Game Junkie chat with Radio Wammo: the Juice Ex edition

Yes, the game’s called Deus Ex: Human Revolution but I couldn’t help make a little bit of fun out of Glenn “Wammo” Williams’ pronunciation of Deus Ex: it’s OK he hasn’t played any of the games in the series so he’s forgiven!

In today’s gaming segment on the Radio Wammo breakfast on Kiwi FM, we talked about Deus Ex: Human Revolution, which I’m playing through at the moment. I’d so far put about seven hours into it and have hit the game’s first boss fight, the augmented bad guy, Lawrence Barrett, who is proving a bit tougher than I expected: think a man tank who soaks up a lot of bullets and you’ve got Barrett in one.

The thing I like about Deus Ex: Human Revolution is that for the most part you can play it how you want, either stealthily, moving from cover to cover and taking out guards silently, or aggressively, using ranged weapons and your cybernetic augments to inflict as much hurt on foes as possible. Sometimes, you have to do a bit of both.

I’m liking Deus Ex Human Revolution, liking it a lot, and if you get the chance check it out. Check out the video, too.

You know you want to.

Well Played podcast: the Gerard-sounds-like-a-robot edition

It’s Sunday, traditionally the day of rest for many, but for me it’s the day that I take part in the recording of the Well Played podcast  with fellow gaming writers Julie Grey (@GamecultureNZ), Siobhan Keogh (@SiobhanKeoghNZ), Aylon Herbet (@Aylon133) and Chris Leggett (@Leggetron). This week, though, Siobhan was having a weekend-off. Cleaning her apartment apparently. Ah, huh, Siobhan, we believe that!

In today’s episode, which was the unlucky for some number 13, topics we discussed included Deus Ex Human Revolution (a game I’m enjoying more and more as I progress), Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood and Battlefield Bad Company 2 multiplayer, XBLA game Toy Soldiers: Cold War, the Rezurrection DLC for Call of Duty Black Ops and the Warhammer 40,000: Space Marines demo.

It feels like I talked a hell of a lot about Deus Ex Human Revolution but I really do like this game. Here’s the skinny on what it’s about (you probably know, but just humour me):  it’s 2027 Detroit, you play Adam Jensen, the chief security officer with Sarif Industries, a company that researches augments – cybernetic enhancement for humans. Long story short, Jensen comes close to death after the research facility his scientist girlfriend works at and is implanted with numerous augments to enhance his abilities as he hunts down those responsible for an attack.

As you progress you can spend experience-type points on increasing the abilities of your augments: be it cranium implants, torso, legs, eyes, arms, whatever. What is impressing the hell out of me is that you can play the game as a brutal killer, killing everyone that gets in your way (either using projectile weapons or some nifty blades embedded in Jensen’s arm implants), or stealthily, creeping around bad-guy infested complexes and buildings, hiding among the shadows and silently incapacitating enemies by knocking them out.

I also found that there are multiple routes to reach an objective and often the direct path isn’t the best – or safest – as the AI of military personal and soldiers is pretty damned good. How good? At one point I dropped a crate that I had picked up so I could crawl through a gap – and a guard around the corner heard it and came investigating. It didn’t end good for me, I can tell you.

One other thing: there’s a delightful reference to the movie Robocop in a conversation between two cops in a police station that I was skulking around – through air vents so they wouldn’t spot me. I’ve heard there are several movie references in the game.

Look, if you get the chance to play it, Deus Ex Human Revolution, do. I’d say it’s a strong contender for game of the year.

Chris and I had a good discussion about Toy Soldiers: Cold War which is a tower defence game at its core but with turrets that you can take over. Turrets range from artillery, machine guns, rocket launchers and anti-aircraft guns, and when you’ve killed a certain number of attacking enemy forces, you get the chance to control a Rambo-esque character that takes on the invading foes. You also get to control battery powered helicopters – useful against enemy helicopters – but they only last so long until you have to take them back to their base station for recharging.

It’s good fun.

Apparently from the half way point of the podcast,  I start sounding a little robotic – I’ve only listed for a few minutes and it sounds OK but my only excuse is that my voice synthesis augmentation (shades of Deus Ex Human Revolution there) was playing up and causing problems. Well, that’s my excuse and I’m sticking to it.

