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Alien: Isolation – Aliens In My Head

Alien, the movie, is a franchise split into two distinct camps of admiration: it’s either Ridley Scott’s 1979 classic scare-fest or James Cameron’s 1986 shoot-‘em-up.  While many claim to love both with equal vigour, secretly they harbour affection for one over the other.  I, for one, am a firm favourite of the original as I saw it on the big screen when it was first released – though I was distinctly underage for its “18” certificate – and remember my thrilling mind silently yelling at Captain Dallas “Don’t go in the air ducts; it’s in the air ducts for Christ’s sake – why would you go in the air ducts!!”, as I cringed and watched through my fingers.  Of course, “Aliens”, the sequel, had its share of hoots – the previously gung-ho Private Hudson surveying the wreck of the drop ship and exclaiming “we’re in some pretty shit now!” –  but it lacked the sheer claustrophobic horror of a bug-hunt on the good ship Nostromo.

alien_isolationWhen it came to creating computer games for the franchise, the First Person Shooter aspect of Aliens was a clear winner and loud and brash was seen as the way to go.  I have to confess that I played the original PC version of Alien versus Predator and, in a darkened room with surround-sound speakers, nearly crapped myself when the marine’s motion tracker went off and I knew it was there, crouching in the dark and ready to tear my head off.  Unfortunately the game franchise, mirrored the film series, and went downhill from there with AvP for the consoles getting only a luke-warm reception and the last offering- AvP: Colonial Marines – being slated by the critics for its poor AI, unbalanced gameplay and blocky graphics.  It looked and felt like a game from 2001 rather than 2013.   Much of that was attributed to mismanagement by Gearbox – the game’s developer – but that didn’t excuse what was a lacklustre entry into the FPS field.

It looked like the franchise had all but run out of steam and in the words of Alien’s Pt. Hudson “Game over man….”, but the aftermath of the eschewing train wreck of a strategy actually forced a reforming of critical parts to make a whole new wonder.  Sega, the owners of the Alien license, decided to go back to the franchise roots and turn Vietnam-style destruction into pure horror.  Alien: Isolation, due out at the end of 2014, takes back the mantle from the Cameron camp and hands it to the true horror enthusiasts.

The title has a completely different background to its predecessors with Amanda Ripley – daughter of Ellen Ripley from the films – searching a space station for clues to her mother’s disappearance and encountering one of the xenomorphs as it tears its way through the stations inhabitants.    Ripley junior will spend the game playing cat and mouse with the predatory beast as she strives to unravel the clues and keep one step ahead of it.  She will have a motion tracker but scant weapons and little that can make an impression on her protagonist.   In addition, superior AI will give the alien enough intelligence to be able to plan its own attacks and make random appearances as it sees fit.  It will also have the gumption to withdraw if it thinks the odds are too heavily stacked against it, leading to dramatic and unique gameplay.

This game is going to need changed tactics; there’s no more punching through with an M41 Pulse Rifle or an M56 Smartgun – you don’t have them so it’s not an option.  All you have are small arms, such as pistols, and your wits.  It’s not about hosing down hordes of aliens, but rather about keeping away from just one of them as it hunts your ass down in claustrophobic corridors.   The recently released trailer shows scenes reminiscent of the cramped confines of the Nostromo, but with added fleeting glimpses of the terrible something stalking you.   You know that you’re going to have to confront it at some point, but you’re likely to be getting a few grey hairs before then. The search for clues is hampered by the need to move quietly and cover your arse lest it get a nasty set of teeth attached to it.  All of these aspects join together to create an atmospheric and tense situation that, once you’re into it, you’ll have trouble escaping.

We’re hoping that Alien: Isolation is going to reboot the franchise and send it spinning off in a whole new directing, and not one we’re sure that we are brave enough to go down.    We’ll update you as we get more information.

 

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Call of Duty Ghosts multiplayer glitch on “Squads” Mode Reported by Users on CoD Community Forum

The Call of Duty Ghosts Community Forum, over the past forty eight hours, has been abuzz with rumours and murmurings of a ‘squads’ mode Call of Duty Ghosts multiplayer glitch. According to several users, glitches – on several platforms including Wii U, Windows PC and Sony PlayStation 4 – have found that their ‘squad’ members would simply disappear. The initial cry came from “VoldermortGamer88”, on the Call of Duty community forum. The irate gamer claimed “my guys are disappearing in front of my eyes” and “I try to switch and plan ahead and my buddies are just plain not even there.”

