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NEWS

Xbox One Headset

Microsoft’s E3 Conference: A Quick Roundup of Events

xbox-one-consoleMicrosoft is one of the videogame sector’s biggest players. It is a giant among minnows. Its videogame division has revenues of £5.5Bn and it is a massive player in both the console and PC gaming environments. Because of Microsoft’s role as console maker, games maker and all-out technology superpower, their E3 conferences are usually a big fan favourite. This year was no different.

First, we need to highlight something. It’s something really, really big. Microsoft at last year’s E3 talked about the Xbox One as an ‘all round entertainment platform’. Yesterday’s announcement was a little less grandiose as the focus of the entire event was on gaming. This is surprising as ‘entertainment’ was no-where to be seen? No Steven Spielberg made TV shows or music or social media apps, just boring old video games? What happened?

Microsoft in the past year has been ‘listening to fans’ and these ‘listening exercises’ resulted in some wholesale changes – not least of all, the boot given to the Kinect sensor. The changes were predicated on fan’s requirements that Microsoft, in a way, goes back to basics. This is what Microsoft’s E3 endeavours were all about.

They started off by ‘dropping’ the One. Not one mention of the Xbox One. It was all ‘Xbox’ and nothing else. The games demoed included Halo 5, Forza Horizon 2 along with Fable Legends. In the ‘active’ camps they announced Dance Central as a somewhat ‘Kinect’ ready title. However, they continued with a nice little exclusive surrounding a new game called Scalebound – a dragon fighting epic.

In usual Microsoft fashion, ‘exclusive’ DLC packs are going to be made available for Call of Duty: Advance Warfare before PS4 and additionally for Tom Clancy’s The Divison which will have special DLC features. Another ‘gem’ from the past was the announcement that Microsoft and Real-Time Worlds are working on a re-boot, of sorts, of the cult classic Crackdown.

These titles showcase a changing attitude from Microsoft, led by Phil Spencer, as they move away from the entertainment-only focus which was a disaster first-time round for the Xbox (One). The core branding is a nod to the disaster of the Xbox One and Kinect launch. They are offering fans a Mea Culpa – an apology – of sorts by offering some great next-gen content. This is the key here, as last year developers were working on multi platforms (i.e. PS3/PS4 and Xbox 360 and Xbox One). This time round they are just working on next-gen – this can be seen in the quality. So thank goodness Microsoft has seen the error in its ways and have found new traction and new motivation to move forwards.

Battlefield Hardline

The Independent Games Developers Association says UK Videogame Industry is ‘Back on Track’

Xbox-One-Controller-HDThe Independent Games Developer Association (TIGA) has issued a press release summarising its Making Games in the UK Today: June 2014 Annual Report. The report outlines that “the UK videogame development sector is back on track, with studio headcounts, wider games industry employment, tax revenue and investment all on the up.” The report continues, “Employment in the UK games development sector has returned to levels last seen in 2008, with a rise of seven per cent in 2013 representing a five-year high. The games development sector also contributes more than £1 billion to the UK’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP).”

The findings illustrate how successful post-recession UK videogame companies have been – from the smallest to the largest. The report stated that nearly 28,000 individuals are employed – directly or indirectly – by the UK videogames sector. The British Government received £419 million from combined direct and indirect taxes generated by the sector as a whole. These numbers are massive and highlight how successful British gaming has become. However, it should be noted that whilst the TIGA assessment rings true, the 2007/08 recession impacted heavily upon the sector and it has taken up until now to plateau at that level. The wider industry has seen a decline in traditional console/PC based gaming with a higher percentage generated from mobile gaming revenue – which back in 2007/08 was still in its infancy.

The success of mobile gaming, whilst brilliant for job creation and tax revenue collection, does augment the argument in a sense that more development is needed to return to pre-2008 levels of console/PC gaming development – the closure of different companies from Blitz to Modus Operandi highlight how tough the sector can be. However, from such closures – smaller companies have, like a phoenix swooping from the ashes, risen from these closures to create smaller and more innovative gaming companies. Perhaps what this report fails to really ‘applaud’ is this new rise of micro developer working in the mainstream?

NHL15 Thornton

NHL15 E3 Trailer

Here it is, NHL15 E3 trailer. Just seen this tonight at E3 Expo. Were you watching right here on UGP?