UPDATE ON THAT: Apparently the robotic sound has been fixed by Julie in the editing process. Yay, Julie.

Let me know what you think.

Game Junkie chew the fat with Radio Wammo: the Age of Empires edition

A thousands apologies: it’s been a long time between drinks between the last Game Junkie blog post.

Things just seem to have got on top of me lately, what with work stuff, family stuff and heading to sunny  Nelson over the weekend – but that’s no excuse.

Today on the Radio Wammo breakfast with Glenn “Wammo” Williams we discussed Microsoft’s Age of Empires Online, a new entrant into the real-time strategy genre that brings a new twist on monetisation: it’s free to play but you can buy new civilisations for the game as well as items for your capital city.

OK, that’s enough from me. I’m off to play some Battlefield 2 multiplayer now. That’s two nights in a row I’ve done some multiplayer games: I played Assassin’s Creed Brotherhood last night, too.

Gears of War 3 hands-on: the written preview

OK, as I said earlier, here is the written version of my time with Gears of War 3 from almost a couple of weeks ago.

This write-up appeared both in The Press newspaper and on Stuff but I’ve add some additional comments on content that was cut from the hard copy version due to space constraints.


The trouble with previews

Previews present something of a dilemma for writers and readers alike.

On the one hand you want to give as much information as possible so readers get a good impression of how a game is progressing and how it differs from previous games in the series, but on the other, you don’t want to give too much detail and be accused of spoiling a yet-to-be released game.

So, I’m going to preface this preview with a warning: It may contain minor plot spoilers, even though game-maker Epic itself has revealed a lot of details through trailers and gameplay videos, but to be honest, any Gears fan worth his or her salt will know what happened at the end of Gears 2 and where the story is headed.

Something new for the series is four-player co-op and that’s how we played the single player campaign – me and my Well Played podcast companions: NZ Gamer’s Aylon Herbet, Game Culture’s Julie Grey and PC World’s Siobhan Keogh. Fellow podcaster Chris Leggett was there, but he was playing through the campaign on his own.

Our hands-on session took us through the bulk of the game’s first Act, so if there are around five acts and they’re all about that length that means the single player game will clock in around the 10 hour mark. Here’s the situation: the Coalition of Ordered Government’s has been disbanded, society is in disarray and Jacinto, the capital, is no more (those who finished Gears of War 2 will know that). It also seems that the imulsion that helped power human cities has somehow infected and mutated the locust, creating freakish and terrifying mutations.

Our session opens on the CNV Sovereign, part of COG’s Raven’s Nest. The old guard is slowly introduced: Marcus Fenix, still as gruff as always. Dominic Santiago – he’s looking older now, has a beard and looks thinner. He’s the ship’s gardener, too, tending to vegetables. “You’re coming between me and my radishes,” remarks Dom to Marcus at one point. The team head to the top deck to provide the welcome wagon for Commander Prescott, who has a video disc that contains a message for Fenix about scientist father, Adam.

The main focus of the hands-on session is an attack by a lambent leviathan – again, those who have finished Gears of War 2 will be familiar with this creature. Jace Stratton and Anya Stroud join Marcus and Dom taking on the leviathan, which is attacking the Sovereign, giant tentacles whipping the ship.

I could dwell on the first part of the session in length, but most Gears fans have seen it before either in E3 coverage or online. This is the sequence where you can drive a silverback – an armoured mechanised battle suit bristling with weapons – to shoot the lambent locust and the leviathan. It’s the sequence where at the end we see a crate containing explosive tickers tipped onto the lambent from an overhead bridge.

There’s nothing like a twist to get you thinking

Then the hands-on takes a twist. We are now playing the same sequence but from the viewpoint of Damon Baird, Augustus “Cole Train” Cole, Clayton Carmine (the younger brother of Anthony and Benjamin Carmine) and Samantha Byrne. The quartet are searching refuge camps in Hanover that house Stranded – survivors from the fall of Jacinto – for food. “We’re looking for the grocery store,” mutters one. It seems the same imulsion that is spawning the lambent locusts is also making survivors sick.

