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Opinion: Owning a MacBook Pro for a year

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The end of October marks a while year of me owning my MacBook Pro – which I ordered not too long after Steve Jobs gave his keynote on the Mac – where he introduced iLife 11, OS X Lion, and some new MacBook Airs. I decided to order the 13 inch MacBook Pro (specs here) that was available at the time. I’ve changed a few things in that year though – I changed the standard hard drive that came with the laptop – doubling its storage capacity with a 500GB drive, and I upgraded from Snow Leopard to Lion.

So first of all – why did I make the jump from Windows? To put it simply, my PC running Vista was starting to irritate me – coming up with random problems almost every day for reasons that I couldn’t figure out. I wanted to change Operating Systems – and my experience with Linux (more specifically – Ubuntu) had always left me feeling frustrated because of hardware incompatibilities.

I wanted something I could surf the web with and do some light PC gaming with but with a minimum of headaches. Luckily being 19 at the time and still living with my parents left me with enough disposable income to justify spending the money on a MacBook Pro – and the fact that Valve had bought Steam to the Mac was comforting – knowing that I could play favourites like Left 4 Dead and Team Fortress 2 on my Mac was comforting and besides, I do most of my gaming on my Xbox 360 anyway.

So what were my first impressions of my shiny new Mac? Mostly positive. Everything seemed to work together well – and I was a big fan of using gestures on the big trackpad. One thing that irks me about laptop trackpads is how cumbersome they can feel to use – but even to this day, I couldn’t possibly think of going back to using a regular old trackpad. I do wish that it was a bit wider though – as sometimes I find I run out of trackpad space when I’m trying to drag something to the other end of the screen.

The keyboard is equally comfortable to use – though suffers from a few Americanisms – but it’s something that I got used to in time – but in the future I would like to see a proper British keyboard layout, as it can be a bit jarring when you go back to a standard keyboard for a while.

I was a little irritated when new MacBook Pro’s got released with i-series processors in them (as opposed to my Core2Duo) – but the technology world is such that your hardware is never more than a few months away from being surpassed – but in hindsight I definitely wish I had the patience to wait until Apple released the newer models before parting with my money.

So on the hardware side I’m happy with what I’ve got – though the built-in webcam could benefit from being better, it serves its purpose well enough – it’s just a question of if “well enough” is justifiable when you’re spending £999 on a laptop.

My feelings on the software are a bit more mixed though – I certainly don’t hate OS X, but I don’t think that it’s the holy grail of operating systems as some people would have you believe. There are things about the user interface that make me wonder what Apple was thinking. First of all – there’s no maximise button. Well, that’s not entirely true – it’s complicated.

There’s a maximise button in the sense that it’ll make the window bigger – but it won’t fill the whole desktop as you’d expect it to – to show you an example, here’s Google Chrome “maximised”:

Instead if you want the window to occupy the whole screen you have to click and drag the edges so that it fits – or hit the “full screen” button if you’re using an application in Lion that supports it. Of course there’s a plethora of keyboard shortcuts that you can use – but whether or not you want to go through the trouble of remembering them all is another case all together.

Another source of bother is that over time it feels as though my Mac has become slower – especially as far as startup times are concerned – which is strange considering I upgraded from a 5400RPM drive to a 7200RPM one. Upgrading to OS X Lion doesn’t seem to have helped things out either, and deleting everything and starting on a completely clean install of Lion (as opposed to my initial upgrade) didn’t appear to be of much use.

Speaking of which – I’m not a fan of OS X Lion being discless. Waiting for Lion to download from Apples servers can take a considerable amount of time – and even then afterwards my system was exactly the same – as though nothing had happened at all. It felt like I had to wrestle with the system in order for it to wipe everything so I could start anew again. A most frustrating experience indeed, and I hope this isn’t something that catches on with Windows and other operating systems. Never underestimate the usefulness of physical media.

Of course OS X has its upsides – I’ve grown rather fond of the dock, and it’s nice not having to worry about malware as much as you do with Windows (but of course, you still have to keep an eye out). The App Store is a nice idea, though it seems to be full of the same useless tat that you find on your typical mobile app store. It sells games as well – but with most of these being available on Steam (and with support for multiple platforms) I’m not sure why you’d bother getting them on the app store – how many platforms do you really need Angry Birds on anyway?