Call-of-Duty-Ghosts-Squads-Screen - Ultimate Gaming ParadiseFor those who don’t know about ‘Squads’ mode, it’s a new way to experience online multiplayer gaming. The mode lets you play alongside or against teams of AI controlled soldiers. A squad consists of a ‘handful’ of AI controlled squaddies who work together to assault or defend against waves of bot-driven teams. The approach is to help widen the appeal of the multiplayer genre by allowing a collaborative individual challenge to the old single player mode approach.

Call of Duty: Ghosts, for those who are of a hermetical disposition, has been hit hard by patch updates. Launch day saw a huge patch download – even before you where allowed to play the game. Thereafter, there have been variances from 1.06 to 1.09 depending on your platform. There have been a lot of column inches on paper and in cyberspace about the development woes and the lack of BETA testing for such a headline product. That said, Activision have said a new patch will be available by the end of December.

That said, the new Call of Duty Ghosts multiplayer glitch has been in a mode that other patches haven’t really addressed. Now the game is nearly a month old, people will be moving in to explore more and more features within the game. Extinction is another game mode that has a few rumours of errors and glitches in gameplay. Therefore, just as Christmas is around the corner you can bet your ass that more gamers will vent some serious spleen over the festive period as they explore more and more content from within the buggy Call of Duty Ghosts title.

Call of Duty Ghosts customise your soldier - Ultimate Gaming ParadiseUGP earlier this week published an article on patch updates and the future threat of mass patch updates on the reputation of these next-gen platforms. This new rumour, which has yet to be highlighted by any of the Call of Duty developers, is another sign that the game was rushed. The development and subsequent release has found errors in every single variant of gameplay from “Extinction” to “Campaign” via multiplayer modes. This is just another embarrassment for Activision and co; they need to get on top of these issues. The next-gen consoles first few months are the most important for their continued development. The rumours and issues with the Wii U made developers stay away. Sony and Microsoft need to make developers publish titles that have higher standards of quality control. Only by adhering to strict standards can gamers start to expect excellent game content. Let’s hope that the developers get all this Call of Duty Ghosts multiplayer glitch sorted quickly and the game is soon working. We don’t end up with the eternal patching that we had with Call of Duty: Black Ops 2 or a game that’s taken 6 months of patches just to work like SimCity.

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Playstation 4 Call of Duty patch on its way – again!

Are your getting your crazy kill streaks in? Are you loving your pooch Riley and have you, like thousands of others, only just realised that you could change the gender on your Call of Duty: Ghosts player avatar? The launch of the PlayStation 4 in the UK ,on the 29th of November, introduced gamers to the next level of gaming and also gave a little more gravitas to the Call of Duty experience. That said, gamers have been unhappy!

On launch day, Activision issued an emergency patch update. Then on Tuesday 10th of December, gamers in the EMEA (Europe, Middle East and Africa) area awoke to find another patch download request (or demand depending on how you view patch updates?). There have so far, been three patches for Call of Duty: Ghosts for PlayStation 4, whereas only one patch has been issued so-far for Xbox One.

What’s going on with the PlayStation 4 version then? Well, the original ‘day-one: 1.05’ patch turned those lucky enough to be playing their PS4s on full high def TV’s into a full 1080i CoD gaming experience. That’s not bad! However, there were map and mode ‘bugs’ and ‘glitches’ – most commonly in the online multiplayer map ‘Stonehaven Castle‘. That said, the level of ‘fixes’ does raise an eyebrow in terms of the length and breadth of the entire game-play development process.

Activision and Infinity Ward’s launch day 1.05 patch included fixes for:

  • Lobby Migration crashing when in the ‘Create a Class’ screen
  • Not showing right camo/attachment in private match lobby games
  • Squad store fixes
  • Spectator in freecam mode when teams switch fix
  • Map specifics (pretty much all the maps on the game!)

These patches illustrate something many are now starting to ask. Did Infinity Ward and Activision et al, create the game for PS3 or PS4 consoles? The latest patch, 1.07 in EMEA area, continues the above with further fixes for map modes, dual screen fixes and UI errors. The entirety of patches now amounts to 387mb of, in all intents and purposes, error correction. If the game would have been more thoroughly tested and more diligently coded in the beginning there wouldn’t be any errors to correct. All games need patches, but it’s the level and the scope of the patch that makes it all seem questionable?Ghosts man

How did they miss these ‘glitches’ during development. Call of Duty is a $ 1 Billion dollar franchise – they have a team the size of a film production crew. They have marketing contracts and supply contracts with some of the biggest conglomerates on Earth. Their spending is equal to the entire government spend of the ten poorest countries on Earth. Why couldn’t they BETA test the game more thoroughly? When I contacted Infinity Ward, I was told “our developers are very diligent when planning and executing their programming. We also take our testing [very] seriously.” How serious is ‘serious’ if they need nearly half a gig in updates within the first month?!

