Category Archives: Games

Gaming versus Blogging Games Notes | My Life 23 JUN 2017

If you are a long time follower (or perhaps just someone who occasionally checks in on this little corner of the web), you may have noticed that I haven’t exactly been blogging this year (or for that matter, much last year either). It’s not that I’ve stopped, or that I don’t feel like it, or that I don’t have content – it’s just that I started to rather enjoy playing games again, after quite a long period of not enjoying them all that much.

So yes, instead of banging out words on the keyboard, I’ve been digitally slaughtering and racing all manner of things instead.

The truth of the matter is that the quality of AAA games being released for current generation consoles these days is simply put, phenomenal, and as such I’ve had an absolute blast losing myself in their slick, well crafted worlds for more than just a short while now.

So exactly which titles have been keeping me away from this blog then?

Well, interrogating my Xbox Live profile (CraigLotter in case you want to look me up) and then extracting the biggest time offenders in order, the list currently looks something like this:

BioWare’s superb action RPG Dragon Age: Inquistion is probably the title which first brought me back into the gaming fold, with my time played clocking in at around 134 hours.

Then, the punishing Lords of the Fallen, my first taste of a Dark Souls type of difficult, measured combat Action RPG game, sucked up a good 19 hours or so of my life.

Ubisoft and Ivory Tower’s rather fun, online multiplayer arcade racer The Crew next stepped up and cost me just over 29 hours of racing around and exploring all the major landmarks of their digital version of the United States of America.

In a rather surprising turn of events (primarily because I haven’t been into wrestling since I was a teenager), Yuke’s rather fun, and pretty content-packed, wrestling title WWE 2K16 also stepped into the ring, did an Austin 3:16 on me, and managed to extract a further 72 hours from my evening leisure time!

Plus, I have no idea why I spent as much time on the colourful, Chinese mythology borrowing, frantic button masher (but graphically not so great) Warriors Orochi 3 Ultimate as what I did, but this action beat-’em-up borrowed a full 19 hours of my life.

Then the strikingly brilliant, action-packed Middle-Earth: Shadow of Mordor arrived, allowing me to hack away at hordes of orcs and trolls for a glorious 29 hours of unadulterated, slick, brutal head hacking action.

Ryse: Son of Rome backed this up with even more bloody, fast paced swordplay, allowing me to defend Rome against all manner of barbarians that were knocking at her doors (not to mention time spent in the Colosseum) for a good 14 hours or so.

One of the best Action RPG titles that I have ever played also jumped into the fray, with the sublime The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt from CD Projekt Red weighing in with a hefty 105 hours of monster hunting, side quests, and of course daughter saving action.

Despite having played it before on the Xbox 360, I decided to replay the action excellent DmC: Devil May Cry Definitive Edition from the insanely clever guys over at Ninja Theory. Pulse pounding hack and slash action accompanied by the crazed aggrotech sound of Combichrist – no wonder that smacked 6 hours off my life.

Staying with the slightly retro vibe, I also culled a further  6 or so hours from my time here on Earth by tackling the backwards compatible Star Wars: The Force Unleashed II. Decent enough game, but I’m not sure that I’ll ever willingly play a Xbox 360 title again – there’s just too great a jump in quality on the current generation consoles.

Now I’ve been playing EA Sport’s FIFA football franchise for literally most of my life, and pleasingly the FIFA 17 entry didn’t disappoint one bit, with the Frostbite engine powered “The Journey” story line mode being a particular highlight for me. While I did play a bit of offline season mode, in the end I finally succumbed to FUT, which is probably then the reason my play time now stands at around 76 hours of digital soccer action.

All of which then brings me to the current game that looks like it might be keeping me busy for a VERY long time to come.

Hi-Rez Studio’s F2P objective-driven, competitive team hero shooter Paladins has unreservedly dragged me into the world of online competitive shooter play. First person shooters have never been a genre that I have particularly enjoyed, but there is definitely something about this particular, rather frantic and fun title that has thoroughly entranced me.

After plus minus 21 hours of shooting other people with a variety of heroes (though that said, with a perfectly average win ratio of around 50%), I’ve at last unlocked the Competitive mode which now means that hopefully I get to play with people who take the matches a little more seriously.

(And no, I’m not quite sure why this matters to me all of a sudden).