Do I regret my Mac purchase? No – I’m pretty satisfied with what I’ve got. But would I buy another one when the time comes? I’m not so sure. Considering I recently built myself a dedicated gaming rig all I really need is a device for browsing the web with – and really, I could just do my research on some laptops, find out which ones have the best hardware compatibility with Ubuntu and save myself £999 – in fact, I may well install Ubuntu on this Mac long before I consider new hardware all together, as I recently tried 10.11 on a USB Stick and things appear to have been greatly improved upon.

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Written by Pokeh

October 24, 2011 at 4:16 pm

Posted in Opinion, Tech

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Opinion: What does a 10/10 rating mean, anyway?

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It’s a question that I’ve long pondered to myself: What does it mean when a reviewer hands out a ten out of ten score? For one thing it’s obvious that they enjoyed using whatever they reviewed (for the sake of the argument I’ll use video games as examples), but are they saying that what they reviewed is perfect? To say that there’s absolutely nothing wrong with a game – that’s a bold statement to make.

The saying may be age old and yet it still rings true: Nothing is perfect. Game developers know this, consumers know this, and I would hope that journalists know this too – and yet ten out of ten game ratings often feel like they’re being handed out left right and centre.

Grand Theft Auto IV is a game that received a lot of praise from critics – indeed the MetaCritic page for the PS3 version contains 37 10/10 scores – so lets take a look at one of the reviews for the game. Everyone’s heard of IGN, so we’ll take a look at that.

I’m not going to get in to the semantics of whether or not GTA IV was a good game or a bad one in this post – but what does a reader take away from these numbers? It’s obvious that the game is good but in what respect? Is it just excellent value for money? Is it pushing the boundaries of typical game design and bringing in some great innovation? Is it gaming perfection?

It makes me wonder if numerical rating systems are really the way to go for reviews – not only for games either, but for TVs, phones and various other things that you could find a review for out there.

I’ve never liked assigning a numerical value to how good or bad I feel a game is in the reviews that I write because I feel like I’m tying myself in to a system where a reader can (and they will) point out inconsistencies in the ways that I judge games. If that happens then surely the reader loses confidence in what the writer has to say?

I’ve always thought that if the reader doesn’t want to read a full review then a few quick points about what’s good and what’s bad is far more informative than a number ever could be. Everyone who I ask has a different interpretation of what a 10/10 score represents -some think it means the game is perfect, others that it simply offers good value for money, and others that it’s far better than anything else that’s out there at the moment.

And that’s the flaw – a review should inform the reader, and with that information the reader can then decide whether or not it’s right for them. So why not end a review in such a way? A couple of simple, bite-sized infochunks for the reader to digest on. It’s quick, straight to the point, and much more informative than some arbitrary number could ever be.

Written by Pokeh

May 18, 2011 at 7:49 pm

Posted in Opinion

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Opinion: Why the Sony Xperia Play could keep me on Android

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I have long bemoaned the state of mobile gaming – the Android and Apple App Stores are chock full of mobile games that I ultimately think could just be free flash games on the Internet. Angry Birds? Yawn. Flight Control? Meh. Heck – the only mobile game that I’ve played that engaged me for more than five minutes has been the fantabulous Game Dev Story – and even with that I thought “This would be so much better on the PC if it let me build my own game studio Theme Hospital style”

The truth is this: the large majority of the games on mobile platforms are casual games – which is fine, but as a core gamer who likes headshots and drifting around corners at 100mph these games have little to no appeal to me. There have been attempts of course to port older games over to these devices but using an on-screen control pad doesn’t feel right. You need the feedback of physical buttons to play properly – something that Android and iPhone handsets to this date don’t have at all (or at least not in the sense in that they’re laid out like a control pad).

Well it seems that someone has finally listened to what people like me are asking for: given that the fine chaps at Sony Ericsson have devised the Sony Xperia Play – also known as the PlayStation Phone. So we’re halfway there – we finally have some decent hardware on a phone that I can use to play games with. But what about the actual games? If the majority of Android phones only have touch screens with which to game with surely all of the games available for it are just going to be the aforementioned casual games?

Well apparently not. Later this year Sony will be releasing the PlayStation Suite for Android 2.3 or higher. With this Sony will be releasing older PlayStation 1 games as well as some new games too. So it can play PlayStation games – cool, but why not just get an NGP for that?