UGP FEED


REVIEWS

Wolfenstein: The New Order

Wolfenstein: The New Order makes me thankful that the Nazi’s never won the war. With all the weird weapons and merciless Nazi robot dogs that would have sprung up, I am glad I don’t have to live on Hitler Crescent and work at Goebbels Inc. Those nightmares are fully realised in The New Order which see’s the return of William “B.J.” Blazkowicz who, after a failed assassination attempt on his old nemesis General ‘Deathshead’ Strasse, wakes up in 1960 to a world dominated by Nazi’s and their robot dogs who think his limbs are Pedigree Denta-stix. Blazkowicz then sets about mounting a resistance against the Nazi empire with a small band of resistance members including Caroline Becker, last seen in ID Software’s reboot, Wolfenstein, in 2009.

Wolfensteain The New Order in-game characterMachineGames have done away with dimension jumping where you were attacked by angry blow fish and everyone’s eyed glowed. They have done away with weird crystals that not even Jesse or Walter would consider cooking up because of the absurd powers they gave you. Granted, Nazi robot dogs and a Nazi empire that covers the world is also a stretch but, what makes this Wolfenstein so enjoyable is the focus on telling a good solid adventure story, throwing in great gameplay mechanics and puzzles with a challenging AI system, something that lacked in the previous title.

MachineGames have also given BJ a substantial amount of dialogue which has been lacking considerably, meaning you are no longer in control of a cardboard cut out of human. His dialogue in both cut scenes and in game feel passionate and striking (it may also explain why, during cut scenes, BJ always looks close to tears). In game, a loss of an ally or seeing the Nazi’s commit atrocities against unarmed POW’s will trigger some sort of response from BJ, expressing anger, disgust or bitterness or questioning his own ability to save the World from Nazi rule through his thoughts and occasional murmurings. For a game full of laser touting, Aryan obsessed Nazi stomp machines, you can’t help but share the emotions of Blazkowicz in his moments of anger or self-doubt.

Just like the story is pumped full of emotion, the gameplay itself is pumped full of action. The layout of the game is strictly ‘on-the-rails’ but each level has multiple ways to approach problems. For a franchise known for its all out action, the ability to stealthily bump off enemies by slithering out of a floor level vent and throwing a knife in their back is a welcome addition. Secret passage ways are numerous and varied and finding collectibles such as letters, maps, enigma codes and gold gives you an additional reason to explore the alternate routes. In each area you will also find commanders who, if you are detected, will call in reinforcements until you can eliminate them, meaning you don’t have to always run around dual wielding shotguns trying to blast Fritz into bitz.

The Commander ‘pen-pushers’ who got promoted for their connections’ (according to the in-game journal) will flee and let the grunts do all the work to try and take you down. In this sense, the game almost encourages you to become Ninja-wicz. Almost. The enemy AI for the grunts and cowardly commanders is extremely smart, something you’ll quickly realise when being out-flanked for the fourth time. Their use of fire suppression and grenades is to be commended, meaning engagements are fierce and can turn desperate if you are down to your last mag. One significant criticism of the AI however, is that it can feel too good, sensing you through boxes and round corners, leaving you annoyed at wasting your time trying to sneak around the level. Perhaps the Nazis also have psychic powers? A nice addition is you don’t simply rearm by walking over ammo; you have to physically pick it up. If pinned down behind cover, coming under fire from all sides; desperately trying to reach across to pick up a box of ammo or med-kit will feel like a whole new game in itself.

Wolfenstein Robo DogFor a game that came on four discs (no, really) the graphics are good. No that is a lie, the graphics are incredible. All the set-pieces have been lovingly crafted for your destruction and they never feel half done or over-crowded. If you are a stickler for frame rates and high definition explosions, then this is also your kind of game.

On PC, the game is polished to perfection. I sometimes have to keep an eye on the temperature of my processor and graphics card but when playing such a huge (40GB!) game, I thought the demand on my processor and GPU would be too much. Amazingly I was utterly wrong and the game is so well optimised that temperatures for both components stay well within safe limits. Only the occasional graphical glitch spoils the atmosphere of playing fetch the grenade with a robotic pooch but I’m sure future updates will fix that.

