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War Thunder

I never appreciated how awesome clouds are. From the ground the shapes can make faces, giraffes or Star Destroyers having intimate relations with a Snail. They are fluffy and innocent, rolling along in a nonchalant way making you feel like there are no troubles in the world. Of course, when you have a BF 109 or P-47 screaming down from those clouds with all guns blazing, the clouds suddenly seem very very evil. War Thunder, the free-to-play multi-player game providing these clouds, gives you some of the most iconic planes of the early 20th Century to shoot, bomb and occasionally kamikaze your way to victory.

The first thing I noticed is that War Thunder is aesthetically pleasing in almost every way. The planes are accurately detailed and modeled, from every exhaust pipe to the shape of each cockpit. For example, in the American research tree it took me hours to figure out the visual difference between two types of PBY Catalina (there was a slight difference in the Decals). When you eventually take off, the game engine makes you realize how smooth-as-silk the graphics really are as the glint of the sun reflects off the side of your plane or the deceitful clouds creep around mountaintops. Despite your plane being all shiny, at some point you will get shot at by someone who resents you bombing their tanks or strafing their comrades; the result being your plane pockmarked with holes and, depending on where the enemy bullets and shells land, overall flight becoming more difficult as bits of flap and elevator are blown away. I said it is almost aesthetically perfect because at the time of writing some graphical bugs means the sky can occasionally disappear; and since this game takes place in the sky thats a helluva shock to the system.

Despite the vanishing sky the game can still go on with ground attacks on tanks, AA guns and pillboxes using a variety of bombs and rockets; if your plane can carry them that is. Each plane can be modified and upgraded in different ways, depending on what the type of plane is.  Most, if not all planes can have modifications applied that improve survivability or performance.  Survivability upgrades such as armoured plated glass will help keep bullets and canon shells from riddling the plane and pilot alike.  In a similar way a new compressor or engine will boost top speed and climb rate meaning you can get the better of your foes and finally use those pesky clouds to your advantage.  When visible and within a certain range, enemy players will show up on your screen. This means that when an enemy player is hiding behind a mountain or in a cloud, it creates the perfect environment for them to thunder down onto their next victim without being seen until its tail shatteringly too late. As well as physical modifications to your plane, the pilot, gunners and ground crew can be upgraded with experience, improving various skills such as G-force tolerance and increased health helping you to maneuver with such velocity that would make the Red Baron himself vomit into his lap.

War Thunder thrusts you right into the action without really giving you any time to plan ahead. Games can last a few minutes or up to the whole twenty-five, and it’s a good game to play if you have ten minutes to spare before going to the pub (other non-gaming activities are allowed). This is what I enjoy about War Thunder; it is so spontaneous and chaotic that all you can rely on is that your enemies never get a lucky shot and your allies will have your back. It has a unique blend of dog fighting and ground attacking which can make for interesting and varied game play. I do fear, however, that players will tire of the game quickly, due to its limited amount of maps and only two main game modes, meaning you will find yourself more- often than not- playing the same map with the same game mode 3 times in a row.

War Thunder will appeal to both casual and hardcore gamers due to its arcade style and, if you choose it, realistic wing-tearing, flap-destroying game play. Dog-fights are intense and look and sound so real you sometimes forget you are just sat in a chair covered in the remains of the only ready meal in your freezer.  The graphical detail of both the maps and planes is sleek and well polished despite the occasional end-of-the-world glitch now and again. War Thunder is indeed a slick, nimble fighter, armed with plenty of interesting planes and customizable bits and bobs to keep you occupied for those Red Baron moments.

 

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Minecraft

Graphics have come on in leaps and bounds in the last few years, with designers having the ability to make their games characters look almost lifelike. However one game, with its basic, blocky and pixelated graphics holds a place in my heart. Markus ‘Notch’ Persson’s brain child, Minecraft. Some may say it is outdated and childish, but I think it is unique, charming and almost iconic in the way it is instantly recognisable all around the world. A game where you can build, hunt, farm and craft everything you own from scratch, from necessities such as torches and weapons, to decorative items such as windows and bookcases. Fight ‘mobs’ such as Zombies, Skeletons and Poisonous Spiders to survive and collect XP to enhance your weapons and armour.

The main selling point of Minecraft is the creative license it allows you.  If you have met me, you will know I am about as creative as a brick wall, and last Mother’s Day I gave my mum a piece of cardboard with some Rose petals glued to it, but one day when playing Minecraft I decided to build a replica of the Taj Mahal. It actually looked incredible and I have never felt so much self-pride! Minecraft opens up this world of creativity that most people do not think they are capable of. Most people start small, building a hut or a basic mine, then slowly you start to get cocky and by the end of the week you are attempting to build a full scale model of the Eiffel Tower.

Minecraft can be played in several modes: creative, survival, adventure and hard-core. You can create whole different worlds in any of these modes, which you can play according to your mood. If you are in a bad mood you might want to play in survival mode as there is nothing more satisfying than slaying cave spiders when you are angry, and if you are feeling badass you can play in hard-core mode, where once you die, the game is over. The different modes allow for progression, and keeps the game fresh. On top of this Mojang are constantly releasing updates, bringing in new items for crafting, new enchantments, new mobs to fight and new animals to find. My personal favourite, in update 1.6, is the inclusion of horses, which is a big step up from having to ride a pig… There are also modifications and texture packs available, to allow the gamer to personalise their worlds to their own taste. However, Minecraft is not just a limitless game that goes on forever, you can chose to fight the ‘Mob Bosses’; giving gamers a target and something to aim towards, which some people prefer.

Minecraft, however, does have some annoying problems. Crafting in this game is vast, and it is almost impossible to remember the countless crafting recipes, and none are documented in the game itself. To find the recipes you have to go to forums such as ‘MinecraftWiki’, Mojang’s version of Wikipedia. I use this website so much it is bookmarked on my internet browser, as whenever I am playing Minecraft I am constantly having to click between the two. If you want to play Minecraft with some friends, you may also have some problems as the multi-player mode is so complicated it practically requires a PhD to get it set up, but if you do manage it, it is definitely worth it. If you are playing online you may find the game has noticeable lag, which can be frustrating when waiting for new landscapes to load. There are also some technical glitches that can occur occasionally which can result in random holes in the scenery.

Overall though, Minecraft will always be a favourite of mine, and according to the 12 million people that have currently downloaded it, I am not alone. If you love adventure, or have a creative flare that you just can’t satisfy in the real world, Minecraft is definitely for you.

 

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