Car wrecks and debris litter the streets; glowing imulsion flows through the cracks in the road. At one point during combat three of us chainsaw the same unfortunate locust, the bayonet chainsaws fitted onto our lancer rifles filling the screen with blood and smoke. The bloody combat is punctuated by lighter moments and one-liners: Cole says when dealing with the leviathan: “Put scientifically, we need to blow its brains out his ass”.

On the way to the main supply camp, we find a crate of supplies and a front-end loader mech in a nearby garage. I climb into the machine and walk to the crate, which I have to carry to a drop-zone. It has no armaments – although there is a stomp move that can squash smaller enemies – so my colleagues must protect me from attacking locusts as I plod to the green smoke which indicates the drop zone. The supplies dropped off and more locusts defeated, we make our way to the settlement where the leader has a surprise for us: ammunition.

Our hands-on session ends with Baird, Cole, Stratton and Byrne’s view of the leviathan battle – but whether the mission is successful or not, I don’t know. I’ll have to wait for the game to find that out. Gears of War 3 brings back the armaments that fans know and love from the previous two games: the lancer, shotgun, longbow sniper rifle, but also new ones – the retro lancer, the sawed-off shotgun and the one-shot.

Let me make this clear

Something that was clear to me is that narratively, Gears of War 3 is an advancement on Gears 2, which I thought dealt too much on Dom’s hunt for his wife Maria, who had been captured by the locust and imprisoned in their underground lair. Perhaps in Epic’s effort to be more “bad ass” than the original Gears things just got out of hand (the giant worm level is a good illustration of that) but with Gears 3 I like that at least in the part of the game we played Cole was a more developed character. No longer was he just the bulldozer sized man-mountain who quipped a few “Yeehaws” and off the cuff one-liners.

Again, not giving too much away, but there was a rather poignant moment near the end of the hands-on session where “Cole Train” reminisced about his past thrashball career and where he had gone since the locust attack.

Look, if I could sum up my time with GOW3 – as fleeting as it was – in one word it would be “fun”. I had fun playing and it was genuinely pleasing being back in the combat armour of Marcus, Dom and Cole taking on the locust. I’ve even started replaying Gears of War 2 just to get me in the mood.

I guess it’s because I want to know what happens to Marcus, Dom and crew, seeing as this will probably be the last time we see these guys together (this is the end of the Gears trilogy, right? Or will Epic pull a rabbit out of a hat with a surprise ending).

Honestly, for me September 20 can’t come soon enough.

And now, here’s a video of Gears of War 3 for your viewing pleasure.

Game Junkie chews the fat with Radio Wammo: the snow edition

Yes, that’s right. The snow edition. For those of you who don’t know, I’m in Christchurch (in New Zealand) and it’s snowing here – has since yesterday. And it’s pretty deep, too. Deep enough to build snowmen, have snowball fights, build igloos (if you wanted to build an igloo, of course).

Any, enough about snow (I’ve definitely had enough of it), today the embargo on the Gears of War 3 hands-on that I had a couple of weeks ago lifted so I’ve chatted about it with Glenn “Wammo” Williams already today. He had a play of the game’s first Act as well so he gave his impressions as well.

I noticed at the end of the segment that my hair has that “I’ve just got up” look about it, although I’d been up for a whole hour or so. I hope it doesn’t distract you too much.

Later on today I’ll put a more in-depth write-up of my preview which appeared in hardcopy and online this morning. Keep an eye out for it later. I promise.


Well Played podcast: the double digits edition

Yes, the Well Played podcasthas reached double digits and while I can’t claim to have been there from the beginning (I think I missed the first five episodes) I think it’s tracking extremely well. The crew – Julie Gray (@GamecultureNZ), Siobhan Keogh (@SiobhanKeoghNZ), Aylon Herbet (@Aylon133) and Chris Leggett (@Leggetron) and myself – are passionate about our gaming.

In this episode we chat about games we’re playing at the moment – Insanely Twisted Shadow Planet, From Dust, The Witcher 2, Batman Arkham Asylum, Left 4 Dead 2; Why do Kiwis pay so much for their games compared to overseas, and discuss a question raised by Reagan Morris, in Wellington: Will the ever-growing consumer base for casual games have repercussions for the smaller growing core gamer user base? And if publishers are making more from casual games will they be de-incentivised to make games for the core gamers?

