Now, the news: no, it’s just some game reviews

It’s mid-week so I thought I’d post some rather lengthy, text-heavy game reviews that I’ve done over the past two weeks – but then I had a brain wave: why don’t I just post the .pdfs of the pages containing my game reviews.

So I have. This way they’re easier to read and you get a bit of visual flair, as well.

Here you’ll find last week’s page, which featured reviews of Dirt 3 and iPod Touch game Mighty Finn from Wellington i-device developer, Launching Pad Games, and this week’s page, which included a review of the PlayStation 3 exclusive inFamous 2, Dead or Alive Dimensions and a story about Game Jam South, a 48-hour game event being held in July,  and the Winnitron NZ, a New Zealand-made version of the Winnitron 1000.

They’re a little on the large side so may take a few moments to open.



The Tuesday usual: Game Junkie chews the fat with Radio Wammo

It’s  chewsday   Tuesday, so we all know what that means: it’s the weekly chat with Glenn “Wammo” Williams on Kiwi FM. Don’t tell me you didn’t remember?

Today, we sort of freestyled it: instead of a review we talked about the (Wammo’s words) “anti violent video game law smacked down in California” by the US Supreme Court yesterday, and some of the games appearing on the Winter of Arcade (Summer of Arcade in the US).

I lost the plot slightly in the second part, where we talk about games coming up in the Winter of Arcade, after my computer mouse dropped from my desk and I’m too embarrassed (and polite) to pick it up – despite Wammo telling me it was OK if I did afterwards. Some of the arcade games, such as Fruit Ninja Kinect, From Dust (which appears to be a god-game) and Bastion, look pretty good. Off topic, but I’m going to download Trenched tonight and give that a whirl (and the Uncharted 3 beta client tomorrow morning)

Enjoy and let me know what you think and what topics you liked discussed in future.

inFamous 2: letting the bad me come out

In my review of inFamous 2 I open with the dilemma facing the game’s hero, Cole McGrath not long after he arrives in New Marais: do I get him to zap the street performer sitting before him with lightning, as Zeke suggests, or do I let him continue beating his upturned paint tin, unhindered by me?

At first, I let him live. He’s just trying to make a living for himself, right?  ‘Just trying to make a quick buck in the mean streets of New Marais while militia soldiers and ravagers  wander about the place, ripping stuff up’ – but after a while, as I stood there, the continual “tappity, tappity, tappity” just got on my nerves. So I fried him – and all as many of his buddies I could find as I guided McGrath around New Marais: the guys playing paint-tin drums on the street corners, the rooftop saxophonists, the people who pretend they’re statues. I zapped them and didn’t feel bad about it at all. I’m probably doing a public service, actually.

That was the only time I really went bad in inFamous 2 as I finished the game with the good ending (there are two to choose from) but it got me thinking: inFamous 2  lets you unleash the inner bad if you’re normally a good person. I mean, I wouldn’t normally attack a street performer with lightning. Really, I wouldn’t: I probably just either ignore them or drop in a few coins if the hat if I liked what they were playing.

inFamous 2 lets me reveal a side of me that doesn’t normally see the light of day.

And it’s not just me that’s being a little bad when playing as Cole McGrath. My son’s playing through the game as well and I noticed while I was typing this an orange glow emanating from Cole McGrath’s finger tips – indicating that my son is edging towards the bad side of things.

I liked that about inFamous 2 – it gives you the chance to dabble a little on the bad side while still be a goodie if you wanted to – and while whether you’re good or bad throughout the main missions doesn’t matter when the big decision came near the end of the game –  the fact that you could do a bit of both in the lead up to the finale was pretty satisfying.

In my next play through of inFamous 2 I’m going evil all the way. inFamous 2 lets me do that.

Getting all nostalgic: showing my PC some lovin’

This is not my actual 486 computer but it's the same biege colour as mine was.For a long while, I’ve done most of my gaming on console: Xbox 360 here, PlayStation 3 there but it didn’t always used to be that way.

