filled with collectables, conversations and hidden titbits. It is very very unlikely that you will see everything in your first play through. Naughty Dog have once again outdone themselves and shown that they are still the greatest developers around and not afraid to take risks. If you own a PlayStation 3 then you owe it to yourself to see where Ellie came from and what she had been through before meeting Joel. Like I said, this is a masterpiece and will undoubtedly be one of the best things you play this year.

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Here we are people. The big one. The 2013 Game of the Year. I won’t hold you up but *spoiler alert* GTA V is not on this list. Why? I didn’t think it was that great. It probably would have featured in a Top 20 list, but these games are better…

10. Saints Row IV

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The game that out GTA’d GTA. Saints Row has everything except the graphical polish. An absolutely banging soundtrack. Some of the funniest and most outlandish dialogue seen in a game in recent years. A brilliantly stupid and self-referential scrip. And most importantly it was a sandbox game that knew how to be a sandbox game. No invisible walls, no barriers. You want to speed like lightening across the map whilst cars explode and get telepathically thrown out the way? You can. You want to leap hundreds of feet into the air before gliding across an entire city only to hit the side of a building and then run up it vertically to the very top? You can. You then want to jump from the top of the building and levitate in the air before plunging down to the earth fist first and unleashing a nuclear blast that annihilates everything in its path? YOU CAN! You want to do all of this to Aerosmith’s I Don’t Wanna Miss A Thing because you’re trapped inside an alien matrix and can therefore pick up radio signals in your head?? Guess what? YOU CAN!

9. Rayman Legends

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If Rayman has done anything this generation it’s reinvigorate a tired genre that most of us had left for dead. The 2d platformer. Indeed Rayman Origins had come just the year before and made what many consider to be the perfect example of the game type. So how do you improve on that? How do you make perfection more perfect? Well I don’t have the answers to these questions but someone at Ubisoft obviously does. Rayman Legends is not just an amazingly tough and challenging old school platformer. It is stuffed to bursting with extra content. It’s an amazing multiplayer game. There are online leaderboards complimented with a set of ever changing online daily challenges. Every single level has its own ‘invaded level’ a remix of elements from that world to form a super tough timed level that can only be completed by the most skilled and truly devoted players. There is a whole optional world of original Origins levels but given that Legends sheen. There are brilliantly funny rhythm action levels that have you jumping and punching to the beat of such classics as Eye of the Tiger. And a whole host of extras waiting to be unlocked. Seriously, if you want bang for your buck, the bang doesn’t get much louder than this!

8. Bioshock Infinite

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After a prolonged development period it really was starting to look like Infinite was going the way of the dodo. After constant delays and stories of people getting laid off things were starting to look bleak. However the day finally came when Infinite was released and it was magic. Evoking the same emotions of mystery, surprise, beauty and decay the original Bioshock had done years ago. Infinite was a game made for HD. It was stunning. And the effortless way in which Booker zipped around stages shooting both weapons and plasmids was mesmerising. The music and the art design also complimented each other wonderfully which just made this world, this Olympus, feel more tangible than anything that had ever come before. And that ending! Strap yourself in when those final scenes play out, your world is about to get turned upside down!

7. Tomb Raider

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Lara Lara Lara. You were so very very close! Close to what you might ask? Well, and I don’t say this lightly, but toppling Nathan Drake from his throne. As one of the most visually stunning and perfectly balanced games on this list Tomb Raider had all the right ingredients for a perfect action game. It was just missing two special little something somethings. And they were, interesting characters and a plot I could give a damn about. I don’t want to dwell on it but Tomb Raiders cast and story was a bunch of rubbish. Which is a real shame as everything else on the table, the action, the set pieces, the combat and the stealth were nigh on perfect. Hopefully there will be a bigger focus on tightening these bolts in the inevitable sequel! It’s good to have you back Lara J

6. Ni No Kuni

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This has been the JRPG I’ve been waiting years to play! Literally! Apart from Persona’s 3 and 4 which were released on the PS2, I can’t think of a single game in the genre that I’ve been as obsessed with since. FF XIII was terrible and XIII-2 was ok. Xenoblade was fantastic but a little drawn out. I wanted a classic feeling JRPG and I wanted it now! And boy oh boy did Ni No Kuni deliver in spades! One of the brightest and most beautiful games in recent years NNK was, and is, a wonder to look at. And when you look at the talent behind it it’s no wonder. Bought to you by Level 5 and Studio Ghibli this really is a match made in heaven. All the while evoking elements of Level 5’s previous game, Dragon Quest VIII, whilst retaining a unique identity entirely of its own, Ni No Kuni is a work of art. Pure and simple lovely charm with the edge of a tough RPG for the hardcore. Hundreds of hours of stuff to do, hundreds of side quests and hidden bosses to fight, this really is a game you live in. Putting the disc in is like opening the door to Narnia.

