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Lara Croft Tomb Raider Definitive Edition

TOMB RAIDER DEFINITIVE EDITION: A REVIEW

For those who have missed Lara Croft and her rather unique physiology – do not despair our Tomb Raiding heroine is back – and back with some serious attitude and some, well, serious balls! Lara Croft has returned after a long sabbatical. In late 2013, Square Enix released a ‘re-booted’ Tomb Raider title. It was met with lukewarm reception on the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360. However, the release of the ‘next-gen consoles’ a few months later caused Square Enix a little headache; should they wait, or should they port? They ported and ‘refined’, which is probably the most apt description for Tomb Raider: Definitive Edition.

UGP believes games have three unique elements that, when combined, makes a great game – even greater! Therefore, using the UGP Ozone review system, which means we focus on three elements that surround the perspective (the storyline), the difficulty (how challenging the gameplay was) and how indulgent the game is – we decided to put Tomb Raider Definitive Edition to the ultimate gaming paradise test!

 

THE STORYLINE?

tomb-raider-definitive-edition-gas_tunnel2It all starts on a boat sailing to Japan – a young and fresh faced Lara Croft is with friends on a somewhat ‘gap year-esqe’ archaeological trip. This being a Lara Croft title, lets just say the boat doesn’t quite arrive at it’s intended destination. In fact, it sinks. Poor Lara, washes up on a remote island with her buddies. The island is inhabited, they soon discover, by tribal psychos and hordes of killer animals. The premise of the game, without giving too much away, is an introduction to Lara, before fame and fortune, and how she became the skilled tomb raider she later becomes. This is a brutal game – Lara starts the game in agony and it continues to get worse for the girl. Her survival skills – and yours as the game player – are tested to extreme limits. This is a dark period in Lara’s life and as such, the storyline is a continuous survival centric affair. The peaks, the rapids, the wolves and upgrading equipment all make this ‘survival’ theme so pressing and yet so fulfilling. For fans of Lara Croft, this storyline will not disappoint.

 

HOW CHALLENGING IS THE GAMEPLAY?

The platformer format has for several years now been influenced – for better or worse – by the experiences of Assassins Creed. This ‘freestyle’ approach, many argue, has helped to ‘speed up’ the gameplay and thus, as some point out, has made old fashioned gaming functionality – like combo buttons – obsolete. For those who want good ol’ fashioned platformer fun with ample challenges, you can do no wrong with Tomb Raider Definitive Edition. The game is really difficult, the lack of freestyle play attributes adds to this challenge. Many critics claim this is a reason behind the game’s so-called failure. However, I disagree; the game is difficult, but it’s a difficulty based on a more ‘hands-on’ approach. You need to hit the X button, for example, to grab ledges or pull on your axe to climb terrain. You need to cycle through your armory, you don’t automatically switch  to your gun when your bow runs empty. It’s refreshing yet deeply challenging – and I’d even say this is what gives it its ‘edge’. You see, this game is not like Mirrors Edge or Assassins Creed where our protagonist can accomplish great feats without any kind of issue or even breaking a sweat. Lara ‘feels’ everything and since you are in a perpetual ‘survivalist’ mode. It’s not meant to be ‘easy going’. This difficulty, whilst it can annoy the hell out you as you re-do some part three or four times before getting it right, this is what makes the game so epic. You feel accomplishment when you get there – and when you call the coast guard or other secrets you’ll understand and feel the accomplishment of getting Lara out of there in a somewhat safe and sound manner.

 

Tomb-Raider-Wallpapers-Game-Definition-EditionHOW INDULGENT IS THE GAME?

Lara Croft is a legacy title that a generation of gamers can engage with. From the 90s PC or PlayStation One to the PS4s or Xbox Ones, Tomb Raider has a large following and it has a long and proud history of gaming excellence. This plays a part in the fun factor of this title. You see, it’s bloody hard and in some parts painful to complete. However, as I have already said, this is all part of the charm. This is why Tomb Raider is fun. The Definitive Edition really brings the Lara Croft ‘fun-ness’ to the forefront. It allows a whole new generation to experience Lara – older gamers might feel though that they’re next generation gamer counterparts might be loosing out, if one considers for a moment Lara’s somewhat PC-inspired reduction in the boob department. That aside, the game is an indulgent title that echoes the successes of the past whilst rebooting a franchise that deserves a proud future.

