Tag Archives: Gaming

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 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

A Gaming Round-up: DmC, Sleeping Dogs, etc. Games | My Reviews 11 JAN 2014

I have a confession to make. I’m pretty much over single-player gaming these days. Blame lack of diminishing returns, or just pure apathy, but I no longer find it hugely entertaining to sit down by myself with controller in hand for an hour or two at night. Maybe I’m simply tired of it, or maybe I’ve simply outgrown the hobby or whatever you want to call it, but the fact of the matter is that I no longer enjoy the pastime as much, and as such, probably won’t be doing a hell of a lot of gaming on my own going forward any longer.

That said, I do still enjoy the multiplayer gaming experience to a fair degree, but that is a completely different kettle of fish mind you – it’s the social interactions that keeps it enjoyable, not the gaming necessarily itself!

All of that said and done though, my blogging hiatus means I’ve spent some time on a fair bit of titles without mentioning them here yet, meaning it only seems fair to do a quick round-up.

dmc devil may cry xbox promo image

First up there is Capcom and Ninja Theory’s awesome action adventure, hack and slash genre entry, Devil May Cry (DmC) (2013), a re-imagination to the original Devil May Cry series, this time from a Western perspective. There was a lot of online moaning about how much people despised the changed story and character designs, but you know what, I have to say I thoroughly enjoyed it. The story was tightly woven and nice and involving, the characters were actually quite believable in their motivations for a change, and just to drive the awesomeness home, Ninja Theory got the Devil May Cry game mechanics spot on, leading to a raucous, gorgeous looking, stylishly executed button-mashing gaming experience.

I’m a big fan of the original Devil May Cry franchise, and quite pleasingly, this new addition to the stable is just as fantastic as the rest!

Battlestations: Pacific (2009) is a action real-time tactic World War II game from Eidos Hungary, which basically allows you to tackle either a US or Japanese campaign by working through a variety of airborne, seaborne, and combined missions.

Although the voice acting is a little cheesy and the graphics aren’t particularly fantastic, if you are part of the target market for this game like I am (in other words, love World War II planes and boats), then it is an absolute joy to take to the sky in some classic beasts of the air, like a Mitsubishi Zero or a Lockheed P-38 Lightning to name but a few!

Naturally the single player skirmishes do get a little boring after a while, but for me (and Jessica mind you – my little 3 year old likes nothing more than taking a plane up into the sky, doing some rolls, and then ploughing straight down into the see. She screams in delight literally every single time!), the flying time was all that I was really after anyways!

There is a huge selection of ships, submarines, fighter planes, sea planes and bombers to be piloted, and the simplified arcade controls makes for an easy enough title to pick up, though I suspect only lovers are the genre will really get some entertainment value out of this one!

battlestations pacific mitsubishi zero in flight

Shoot Many Robots (2012) from Demiurge Studios is an Xbox Arcade release recently featured as part of Microsoft’s Games with Gold initiative. It’s a typical action platformer that sees you and a partner or two, strap on some silly big guns and costumes, and then run through a variety of stages shooting at pretty much anything that moves, before taking on the slightly bigger bad boy boss at the end of each level.

It’s a redneck-themed game which means the appeal is probably quite limited (seriously, rednecks just aren’t my idea of funny), and as such a lot of the items are geared in design, appearance and function to fit in with the theme.

Ryan and I had some fun shooting down robot after robot, and I have to say, the art direction on the game is really well done, though by that I mean the implementation, not necessarily the stupid theme. Overall, it’s a competent and polished XBOX Arcade title worth picking up if you are looking for some mindless side-scrolling shooting to be had.

shoot many robots xbox arcade title screen

If you are a RPG fan then without a doubt CD Projekt RED’s The Witcher 2 (2012) is a must play. Massive world, gorgeous graphics, classic RPG elements, enjoyable fight mechanics, and engaging and mature storyline, the Witcher 2 is undoubtedly a RPG done right.

