January 30, 2014

JJ finally gets his hands on to play and review Gears of War: Judgment

I know this game came out a while ago but one couldn't really justify spending the money at the time with a new baby in the house. It's actually the first new game I've played since Halo 4 came out! Luckily, I spied it cheap on Trade Me and got it just in time for the New Year.

Opening with Kilo Squad being held to account in what appears to be a kangaroo Court for an unknown crime  it's quickly clear Sierra was only recently subject to the Infamous Emergence Day assault of the locust horde.

The colour palate is a delight, more bright than prior games, there seems to be more blue if that makes sense. The blue is important as it makes this tittle's's lead Baird appear more nuanced and realized than he has previously been. 

Until now Baird has been a smart ass journey man who accompanied Dom and Marcus through their travails. This time round he's the lead and one can immediately tell voice actor Frederick "Fred" Tatasciore has stepped up to bring a stronger character than in heard in prior outings.

A low key start sees Kilo Squad recounting their trip through the falling city to help defend certain points. It's the gears that has been before with a handful of new weapons to work out how to best use.

A programming bug in the Archives was infuriating. I spent a long time running round the area in which I had defeated a a litter of Serapedes trying to find a way out. Eventually I assumed there was a bug and had to commit suicide by way of grenade and fortunate possession of a Boomshot. The restart proved me right and I was able to progress to a thoroughly entertaining set piece in a haze of dust. This part was Gears of War at it's finest and any worries about Judgment being developed by People Can Fly rather than Cliff Bleszinski's team that did the prior three excellent games.

The game took a nice turn when Sofia Hendrik was asked to give witness rather than Baird. The character herself 'just happened' to have once been a research assistant to a Professor at Halvo Bay Military Academy who had built a light mass bomb. Deciding the bomb was necessary to take down a giant monster that's been confirmed as being able to destroy buildings with a single wriggle by, Kilo squad entertainingly find the original Jack robot who will be able to help them target the bomb on the Karn beast. 

The game play continues to be excellent, Sofia's voice acting by Ali Hillis is excellent (and that's what you would expect from Dr Liara T'Soni from Mass Effect!) The asides cast around by the Kilo squad are amusing and up their with that you'd find in a Halo game. I'm also still pleased that the Cole Train has been toned down just a tad.

It's a shame that you can't swap weapons with other Kilo squad members. Loading them up with Boomshots was kinda handy and fun!

The Seahorse Hills lead us on a merry adventure featuring Paduck's testimony. Gears has always picked on cliche's for it's characters and this time People Can Fly chose to go with the 'hardened Russian who used to be the enemy but lost the war and joined the winners side ' vibe.

I should comment on the new buttons lay out. It's fantastic. The game has adopted a Halo style approach. You can carry two weapons which are controlled by button B - you no longer use the D pad to change to grenades either, you can simply use the left bumper. I found this gives my gaming experience better flow.

I've also noticed I am not hiding behind cover as much as other games. I'm not sure why this is, possibly as I'm playing on Hardcore rather than insane. I do fear the run through on that mode however, some set pieces are horrifically fun but difficult!

Paduck's testimony ultimately proved a fan romp through rich people's back yards and mansions. The end of this mission featured a Kilo Squad vs a duo of flaming Beserkers which was most entertaining. We got mission codes for the mission but nothing of great import really happened.

And then it was onto the Cole Train's testimony. One would expect the bombastic player to up the ante in this segment. But maybe the developers realised there are only so many WAHHHHOOOOOS a game needs. Which is fine by me as I'm not a 13 year old boy from Texas.

Cole's testimony is a straight forward run through some place to get to the missile so it can be prepared ready for it's inevitable launch against the giant Karn. There was nothing too challenging on the stage suffice to say by now I'm fairly sure that this game's version of Hardcore difficult appears to be easier than other Gears games - perhaps the many man down rescues make it seem easier.

And finally it is now Damon Baird's turn to give testimony to this crazy bastard Loomis that insists on conducting the Tribunal whilst surrounded by attacking grubs. This run through was probably the most engaging part of the campaign.