5. Legend of Zelda a Link Between Worlds

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I was very very sceptical the first time I saw a trailer for this Zelda game. Especially after seeing how well a 3DS Zelda game could run after the Ocarina of Time remake. Did we really have to return to old school top down Zelda? Well I’m so glad we did. If there is one thing that I need to remind myself of from time to time it’s that Nintendo don’t screw up their first party titles. A Link Between Worlds was at once nostalgic and new. The mechanic by which Link can turn himself into a painting and merge onto walls entirely turns the genre upside down and makes for some of the best puzzles in the series. The best and most precise Zelda game I have played in a very very long time! Well done Link! You deserve your place on this list!

4. Fire Emblem Awakening

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Not only one of the games of the year but, in my opinion, the defining game in this long running series. As I have mentioned before, this generation has seen a complete revival of the turn based strategy genre. And I do believe that Awakening is the pick of the litter. And probably the best game on the 3DS. Fantastic hardcore strategy that requires the player to really plan out their moves as permadeath is a very real threat. Beautifully animated and voice acted anime cut scenes that wrap around a fantastically told and well-paced story. A brilliantly addictive job system, the likes of which hasn’t been seen since the early Final Fantasy games. And finally a game that really delivers on the 3DS’s street pass promise. That amount of interactivity and extras that you gain just by walking around town with your 3DS on standby pretty much makes this game infinite.

3. The Last Of Us

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Harrowing. Christ on a bike this game was distressing. Never mind the bleak, barren and desolate future bought to us by Naughty Dog. The characters themselves were dragged right through the shitter. So the Last of Us then. A third person action/survival horror game bought to you by the studio that is behind the exceptional Uncharted games. This game was a trial to play through. Not because of any sort of flaws in the design but because you yourself suffered with these characters. The emotional toll that this game took was staggering. I’m not going to go into any great amounts of details as I don’t want to spoil anything for those of you that haven’t played it, but the fact that my friend Kurt took half a day off of work just to come over to my house to talk about it as soon as I’d told him I’d completed it speaks volumes about the games story, atmosphere and character. Throw in a perfectly competent, tense and interestingly explored multiplayer and you’ve got yourself a winner. If you own a PS3 you owe it to yourself to play this game. It defines a generation.

2. Guacamelee

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Let’s get one thing straight. It broke my heart to put Guacamelee at number two. This had been my Game of The Year since first completing it when it was released in early 2013. Everything about this game is old school metroidvania style gameplay tweaked to perfection. I did do a full review of this game and you can read my thoughts on it here, https://bridgeburnergaming.wordpress.com/2013/04/14/guacamelee-review/

Suffice to say if you want a bright, beautiful challenge with interesting puzzles, fantastic combat, look no further than Guacamelee. Especially as of right now it’s free to download on the PSN if you are a PS+ subscriber.

So that WAS my game of the year. And if you’ve read the review then you must be thinking that it must have been something truly special and unique to topple Guacamelee off of its throne. And you’d be right….

1. Tearaway

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So here it is! Game of the year! Numero uno! The best of the best! And do you know what? I never saw it coming! There were certain games that came out in 2013 that you knew, just knew, were going to be on this list. Even before playing them you had a vague idea that Tomb Raider and Bioshock were going to be getting talked about come the end of the year. But not Tearaway. With little to no hype surrounding its launch and reading mute previews, I wasn’t even planning on buying this game. It was only due to the fact that Media Molecule (LittleBigPlanet crfeators) were making this game that I had heard of it at all. Even the trailers and gameplay videos looked a bit dull. And then the reviews started trickling out. And what reviews. Many outlets even stating that this was the best game on the Vita! Better than Persona 4?! REALLY?! I knew I had to check it out.

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And I was so glad I did. This game is incredible. And it does two things very very well indeed. Firstly it breaks the third wall like no other game I’ve played. The game itself is a linear platformer which controls and feels very much like Psychonauts in places. However using all of the Vitas unique functions it puts you in the game. Literally. From introducing you as some sort of god character by using the front camera to continually have you in the sun looking down on proceedings. To having your actual fingers burst through the papery game screen to interact with the environment. The game also innovates. Constantly. You would be forgiven for thinking that this was a Nintendo game due to the amount of unique, new and interesting concepts it delivers. And none ever outstay their welcome.