 

OUR VERDICT

A lot has been ‘reported’ about benchmark differences. There might be millisecond differences between HD gameplay on PS4 and Xbox One but I couldn’t for the life of me really see a difference. It should also be noted that it is nice not to see a title with horrendous, Ryse-esqe, in-game purchases. It’s a solid platform title and one that brings together a great storyline with challenging aspects that really puts gamers – especially in the post-Assassins Creed environment – on the back foot by really challenging their gameplay. Finally, this title is fun; you might not be thinking that as your racing down a rapid or climbing a huge radio tower, but it is – it’s enthralling and full of suspense that really gets you on edge of your seat and this pushes you on. Its a great title only let down by on-screen instruction lags when in training camps. As such Ultimate Gaming Paradise can give Tomb Raider a solid: 9 out of 10.

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The Nintendo Wii U Review: A great example of ‘old fashioned gaming fun’

A lot of ink in recent weeks seems to point towards the decline and destruction of Nintendo. Those headlines aside, the Nintendo Wii U is a next-gen console and we wanted to check out how epic it ranked along side other alternative next-gen consoles.

 

THE BASICS

THE COST

Out of the flurry of the so-called ‘next-gen’ consoles, the Wii U is ridiculously cheap! To put how cheap it into perspective, the Xbox One costs around £409 to £429 (depending on which reseller you go to) and similarly the PS4 costs between £ 325 to £ 349 (again depending on which reseller you opt for), now the Nintendo Wii U Premium with a choice of game (The Legend of Zelda Wind Waker, Super Mario Bros or Wii Party) sets you back an easy £ 239. That’s over a hundred plus pounds cash savings. Now there’s no sensor (because it’s part of the package) and no membership (like PlayStation Plus or Xbox Live). So, £239 gets you a next gen console, a game and everything you need to set up – that’s an epic price tag!

 

THE DESIGN

The Wii U, unlike the other consoles, has decided to opt for sleek minimalism. It is a smaller construct than the other two devices. It has curved exterior – with two colours: black or white. The exterior has a gloss design aspect that gives the console box a little gravitas. However, in the design stakes it is not a PS4. That said, it could be worse. It could look like the Xbox One. It’s sleek curved exterior hides the air vent grills on the side which is a rather nice design touch. The ease-of-use is similarly aped on the rear of the device. There are only four input sockets (one for the power cable, one for the sensor, one for the HDMI and another for AV multi-output socket. There are no LAN sockets. However, it does support Wifi (892.11b/g/n).

 

THE CONTROLLER

Let me introduce you to the innovative and genius GamePad. It is a big boy – at over 11 inches wide and nearly six inches tall. You would think such a device was a laptop-esqe device. However, it somewhat apes an iPad or tablet. It holds incredibly well in your palm – this is partially due to the contoured structure of the rear of the device. The contours ape the open hand ridges that your hand creates when it grips the controller. This means the physical playability is improved as you ‘feel’ connected to the controller. The central part of the controller is taken over by a pixel-driven display. It is a very GameBoy-esqe display. However, its usable and quite intuitive. You can use a stylus (provided) or your fingers both of which are easy to use.The only down side was battery drainage – there are no funky Micro USB charging facilities. This means good old fashioned batteries are requires. This can be problematic as after 2 1/2 hours of game play the controller died – this is a regular occurrence!

wii-u-nsmbu

 

THE SET-UP

It comes in a nice matte box. Out of the box its sleek minimalist console is a doodle to setup. You connect sensor bar (place the senor bar above or below your TV), you connect power bar and then place batteries in console controller and then, attach HDMI to console and then into the TV. You are now up and running. This is the difference between the Nintendo Wii U and the PlayStation 4/Xbox One experience. You can start gaming pretty much ASAP. No huge 1Gb+ ‘patch’ or ‘system updates’ will be awaiting you. If you want easy and pain-free gaming experience, the setup and get-go of the Nintendo Wii U is impressive – especially in the context of the next gen rivals. Once you have connected to your WiFi, which is easy, and created your Mii character – you are good to go!