So, carefully tallying all those casually dropped figures amounts to about 530 hours spent playing games on my Xbox One, or roughly 22 full days if you prefer it more harshly put that way.

Right. No wonder my blogging has suffered more than just a little bit then! ;)

Xbox One: How to Quit a Game Games Notes 31 JUL 2016

Most Xbox One games and apps don’t actually have a quit menu item any more. This usually isn’t a problem thanks to Xbox One’s clever way of handling game/app switching, allowing you to go out of a game to the dashboard to do something else, and then hop right back in at the exact point that you left off!

However, sometimes this clever system does go a little wrong (if you’ve left it for too long for example), and you jump back in only to find the game asking you to reconnect the controller and press ‘A’ to continue. Sadly for you though, this isn’t working, leaving you with a game that is stuck and no way of getting it to work again. (Remember, you can’t jump out to the dashboard and click on the game to relaunch it, as it will just switch to the frozen version currently in memory.

So, the ability to quit an active game is pretty important then. Unfortunately, the method of achieving this is not instantly apparent from Microsoft’s Xbox One UI, so after a little Google search, I’m jotting this down here so that I don’t forget.

To exit a game or app on the Xbox One, hit the middle Xbox button on your controller so that you are in the dashboard. Use the left stick to make sure that the large, central tile on the home page is highlighted (should have a white border around it), and once it is, tap the ‘Menu’ button (the small one marked with the tree stripes to the right above the Xbox button) to bring up a context menu. At the bottom of the menu you should spot the ‘Quit’ menu command.

Selecting that will shut down the currently active game, allowing you to start it up again from scratch.

xbox one dashboard interface - killer instinct

Related Link: Xbox One

Is that a Xbox One next to my TV? Games Notes | My Life 14 JAN 2016

I upgraded relatively late from my PS2 to a Xbox 360, only picking one up in December 2009 – which coincidentally is still running strong. Similarly, it was only in 2012 (again December) that I finally signed up to Xbox Live Gold properly.

So with that sort of late adopter history to bear in mind, it made sense for me to hang back a bit for the Xbox One upgrade – and now a full year after it’s South African release, I found myself crippled with an severed tendon above the knee and at the beginning of December month – so naturally I ordered a Xbox One to keep me company!

xbox one bought by craig lotter from takealot

Given the way that I play games, i.e. I buy, install, play, delete, I worked out that the 500GB version of the console will work just fine for me, and as such, spotted that Takealot were selling the FIFA 16 bundle console for R5,499.

Pleasingly, the delivery was pretty swift, and luckily for me, Ryan was on hand for a visit, meaning that he could set the thing up in the lounge while I dutifully watched from the chair that has been my prison for over a month now.

xbox one fifa 16 women soccer

In all honestly, I’m kind of underwhelmed with the Xbox One experience – I guess I was just expected a much bigger jump in terms of speed, graphics and snappiness, but to be fair, the Xbox 360 had gotten pretty awesome towards the end of its duty, and so maybe I’m still a little blinded and can’t see just how awesome the new generation actually is.

That said, other than the exceedingly slow download/install speeds (a recognised problem for the console), it does everything that I want (even if it is not the prettiest of boxes to look at), and now thanks to the brilliant Xbox 360 backwards compatibility mode, I have a pretty decent library of games to tackle.

xbox one valiant hearts

Oh, and the four free games a month courtesy of my Xbox Live Gold subscription helps as well.

Cool. As always, my username is CraigLotter, if you’re keen for a bit of FIFA 16 battling…

(I’m far too bad at shooters and fighting games to put out any sort of challenge on those fronts!)

xbox one killer instinct tomahawks

Solved: Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning – Freezing on New Game Start Games Notes 25 NOV 2015

2012 saw the release of the troubled Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning RPG game from Big Huge Games and 38 Studios, which despite some big names attached to it (R.A. Salvatore, Todd McFarlane, Grant Kirkhope, Ken Rolston), and more than just a few high ranking review scores achieved on release, didn’t seem to get much traction with gamers.

kingdoms of amalur reckoning rpg - finesse assassins art

It’s currently on sale from the XBOX store as a digital download for a mere R89, and as a lover of bargains I immediately grabbed it, seeing as it’s always been somewhat lurking on my list of games that I eventually need to get around to experience one day.

Problem though.

After downloading the game and booting it up, every time I tried to start a new game the XBOX would just hang and then completely freeze on the loading screen.