The answer is simple: emulators. The Android Marketplace is full of emulators for the NES, SNES, GameBoy, GameBoy Advance, and a whole bunch of others. I’ve used the free versions of these apps on my HTC Hero and they appear to run games pretty well. Unfortunately due to the Heros slow processor and lack of physical buttons playing games is a bit of a chore – but given that the Xperia Play has a 1Ghz processor and has a traditional gamepad attached to it then playing a whole bunch of games on it will no doubt be a breeze. I see the Sony Xperia Play as the ultimate in gaming convergence to date, being able to play todays casual games, new games arriving on the PlayStation Suite and games from the consoles of yore.

The only thing I’m worried about? The pricing. Sony has been very enthusiastic talking about the hardware itself and all of the features that it’ll have but they haven’t uttered a word about how much it’ll all cost – and to me that sends signs that I’m about to be hit with some bad news.

Written by Pokeh

February 21, 2011 at 1:11 pm

Opinion: How Microsoft might lose me with next-gen consoles

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It feels somewhat difficult to believe that we’re five years in to this console generation – if this were 2006 we’d have just seen the release of the Xbox 360 a few months ago – with the PS3 still to arrive on British shores. Traditionally this is the point in a consoles life cycle where we start to get glimpses of the “next generation” of consoles – the successors of the current lineup that we saw in the mid 2000’s with the Xbox 360, PS3 and Wii replacing the original Xbox, PS2 and Nintendo Gamecube respectively.

And yet with tough economic times it seems that console manufacturers are finding it difficult to justify releasing a brand new £300 games console to the masses – especially since there’s nothing really wrong with the current lineup that we’ve got now. People are buying the software – why bother fruitlessly making them buy a brand new box?

Both Sony and Microsoft have made it clear that they want their consoles to have a ten year lifespan – meaning that the Xbox 360 probably won’t completely die out until late 2015. That gives the 360 about four more years left in it.

Though it may sound odd I’ve already begun considering who I might side with come the next wave of consoles. I had a PS1 but swapped it for my uncles Xbox (I know, right?), and then I just naturally transitioned over to the Xbox 360. Halo was a big franchise for me and, well – I couldn’t go and miss out on finishing the fight now could I?

It was only last year that I bought my PS3 – some time after E3 and over the course of the year I’ve decided that if Microsoft don’t change a lot of things I’ll almost certainly be jumping ship to the PS4, or whatever Sony decide to call it.

Xbox Live needs to be free

Charging for an online service was something that Microsoft could get away with for a while – no other consoles were doing a good job of it in the previous generation of consoles, and the PS3 was suffering from poor sales until a few years ago. Microsoft were dominant because they were so much better than the competition.

But now Sony are starting to catch up with basic online functionality and the PlayStation Store occasionally has some good sales on. Xbox Live seems insistent on giving me more stuff that I don’t want – I don’t want Twitter or Facebook on my Xbox, I’ve got a computer for that. No – all I want to do is play my games online. Why should I stick with Microsoft and pay £40 a year for the pleasure when I can get the exact same service on a different system for free?

This also causes problems for customers – I’m a huge fan of the BBC iPlayer and bringing it to the Xbox 360 would be an absolute joy – but it’s not happening because Microsoft would want to charge you for it (which would be illegal for the BBC to do). The PS3 and Nintendo Wii have been enjoying access to iPlayer for yonks. iPlayer on the Xbox probably wouldn’t even cost Microsoft anything – since the content is streamed from the BBC and the app would most likely be developed by the BBC as well. Thanks for nothing, Microsoft.

Ditch the in-dashboard advertisements

This sort of ties in with Xbox Live being a premium service. I’m paying £40 a year for a service that should be free and on top of that Microsoft deems it appropriate to bombard my dashboard with irrelevant advertising. In the last week I’ve seen ads for Lynx and a brand of Margarine.

Advertisements for music, movies and games are fair enough – by all means point out products that I might be interested in, but everything else strikes me as irrelevant (Margarine, really?). I’d be fine with such advertisements if Xbox Live was free, but it isn’t, so I’m not.

This isn’t the first time that we’ve seen ads like this on the dashboard either – Wired UK editor and chum Nate Lanxon had an almighty whinge about the situation over a year ago and it would seem that things still haven’t changed.

Microsoft points need to be abolished

Does this really need to be explained? Display everything in the users local currency – I’m fed up of looking up how much some DLC costs on the Internet. Just display everything in real money. Simple.