Some will be surprised to hear that Wolfenstein: The New Order has not shipped with any multi-player whatsoever. I worry that this may discourage potential players but it is worth the money for a brilliantly dark and brooding storyline and gripping gameplay.

Overall, I have not had the pleasure of playing such a brilliant, story driven shooter in a long long time. The graphics, gameplay and the sense of adventure will have you hooked for whole weekends at a time. A few tweaks to the AI and a fix for the occasional graphical glitch would be appreciated however. The lack of multi-player is also disappointing but I’m glad that MachineGames didn’t overreach – I’m looking at you Battlefield – and fall flat on their faces. The single-player is entertaining enough to have a great deal of replay and you will enjoy the twitchy nervousness of getting hunted by Robo-Rover for months to come.

 

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Kaiser Baas Game Recorder HD

There’s many a reason why you may want to record your gameplay and up until now, there’s been two game recorders leading the charge from Hauppauge and Elgato. Late 2013 saw a new contender to the game recorder market from Kaiser Baas with the Game Recorder HD. Avanquest, the UK distributor for the Game Recorder HD, were kind enough to send over a unit for us to take a look.

I believe that with a game recorder, the most important criteria for a good recorder are quality of recording and ease to use the recorder. The Kaiser Baas Game Recorder HD’s recording quality is brilliant and it has an ace up its sleeve that the competition don’t, but at a cost.

SHOT-OF-BOXLooking at the unit, it’s not the flashiest or most trendy game recorder on the market but it does sit nicely next to whatever it is you’ve got it plugged in to, in my case, an Xbox One. The recorder is a much smaller unit than the likes of the Hauppauge or Elgato counterparts, probably about a quarter of the size, but then…the best things come in small packages! There’s nothing really to write home about when it comes to the aesthetics, the Game Recorder HD is finished in gloss black plastic, the type that just loves to show off fingerprints and smudges. Put that aside, the controls, all three of them, are simple. The two buttons to control recording input type and whether you’re wanting 720p or 1080p HD recording are on the top and a nice big “Record” button on the front.

In terms of setting everything up, it’s a very simple affair. Power lead, HDMI from console and HDMI to TV all just pop into the back, as expected. For storing your recordings and capturing commentary audio, two inputs on the front take care of that. This is where is gets different. The Game Recorder HD lets you record directly to a storage device without the need of a computer. Simply connect a USB flashdrive or USB external hard drive to the Game Recorder HD and you’re all set. This really is where Kaiser Baas Game Recorder HD comes into its own. My computer isn’t near my Xbox and I don’t possess a laptop so, what am I meant to do if I couldn’t just put an external hard drive next to the recorder, plugin and go? I’d have to run a cable across the room or move everything closer to each other. Health and safety would have a field day! Once you’ve recorded some footage, take the drive and plug it in to the computer. There, you’ll find all your recordings split into 2GB files ready for you to transfer to your computer’s hard drive or upload. What I would say is this though. For the love of God get a USB3.0 drive. The transfer times are dramatically reduced. If you’re not sure you’ve got USB3.0 on your computer, have a look at the USB ports and see if you have a blue one, compared to a black one. Blue USB port signifies USB3.0. If you haven’t, don’t worry, you’re just going to have to wait a tad longer to transfer files.

It is worth noting at this point, that while set up is a breeze, there is a fault with the code of the Xbox One that if you’re not familiar with, will leave you scratching your head. It took me several hours to research a solution. It’s no secret and Microsoft have said they’re working on it so we can expect a fix soon. What we know of the problem at the moment is that it lies with the “handshake” that takes place when you power everything up. When the Xbox One is in “Always On” mode, it doesn’t perform the handshake process properly and what happens is that it treats all content as protected content. What this means is that, no matter what brand, your game recorder won’t record. When using the Kaiser Baas, what you need to do is to turn the Xbox One into energy saving mode and go old school, using the controller to turn it on and off, and the remote for the TV. On top of that, if you do watch protected content such as a Blu-Ray, the Xbox One will need to be completely switched off and back on again before you can get your game recorder to work again for capturing gameplay.

Once you have got yourself set and started recording, everything works as expected and the results meet all expectations. The sound capture from a microphone is clear and crisp and video capture is perfect and smooth. The Game Recorder HD records at 60FPS which is perfect when games are running at 60FPS. There’s no tear or stutter in frames. There’s not much else to be said about what happens when you are recording, it does what it’s meant to do.