No, in the days before  I got a PlayStation 2, I pretty much played just PC games on our biege computer (the boxes always used to be biege) that had an incredibly powerful 486 CPU, a massive 2Mb graphics card and something like 16Mb of memory. In fact, before that we had an Atari computer and before that a Sinclair ZX Spectrum (I loved the Ultimate Play the Game titles like Knightlore, Jetpac and Underworlde)

I remember playing things like Doom, Duke Nukem 3D and Quake on it until the cows came home. I also remember playing some flight sim that took something like six floppy discs to install. That’s not our computer in the picture but it’s the same colour that our one was.

We upgraded to a Pentium 90 computer which let me play games like Blade Runner, Star Wars Dark Forces, the Jedi Knight series, Magic Carpet and System Shock, and a few years later I got an even more powerful computer which let me play the first few Battlefield games on PC and I’ve enjoyed Far Cry and Crysis on PC (not at maximum graphics settings, however). I always used to recommend Far Cry as a good litmus test for how good your computer’s graphics card was.

After a while though, the convenience of console gaming started to win me over. it just seemed so much easier to plop down on the couch and play a game than crouch over a keyboard, my face a few feet from the monitor. Also, I couldn’t afford to keep up with having to constantly upgrade my PC to keep it cutting edge.

In the last few years, though, we’ve heard the argument that PCC gaming is dead – or at, least in the decline. I’m starting to disagree with that argument: I’ve played more games lately on my PC in the last few months than I have for a long, long time.  At the moment, I’m playing Fable 3 on PC, have a Sims expansion pack (I’m reviewing it) on the go and am expecting Alice: Madness Returns on PC any day now from EA. It also seems that the PC version of Battlefield 3 will be the pick of the bunch – if, of course, you have a PC that is powerful enough to run it in all its glory.

I  raised the issue of whether PC gaming was dead with two developers in the last year – one of them was definitely Peter Molyneux during an interview earlier this year and I think the other was Bioware’s Greg Zeschuk when I spoke to him last year about Dragonage 2 and Mass Effect 2 – and both were resoundingly in the negative about PC gaming being in decline. I guess I’m starting to play more PC games because I’m sick of looking at so many washed out textures on some console games.

PC gaming offers both disadvantages and advantages over console gaming: one of the key advantages being that PC games, on the whole, should look a whole lot better than console versions thanks to more powerful graphics chips, more memory and hi-resolution textures. A main disadvantage for me is that I can’t guarantee that a game that a friend might be able to play on ‘maximum graphics settings” will look as good on my more modest PC, which is around four years old now: ancient for a PC.

Some games just work better on PC: certainly you get better accuracy and control with the mouse and keyboard on PC in a first-person shooter and I think games like Dungeon Siege 3, an RPG/action game that I’m playing on Xbox 360, are better suited to PC. It feels funny playing DS3 on console when I played the original (which came in a case that looked like it was made out of rock) on PC, using a mouse and keyboard. I guess, though, it’s what you’re used to: many gamers of today only know gaming on consoles.

I still play more games on console than PC but I’m enjoying getting back to my gaming roots, using the mouse and keyboard for navigation and combat rather than using a game pad.

So for the time being,  I’m going to split my gaming between PC and console – at least, until a game comes along that my computer can’t run and it turns it into a pretty slide show. When that happens I’m going back to my console for good.

Blast from the past two: interview with David Frampton on Chopper 2

In another of my “Blast from the past” series, here’s an interview I did last year with David Frampton, a Wellington iPhone developer, who’s a nice guy to boot and made the great Chopper 2.

David Frampton first started dabbling in iPhone games just before Apple’s App Store launched in July 2008. His first project? An iPhone version of his Apple Mac freeware game Chopper, which he made in 2003. It seemed the natural choice, he says.

“When Apple opened up the iPhone for developers it seemed like a huge opportunity. I already had experience with the development tools, and with touch screens and accelerometers, and Chopper seemed like a good fit for the platform. It looked like a great way to get my game out to more people, and help me switch to full- time indie development.”

Chopper went on to sell 300,000 copies – and is still being downloaded two years on, despite the release of Chopper 2 – but Frampton never expected the game to be as popular as it had become.

“Initially, while I was working on Chopper I really had no idea it would do so well, but when I did stop to think about how many iPhones had already been sold, how many developers would be working on games, and kind of worked through all the probabilities in my head, I started coming up with some pretty big numbers. In the end I think it exceeded even my most hopeful of guesses.”