Sadly for me though, it turns out I’m not that really into RPG games any more, meaning that it didn’t have my full attention nor a decent enough allotment of my time. Despite that, I do have to recognise just how good an entry into the RPG genre this game actually is, and it is definitely worth the recommend.

(One small gripe though. Why in the world did this game not have better movement mechanics. Seriously, I should not have to trigger a context button for the character to hop down a stone ledge or climb up a simple ladder in this day and age!)

UPDATE: (2014-05-28) I ended up coming back to this one and spending a whole lot more time with it. In the end, same result: great, mature RPG that’s an enjoyable play, but with some slightly annoying control issues. Well worth recommending though!

the witcher 2 xbox screengrab

Next to Devil May Cry, Sleeping Dogs (2012) from United Front Games and Square Enix sits squarely in the list of favourite games played recently. Turns out I rather enjoy Asian-set action games (like John Woo’s Stranglehold, Yakuza and the True Crime series – which I only recently found out are technically forerunners for this game – to name but a few), and as such I’m quite enjoying the open world action-adventure video game, running around doing jobs for the Triads, helping out the cops, boosting my stats, and in general just causing absolute mayhem, all the while wrapped up in a brutal but engaging storyline of crime and justice.

In essence it is pretty much like playing any installment of Grand Theft Auto, except that this time around you are the good guy, doing bad things to fit in, and with a lot more focus on martial arts-based hand to hand combat than what you would see in a GTA title.

Driving, shooting, and fight mechanics are all well implemented, and combined with some good graphics, a fantastic sound track and great voice artist work, this is definitely fast becoming one of my big time favourites.

sleeping dogs xbox screengrab

Review: Asura’s Wrath (2012) Games | My Reviews 26 JUL 2013

Gaea, a world much like our own, is inhabited by a variety of human tribes. However, it is under constant attack from the bloodied, demonic, destructive and impure race know as the Gohma, created by the terrifying Vlitra who rests as part of the very planet itself. On the other hand, Gaea’s protectors are a group of powerful and technologically advanced demigods, ruled by Emperor Strada and his unstoppable Eight Guardian Generals.

After the latest open conflict with the Gohma and with Vlitra finally beaten back for now, Asura, one of the Guardian Generals is betrayed by his comrades, framed for the death of the Emperor, witnesses the death of his wife and kidnapping of his priestess daughter, and ultimately is killed by the scheme’s orchestrator.

12,000 years later, an reawakened, rage-fueled, and wrathful Asura has the chance to rejoin the land of the living… revenge the only thing on his mind!

asura's wrath xbox 360 capcom cyberconnect2 game screenshot 4

A joint game venture by Japanese gaming houses Capcom and CyberConnect2, Asura’s Wrath is a very interesting experiment in gaming to say the least. Featuring a hugely distinctive manga-inspired art style, the game could be described as a rich, multi-part, Buddhist lore-infused anime series, punctuated with bouts of action brawling gameplay.

Seriously.

Split up into episodes and chapters, each with its own narrated introduction, credit sequences and some gorgeous CG cut scenes, the actual gaming is very much a stop start affair, and at no point are you never not aware of the all important progressing story line.

At the heart of the actual gameplay, Asura’s Wrath is a 3rd person brawler, with your character being gifted with the standard light and heavy attack options, a dodging/jumping ability, as well as the ability to unleash ranged mystic bolts, all of which can fluidly be combined as you are pitted up against horde after horde of both Gohma and demigod constructs. Boss battles make up a large percentage of your battles and as expected from such a stylized game, the battles are epic, very varied, and quite satisfying to compete.

And mind you, if the gameplay wasn’t already punctuated enough by all the story breaks, Asura’s Wrath goes one step further by utilizing the full range of context button motions, quick time events and good old single button bashing to constantly change things up in terms of the fight scenes, not to mention the clever shooter on rails sections they throw into the mix every now and then as well!