The multitude of gamers seem to be enjoying their experiences of Call of Duty: Ghosts on PlayStation 4. However, it shouldn’t be a drip, drip, drip effect when it comes to excellent game-play. You should insert the disc and just play – it’s shoddy and pure ill-preparedness on the developer’s side releasing a title that is, in all intents and purposes, flawed. We pay a lot for these games, £55 for Call of Duty on PS4 and Xbox One for example. As such, we should demand more in terms of not only game play quality but also development quality. Well, we can only hope?

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Battlefield 4: The Pain Continues

With the truth said to be the first casualty of war, it’s difficult to know what is really going on with the problems plaguing EA’s flagship game, Battlefield 4.  With Swedish developer DICE working flat out to patch the holes in the game, EA are facing the headache of falling stock on the Dow Jones as the business community, along with gamers, start to lose confidence.

Both developer DICE and publisher EA have confirmed the roll out of a patch solving the “One Shot Kill” glitch – a bug which massively amplifies the damage a player receives, making just a single shot fatal –  for the PC version of the game, but are still working on similar patches for the PS4 and Xbox One.  EA state that they hope the PS4 patch will be available this week and the Xbox version soon after that, but is the corporate damage already fatal?  Is the franchise quickly bleeding to death?

Battlefield 4The general feeling is that DICE need to work round the clock to resolve their problems or risk destroying the franchise.

The Battlefield 4 launch was marred with a raft of issues from graphical glitches in the form of random red dots to connection concerns on all platforms but DICE were soon on the case.  They issued patches though it didn’t seem to make things much better, and the problems woefully continued when the China Rising add-on was launched with yet more glitches.  The connection problems remain one of the biggest issues because Battlefield 4 is just made for the multiplayer experience, and if that is denied to the player, EA are doing themselves a huge injustice.   While the single player missions are good and engaging, it’s only really training for the huge online world that really shows off the game’s muscle.  With buildings crumbling in gorgeously crafted vistas, it’s easy to end up getting sniped as you stand and gaze open-mouthed at the glorious scenery around you.  Games this good shouldn’t be bought down by something as simple as poor programming.

EA and DICE have promised not to work on any new projects until the issues with Battlefield 4 have been resolved.  In an online statement, EA said:

“First, we want to thank the fans out there that are playing and supporting us with Battlefield 4. We know we still have a ways to go with fixing the game – it is absolutely our #1 priority. The team at DICE is working non-stop to update the game. Since Battlefield 4 China Rising expansion pack was already in the final stages of development by the time issues began with Battlefield 4, we decided to fulfill our promise to deliver it this week, but we’re not moving onto future projects or expansions until we sort out all the issues with Battlefield 4. We know many of our players are frustrated, and we feel your pain. We will not stop until this is right”

So now the race is on to see how quickly they can come up with a solution, but in the meantime, the fan base is in danger of jumping ship to CoD, which would be a shame.

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“Call of Duty Players Aren’t Gamers”, say Infinity Ward

I’m sure the title caught your attention just as much as it caught mine. Depending on the social group you’re a part of in the gaming sphere, your definition of a gamer can be drastically different than the person standing beside you. If you run a Google search right now for “what is a gamer,” you’ll find a definition right at the top that says that a gamer is someone who plays games. We can all agree on this undeniable fact.

Let’s take that a step further, though. Infinity Ward’s executive producer Mark Rubin held an interview with OXM on October 17th where he said the following:

“It’s kind of a weird, ironic thing to say. They aren’t hardcore gamers, or even gamers, but they play Call of Duty every night. And those guys are going to continue to play regardless of platform. So I think not only will we continue to engage with that existing player base, but we’ll take next gen and see how far we can go with it.”