Chopper was pretty much done as a “one-man band” and Frampton puts the success down to that it was a day one title on the App Store – “There were only a few hundred games to choose from on launch day”. It also had brand recognition due to the Mac version and filled a gap in a genre, and “people generally enjoyed playing it”.

“Chopper 1 development went remarkably smoothly. For a while I only had the simulator to work with as there were no iDevices available in New Zealand at the time, but as soon as I got an iPod Touch I was in business.”

Chopper 2, however, was a much more time-consuming endeavour.

“Chopper 2 has been a 16- month-long project, and in that time Apple have released a number of new devices including the iPad and iPhone 4, which I have had to cater for. This added a bit of a challenge and a few weeks to development, and just the general complexity of the game made it take a long time.”

Frampton said despite the success of the Chopper games, it can sometimes be hard being an independent iPhone developer.

“There are many struggling independent iPhone developers out there, and some really sad stories around the web of people putting their heart and soul into a project to see it only get a handful of sales. I’ve been one of the lucky ones, getting a foothold early on, and being able to take my time getting the sequel right.

“But Chopper’s success is definitely not the norm. It’s a difficult industry where it can be nearly impossible for new players to get noticed, but the payoffs can also be huge.”

Frampton said that because Apple’s devices tend to take a while to arrive in New Zealand, with Chopper 2 he had a colleague in the United States send him over an iPad for testing. “I also flew down to Christchurch to get a day with one of the first few iPhone 4s in the country (when it launched) so I could make sure it worked on that device too. I still don’t even have my own iPhone 4, so it has meant there are some features I haven’t been able to provide yet due to a lack of device to test with.”

New Zealand has a growing iPhone development community, especially in Wellington, says Frampton, and developing for iDevices would appear to be easier than developing for gaming consoles. ” It has a much lower barrier to entry than the consoles, and a larger and more active online community when you need a hand.

“Also once you have completed a game for the iPhone you send it off to Apple and immediately it becomes available to roughly 100 million iDevices with credit cards attached. There is nothing like that in either the PC or console world, so it’s easier to make a buck, although it’s probably just as hard to make a million.”

I gave Chopper 2 four out of five stars.

The Tuesday Usual: Game Junkie chews the fat with Radio Wammo

Today’s Tuesday, so that mean, as it has done just about every Tuesday for the past two years (has it really been two years? Really?), I talk games and games-related stuff with Kiwi FM’s resident tech overlord and the most connected guy I know, Glenn “Wammo” Williams.

This week, though, rather than review a specific game we chatted about the hubbub surround the launch of Duke Nukem Forever where a PR guy handling public relations duties for 2K spouted off on Twitter a little too much. He got the sack from the 2K account as a result.

We also talked a little about whether DNF fitted into the modern generation of gaming anymore. but anyway, I couldn’t talk about the game as I still don’t have a copy yet – but interestingly,  there were developments on that today.

2K’s man in Australia emailed today asking if I’d received the copy of DNF he’d sent over. I said I hadn’t but had send the signed NDA back almost two weeks ago. I joked that I thought I’d been blacklisted because I hadn’t got a copy. He has replied to my email. Maybe that is a bad sign.

So enjoy the video. No doubt, as usual I’ll ramble something shocking and go off topic and sound like a blithering idiot. I’ve long said I have a gift for words but not a voice for radio. I’ll let you be the judge of that.

Me? I’m off to play some Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time 3D on my 3DS tonight while the missus watches Grey’s Anatomy and Private Practice. I think OoT 3D sounds like the better proposition, don’t you?

UPDATE: After watching the video again, I’ve decided I need to make my background more gamey as it looks decidingly middle-income surburbia and very un-man cave and game room. Any suggestions?

Blast from the past: some of my old interviews

Game Junkie 2.0 is constantly evolving, a changing work in progress that is always being tweaked when and where I think it needs improvement. That’s while you’ll see changes from time to time, as I refine it into a better blog. It’ll also evolve as I learn more about WordPress and see just what it’s capable of.

The other day, I was looking through some of the many stories that I’ve written over the years, some of the cool developers I’ve spoken to,  and thought I’d share some of my favourites interview with you.

Being a video game writer gives you the chance to talk to people in the games industry that most people don’t get the chance to so I thought I’d post some of my past interviews in .pdf form, complete with pay layout so you can see how they looked when they were published.