 

LIVING WITH THE NINTENDO WII U

SONY DSCOnce it’s setup you wont notice it -unlike other next gen consoles. It’s a tiny box and the sensor can nestle behind the bases of many of the larger LED TVs. Therefore, living with the design is easy. The other side of the experience is different. The UI is easy – it is designed for a lower age group than other next-gen platforms. We saw it operated by children as young as four, with ease. This means, unlike other consoles, it can be played by the whole family with ridiculous ease. However, the UI and more specifically the menus do have one issue. They are ‘laggy’, there is a constant lag between choices and actions. This can be an issue when all you want to do is play a game or watch a movie on NetFlix.

 

WHAT IT’S ALL ABOUT: GAMING

The crux of any video games console is gaming – as much as we like gimmick and entertainment factors, the gaming attributes are a core reason for purchasing the console in the first place. Therefore, the Nintendo Wii U is awesome – it’s not a powerhouse but it’s fun. You can play games as simple as booting up and clicking go. However, what makes the Wii U so great is the pure fun aspect of gameplay. Nintendo has a heritage that Sony and Microsoft have yet to completely achieve. For over 25 years, Nintendo characters from Donkey Kong to Super Mario have set the tone for gameplay. For all the rhetoric of Call of Duty or KillZone, playing Super Mario Bros or Zelda is just as entertaining and thrilling. Yes, the gameplay rendering could be better, more RAM and a more powerful graphics processor could have helped. They could have a LAN port to help make internet more stable and they could have made the controller a little smaller. But you get to play Mario and Donkey Kong! You get to be the controller in a way we have yet to see or experience on the Xbox One or PlayStation 4.

 

THE EXTRAS

WEB BROWSING

Just like the PS4/XO, you have access to a flash-enabled browser. It’s a lot more functional than the PlayStation 4’s horrid browser however, it doesn’t give you the same technical prowess of IE on Xbox One. It is a nice middle group between a horrid experience and a rigid IE experience – this is due to the presence of Mozilla code at it’s core. But as I have always pointed out – in an age of smartphones, PCs and tablets who the hell really uses their consoles to search the bloody internet?

 

NO APP HERE

Unlike the Microsoft and Sony alternatives, Nintendo has yet to release a Miiverse inspired app for iPhone or Android. There are rumours of an app in 2014 (however many said an app was imminent in 2012 and then again in 2013). However, it’s a gimmick and the presence of the GamePad really makes the app redundant. The Xbox One SmartGlass and Sony app makes the case for another ‘visual entity’. However, you don’t have a four inch screen on your Xbox One or PS4 controller do you?

 

THE GAMES – WHAT TO BUY?

Wii-U_Golf

A lot was made from Electronic Arts’ downsizing in 2013 of it’s Wii U offering. Many developers have literally avoided the platform. However, whilst sales figures have been cut – they have not removed the console from any single global territory. Units are shifting. Therefore, you need to consider the games you can buy. They are cheaper, which is a big plus, as the £50 price tag on Xbox One or PS4 is dwarfed by the price reduction of the Wii U titles – starting from £ 14.99 and upwards to £39.97. There is a huge selection. If you want Disney Infinity or Skylanders, its there. If you want Just Dance or Wii Sports Connection, it’s there. If you want Zelda, Mario, Donkey Kong or even Sonic – it’s all available. You want Call of Duty Ghosts or FIFA 14, guess what, it’s also available. So don’t be put off by online rumors of ‘lacking solid titles’. There is a whole plethora of single player to family friendly titles available – at a fraction of the Xbox One or PlayStation 4 price range.

 

THE VERDICT

Unlike the PlayStation 4 or Xbox One experience – it feels more fluid (albeit with a dodgy UI). The Wii is a family-friendly console – it’s designed for fun and not long periods of solo multiplayer carnage. So if playing Mario Kart with your niece and Nan is not your cup of tea then opt for another console. However, if you want to experience an open and friendly gaming console that can bring families together, you can do no worse than buying the sweetly priced and well title-stocked Nintendo Wii U. The main drawback of the Wii U is technical – it does not have the equal power of the Xbox One and PlayStation 4 and this is clearly visible.