Like I said, everything is done on a grandiose and epic scale, and some of the animation sequences are without a doubt the most thrilling and awe-inspiring you’ll have seen in quite some time – but in the same breadth exactly what you kind of expect from a Japanese-made game by now. (For heaven’s sake, you even fight a former colleague who transforms into a being bigger than the planet and who is trying to crush you with his finger which is technically now a meteor approaching you in the sky!)

As expected from this type of game the combat is pretty fluid, though ultimately shallow and not particularly challenging, meaning that if you are looking to play a decent game, you’re probably going to be left disappointed. However, if you want an entertainment experience, then Asura’s Wrath certainly won’t disappoint.

An epic and hauntingly beautiful soundtrack complements some fantastic voice acting, and when you throw in the gorgeous and dynamic visual style of the game combined with slick and action-packed cut scene choreography that is simply on a scale of awesomeness not usually seen, you get one hell of an interesting gaming experiment that is quite unlike anything you might have played before.

asura's wrath xbox 360 capcom cyberconnect2 game screenshot 1

Certainly worth looking at then if you have a soft spot for anime or Japanese-told stories, but perhaps not such a good bet if you are looking for a more traditional hack/slash action game or come from the first person shooter world.

I have to say, I myself enjoyed the experience but in the same breadth I can’t say that I loved it. Still, Asura’s Wrath is definitely a good surprise package, that’s for sure!

asura's wrath xbox 360 capcom cyberconnect2 game screenshot 2

asura's wrath xbox 360 capcom cyberconnect2 game screenshot 3

Related Link: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Asura%27s_Wrath

A XBOX Live Gold Denizen Proper at Last! My Life 21 DEC 2012

xbox 360 black wireless controllerNow that Chantelle’s baking business, Chantelle’s Cookies & Cakes, has taken off like wildfire, i.e. keeping her busy pretty much all hours of the day, and given the fact that Jessica goes to sleep early every evening, I now desperately needed to find something to keep me busy at night – and that thing turned out to be a twelve month XBOX Live Gold subscription card.

Up until now I have largely given the world of online gaming a skip, mainly due to budget constraints and mainly due to the excessive hours I know it would suck up. However, with all this late night time on my hands now, it seemed as good a time as any to finally jump on the bandwagon, and a quick search on the web indicated that getting online in South Africa is no longer as expensive or as technically challenging as what it used to be (i.e. they now cater for South African XBOX Live users!).

So I convinced Ryan via phone that this is a good idea and after a frustrating weekend of trying to purchase our membership codes via BT Games (I eventually skipped them and obtained my subscription code from the excellent mspoints.co.za site), and an exhilarating mall rush to pick up FIFA 13 before the store closed it doors with Jessica (we literally ran into BT Games with less than a minute to spare!), the both of us were finally online and managed to hookup for some awesome online FIFA 13 fun.

Since then I’ve progressed to playing FIFA against people from all over the world, and as of now, Ryan and I have started a co-op play through of the classic Gears of War 2, a game which Ryan picked up for super cheap via the also excellent evopoints.co.za website.

So far so good, and apart from a few dropped connections here and there (mainly whenever the wind roars here in Gordon’s Bay), I must say that it runs pretty damn smoothly over my 1 mbps connection, and more importantly is turning out to be loads of fun.

In other words, if you are looking to add yet another South African FIFA 13 opponent into the mix, be sure to lookup CraigLotter on XBOX Live.

(I know, I know, not a terribly original nor fear inspiring gamer tag. That’s okay. All that it means is that you’ll feel even more silly when I beat you at footie – you know like when a poodle wins a greyhound race…)

fifa 13 on the xbox 360

gears of war xbox 360 marcus shooting reaver while riding on betty

First Impressions: FIFA 13 (2012) Games | My Reviews 12 OCT 2012

I have been playing the EA FIFA soccer game franchise since I was a youngster, first battling it out over the SEGA MegaDrive if I remember correctly, before moving on to the various iterations on PC, PSOne, PS2, and XBOX 360.