Exclusive games

Each big console manufacturer has exclusive (or first party) titles. These are the heavy hitters – the ones that can be the deciding factor in which console you purchase, and in my honest opinion this is an area where Sony have an enormous advantage: its exclusive titles are generally of a higher quality than those published by Microsoft.

Sure they may be two completely different genres but which would you buy? Peter Molyneux’s bastard child of an RPG or one of the most charming, beloved, and creative platformers of our time? It’s a no brainer. The only “must have” franchises that Microsoft own for me right now are Halo and Gears of War. Halo developer Bungie has gone multiplatform and won’t be making any new Halo games, and you could argue that the PS3’s counterpart to Gears of War is the Uncharted series – so by jumping ship I’m not particularly missing out on anything.

Physical media

We seem to be living in a world that’s pushing digital downloads more than ever – the music industry is doing it, movies are slowly warming to it and with video games it’s already a reality – full games are already sold on services like Steam, Xbox Live, and the PlayStation Network.

Unfortunately digital downloads don’t provide all that many benefits to the customer. Sure you get to play the content “instantly” and it doesn’t take up shelf space, but then I’ve got a degree of patience and am able to wait for the postie to work his magic and as for taking up shelf space then yeah, that’s kind of what shelves are for. While businesses keep pushing for digital downloads I discover just how much I value the real thing.

I like owning my games – rather than a “license”, I like being able to resell them, I like being able to carry a disc around with me to play at a friends house, I like being able to let someone borrow a game from me. Digital downloads let you do none of these things, and for me a console that doesn’t support physical media is a no go – this applies to Sony, Microsoft, and Nintendo.

Thankfully Sony appears to be in favor of physical media – perhaps learning a harsh lesson from the failure of the PSP Go – but that’s a point in their favour, and with Microsoft claiming that digital downloads are “the future” that’s a mark against them – though I’ll have to wait and see if the next Xbox features a physical media drive or not to be sure.

Reliability issues

Through the course of owning an Xbox 360 I’ve gone through two consoles (I had to send one of those in for repairs too), at least seven headsets, three play and charge kits and three controllers just through normal use. Why is Microsofts hardware so hideously unreliable? I can accept the typical wear and tear but come on – seven headsets?  Throughout the course of my original Xbox I had one headset that lasted me longer – and I only had one controller break on me. I’ve never known of a console to have hardware problems this bad and it puts a serious dent in Microsofts reputation. I’m not paying for its mistakes again.

Of course a lot of this stuff is speculative but right now all of the signs are pushing me to favor Sony – a free online service, reliable hardware, better games, and a more open attitude towards what can go on its platform. If Microsoft doesn’t get its act together then I can’t see myself sticking with its platform come the next generation of consoles – and I’m sure that I’m not the only one.

Written by Pokeh

February 11, 2011 at 3:11 pm

Opinion: Changes that Crysis 2 needs for its retail release

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I was fortunate enough to get the original Crysis with the video card of my computer that I custom built way back in 2008. Unfortunately I found the game to be rather boring – with convoluted suit controls getting in the way of an otherwise fine run and gun shooter – playing the game with a 360 pad helped, but after about 3 – 4 hours I got bored and didn’t play it again.

Crysis is used as a benchmarking tool for PC gamers to get to know how good their rigs are. If your computer could run Crysis at the highest settings then you were some kind of Internet god. Crytek – the developers behind the game announced that the games sequel, Crysis 2 would be getting releases on the Xbox 360 and the PlayStation 3. “Finally!” I thought. Something that I can benchmark my 360 with!

With the multi player beta released on the Xbox 360 just a few days ago I decided to give it a spin – and indeed my complaints about control issues seem to have been addressed (well – partially, I’ll get on to that later). The graphics look gorgeous even if they take a noticeable hit on the Xbox compared to a high end PC – though there’s still a lot that I can criticise. With this being a beta I decided that I’d write down what needs fixing come the games March 25th release.

Proximity Alarm perk needs to go

Crysis 2 – like every other FPS game on the planet uses an EXP system to rank players – giving them points that they can spend on new weapons and perks as they go, Call of Duty style. This is fine – though one perk in particular, Proximity Alarm should be ditched.

Reason being that this perk has a chance of promoting camping when everyone discovers what it does. Given the close quarters nature of the multiplayer map in the beta and that you can turn invisible at will (more on that in a bit) makes giving people a warning alarm for when an enemy gets close a potential game breaker. Why walk around and get myself killed when I can just hide in a corner with my shotgun and wait for my alarm to go off?