While the Kaiser Baas Game Recorder HD is a very competent unit, there are some drawbacks and these come from the simplicity of the unit. With it being designed to work without a computer, it means there are zero settings for you to fiddle with. With other recorders, you have the ability to adjust in game volume and the like, so that you’re not drowned out by the game’s audio while you’re trying to commentate on what’s going on. This lack of ability goes further when the time comes to do something with the footage you’ve recorded. As videos are split every time they near 2GB, a game of FIFA14 or Battlefield 4 will leave you with multiple files to do something with. This means you’re going to need to stitch the files together and edit them into one seamless video. No problem, but have you got a decent quality video editing program on your computer? I’m lucky, I have the full Adobe suite but not many people do and the free video editors that are available tend to leave a lot to be desired. With the lack of ability to set up game audio etc, it makes the choice of your microphone all the more important. You’re going to need something that’s sensitive and preferably, with an option to amplify the input. It’s the only way to have control over the levels between what you’re saying that’s being recorded, and the volume of the game.

So, what’s the overall impression that I’ve been left with after my time spent with the Kaiser Baas Game Recorder HD. Well, it’s great being able to record to hard drive. It really is a big big plus not having to have a computer plugged in to it. Just search the internet for people in the boat where they don’t have a laptop and the computer’s in another room. However, the inability to plugin to the computer and have a plethora of options, settings and packaged editing tools, let’s the Game Recorder HD down massively. It’s just too simple and with the need to buy storage and an editing software package, the decision whether to buy becomes very simple. The additional costs involved will more than likely double the price of the unit. I’m using a 2TB external drive that’s £75 from Argos and a simple video editing software package will set you back another £25. So that’s £100 extra, in addition to the expense involved in  purchasing a high quality microphone. As I mentioned, a good quality microphone is key and you’re looking at something like the Rode NT1-A which is another £150. Not that you should skimp on a microphone but you could get away quite comfortably on a lesser mic on the Hauppauge due to being able to adjust the volume of the game on the fly via software. Add in the price of the Game Recorder HD, £140 which is pretty much the same as the rivals, a quick tally puts the initial start up cost for the Game Recorder HD at £390!!!

Maybe I’m putting too much emphasis on the importance of getting a high quality microphone, even though you should, and you could perhaps get away with one for £50 and yes, you could use a 64GB USB flash drive but you’re going to be needing to transfer the data over to your computer for every 6 hours of gameplay. And of course, you can get away with using free video editing software but, there should be no need to compromise when there’s a better equipped game recorder on the market for pretty much the same price.

Overall, I like the Kaiser Baas Game Recorder HD. It records well and is a breeze to use. I like the ability to record direct to storage but I can not ignore the lack of features compared to equally priced game recorders on the market. I’d have to give the Game Recorder HD an overall score of 6/10 and say, that it’s perfect if your computer is nowhere near your console and you don’t have a laptop but be prepared to put your hand in your pocket once or twice more after purchasing.

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Titanfall – is this the full version?

Titanfall, one of 2014’s biggest titles, has launched in the UK & Europe. The amount of hype surrounding Titanfall can only be described as ridiculous. It has to be one of the most anticipated launches in several years. No pressure then!

A brief look into the ancestry of the developer, Respawn Entertainment, quickly suggests that there is a serious pedigree at hand. This isn’t Titanfall creator Vince Zampella’s first rodeo. Mr Zampella did of course co-create Call of Duty as we know it today, before someone called someone a nasty name shortly after Modern Warfare 2 and everything went to shit.

Here we are, nearly half a decade later and we get to pick apart Zampella’s latest creation, the most anticipated Xbox One game of the year with 80 awards being dished out, before it was even finished…never really understood that!

If you’ve followed any of our other reviews, you’ll know that at UGP, we have a system for reviewing games. We believe that there are three key elements to make a game which if combined correctly, create a dynamite experience. These elements are the engine (visuals & how it plays), the scope (story, content & lifespan) and the effect (is it fun, does it keep you coming back for more?).