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Finally the icing on the cake. As you may have garnered from the pictures, the whole of Tearaway is made of construct paper. And guess what? You can make everything in the game. everything. As you take photos of whited out characters and objects, you then unlock the actual craft paper print outs which are uploaded to a cloud account which you can then access and print off at your leisure. Name me another game that lets you do that!

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So there you have it. Suffice to say that this has without a doubt been one of the best, if not THE best, years for gaming. I could have easily done a top 20 for the best games released this year and still have had a tough time choosing which ones to include. And next year is looking even more crazy! What with last gen still going strong and the current/next gen consoles starting to pick up the pace who knows what’s going to happen?!? I can’t wait and I’ll see you there!

Happy new year from BridgeBurnerGaming xxx  

Trophy Whore

And so here we are. At the end of a very very long journey. That last bit was a little grim wasn’t it? All doom and gloom? Well don’t worry. Like I said, the golden age is just about to start…

And so I was living in Bristol. I had been there for about a year and I had been making new friends and enjoying my new life a lot. However there was one thing that was missing, and that was Simon. However, as mentioned before, I could be quite hot headed and I was too stubborn to do anything about it. Soon after this though I received a message from Simon on Facebook. And I’m going to be honest it really humbled me. I won’t go into the details here but it explained everything, and he told me about what had happened concerning the move and why he felt he couldn’t confide in us. It all now made sense and I now felt like a bit of a dick. He finished the message by saying how much he wanted to recover our friendship of old and come and visit in Bristol. I was straight on the phone to him. We hammered out some details and arranged for him to come and stay in a month or so. What does all this have to do with Playstation? I hear you ask. Well as we were now ‘friends’ again society states that one has to then fix all the damage done on a social technology level. And so Facebook friend requests were exchanged again. As were PSN names. And what I saw when Simon accepted my Playstation Network request shocked me to my very core.

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As I stated in the last piece I was primarily a 360 gamer at this point in time. Most of my friends in Bristol had 360’s and I had become a little bit of an Achievement Hunter. For those that don’t know, an achievement is a little score you get for doing a particular thing in an Xbox game. For example you might get rewarded with 100 points for completing the game on hard difficulty. Or it can be something silly like getting an Achievement in The Simpsons Game by pressing the start button. I wasn’t completely addicted to getting these, but I was revisiting a lot of my old games as it was nice to be rewarded and get bragging rights for playing things differently and experiencing the game in a different way.

Now Playstation didn’t have Achievements. They had recently introduced a similar system called Trophies. Every PS3 game at this point shipped with a specific number of bronze, silver and gold trophies that, exactly like XBOX, would be awarded to the player every time you fulfilled the requirement. The only difference was that with Playstation Trophies the player actually got a further reward by completing the trophy list. The much coveted Platinum Trophy. This differed greatly from the 360 as you didn’t get anything after getting all standard 1000 GamerPoints that were in a retail game. The numbers just got added to your ongoing total. However with PS3 all the trophies you earned got you experience which levelled up your player profile. And a Platinum trophy not only net you a hell of a lot of exp but also looked pretty darn cool. This also started the argument about what was better, the number of platinum’s a player had or the trophy level they were at. I personally think that it’s the number of platinum’s and, even if it’s a shitty game, you still have to dedicate so much time and skill to getting that trophy.

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But at this point I didn’t know that much about trophies or their function. All I knew was two things. One, they were the Sony equivalent of GamerPoints. And two, Simon had loads more than me. Seriously, because I had barely used the machine I had maybe a couple of trophies. Simon had hundreds. This would not stand. And so quite literally there and then my first trophy whore war began, as did the chain reaction of my love for the PS3. I had recently bought the Ghostbusters video game and I remember putting it in to the system straight away, checking the trophy list, and then replaying the game with what I had to do to get some of these trophies in the back of my mind. And it didn’t stop there either. I worked at Sainsbury’s at the time and in our car park was a Blockbusters. I loved this place. So many cheap second hand games so little time. I began going in there every lunch break seeing what I could find to get a platinum trophy in. phone in hand I had recently discovered a fantastic website, www.ps3tropies.org, which had guides on it for all ps3 games with trophies, gave you an estimated time to platinum the game, a detailed walkthrough and difficulty rating. This was my bible. Now many of my friends often berate me for my trophy addiction. There is no beating around the bush, an addiction is what it was at this point. And on the one hand I entirely agree with them. Yes trophies mean nothing. But on the other hand in my quest to outdo Simon I played some fantastic games and had some amazing experiences that I would never ever have come across had I not been on this journey. Games like Wolverine were a genuine joy to play. However due to reading middling reviews of it I would never have ordinarily touched it. Hell I used to actually sneak out of work for an hour at a time to run back home and play it just to get some trophies. I also came across other games that blew me away which I would never in a million years have played. If you would have told me years ago that one of my favourite games this generation would have been a movie licenced game based on a kids film I would have laughed heartily in your face. However Where the Wild Things Are was an amazing experience that, believe it or not, could easily be compared to the Team Ico games. And the only reason I initially went to it was trophies.