Our verdict, we gave the Nintendo Wii U a solid 7 out of 10

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The Xbox One Review

November 22nd 2013 was a long time ago, but we have been biding our time in regards to reviewing the Xbox One. Ultimate Gaming Paradise believes a great review takes a lot of time, patience and resourcefulness to be able to explore the disparities and nuances that exist within the confines of a brand new gaming eco-system. Therefore, we have spent a great deal of time finding out if the Xbox One really makes the grade?

The current media reportage surrounding the consoles seems to indicate that a “war” is in full swing. However, this review will give the full verdict on the gameplay, the experience and the playability of the console. In full, it will tell you whether you need it or need to avoid it?

 

THE BASICS

THE COST

Xbox OneLet’s not skirt around the issue here. The Xbox One is a hundred pounds more expensive than the PlayStation 4. It should be noted that for that extra hundred quid, you do get the Kinect sensor kit. Hardcore gamers seem to have thrown their teddies out the pram at this one! However, what’s done is done. The Kinect is part of the entire eco-system, so there’s no point whining about it. So the US-designed console is £80 more expensive than its Japanese rival and you also need to remember that Microsoft has its unpopular gold-walled network – which requires a Microsoft Xbox Live Gold membership (which costs £ 39.99). So, your inward cost is £ 480 or there about.

 

THE DESIGN

The PlayStation 4 with its angular minimalism and streaks sets the bar for great design, very, very high. The Xbox One, on the other hand, has an abysmal design approach. It is a boxy affair. It has no pizzazz, no flair and no wow-factor whatsoever. The design harks back to that of a 1980s VCR cassette recorder. It has a dual design aspect that sees one proportion in matte and the other in gloss black. This is aped in the Kinect which similarly mirrors the console. There are smaller, more nuanced, touches. For example, the slot loading mechanism is nestled within the chrome effect that hides the slot loading drive. It is a nice touch and one that shows some innovative design inspiration. However, these touches are few and far between. The rear of the machine is a boring affair, unlike the PlayStation 4, with no design influence. But this practicality makes the setup a breeze. The rear end has slots for HDMI in and HDMI out (so you can play video games on High Def and have your TV provider’s box, such as Sky or Virgin, connected and playing through the console. There is also a proprietary socket for the Xbox One Kinect, additional USB and of course, a power socket.

 

THE CONTROLLER

“If it isn’t broken, don’t fix it.” This seems to have been the mantra Microsoft followed when considering the design and functionality of the controller. However, they did play around with smaller elements. These include removing the outwards bulge of the battery pack (on the Xbox 360) in favour of horizontal batteries within the structure of the controller. This has caused many industry voices to ask why Microsoft didn’t opt for a battery-free user existence. The PS4 has done it, why do you need batteries. However, I believe the batteries are a right balance. Lithium batteries do have a long life but, if the batteries die, so does the controller. Some ‘pundits’ might have more money than sense, but this reporter believes keeping the battery option means lengthening the longevity of the controller. Another issue with the console is the USB element. The Xbox has two slots at the front. However, the Xbox One has one side USB socket backed up by rear USB sockets. Fine until your console is in a cabinet or unit and then this might be impractical.

 

THE SET-UP

Getting your Xbox One out of the box and set-up is a massive chore. You will have approximately, if you are in the EMEA area, a 1.3 GB patch update from Microsoft, followed by smaller WiFi/Security patches totalling 550mb. Thereafter, if you connect the Kinect Camera with social media, you are looking at – depending on your broadband speed – a good one hour set-up process. You need to be aware that ALL of the current game titles will require massive patch updates. So, once you have installed the system updates you can look forward to the game updates. Some of these are enormous, from 540mb for Forza 5 to a whopping 13 GB for Dead Rising 3. So hopefully, you will have something else to entertain you during this long and arduous stage in the Xbox One ownership timeline.