Okay, that’s strange. A gamer is someone who plays games, how on Earth then could someone who plays Call of Duty not be a gamer? There are different forms of gaming, and I’m pretty sure Mark was insinuating that the people who play Infinity Ward’s flagship game are casual gamers. That makes a little more sense when you consider the foundation of casual gaming in current modern understanding is that the game itself is much like the “plug-and-play” controllers we used to toy around with on old PC games. You can purchase the game and have it figured out within the next thirty minutes, no questions asked.

Personally, I don’t think casual gaming should mean that. Essentially every game that is currently being played by gamers; casual gamers, ”true” gamers, and hardcore gamers (did I miss any?) can be deciphered within the hour, no matter the complexity. There isn’t much entertainment value to be found in something that takes serious dedication into figuring out unless the game uses this as a beneficial game feature (such as MMOs like Wurm Online or puzzle-based games). The fan bases of games like EA Sport’s NHL would nearly vanish overnight if accurately playing the Dynasty mode would require intensive study over the course of weeks.

Mark Rubin is right about one thing; Call of Duty is a massive franchise with a huge following. The series is now ten years old and has no end in sight as the game remains popular (regardless of the hate it gets on internet forums). I don’t mean to make an assumption, but I’d say that at least 80% of the youth in western countries play Call of Duty on a console or a PC, and at least 40% of those play it for more than 6 hours a week.

Are there some people who play only Call of Duty? Sure, of course. Sometimes people just don’t have enough time to invest their interest in more than one video game or they just really like Call of Duty for one reason or another. Does this mean that the individual is a casual gamer or somehow not a hardcore gamer simply because it’s a simple-to-play game and their interests don’t extend past that? Colour me naïve, but I’m going to say no. Hear me out on this one.

If there is an individual who plays World of Warcraft a lot, are they a casual gamer? If there is an individual who plays EVE Online a lot, are they a casual gamer? There are hundreds of people who play these two video games exclusively and dedicate many of their hours every week to it, but you’ll be hard-pressed to find someone who calls them casual or states that they can’t be considered gamers simply because their interests lie solely in a single video game.

So why is that the case for Call of Duty gamers? I’m not too sure, but I can say without a shadow of doubt that calling your fan base exclusively casual or not gamers at all is probably not going to earn you a boost in the franchise-player relationship.

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First look: Battlefield 4 (Xbox One)

UGP had a play of the eagerly anticipated Battlefield 4 at Eurogamer Expo, and as expected it looks blooming brilliant. Needless to say the queue was monumental, but once we got our hands on a controller, it was very much worth the wait.

I played “Obliteration” mode in a large multi-player session. The objective was simple, retrieve a bomb and blow the opposition up. The game looks incredible – from blades of grass to the barrel of your gun, the detail is epic. I had a fairly poor game (2 kills 4 deaths), probably due to the fact that amidst the frenetic battle, I was peering around at the environment with my jaw tickling the floor.

What struck me in the limited time we were given was the audio. I can pay Battlefield 4 no bigger compliment than to say I genuinely felt like I was in a warzone. Given the visual pyrotechnics, it is actually quite frightening when you see and hear a bloody great tank heading your way. It really is spine tingling stuff.  Battlefield 4 multi-player is also extremely tricky, but I love the fact that you really have to fight for supremacy, much as you would in a real world battle.

I enjoyed my sneak peek so much that I genuinely considered stealing the console and game, and making a break for the border. The weeks leading up to Battlefield 4’s release promise to go as slowly as the queue in which we waited. I’m looking forward to this game more than Christmas, and I love Christmas.

 

Battlefield 4 will be available to pre-order from the UGP store soon!

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Call of Duty: Ghosts Multiplayer Reveal

 The hotly anticipated multiplayer reveal for Call Of Duty: Ghosts took place last night, and with it comes a tidal wave of drool from fans of the franchise. The danger was always to over-promise and under-deliver, but when the claims are backed up with hard video evidence, they become indisputable, and pretty bloody exciting. It is hard to know where to begin with so many new features; we’ll start with the some of the new Game Modes.

‘Cranked’ is the game that will get a lot of tongues wagging. Team Deathmatch on steroids would seem an apt description, as you will now play against the clock after recording your first kill. If you dispatch an enemy within the time limit, the clock resets. If not, you go boom! It’s simple, intense and bad news for ‘campers’. We like it!

One particularly exciting feature across all game modes is the in game field orders. Players will pick up a briefcase containing field orders, such as ‘kill three enemies whilst prone’. If you die before completing the task, you will drop the briefcase and another player will have the chance to unlock an in game care package by carrying out the order. This will add a whole new tactical dimension within ‘cranked’ and other modes, giving you the choice whether to be tactical in your strategy, or continue racking up kills as normal.