 

TF_AngelCity_PilotTHE ENGINE

Titanfall is very nice game to look at. While not mind blowing visually, it certainly does feel like a nice place to be once you’ve got into a match. It’s difficult to appreciate the detailed artwork that’s gone into the Titans because if you’re close enough to see it, you sure aren’t going to hanging around long enough to actually appreciate it. And that’s really how Titanfall plays, it’s very smooth but very very fast. Absolute chaos in fact. I like it, and the game does it well. There’s no bugs or glitches, random getting stuck, tearing of the map…it actually works. A shock in this era of games being released flat out broken I know! The controls are intuitive and very familiar, standard FPS stuff really. If you’re able to master the double-jump and wall running element of Titanfall, while not new it is nice to see, you’ll find that you can move about very very quickly, covering large spans in a short time. You do get rewarded for timing your jumps and runs and you can get a real flow going. Don’t and you’ll feel like you’re trying to run around on a bouncy castle.

With regard to balance, the weapons are very nicely balanced, the limited number of them, and there’s no obvious over powered strategy or loadout. There is no strategy to Titanfall to be fair so that’s not going to be an issue. My only gripe is the accuracy of Titan weaponry. If you’re spotted by a Titan as a pilot, you’ve had it. The weapons are so accurate, and cover so sparse, you’re unlikely to get away. It would be nice to see Titan weaponry be a bit less accurate, it’s not like the primary target, a Titan, is small and difficult to hit!

 

THE SCOPE

In terms of storyline, they might as well have not bothered. The campaign is next to non-existent and when you are playing it, you don’t even notice it. The campaign in Titanfall consists of 9 mission for each of the two factions, the IMC and the Militia. These missions are basically just multiplayer game with some predictable audio overlayed at intervals during gameplay to make you think you’re fighting for a cause. The cutscenes between missions honestly just get in the way. There’s no depth to the story and it certainly doesn’t leave you wanting to know more and wishing it went on. The only reason anyone would want to do the campaign is to unlock the two additional Titans that you are awarded for doing (doesn’t matter if you win or lose) the 18 missions, which takes about 2 hours incidentally!

The lack of depth and scope to the storyline is a good marker for the rest of Titanfall, read on and see what I mean.

I’ve played Titanfall for about 6 hours over the 3 days since release before writing this. It’s not challenging at all. Many other reviewers are seeing this as a positive, that beginners can jump in and survive more than 30 seconds before being annihilated. Well, that’s not a good thing in my book. Honestly, if I’d known this game didn’t really expand on the BETA, with which I was bored after 2 days, I wouldn’t have bothered looking at this. Titanfall multiplayer, which is all there really is to this game, is a lot of fun. For a few hours. But, the complete lack of strategy and objectives or goals means that once you’ve unlocked most of the things to unlock, of which there’s just 31, what do you do? Take the RC-101 rifle you get at the start. There’s 2 attachments for it…2!!!! There is such scope available to make something awesome surrounding weapons, it’s the future and there’s fuck off great big mechs storming about the place. Why can’t we have a Dead Space style weapon builder? If there was, this game would have a lifespan that extended past 6 hours. What do we do in multiplayer games other than unlock things and build classes? There’s none of that in this. 5 hours of gameplay and I’ve unlocked all but 5 things in the game. It’s poor, very poor.

 

Titanfall_E3_014THE EFFECT

The effect Titanfall has on me is one of massive disappointment, unrealised potential and boredom. The maps are very linear due to the need to allow for Titans and the lack of content in Titanfall is such a shame. As I’ve already mentioned, less than a day’s solid gameplay and you’ll have done everything there is to do. Battlefield 4 is a game where strategy and tactics require mastering, plus a shed load of stuff to unlock. Call of Duty: Ghosts, despite its faults, has clans, squads, and killstreaks. These things keep me entertained, and I’m not alone in my thoughts. Playing with a buddy of mine on Titanfall and after 1 day we both concluded that we’d probably only play this for a few days. He’s ok with that, he’s go a disc to sell. I on the other hand, have spanked £55.00. Fifty five bloody quid on this is not worth the money!

Titanfall was an immense amount of fun for a few hours but, as I realised this is as good as it gets, it got stale really quickly. There’s no progression, I’m at level 30 at the moment. The last unlock is level 48 or something close. I’m not sure what I’m meant to do after that? The 5 game modes certainly aren’t going to keep me interested. Particularly when two of them are just bits of attrition on there own.