In other words, I’m pretty damn familiar with the game.

This year marks the release of FIFA 13 and I must excitedly announce: this is by far the BEST FIFA release ever!

Although the graphics front hasn’t really advanced since the last couple of outings due to the console hardware restrictions, the developers have successfully managed to eliminate many of the minor gameplay niggles, as well as the annoying commentary glitches that had somehow managed to creep in the last two or so iterations.

Of course the most major addition to this year’s polish and release has been the removal of the old, almost automatic defensive system (which can be turned back on for gamers unable to adapt), in favour of a more manual system, which basically means you now need to get a whole lot smarter and skilled in defending, both in one on one situations as well as in terms of defensive strategy!

And yes, this means slide tackles have just become cool again.

My personal favourite of the new system is the ability to stick a foot out, which makes it a lot easier to intercept a travelling ball, trip up a player, or if you have to, just outright foul him in the hopes that the referee happens to be looking elsewhere (needless to say, the third isn’t actually a possibility).

The end result of the changes means a very fluid game, far less frustrating midfield grinds, a lot more scoring opportunities, keepers that don’t hold on to each and every shot fired at them, and in general, just a faster, more realistic, and more importantly, more enjoyable gaming experience, particularly when playing against another human opponent!

Of course there are a host of game modes, customizable options, key mappings and what not for the hardcore fans, and combined with a fantastic aural experience as well as a pretty slick presentation interface, FIFA 13 is no doubt an absolute winner this season.

Seriously, I can’t wait to take another crack at it again! :)

Review: Burnout Paradise (2008) Games | My Reviews 24 MAY 2012

Burnout 3 and Burnout Revenge were probably the first ever car games that I actually enjoyed, meaning that Criterion’s Burnout franchise will always have my interest and more importantly, a place in my heart. When Burnout Paradise was first released in 2008, I stepped away from it, not liking the idea of an open world gameplay (because I don’t do multiplayer), and despising the lack of two player split-screen racing.

Instead, Blur was the racing game to capture and hold my attention, and to this day remains one of the few games which I haven’t sold off to a second hand store.

Time moved on, and having forgotten all about why I never picked up Burnout Paradise the first time around, I ended up recently purchasing it for a laughably low price just to bump up the value of my online order for printer cartridges so as to skip out on delivery fee.

A day later, it arrived via the courier and I excitedly opened it up, installed it and hit play, only to be instantly disappointed with the open world gameplay and then very annoyed by the lack of split-screen racing, because my plan had been to race against Chantelle (seeing as racing games are the only thing she’ll play with me on the XBOX 360).

However, those two aspects aside, Burnout Paradise is still Burnout at heart, meaning ridiculously fast racing, huge drifts, aggressive taking out of opponents, responsive handling, and of course the massively detailed and epic car smashes that put the franchise on the map in the first place!

The graphics are fantastic, the selection of cars (non-branded of course) awesome, the addition of motorbikes epic, the soundtrack sublime – in other words, a thoroughly enjoyable and rewarding arcade racing game, which will keep you occupied for literally hours on end.

(And yes, apparently the multiplayer on this thing is pretty wicked too!)

Available for dirt cheap, and if you haven’t picked it up before, well worth doing so now if you enjoy your non-realistic, balls to the wall arcade racing games.

Related Link: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Burnout_Paradise

Tomb Raider Cosplay: Lara Croft (Illyne) Cosplay 13 MAY 2012

French cosplayer Illyne is renowned for her awesome Lara Croft cosplay photo shoots, and this time around her depiction of Lara Croft from the original 1996 Tomb Raider is certainly no different, as she dons those famous short shorts, grabs her pistols and strikes a pose!