Beyond!

So suffice to say I quickly rose in the trophy ranks and started playing my Playstation more and more. It was also around this time that another defining factor in my PS3 experience came to light. I had been listening to IGN’s gaming podcasts for years. All the way back to their pc based AFK podcast. I didn’t listen to them religiously, only when I checked, on the off chance, that there were any new episodes of the Xbox podcast Three Red Lights or the broader videogame podcast Game Scoop. I enjoyed them enough. It was something fun to listen to on my walks to and from work or the forty minute commute I had to do back in Kent. The hosts on there always seemed to have a laugh and a good time and it was an easy way to keep up to date with the industry and what games were coming out. It was when browsing the IGN website one day that I discovered there was a Playstation podcast that IGN did called Podcast Beyond. And so I downloaded it, thinking that I might as well listen to it now I’m playing the PS3 more. Everything changed. I think that it was Podcast Beyond that made Playstation for me a lifestyle and no longer a hobby. Hosted at the time by Chris Roper, Beyond blew all the other podcasts out of the water.

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And I think I can narrow it down to one reason. Passion. These guys LOVED their Playstations. Be it PS3, PS2 or PSP these guys were so enthused by these devises and how they worked, where they came from, who made them, what they could do, that it was hard not to listen to an episode and become totally infected with their excitement. And it was funny to boot. Mainly due to the maniacal Greg Miller, I would often find myself laughing out loud as I listened with my headphones in on the way to Sainsbury’s. And hell if Sony Worldwide Studios President Shuhei Yoshida is a regular listener they must be doing something right. Right?!

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So it is fair to say that my love and addiction was in avalanche stage at this point. It was just getting bigger and bigger and Sony seemed to be getting things right. And then Uncharted 2 came along and my faith and loyalty to the Playstation brand was 100% sealed. Spoiler alert but Uncharted 2 is my game of the generation. And I wasn’t even initially that excited about it. It came out on the same day as Brutal Legend which I was much more interested in playing. However, not one to mess about, I had bought a copy of each and spent the next few days playing through Legend. It was ok. Not a patch on Tim Schafer’s previous works and definitely didn’t hold a candle to Psychonauts. But it was alright.

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I then clearly remember waking up one Sunday morning and making myself a steaming hot cup of coffee. As I took the first few tentative sips downstairs in the kitchen I suddenly remembered I still had some Uncharted to play. Splashing some cold water on my face I went upstairs and popped the disc in. let’s see what all the fuss is about then. And see I did. In fact this is one of the few games that I have sat and played from beginning to end in one sitting. I was completely and utterly blown away. Everything this game was doing I had either never seen it done to this standard or it was completely fresh. I won’t go into too much detail as this isn’t a review but I will say this, the last time and game floored me in this way was when I first played through Half Life 2 Episode . It’s THAT amazing!

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It was from this point that the Playstation 3 truly became the console it always deserved to be. There always seemed to be some Playstation exclusive on the horizon that would be pushing the machines limits further and further. And these weren’t just great looking games but again most of these games are ones that have come to define this generation. God of War, Ratchet & Clank a Crack in Time, LittleBigPlanet 2, Demon Souls, Ni No Kuni Wrath of the White Whitch, Sly Cooper 3, Infamous 2, Playstation Allstars and so so many others. Indeed it seemed for a very long time that the only way in which the 360 was trumping the PS3 was in the amount and quality of games it was offering exclusively from its online marketplace. Games like Shadow Complex were the only thing that kept me flicking the old machine on every now and then. However I shouldn’t have worried. As soon as Sony had their retail games strategy down to a T and started focusing on their digital developers those tables got flipped pretty quickly indeed sir! And again I feel I should point out that these download only games are not just good or even great, a lot of them are truly special and unique. Some of these have gone on to win Game of the Year awards over their multi-million dollar retail cousins. So if you do have a Playstation and want to know the best of the best on the Playstation store then be assured that there are a metric tonne of mind-blowing titles. Such as Guacamelee, Flower, Journey, Sound Shapes, Wipeout HD Fury, Shatter, Joe Danger and many many more.