 

FINAL THOUGHTS

Overall, Titanfall is a good game technically. It’s built very well, works well, looks good and the gameplay is nice but…there’s just no meat to it. I get the impression that they did all the tricky technical stuff. The engine, the graphics, the controls and software to build the models and simply ran out of time. There’s potential for so much more. The Titans could come with so many more customisation options, the weapons are limited and the attachments for them are next to non-existent. We’re in the future, there’s no limit on what can be done. Where are the killstreaks? It’s perfect for that. But no, all we get is a nice little voice in our ear telling us it’s an impressive streak. I’m sorry but I need a bit more than that to keep me entertained.

Final verdict is this. Technically very very nice but a very lacklustre game. The lack of content and the potential to make a completely engrossing game is a massive massive let down. Yes there’s DLC coming, but it’ll cost £20 and it’s only for 3 map packs. Doesn’t really add to anything. It’s not worth £50. Wait and pick it up for £20 when you need something for a weekend. Due to it’s complete lack of depth and the fact I’m done with it after just a few hours play time,  I’m going to give Titanfall 7.5 out of 10.

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SimCity Cities of Tomorrow – How is SimCity 12 months after release?

About this time last year, new life was given to the SimCity franchise. To say fans of SimCity weren’t chomping at the bit to get a glimpse of the new title would be an understatement. I was one of them. The marketing and preview material in the year leading up to release promised a whole new city building experience with detailed, awe inspiring graphics and a game that redefined the genre. For any of who you weren’t party of the nightmare of release day, take a moment to read my SimCity launch review. It was horrible, nothing worked from the game engine to the SimCity servers, which kind of was a big deal as the game was, and still yes, online only. All save games are in the cloud so no internet or server means no playing SimCity.

In this review, I want to kind of bundle two reviews into one. A second look at SimCity and how SimCity Cities of Tomorrow is, and how it has improved SimCity in general. If that sounds a bit confusing, bare with me, all will become apparent as you read on. I’ll do my best to keep it brief but there’s a lot to talk about.

 

Spark_2014-02-24_20-29-11How is SimCity 12 months on?

Better, but nowhere near perfect and still with massive issues. Between launch and December 2013, there have been 9 major title updates plus countless smaller updates. That’s right, the game is up to version 9 in 9 months! What’s worrying though is that there’s been nothing since December 2013 and there’s still major issues in my opinion. Although they have been addressed in a round about way, stay with me.

I’ve been dipping in and out of SimCity since the beginning and to be honest, I’ve noticed little difference between how the game played when it was first launched and how the game plays now. I’m not surprised as the biggest issue is at the very core ethos of the game and that is population. What’s a city builder all about if not about building population? Everything runs fine until you get a city that starts sprouting high density towers. There’s 3 huge huge huge issues. Traffic, intercity commuting, stupid fake population and space.

Traffic becomes an absolute nightmare which is how it was on day 1 and it cripples the city. Yes improvements have been made but they have by no means fixed anything. Sims don’t get to work or shops or services like hospitals so the cycle of never ending problems begin. Nothing moves, crime skyrockets, the city burns and everyone starts to die. It ruins your hard work.

So perhaps you build how you did in SimCity 4? One area of industry, one area of residential and commercial. Great idea apart from one problem. People will not commute. I’ve had cities with 10,000 unemployed next to a city needing 20,000 workers and yet, only a few hundred will commute. The whole point of SimCity was to bring multiplayer, co-operative city building into the world but if you can’t get people from the city next door to run your industrial super power city…multiplayer and regions are completely pointless. As they are now, you basically have to build self contained cities that share emergency services and utilities. Sharing workers is a big no no.

And this brings me on to the stupid fake populations. I can have a city of 200,000 and yet, for some unknown reason, I still only have 30,000 workers for 50,000 or 60,000 jobs. It ruins the game but I can see why they’ve done it. With the space available, you simply couldn’t sprawl a city to have a population of 200,000. There’s been mods to help with this but it’s no substitute for being able to build a region the same as you did in SimCity 4. I can not fathom why EA and Maxis won’t let us build across the region. Apparently it’s due to computing power required but that’s rubbish. The only power needed is to render graphics and that’s limited by resolution and screen size, i.e it doesn’t matter how big the map is, not much more power would be needed than is needed now. The algorithms really aren’t that complicated so I don’t believe that as an excuse.