Annoying, but thankfully something that Google quickly turned up a cause for.

kingdoms of amalur reckoning rpg - might armour and sword art

It turns out that if you buy the digital download version like I did, then you most definitely must NOT download the Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning Online Pass as well (it’s listed as being free on the main Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning page).

The digital download version already has this bundled in, and so if you install the standalone online pass – well let’s just say the system doesn’t really handle that at all very well!

To fix the issue is relatively simple – just delete the downloaded Online Pass.

To do this, from the main XBOX 360 dashboard, head to the Settings menu, select System, select Storage, and then pick Games and Apps. Scroll down to Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning and press A to enter the menu. Select the item marked House of Valor and delete it.

Fire up Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning, and voilà, you can happily start a new game, craft your hero, and proceed to slaughter monsters left, right and center!

Related Link: Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning | Xbox 360

XBOX 360: Games with Gold: April 2015 Games Notes 30 MAR 2015

Officially kicking off way back in July 2013, Microsoft’s Games with Gold programme has since then steadfastly been rewarding gamers who fork out their monthly XBOX Live subscription with two or more free games a month – a pretty decent reward in my book.

microsoft xbox 360 games with gold call to action banner

Some months are certainly better than others in terms of the free games being given away,  but if you are an XBOX 360 owner with an active XBOX Live account in April 2015, then you’ve most definitely got some pretty decent freebies to look forward to!

(To be fair though, March 2015 was pretty damn good too – the superb Tomb Raider (2013) from Crystal Dynamics was available for the first half of the month, followed up by the excellent BioShock Infinite (2013) the latter!)

To celebrate the Games with Gold programme as a whole, Microsoft is giving away an unprecedented four free XBOX 360 titles for April, three AAA releases and one hit indie title.

This is the list as it stands right now:

As it turns out, I’m scoring big time because I haven’t before played any of the four!

army of two the devils cartel guns blazing

I’m not particularly interested in Terraria (in other words, I don’t bother with Minecraft), but I am VERY interested in Gears of War: Judgment and Army of Two: The Devil’s Cartel for their co-op value (time to lock and load, Ryan!) – and then of course there is the pirate-themed Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag… seriously, what’s not to love, based on setup alone!

So yes, it looks like my backlog is about to grow a bit again…

assassins creed iv black flag pirates walking

Free Terra Battle Energy and Animation Items Games Notes 07 MAR 2015

The big 2015 Game Developers Conference (GDC) is currently on the go at the Moscone Convention Center in San Francisco. Legendary game creator, founder of the Final Fantasy series and later the Mistwalker game studio which produced such gems as Blue Dragon, Lost Odyssey and The Last Story, Hironobu Sakaguchi is (deservedly) being honoured with a Lifetime Achievement Award as part of the 15th Annual Game Developers Choice Awards.

terra battle android game header logo

To mark this big achievement, Mistwalker is celebrating their boss’ big win by giving away free energy and items to all players of their current mobile gaming smash hit, Terra Battle (a personal favourite of mine at the moment).

You’ve got until 12 March 2015 to redeem this gift, so hurry up and launch Terra Battle, go to Options and click on Enter Gift Code. Enter the case sensitive gift code cyrkrnHAjfmjYDYf and submit! (Needless to say, it is a one use only kind of thing.)

In return, you’ll be gifted with 5 energy, 2 animations and 10 serenity shoots – just enough to upgrade Bahamut if you were lucky to snag him during his latest special arena appearance!

Related Link: Terra Battle on Google Play

Goodbye my Faithful Rechargeable Battery Pack Games Notes 18 NOV 2014

microsoft xbox 360 wireless controller rechargeable battery packGoodbye my faithful rechargeable battery pack… you have indeed served me well.

I joined the XBOX 360 game quite late, purchasing my first (and only to date) XBOX 360 console back in December 2009. I very quickly purchased an official Microsoft Charge and Play rechargeable battery pack for my wireless XBOX 360 controller, and this evening as I was about to play some Gears of War 3 online co-op with Ryan, it became quickly apparent that my very long lived rechargeable battery pack has indeed now finally gone the way of the dodo.

I certainly can’t complain though. This battery pack was the power source for my primary controller for just short of five years, an achievement that for some or other reason makes me rather proud, not to mention the further bolstering of my faith in rather purchasing genuine manufacturer-produced add-ons instead of generics whenever possible.