The original 1996 Tomb Raider introduced what was to become one of gaming’s most recognizable female protagonists in the form of Lara Croft, the athletic, gun-toting, no nonsense archaeologist with a thirst for action and adventure, not to mention a deep-seated desire to unearth and solve all sorts of ancient mysteries.

In her first adventure, Lara gets thrust into a race to search for and collect three mysterious Scion artefact fragments, linked to an ancient Atlantean myth and which are scattered across the globe. Her adventure takes her in amongst other places to the lost tomb of Qualopec in the mountains of Peru, the tomb of Tihocan in a monastery in Greece and finally the City of Khamoon in Egypt.

Related Link: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tomb_Raider_(1996_video_game)

Gaming Update: Spider-man: Shattered Dimensions | Dante’s Inferno | Red Dead Redemption Games | My Reviews 03 JAN 2012

One of the things that pretty much fell to the wayside after having Jessie enter our lives is my gaming. Last year I pretty much sold off all my games (thank you Cash Crusaders) from my collection, and can count the number of titles I played on my dusty XBOX 360 on my two hands.

I did enjoy some time off at the end of the year though, and despite pretty much being in single parent mode for most of my two weeks away from work, I did manage to squeeze some game time in late at night, finally knocking off Red Dead Redemption which I must say was a thoroughly engrossing and entertaining game.

2012 looks like it is going to be pretty similar in terms of playing games (i.e. there won’t be a lot of it), but at least I have managed to stock up for those rare occasions when I can maybe steal a hour or two of controller time. Thanks to a tidy little sum of Christmas money from the Montgomery clan (meaning I can spend it without feeling guilty about not spending in on the Lotter clan), I managed to pick up both Bulletstorm and Darksiders second-hand dirt cheap from BT Games.

I’ve since sneakily given both a spin and can report that I’m looking forward to both of them, which is a good thing considering the fact that I need to maximise my enjoyment out of my limited game time! :)

As for the last three games which I did manage to finish off over the course of 2011 (and for which I probably won’t get around to writing up decent reviews for), I thought it a good idea to quickly jot down some thoughts. So here they are in order of completion:

Spider-man: Shattered Dimensions

Looking past the cheesy Stan Lee cut scenes, I seriously loved this outing in the Spider-man game franchise (having also enjoyed the previous Spider-man: Web of Shadows release). A nice twist was having four different Spider-man characters from the various universes to play with, each having their own style of play, including the Noir Spider-man that seemed to lift a lot of his stealth gameplay straight from the stunning earlier Batman: Arkham Asylum release!

Plenty of web swinging and bashing people in the face is the order of the day for this third person action adventure game, with good graphics, a good story, slick fight engine, and great voice acting plus musical score. Definitely worth it for any comic book fan.

Dante’s Inferno

Woah, definitely a game only to be played when you are on your own, with everyone fast asleep around you. Certainly not for the easily offended (and make no mistake, there is a lot of disturbing and gruesome scenery to be had), Dante’s Inferno is actually a very good and very polished (if a little God of War generic) hack and slash action adventure game, which tells a good story as you are pushed ever deeper into the Circles of Hell in order to free your beloved Beatrice from Lucifer’s icy grip.

Lots of button bashing, a nice little level up abilities and magic system, some simple puzzles, good cut scenes with decent voice acting, and some larger than life boss battles.

So thoroughly enjoyable in a blood-soaked hack and slash way, but certainly not easily recommended to anyone thanks to its setting and story.

Red Dead Redemption

Easily the best game I’ve played in quite some time, a thoroughly engrossing and engaging sandbox Western title from Rockstar, which will have you taking down bandits, breaking wild horses and hunting the local fauna until the cows come home.

Despite the fact that I think the game should have ended when you finally catch up to the main target that has been your mission right from the start, Red Dead Redemption has a fantastic story, backed by impressive voice acting plus musical score. Add to that a brilliantly realised open world ripe for exploration and interaction, this is definitely one of the best sandbox titles ever to be made!

Highly, highly recommended.

And now you know :)