I’ve spoken to a few great game developers both in person or over the phone about games such as Alan Wake, Killzone2 and one of my favourites, Evan Wells, from Naughty Dog, about Uncharted 2.

I’ve spoken to Charles Martinet, who is the voice of Nintendo’s mascot, Mario, and to Jonathan Hawkins  and Bruno Velasquez, who both worked on God of War 3. I’ve also spoken to musician Module about his work on Sidhe’s great PSN game, Shatter, and Curtis Creamer from Bungie about Halo.

Also, here some recent reviews that I’ve run in The Press, also in .pdf form: L.A. Noire and hands-on with The Darkness 2 (I’ve already run my Duke Nukem Forever preview here but here it is in visual form). Let me know what you think.

Mid-week ramble: Duke Nukem Forever

Despite signing a Non-Disclosure Agreement sent from 2K in Australia almost two weeks ago, a review copy of Duke Nukem Forever hasn’t arrived at Game Junkie towers. I think that’s probably a bad sign, really.

I can read the non-arrival of Duke Nukem Forever one of two ways: it’s been delayed in the mail – a slight  possibility given the fragile structure of Christchurch’s infrastructure given the recent earthquake activity – or 2K has decided that there are enough bad reviews of the game already that it doesn’t want to open itself up to anymore by delivering review copies. I’m more inclined to think it’s the latter.

The only time I’ve spent with DNF (every time I see DNF my brain automatically thinks: Did Not Finish) so far was a two-level demo in Auckland a few weeks ago – and I wasn’t overly impressed when I saw it then. I just didn’t get excited about being able to pick up a turd from a toilet bowl and throw it around. The game play mechanics felt old and tired, as did the humour.

Look, a copy of the game may well still be winging its way to me as we speak and I will review it, but if one doesn’t turn up, honestly, I’m not going to go sit in the corner and cry about it. I’ve got much better games to be spending my precious time with, such as inFamous 2, Dirt 3 and Motorstorm Apocalypse (despite the fact that the racing takes place in a metropolis destroyed by a raging earthquake).

If the ground shakes while I’m playing Motorstorm Apocalypse I might just have to take a break: somethings can just be a little too close to home.

What a shit day yesterday was … and here’s an inFamous 2 video review

Well, to be honest, yesterday was just a shit day, thanks to the two big earthquakes that hit Christchurch – I see that they’ve now been upgraded from 5.5 and 6.0 to 5.7 and 6.3, respectively.

Frankly, my nerves – and those of my family – are frazzled and we seem constantly on edge for when the next one will come. It’s been a most stressful nine months, since September’s first quake, but at least I’ve still got my family and video games to keep me company. Video games could well be the rock that keeps my mind off the shifting ground.

Here’s the video review I did with Glenn “Wammo” Williams this morning on inFamous 2, the PlayStation 3 sequel to, well, inFamous. I’m liking it: McGrath, the dude who gained the ability to harness the power of electricity after the massive explosion in Empire City at the start of the first game, now has some upgraded powers but is facing off against armed guys called the militia and some rather nasty mutated creatures.

Check out the video review: I probably ramble a bit but that’s what I tend to do.  Feedback is always welcome so let me know what you think.

Hopefully today will be shake-free. Fingers crossed, eh?

Stealth in the dark: Agent 47 Absolution trailer

Here’s the latest trailer and a new screen shot from IO Interactive’s Hitman: Absolution.

It’s got everything you would want in an assassination trailer, to be honest: lots of shadows, blurry movment, muffled voices, takedowns, smashed objects, glimpses of a firearm – and partial nudity (don’t tell me you didn’t notice the woman taking the shower? It was the first thing you saw, I bet). So it might be Safe for Work, it might not be: depends on your work, I suppose.

If  I’m being completly honest, I’m pretty amped about this next game in the Hitman series as I loved Blood Money to bits. Not literally, but I loved playing it to bits, I mean. It would seem a bit weird loving a video game to bits wouldn’t it?

Anyway, the game’s out on several platforms next year, I believe. Watch the trailer (several times if you want, I don’t mind. I only looked at it once, though: I’m at work), look at the screen shot. Start the countdown for the game. I hope it’s good. I’ll be gutted if it isn’t.