 

LIVING WITH THE XBOX ONE

Okay, it’s updated and stored away underneath your nice TV stand. Your imposing entertainment and gaming bedrock is now ready. Once you start-up the console, welcome to heaven folks! It is, within seconds of booting up, at a funky Windows 8 Metro inspired home screen. The UI is intuitive and as such has many factors that can help individuals in terms of multitasking, communicating and entertaining – whilst still able to play games like an old fashioned console should. The home screen structure is very simple. You have a home panel that has your current app, followed by a plethora of smaller tile panels that inform you of other apps/games that are available. You can swipe across to a media centre where you can buy new apps, videos or music to your hearts delight. This is a central element, media functionality – there are great features like snap which allows you to have Skype or TV whilst looking at Internet Explorer or editing your Avatar. This multi-tasking element is very good. Consider those times, on the Xbox 360 when you waited and waited for a CoD online multiplayer game to begin. Now you can minimize the game and get cracking with something else. Once the game is ready you can jump back into the action. No more waiting. This is probably the best feature of the new UI. Therefore, the multitasking element with the freedom and functionality of Snap and the wider customisation abilities creates a truly free gaming and entertainment experience. Many have bemoaned the entertainment aspect but many users will spend more time on NetFlix than Battlefield 4 (not because the game is buggy and crap, but because more people spend longer watching movies than playing games on consoles). Many have argued that the Xbox Live Gold membership is unfair – on the PlayStation network, for example, you don’t need PlayStation Plus membership to use LoveFilm. That said, the redeem codes for games and other aspects of the PS experience are mitigated by the Gold price structure.

 

ryse_son_of_rome_wallpaper_3_1920x1080  _ultimate_gaming_paradiseWHAT IT’S ALL ABOUT: GAMING

Whilst the ‘always-on’ and ‘entertainment centrality’ of the Xbox One is cool and yes, most will spend more time on Lovefilm or NetFlix, the main reason for the console is gaming. Therefore, how is it when you’re playing games? If you have a fave game, one that will be living in the slot and not the case, it’s easy as hell to get cracking. You boot up, and get to the home screen and it’s ready and waiting and getting online to play games is easy-peasy on the Xbox One.

Gaming playback is exhilarating on the Xbox One, as the console is equipped for 720p and 1080p HD graphics. The console packs a punch with 500 GB storage, 8 GB RAM and a whopping 8 core processor. Now yes, these are slightly put to shame by the PlayStation 4. For example, PlayStation 4 opted for 8 GB of GDDR5 RAM; the Xbox opted for old-fashioned DDR3 type RAM. This means, at a base level, the PlayStation’s short-term memory is faster than the Xbox One. However, this is a minuscule difference and you cannot really see any difference. The Xbox One really is a great gaming platform – only made more superb by the gaming experience all these hardware elements provide.

Finally, the controller – getting to the bottom of the console and how well it plays games needs a thorough analysis of the controller. The controller on the Xbox One is perfect. The removal of the battery pack opens up the rear space – so any feelings of cramped fingers, like on the Xbox 360, are removed and this ‘freedom’ helps improve your finger work on the controller. Another element of the controller is the balance, the trigger buttons and the Xbox button changes, along with the battery pack bulge removal, has created a controller that brings everything together through a sense of tactile balance. Your fingers, when they interact with buttons, feel like the movement is natural and thus, increases you engagement with the game and deepens your experience.

 

THE GAMES – WHAT TO BUY

There are some great headline titles. Ryse: Son of Rome, FIFA 14 and Forza 5 are epic titles. The buggy Call of Duty: Ghosts and the awful Battlefield 4 are worthy of your time for a bit of fun. However, in 2014, some of the next wave of great titles will explore on the platform. For example, you will soon be able to play, Titanfall, an epic new game that sees humans’ battle evil in big robotic suits. Other games include Thief, Tomb Raider: The Definitive Edition, Rayman: Legends, Watch Dogs, Quantum Break, Dying Light, Mirrors Edge and Destiny. Finally, Halo 5 is going to be the one-to-watch in 2014. There you have it. A plethora of titles that will really bring out the gaming genius of the console.

 

XBOX TV

You might have Sky or Virgin Media? Perhaps your TV has only one HDMI socket and you can’t be bothered switching cables every five minutes. Whatever your needs, the Xbox One can allow you to input your HDMI digital television services into the Xbox. All you need to say is “Xbox, watch TV” and Bob’s your uncle, you are watching TV through your Xbox. You can switch between a game and TV with ease.

 

THE EXTRAS

WEB BROWSING

On the Microsoft Xbox One you are lucky. The PlayStation 4 browser is the worst example of an internet browser ever created. It is a simple function for logging into Twitter. However, IE (not the best browser) allows you a more liquid and contextual browsing experience. In an age of smartphones, tablets and smart TVs, using your Xbox One to search Google (sorry Bing) might seem bizarre. However, if needs must, you can rest assured that your experience is not stifled by naff development and you can trust IE as a dependable workhorse browser – used by most of the corporate world. Therefore, over the PlayStation 4, the Xbox One has an unrivalled web browsing experience.