However, that said, I am now in the need of a hasty replacement, and seeing as I’m pretty sure that my XBOX 360 will be upgraded to a new generation console sooner than later, this time around I don’t necessarily need a solution to last quite as long.

In other words, generic solution time.

A year ago (July 2013) my order with Loot.co.za for a Nitho Charge and Play Kit for the 360 was cancelled due to stock shortages, so I guess this time around I’ll need to hold thumbs that they can actually sell me something that they advertise on their site!

microsoft xbox 360 wireless controller

XBOX Games with Gold is finally Heating Up! Games Notes 14 MAY 2014

xbox 360 games with gold logoFinally. I like Microsoft’s Games with Gold initiative which rewards XBOX Live members with two free games every month. It certainly introduced me to a number of titles I might not otherwise have tried, and it definitely laid the groundwork for further digital game purchases from me.

However, it has more often than not felt like a very lacklustre, half-hearted baby brother to the way more exciting rival Sony’s PlayStation Plus programme, primarily because the free games given away by Microsoft are either ridiculously outdated, or deemed to be cop-outs thanks to their lighter Arcade status.

But all of a sudden Microsoft seems to really be taking it up a notch again. April 2014 Games with Gold saw the usual combo of an Arcade and AAA title release, the first being Deadlight (2012), followed by Hitman: Absolution (2012). May 2014 Games with Gold followed that good offering up with Dust: An Elysian Tail (2012), and the super silly but fun Saints Row: The Third (2011).

And now for June 2014 Games with Gold (in which XBOX One now also joins the party), Microsoft is giving away on the XBOX 360 platform three excellent titles: Dark Souls (2011), Charlie Murder (2013) [Arcade], and lastly, Super Street Fighter IV: Arcade Edition (2011).

At this rate I might even become interested in gaming again!

saints row 3 wallpaper

Capsule Reviews: Games (Max Payne 3, Hitman: Absolution, etc.) Games | My Reviews 29 APR 2014

I can’t say I really game any more these days, but funnily enough, thanks to Microsoft’s Games with Gold XBOX 360 initiative, I have been able to dip my toe into a far greater range of titles that I might have otherwise. This is a quick round up of the titles that I’ve spent a little time on over the course of the last couple of months (you know, when the three year old and newborn in the house let me…)

Hitman: Absolution (2013)

In the aftermath of Hitman: Blood Money, Diana Burnwood, Agent 47’s handler with the International Contract Agency, suddenly goes rogue, carrying out a catastrophic sabotage that includes publicly exposing the Agency. The Agency reforms under agent Benjamin Travis; Travis assigns 47 to kill Diana and bring Victoria, a teenage girl in her care, to the Agency. Shooting and wounding Diana in her home in Chicago, 47, rather than executing her, comforts the dying Diana, who gives him a letter and asks him to keep Victoria safe from the Agency.

It’s the fifth installment in the Hitman game franchise and as such, if you’ve played any of these titles before then you know exactly what you are going to get. Lots of sneaking around, carefully laying traps and taking people out, disguises, and of course when necessary, gun battles. Great graphics, an intricate and dark story, loads of polish, and a good reward hook means that you should very much find yourself trying levels over and over again, attempting to better your score with each and every go! Sadly, I’m not all that fond of stealth games, but despite even this, I have to say that Hitman: Absolution came very close to winning me over to the genre.

hitman absolution backdrop

Full House Poker (2011)

Featuring Avatar FameStar! Go all-in with Full House Poker! Play Texas Hold ‘Em against your friends and thousands of players worldwide, and bring your personality to the table with unique tells and unlockables galore. Save your player progression and winnings between sessions as you increase the stakes and make your mark as a Full House Poker pro!

It’s an online poker game that happens to be rather cutesy in its presentation thanks to the fact that your XBOX avatar is the star of the show. Still, it’s a poker game. Which means if you like playing poker online (I don’t), then this could work for you. If not, rather grab a group of friends and a pack or two of cards. Much more fun in real life quite frankly.

Spartacus Legends (2013)

Developed in collaboration with the television series from Starz, Spartacus Legends invites you to experience raw, visceral combat using multiple fighting styles and thousands of different weapon combinations. Follow your gladiator’s journey through multiple arenas and watch as they strive to reach legendary fame, or meet death at the hands of another. Compete with friends online and see if you have what it takes to kill them all.