 ‘Search and Rescue’ inherits traits from the traditional ‘kill confirmed’ and ‘search and destroy’ game modes, that we all know and love. Players will be able to experience one of the most notable new features in COD: Ghosts; the accompaniment of your attack dog. As in ‘kill confirmed’ the impetus is on collecting tags. In ‘search and rescue’, collecting downed enemy tags eliminates them from the round while collecting friendly tags restores your teammates to the game.

The way we build our loadouts has undergone radical changes. Gone are the days of classes, and we welcome the dawn of a new era; create a soldier. In place of classes are 10 unique soldiers, all of which are assigned to your very own ‘squad’.  Once you have built your squad, you can pit it against enemy squads in multiple ways. You can use your squad online in squad v squad matches. Even if you are offline, your squad will continue to do battle with other online players, earning you points towards unlocks. With over 20,000 variations available to you when creating a soldier, you’ll be left forever fiddling and tweaking, trying to create your ultimate instrument of warfare. And, lest we forget, just for you girl gamers there is another first; female soldiers.  Ghosts will use a similar system to the Pic 10 that was so well received in Black Ops II. There are over 30 more weapons than in previous titles, bringing the total count up to near 70. Unlocking weapons is no longer level based, and is now available at XP cost. An especially eye-catching addition is the Marksman Rifle, which will be welcomed by those who like to kill with finesse. The dual-render scope will allow players to hone in on their targets whilst retaining their peripheral vision around the scope.

Kill-streaks have been given a revamp, with over 20 new deadly additions. ‘Juggernaut Maniac’ sounds ridiculously deadly, as does the ability to rain death from a helicopter using a mini-gun. The return of support, assault and specialist strike packages is welcomed, and will give greater variants to players’ kill streaks armory.

Ghosts will change the way we use our surroundings when playing the game. Player triggered events will have a significant impact on how we use the environment to our advantage. The destructible environment can be used to create cover and vantage points. Kill-streaks can decimate the landscape, changing the face of the map for the rest of the game. A hidden care package somewhere on the map will add an extra incentive, but it remains to be seen whether that will be a nuisance having players simply learning the locations and solely focusing on attaining the care package. Your soldiers’ interaction with the environment is vastly improved with the introduction of contextual leaning, mantling and knee sliding. Players will be able to take effective cover and lean around obstacles to spot the enemy, without leaving yourself exposed to enemy fire. The new ‘mantling’ technique will allow your soldier to hurdle obstacles in a far more fluid motion, enabling you to keep moving quickly around the map. Soldiers will use knee sliding for snap changes of direction and surprising enemies by suddenly rounding corners.

For those of you who enjoy fighting within a clan, Ghosts will offer plenty of new ways to enjoy the game. The introduction of Clan versus Clan playlists allows players to exclusively battle other clans online, and gamers with both current and next gen consoles can be in the same clan. Without doubt the most eagerly anticipated aspect of clan gaming is Clan Wars. Every two weeks, a new war will start, in which clans will battle to take control of territories. Once a clan has gained control of a territory, they will then defend this against all the other clans, making it nigh on impossible for one clan to dominate.

The new audio experience promises to give greater realism to gamers. The addition of ‘locational battle chatter’ means players can be alerted to an enemy position allowing them time to plot their next move. This will surely lead to a more immersive gaming experience in all the game modes, actually using teammates to help you overcome an enemy.

Call Of Duty: Ghosts will offer a never before seen level of features outside of the game itself. You can now take the game with you wherever you go, using the new Call Of Duty: Ghosts app. With the app, you can access your stats at anytime, and even when playing the game, you can choose your load-out for the next map. Clans can communicate with each other outside of the game using the clan chat device on mobiles or tablets, meaning Call of Duty needn’t be far from your mind.

There is good news for those of you who won’t be purchasing the next gen consoles upon release. All achievements unlocked on the current gen consoles can be carried over to the next gen game, as and when you buy it. All the DLC (down-loadable content) will be attached to your account not your console, meaning if you do upgrade to the next gen console, all of your content will be there waiting for you.

Overall, Call Of Duty: Ghosts multiplayer looks incredibly promising for fans of the franchise, and if Ghosts can deliver on its considerable claims, then it may well head into the new era of gaming retaining its status as the benchmark for first person shooters. All will be revealed soon. We can hardly wait.

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