Cloak needs nerfing

Using your armour powers is a big part of the core gameplay with Crysis 2 – somewhat akin to the armour abilities found in Halo: Reach. Hitting the left bumper hardens your armour – allowing you to absorb more hits at the expense of movement speed. Hitting the right bumper lets you turn invisible – useful for moving through open ground or sneaking behind enemy lines without being seen.

The problem is that this doesn’t seem to have any kind of disadvantage – which can make it difficult to distinguish invisible enemies from the scenery – and can at times make camping problematic as enemies simply hide in corners without any real warning signs to the player.

Taking a page from Halo: Reach – it may be best to make it jam a players radar, or perhaps have it slightly impair the players vision – simply so that it provides the user with an advantage that’s not too overwhelming. Nobody wants to play a game that just involves people hiding in corners.

Clunky movement controls

As far as where the buttons are mapped on the controller Crysis 2 is perfect – but the movement speed of your character feels clunky and sluggish – certainly not as rapid and responsive as you’d expect from a super soldier. I don’t really need to go in to great detail about this: movement controls need to be more responsive – and slightly faster player movement wouldn’t go amiss either.

Melee needs to be toned down

In a first person shooter melee should always be a last resort at close quarters – but in Crysis 2 it feels like every enemy encounter finishes up with a melee. People use cloak and sneak up on people because the melee is an instant kill, people will storm through hails of bullets to melee you. Even the almighty shotgun is sometimes bested by a smack to the face – in a game about shooting people this isn’t the way forward.

The range that you can melee someone by needs to be seriously reduced – as does the power of the melee. Make it a one hit kill from behind, but a two hit kill from any other side.

The killcam is… erratic at best

Much like the fabled Call of Duty series Crysis 2 shows you how you died from the perspective of the person who killed you – or at least that was the plan. Sometimes the killcam will give me a third person view of myself as I died, others it’ll glitch underneath the map, and in rare cases it’ll actually work.

The killcam also seems to lie about player positions during playback. Sometimes you’ll find that your character is in the wrong place, or that the person who killed you flat out missed all of his shots and still some how killed you. Problem with collision detection or just lag? Either way it needs to be addressed.

Connection issues need to be resolved

This is a beta and I have no doubts that this issue will be resolved – but waiting in a lobby for several minutes only to have the connection randomly cut out on you when the match starts isn’t cool.

In its current state Crysis 2 is looking promising – provided that Crytek can sort out some of the big issues with the multiplayer then Crysis 2 definitely has the potential to be one of the multi player greats of 2011. Here’s hoping that all goes well for the 25th March!

Written by Pokeh

January 26, 2011 at 11:52 pm

Opinion: Pokémon Ruby – the best Pokémon game?

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Pokémon could probably be the series that I could credit with introducing me to video games – or at least is certainly one of the first series’ of games that I started following. It started off with Pokémon Gold (though I had played Red, Yellow and Crystal on my cousins GameBoy Colour).

Of course I was super excited for Pokémon Ruby and its counterpart, Sapphire. I had owned a GameBoy Advance for some time but I was always stuck playing Pokémon Gold on it – with a very small amount of GBA games for it. Pokémon Ruby possibly represents the biggest leap forward that the Pokémon series took, and here are my reasons for why it might be the best one out of the lot:

It’s in colour! (Also sprites > 3D)

Technically speaking the previous Pokémon games were too, but lets be honest – things didn’t exactly look great back on the GameBoy Colour. Ruby and Sapphire took advantage of the extra hardware and really fleshed out the game world – there were even neat little effects like reflections in the water, and environmental effects like rain and sandstorms.

I’m of the belief that the sprites used in the GameBoy Advance games look better than the 3D effects in the games on the DS. The DS simply doesn’t do 3D very well and ages badly. Sprites on the other hand generally age quite well. Look at the screenshot above for example – Pokémon Ruby was released way back in 2003 and it still looks great. The 3D models on the upcoming Pokémon Black and White? Not so much.

Hoenn is just fun to explore

Every new major instalment in the Pokémon series takes place in a new region – Pokémon Ruby introduces gamers to Hoenn – the biggest area that we could explore at that date and was just a joy to explore.