Vita up my balls

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As this saga draws to an inevitable close it feels only right to talk very quickly about the PS Vita. A more recent addition to the Playstation family, this is one of the Sony devices that has got it right from day one and is still trucking at a good pace. I was so excited when I saw the Vita get announced. I loved my PSP but it never felt like a true extension of my home console experience. The Vita did. It felt like a handheld where the developers had listened to every criticism and made every effort to adjust and innovate where they could. You could say it’s the Assassins Creed 2 of consoles J this was everything and more I want in a handheld. Dual analogue sticks? Check. A unified account which links directly to your PS3? Check. Console standard graphics? Check. I won’t run through the whole list of what this baby could do but suffice to say it felt like I was leaving the store with a mini PS3 in my pocket when I bought it at launch. Hell you could even get trophies on it which added to your main score! Talk about hype! Not to mention that there is an entire catalogue of games on there that are cross buy and cross save. Meaning that, for example, you buy hotline Miami once on your PS Vita, you can then download it again at no extra cost on your PS3 and seamlessly transfer your saves across via a cloud storage system. This really is the perfect handheld. Not only do you have console standard games such as Uncharted or Killzone on there but there is also an ever growing library of phenomenal Indie games taking root on the system too. Furthermore you can also download all the PS1 classics and PSP games onto it too. It had always been a dream of mine to have a version of Final Fantasy VII in my pocket. And now that dream is reality! And probably its crowning achievement is whoever it was at Sony HQ making the decision to include it in Playstation Plus.

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What? Wait hang on! I haven’t spoken about Playstation Plus yet?!? Christ on a bike I’d forget my own head! Ok! Playstation Plus is Sony’s ace in the hole. It’s consistently the best deal in videogames. Basically you pay a flat rate of £11.99 every three months and every two weeks the Playstation Store gets updated with a load of free games that you can download at no extra cost. You get to keep these games for as long as you’re a member. And its not only games but you are then entitled to get discount off of a lot of things in the store and loads of exclusive themes and avatars are at your disposal too. Still on the fence? I was too. It wasn’t until I actually got a free trial and started downloading that it hit me full on in the face just what an amazing bargain this is. Still don’t believe me? I’m sitting in front of my TV at the moment and I can tell you exactly what you get right now. Grid 2, Guacamelee!, Remember Me, Giana Sisters, Dragon’s Dogma, Uncharted 3, LittleBigPlanet Karting and XCOM. That is a stellar list no matter how you look at it.

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You download just one of those games and that service has paid for itself. But is doesn’t stop there! Oh no. like I said the Vita is now included in this service. So if you own a Vita guess what? MORE FREE GAMES! Sonic All-star Racing Transformed, GTA Liberty City Stories, Uncharted Golden Abyss, Gravity Rush and Guacamelee again (cross buy remember). And in two weeks’ time that will be updated and there will be a slew of new games to get. So you see the Vita just makes sense. It is the handheld that not only the people need but the handheld that the PS3 needed. Pay attention Nintendo! This is how you do it! Oh and I almost forgot. The Playstation 4 is now included in that subscription too.

Playstation 4

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So how do I end all of this? How do I bring it to a close? Questions that have been gnawing at the edge of my mind ever since I started this journey. And only now has it dawned on me. I don’t. Playstation isn’t just something that is going to end for me. I will always be playing Sony Consoles until my dying day. The Playstation 4 is here now and all that means to me is that it’s time to start forging new memories. And indeed some are already getting made. I bought my PS4 on launch day. My friend Kurt came over to my house and we both experienced what was, for me anyway, the best console launch I’ve ever had. Hanging out with a best friend with beer and pizza. Shooting the shit and entering the next generation the way it should be. With a buddy and a bud. Two days later it was broken. Was I upset? Yeah a little, but I knew I could get a replacement and I know that this is only the beginning. There will be problems down the road. Of course there will. But as the PS3 has proven, with any relationship you need to try. You need to persevere and take the good with the bad. All the best relationships are the ones that require a little hard work. There will be ups and downs but if you can look back on your time together, into the golden glow of the past and say ‘wow, look at what we’ve done. Look at what we’ve achieved’ then it will have been worth it.

Beyond

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