Featuring some excellent set pieces this was great Gears in play. A fairly simple yet not too easy boss battle played out well. I was slight disappointed with how the judgement trial played out – Loomis grudgingly let Kilo Squad go free with a demotion for Baird.  I did enjoy how Loomis tagged onto Kilo Squad for the final run – in his heart he was a Soldier and perhaps not as big a ‘dick’ as Baird later recalls in the Aftermath section.

Despite the lack of critical or sales success for this game and while I had my fears about it being a prequel I found it to be a very enjoyable Gears game and would recommend it to anyone that enjoyed the prior games. Be wary though it is Gears light when compared to Gears 3 and it is no Halo Reach but give it ago, you should be able to find it pretty cheap thesedays which means it’s a good value game. 

Now that Microsoft has Gears in its back pocket, we'll expect a new Gears game to be of a higher standard than this one - at least G3 level and beyond given the resources they'll have for it.

January 27, 2014

MS has brought the rights to Gears of War, new games are on the way. This will be EPIC!

Microsoft has bought the rights to one of our favourite gaming experiences, Gears of War. Epic have previously shipped 4 really good games featuring COG soldiers doing their best to get the Locust Horde to ‘bring it on!’. Even this far into the series GOW: Judgement wasn’t too bad an outing despite being a sequel.

“By acquiring this franchise, Microsoft Studios will continue to offer them more of their favorite games and entertainment experiences from the “Gears of War” universe”

So why has Microsoft brought this franchise? It’s a tactical move to keep one of the Xbox’s most successful franchises with the Xbox thus retaining Gears as an incentive to buy the new Xbox One unit for the next release in the series – surely it will only be available for that new platform but that’s just speculation.

What is not speculation is that Rod Ferguss, a Gears alumni, will be overseeing the development of the next game by way of Candian game studio Black Tusk Studios. This will be done under the watch of Hanno Lemke. He said:

In fact we will collaborate closely with Epic to ensure the inclusion of the Unreal Engine technology into the “Gears of War” franchise going forward remains consistent with the high quality fans have come to expect from the franchise.

So let the guessing begin. Where will Gears go? Will there be a Gears 4 featuring Marcus? Will it be set 30 years in the future and feature the troubled son of Marcus and Anya? Will it be another prequel story? Will it be the Pendulum Wars where waring governments pit their soldiers against each other on to realise they have wasted their efforts? 

January 12, 2014

Joe Staten returns to the Mother Ship

Joseph Staten, who's claim to fame is having a huge role in the development of Halo during a long and sucessful career at Bungie Studios has jumped ship and gone to work for the Mothership, AKA Microsoft as confirmed by Xbox's Studio Manger, Mike Ybarra:

This is not to say Staten is working on Halo - that's the role of 343 Industries which is a subset of Microsoft.

Indeed, it's been er.. stated:

"Joseph is not working directly on the next Halo title. As a senior creative director, he will help create the world's best entertainment on Xbox, as well as help shape our franchise strategy for some Microsoft Studios titles. He'll also be one of our leading ambassadors to the game development community, building on his many years of experience and relationships with developers and fans. We're excited to share more about Joseph's role in the future."

Staten has spent 4 years writing the new Bungie game Destiny, so his legacy at Bungie is not yet even truly begun!

January 9, 2014

Dragon Age Inquisition concept art -

Bioware don't JUST make Mass Effect, they've a long history of RPG including a wee game called Dragon Quest. It's now up to it's third outing, Inquisition. Bioware have tweeted some concept art for the game:

fountain well of souls bioware

“Here lies the abyss, the well of all souls. From these emerald waters doth life begin anew"

 And here's a beautiful bridge:

bridge concept art dragon age

January 7, 2014

Destiny fan art "Warriors" by Dalton Pancarinha

warriors by Dalton Pecarinha
Here's an awesome piece of Destiny fan art by designer Dalton Pencarinha. Check out more works at their Tumblr.  Below is the an example of line art design work that goes into the development of this kind of work. Obviously it's from a different Destiny piece!

destiny fan art design sketch