Again this is mostly in part of the huge boost that the GameBoy Advance brought us – Game Freak really went to town to flesh out the environments and have crafted a fun world to explore with a wide variety of environments. From sandy beaches, to lush rainforests, urban metropolises, a desert and a floating city – exploring Heonn for the first time was an exciting prospect because you didn’t really know what to expect next.

In many ways I think that the forth generation of Pokémon games overcomplicated things. In Diamond and Pearl we had to contend with areas covered by fog that impacted the accuracy of your Pokémon – often turning battles in to a chore (yeah – apparently creatures that can breathe fire and shoot electricity can’t see through some fog). And do we really need to have a bazillion different HM moves just to get from A to B? Ruby and Sapphire found the sweet spot by giving us a huge, expansive world to explore without getting too carried away.

2 vs 2 battles

I can fight with two Pokémon at once now? Mind = blown.

But in all seriousness – this wasn’t just some cheap gimmick, it changed the way that the game could be played – especially when fighting another real human player. Being able to fight with two Pokémon at once opened up new avenues for battle strategies, trying to find two Pokémon that could complement each other properly, using attacks that could work well together, it really added some extra depth to the same old battle system that gamers had been used to for the last couple of games – it’s just a shame that this couldn’t have been more fleshed out until the arrival of the Nintendo Wi-Fi Connection on the Nintendo DS with the next games in the series.

Secret bases

Secret bases were cool additions to Ruby and Sapphire that didn’t make it in to the later games – at least not in a way that I would have liked. With a secret base you could fine a tree or a cave to discover an area that you could decorate. Though this seems superficial it actually has an additional purpose when you mixed records with other players.

Record mixing allowed players to swap data – integrating another players actions in to your own. For example – TV shows would start to tell stories about the people who you’ve mixed records with. My favourite feature of record mixing was that it saved your friends secret base in to your game that you could visit – and you could even battle your friend “offline” with the Pokémon that they had on them at the time.

Due to the lack of secret bases in the future games, this is something that Diamond, Pearl, Platinum, Heart Gold, and Soul Silver didn’t have – a shame, since this was a good way to gain EXP for your Pokémon more easily without having to resort to excessive grinding.

Pokémon abilities

Another small and seemingly minuscule addition but one that actually provided some neat effects were Pokémon abilities – typically unique among a particular species. Some Pokémon would pick up items as you went along, some would gain boosts to their stats under certain conditions, or some Pokémon would become immune to a particular type of attack. A small change – but one that changed the game both in and outside of battles.

Pokémon before they looked stupid

I consider the third generation of Pokémon to be the final set of Pokémon that were released that were well designed – providing us with a wide variety of new Pokémon with various new abilities and strong designs. It was after this time in which we started to get ridiculous designs that demonstrate that Nintendo is simply running out of ideas. Nintendo need to spend more time investigating new avenues of gameplay instead of just saying “Here’s 649 [yes, there really are that many now] Pokémon. Gotta catch ’em all right?” Surely we have enough now?

Of course these are simply my thoughts on the matter – and I’m aware that some old school Pokémon fans can be fanatical about Red and Blue being the best of the bunch – though I’d have to disagree given that you can’t even rematch other trainers in the game – I’m of the personal belief that Ruby and Sapphire have made the biggest leap forward for the series since the original games.

It’s also worth pointing out that I’m not here to put down the other games in the Pokémon series – I place a great deal of sentimental value on Pokémon Gold given that it was a childhood favourite – and for what its worth Pokémon Platinum was a great deal of fun to play as well. Here’s hoping that the future Pokémon Black and White can be just as fun as the previous games in the series!

Written by Pokeh

January 19, 2011 at 1:12 pm

Posted in Opinion

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Opinion: The faults of Fable 3

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Peter Molyneux is somewhat notorious for being known as the “used car salesman” of the video games industry; promising so much and yet delivering very little. He’s a man with good ideas but not the person who you want to execute them. Case in point: Fable 3.

Unlike many of my gaming brethren I actually enjoyed the previous game in the series, Fable 2. I enjoyed it enough to play through it several times and I even bought the DLC for it. It wasn’t the most technologically advanced game out there, it wasn’t the most engaging either – but I appreciated its odd sense of humour, and the appearance of the game world changing depending on the decisions that you made throughout encouraged me to play through enough to try and see everything that it had to offer.