Oh, and there’s also a discussion about changes coming up in Diablo 3, specifically the new auction house model.

Phew, that’s enough for one week.



The Game Junkie week

Greetings. I hope you are well on this fine Sunday evening (if you’re in New Zealand, of course. If you’re not in New Zealand it’s probably Saturday or Sunday morning.)

This week has been a pretty good one, highlight by a trip to Auckland on Friday to play some of the Gears of War 3 single-player campaign. I got a chance to play it for two and half hours but alas, that’s all I can say. There’s an embargo on talking about it in detail until August 16, so you’ll have to wait until then to hear my thoughts on it.

In anticipation of Gears of War 3 I’m doing what I often do when the second (or third) game in a series is near – play through the previous installment again just to get a feel for the controls and re-acquaint myself with the story. At the moment I’m up to the bit where Dom and Marcus have to investigate the research facility that has lots of wretches wandering about and has razor hail outside. Time permitting, I’ll get it finished before Gears of War 3 is launched in September – and I’ll pick some of the achievements I missed first time around.

I’ve also been replaying a little bit of EA’s Mirror’s Edge and Insanely Twisted Shadow Planet on XBLA – a strange game that is hard to describe so I won’t but it involves a little dude in a flying saucer who has to fight his way through a black planet that has tentacles.

This morning I recorded the Well Played podcast with Julie Gray, Aylon Herbet, Siobhan Keogh and Chris Leggett, so that’ll probably be up tomorrow or Tuesday. I’ll let you know when it’s good to go. It was a good lively discussion today, which is always a good thing.

I’m in talks with Sony at the moment to see if I can get interviews with someone from Insomniac about Resistance 3 and someone from Naughty Dog about Uncharted 3. I’ve got my fingers crossed for those.

That’s about it: it’s pretty quiet for full-priced games at the moment so it’s good to be able to play some older games  before the new ones start landing. Good evening to you.


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

It’s Tuesday, so you know what that means? If you guessed Taco Tuesday, wrong (although I’m sure it’s Taco Tuesday somewhere in the world) – it’s actually the day that I chat games and the games industry with Glenn “Wammo” Williams on his Kiwi FM breakfast slot.

This morning we chatted about the state of Nintendo at the moment, given that from August 12, the company is dropping the price of its barely born 3DS handheld console from $450 to $343. That’s more than $100. Nintendo must be hurting at the moment.

We also surmised – and probably rightly so – that dedicated handhelds like the 3DS  are feeling the pressure from the smartphone/mobile games market, especially given the low price point of many mobile games.

As usual, listen to the podcast, ponder what’s said and if you’re so inclined, leave a comment. Not many people know this but I read every comment that I get. I don’t have staff to read them. I read them personally. Sometimes I even reply to them (actually, I reply to all comments).

So, yeah, comment!

Well Played podcast episode nine: the about time edition

It’s been a long time between posts for Game Junkie 2.0 so apologies about that, but what we me heading to Dunedin last week then being in charge of production – and seemingly writing much of this week’s edition – of  The Press’ Box tabloid for the past four weeks it’s been a hectic few weeks.

I played few games over the past couple of weeks, apart from replaying EA’s Mirror’s Edge and some Bastion (XBLA) so for your listening pleasure here is the latest edition of Well Played podcast , the New Zealand-based gaming podcast featuring myself and fellow gaming journos  Julie  Gray (@GamecultureNZ), Siobhan  Keogh (@SiobhanKeoghNZ),  Aylon Herbet (@Aylon133) and Chris Leggett (@Leggetron).

In this week’s episode, which is episode nine,  Siobhan and Julie talk about their time with PlayStation 3-exclusive game Resistance 3, we argue which console has the best exclusives, we discuss whether Nintendo’s star is beginning to fade after poor 3DS sales and why do games based on movies generally suck.

I’ve listened to it and the only criticism that I can say is that it’s obvious that I’m talking over Skype while the others are in a room together so hopefully you don’t find it too bad.

Once again, if you’ve got any feedback leave a comment – good or bad.