Overall, SimCity as the original title, with no expansion, is still as rubbish as the day it was released. It’s impossible to fix the population mechanics of the game as they’re at the core but, allowing region wide building and sorting the commuting issues are very very doable and if they were, this game would be much much better. March 2013 I gave this 4/10 and March 2014, I’d give it maybe 5/10, yes bugs have been fixed but it’s still inherently broken. That is, until you buy SimCity Cities of Tomorrow.

 

Spark_2014-02-25_01-50-10

Simcity Cities of Tomorrow expansion and how it changes SimCity

When I saw the announcement for SimCity Cities of Tomorrow as an expansion priced at what a lot of games charge outright, I thought it was some kind of sick joke. I’m expected to spend another load of money to expand a game that’s broken? So I didn’t buy it. And I still wasn’t playing SimCity. That was till February just gone when I remembered I’d promised to revisit SimCity and put a quick call into EA who very kindly sent me a code for the Cities of Tomorrow expansion. I was curious to see how this expansion changed SimCity.

What I can report is that Cities of Tomorrow has made two significant changes. Firstly, Cities of Tomorrow  really does expand SimCity. It’s not just an asset pack that’s got more of the same stuff the original came with but in different colours. No, Cities of Tomorrow brings a plethora of features that pretty much sends you off into a new game entirely. I was confused when I first loaded up SimCity after the expansion installed, there was no reference to an update or a new menu…nothing. But, get into the game and tooltips start to inform me that there’s new buildings that do some really really cool stuff. I can have a whole new industrial fork of tech and buildings, research and development and of course, Mega Towers which are awesome. To get a city of the future, it’s not just a case of selecting future city. You need to evolve your city, futurise it!

Build OmegaCo factories and see your industrial sector start to convert to the future as they receive deliveries of Omega. Take it a step further and get Omega into shops and homes to futurise those districts of your city. Plop an Academy and welcome a whole host of new technologies and modules available to research. Everything from MagLev transport (seriously awesome as it can plop on roads but not add to the road’s congestion) to modules to increase power plant output. Mega Towers are the final major feature addition and they are perhaps not the prettiest of things, do provide some much needed heavyhitting control over RCI demand. With a quick click and no space used other than the tower’s footprint, you can add a couple of thousand units to whichever residential or commercial class you wish. It sort of solves the inability to ever balance RCI demand.

This is the biggest thing you feel with Cities of Tomorrow. A lot of the features feel and work like fixes for the core game, just packaged in a manner that covers up what it really is and makes it interesting. The OmegaCo factories have a module to construct service vehicles that aren’t effected by traffic, so perhaps now fire engines will actually get to fires? The Mega Towers can deal with the hugely imbalanced populations and the Academy can add things like the MagLev that moves people around over the cities roads without adding to the congestion or getting lost!

Visually, Cities of Tomorrow is stunning as I’d expect with the core game being equally beautiful. It does actually expand the game and increase its lifespan rather than just add content and assets which are, let’s face it, boring after the first time of use. On merit, Cities of Tomorrow is good and I’m happy to give it 7 out of 10, and that’s looking at it objectively without the fact it fixes things.

If you’ve got SimCity I’d suggest buying Cities of Tomorrow simply because it fixes so much that’s wrong with SimCity. It does improve the game. And, if you’ve read this far, you’ll see why I’ve written about what I have. SimCity is still very broken but, with Cities of Tomorrow, a lot is fixed. Now we just need EA and Maxis to sort out commuting and allow us to build across the region. Apparently version 10 update is out soon and it’s earmarked to include offline mode, not really a big deal but let’s hope there’s some map size fixes now the servers aren’t involved…something that’s apparently limited things as well.

Final thoughts, SimCity is still really broken, Cities of Tomorrow fixes some major issues but there’s still much to be done. Just hope EA and Maxis stay interested for another year. SimCity sold just over 1 million units to date so it may not make a huge amount of financial sense as I doubt 1 million units of expansion packs are being sold each time they’re released! I would say that if they got the game sorted, people will buy it and play it. They need to because at this rate, there’s not going to be another SimCity for a very very long time, the bean counters simply won’t allow it!

 

 

 

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