It is with great disappointment then, that I found myself bored with Fable 3 after only a couple of hours of play. Though I stuck around to finish its modest 15 hour story I couldn’t help but feel that a lot of things that made Fable 2 good are missing from the third instalment.

Moral choices

Making moral decisions has always been a big part of the Fable formula – though the choices that you make are always very clear as to whether they’re good or evil actions. The great thing about Fable 2 were the choices you could make in the different stages of your life. The decisions you made as a child effected Bowerstone Old Town, and throughout your adulthood the rest of Albion would change depending on decisions that you made.

Fable 3 has this, sure – but the only substantial choices that you make are in the last 2 – 3 hours of gameplay when you’re the King/Queen, which means that the other 13 hours of gameplay lack anything interesting to do. Why is the biggest appeal to the Fable franchise resigned to the last few hours of gameplay?

Hold B to kill everything on screen

Fable has never really had any remarkable depth to its combat. Press X to use your sword, Y to use your gun, or press B to cast a spell. The problem? You could probably play through the entire game using only your magic.

Sure, you’d probably have to buy a couple of health potions (lets face it, money isn’t exactly difficult to come by), but it’s better than being surrounded and mobbed by Hollowmen. Near the end of the game I certainly found myself just sitting there, holding B for a few seconds and wiping out everything on screen. Badass? Yes. Fun? Not really.

No continuity

In Fable 3 you play as the son/daughter of the character that you played as in Fable 2, which implies that the events of Fable 2 couldn’t have happened that long ago in the Fable timeline – but none of the actions that you perform in Fable 2 really effect the world in the sequel.

With the Fable series relying so much on moral decisions it seems stupid that the series doesn’t implement a feature that reads your saved game for Fable 2. It could be interesting to see how the moral decisions that you made in Fable 2 effect the world in Fable 3 but that doesn’t seem to be here. Instead, Fable 3 seems to assume that you played through as a good guy.

Evil guy turns out to be not so evil

Note: This section contains spoilers.

If you’ve been keeping up with information on Fable 3 then you’ll know that your brother in the game is the King of Albion, and is running the country as a tyrant. It’s obvious that he’s bad news: he forces children to work, publicly executes civilians and just generally runs the place as a dictatorship. Heck, from the video above alone you can tell that he’s evil.

Oh but it’s okay, he’s not really evil – he’s just doing it all for the greater good. Threatening to burn down cities and forcing his people to live in poverty and starvation? Yeah don’t worry about that – he’s a nice guy really.

You hated those jobs in Fable 2? Well here’s some more!

Nobody, and I mean nobody liked the jobs that you did in Fable 2. They were universally despised – so why bring them back as glorified quick time events? Also on the topic of stupid jobs…

Holding hands is stupid

Okay, so in some situations holding hands isn’t stupid – but there are times when it is. Example? Catching criminals.

In Fable 2 a town guard would ask you if you want to go and bring down a criminal – usually involving you going on a quest to go and kill some bandits. In Fable 3 you run off to some part of town and… hold the criminals hand?! I can appreciate that Fable has an element of humour to it but this is just stupid.

You get to run the country as you want to

Note: This section contains spoilers.

Except that you don’t. Not properly, at least.

Becoming king or queen of a country and making decisions on education, taxes and the general well being of the country is something that you don’t see every day and it’s a nice idea. Problem? It’s poorly implemented.

As you go through your rise to power you discover that Albion is about to be attacked by an evil creature known as The Crawler and his army. You have a year to raise as much money as you possibly can in preparation for the attack – otherwise everyone in the kingdom will die.

Playing as a good guy will give everyone a high quality of life, but it gets everyone killed, whereas playing as the Tyrant will allow everyone to live at the cost of child labour, poverty and starvation. The problem with Fable 3 is that it assumes that the only way that you can raise money is by becoming a Tyrant. Of course you can donate your own Gold, but it barely makes a difference to the amount of debt that you can accumulate as a good player.

Why can’t you create shops and stalls that are owned by the crown and have the proceeds go to the treasury? In addition to this there seriously needs to be more than just two fetch quests for items that you can sell. Why not let people hire themselves out as bounty hunters? The whole king/queen aspect of the game isn’t as good as it should be.

There are of course a lot of improvements over Fable 2 – you no longer have to hold the right trigger to gain experience after fighting enemies and co-operative play is much better now – but Fable 3 still falls short of what it should be.

Written by Pokeh

January 2, 2011 at 8:42 pm