Spartacus Legends is a freemium model game, and as such allows you to either compete by grinding it out, or by splashing out some real world cash in order to quickly gain access to better fighting togs. It’s a pretty simple one on one fighter, but it is nicely implemented, even if the graphics aren’t all that spectacular. Plus, it is pretty fun trying to kill off your online opponents gladiator, though the reverse is rather painful. If your gladiator is killed then you kind of need to go and build a new hero.

Deadlight (2012)

The world has ended. There is no hope. No new beginning. Only the survivors. Deadlight follows the journey of Randall Wayne, a man searching for his family across Seattle during the aftermath of a 1980s event that has decimated life on earth. This visually stunning Cinematic Survival Platformer will challenge you to run, jump, climb, and struggle for your life as you look for answers and the ones you love.

Yup, as the description states, this is a classic side-scrolling platformer, but pumped up with a beautiful visual style and a very cinematic story/feel to it. That said, at the heart this is still a zombie/survival game, and as you know, I’m not a great fan of the genre. So in other words, can’t say I played a lot of this one in the end.

deadlight backdrop

Civilization Revolution (2009)

Legendary game designer Sid Meier brings the greatest strategy game of all time to the Xbox 360 console! Built from the ground up for the Xbox 360 console, Sid Meier’s Civilization Revolution challenges you to lead your chosen nation from the dawn of man to the space age on your quest to rule the world. Go head to head with history’s greatest leaders as you wage war, conduct diplomacy, discover new technologies and build the most powerful empire the world has ever known.

Growing up, I thoroughly enjoyed playing the Civilization series on my PC. That said, this type of game really doesn’t translate well to a console controller, and as such, I just really couldn’t get into it. At all. (In other words, I didn’t spend very much time actually playing this one then).

Toy Soldiers: Cold War (2011)

The Cold War is decided when ’80s era action toys come alive and wage war! Toy Soldiers: Cold War blends intense first person combat with addictive action strategy, whether you’re scrapping solo or jumping into the fray with friends.

Yeah, this one didn’t really grab me. You set up your various types of turrets, get ready to go, and then start protecting against wave after wave of attack. You can jump into first person mode to control your turrets, and sometimes take control over a vehicle or a commando to run around and inflict even more damage. Honestly though, these are just toys, and as such, just really doesn’t offer all that much charm for an older gamer like myself. Pass.

Max Payne 3 (2012)

For Max Payne, the tragedies that took his loved ones years ago are wounds that refuse to heal. No longer a cop, close to washed up and addicted to pain killers, Max takes a job in São Paulo, Brazil, protecting the family of wealthy real estate mogul Rodrigo Branco, in an effort to finally escape his troubled past. But as events spiral out of his control, Max Payne finds himself alone on the streets of an unfamiliar city, desperately searching for the truth and fighting for a way out.

Damn it, Max Payne, despite a really silly name, remains as awesome as ever. A fantastically well told story that takes you on a very dark, but very satisfying path is combined with the trademark bullet time gun action that has been a hallmark of the Max Payne series from the very beginning. Lots and lots of shooting, fantastic visuals, and a simply brilliant implementation (with polish) makes this a game I seriously enjoyed working through!

max payne 3 backdrop

Dead Island Riptide (2013)

Dead Island Riptide takes players to the island of Palanai on the Banoi archipelago, infested with bloodthirsty Zombies and only a few remaining Survivors still fighting for their lives.

Yup, it is a first person zombie survival game, which means plenty of creepy scares, knocking things over the head when the going gets tough, and running around trying to stay alive. It’s best played as a multiplayer experience, but to be honest, I’m not the biggest fan of survival games, and I’m also not the biggest fan of zombie games, which means I genuinely didn’t enjoy this one then.

Lara Croft and the Guardian of Light (2010)

Tomb Raider is back, though this time Lara and her new Mayan partner Totec have got plenty of puzzles to solve and platforming to perform in order to defeat the evil spirit Xolotl and make it through these ancient tombs alive!

An isometric view, co-op platformer that is surprisingly fun to play with a partner, as it has you running around like a mad thing, solving varied platform-related problems and puzzles, and trading intense fire and explosive blasts with a host of nasties. A very different Tomb Raider experience, that’s for sure, but an enjoyable Arcade romp nonetheless!