 

KINECT VOICE / VISUAL COMMANDS

The Xbox One has one really, really, really cool extra. That is the ability to voice command your console. You can literally say, “Xbox, go to… Netflix” and Netflix will launch. You can watch a DVD or Blu-Ray disc and say “Xbox, pause” and the movie will pause. Furthermore, you can point your hand/finger towards the console and select apps/games by gesture. It’s very gimmicky and it’s all very 50/50. A lot of people have noted that once set up, it can find listening to other voices difficult and can be temperamental. However, it is a cool little trick. For example, it can ‘sign-in’ by simply seeing you through the Kinect camera. It’s all gimmicky as I have already stated and the real ‘use’ of the technology is still a long way away but the ‘wow’ factor of these technologies means in the short term they are pretty cool additions.

 

Xbox One controllerAPPY TIMES – XBOX ONE SMART GLASS APP

The Xbox Smart Glass app for Xbox One is a multi-app/game tool for smart phones or tablets. It is available on Android, Windows Phone and Apple iOS. It has the ability to act as a second source of data. For example, on CoD it can act as a map and respawn tool. On Forza 5 it can give you real-time updates of fellow racers and your own experience. The app also allows you access to your avatar and gamer history. However, there is no real use for the smart glass app. My app languishes on my phone and tablet without much use. It’s gimmicky and without real and profound purpose which makes it a one-off download worth forgetting.

 

THE VERDICT

Our final verdict. The Battlefield 4 and CoD patch debacle hasn’t helped the situation of next-gen gaming. The current trouble with Dead Rising 3 and Ryse: Son of Rome has increased the chatter around the ‘quality’ of titles. However, the awesome gameplay, whilst not epic like Killzone: Shadow Fall on the technically superior PlayStation 4, wins out through its spirit of gaming. The console, with its multi-tasking and entertainment factor means you can enjoy the platform because of its diversity. This results in the console having more ‘heart’ than the PlayStation and makes the Xbox One more spirited than the PS4 alternative, which we argued was too clinical. The Xbox One, however, gives it it’s all and you can see that in the user experience.

The design of the console is shocking! Put that to  one side, you will get used to the console (however much you hate it as it is a pure dust magnet) and you will come to love its UI’s simplicity and, wider application and system freedoms. These elements along with “snapping”, Kinect gestures and the user interface, create the right balance for those looking for a gaming console, those looking for something to play games a bit whilst watching LoveFilm and those unsure of what they want. It has it all for many different people. It is understandable why ‘hardcore gamers’ felt let down by the Xbox One, the entertainment factor is all-encompassing. However, this is not a bad thing. Indeed in our opinion we believe the Kinect always-on strategy will help improve gamer experience over the course of the next five years in terms of games development. The pure heartfelt joy of the console (and therein gaming experience) means any perceived technical inability (in comparison with rival consoles) of the platform is meaningless. Its spiritual superiority over the rest of the field means the Xbox One offers more to different types of users. This is what gives the Xbox One it’s ‘edge’ over the rest of the pack.

Out of 10, I’d give Xbox One a 9!

 

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disney_infinity_video_game_characters-1920x1080

DISNEY INFINITY – Great if you’ve ever wanted to be Lightening McQueen but bad if you don’t like being fleeced!

With over a million copies of the starter pack sold worldwide, Disney Infinity is Disney-Pixar’s new and innovative gaming platform that is really getting kids and parents both entertained and angry. Think Skylanders but with a Disney twist. It is a really imaginative way of being allowed to explore the worlds of Disney movies in detail. For example, have you ever wanted to scare people with the duo from Monsters Inc? Do you want to ward off evil villains from The Incredibles, whilst wearing spandex? What about finding out where all those hidden rum depositories are in Pirates of the Caribbean? Lets rate Disney Infinity Starter Pack for Xbox 360 using the “all-new” Ultimate Gaming Paradise Ozone review system.

The Storyline

Disney-Infinity-image-disney-infinity-1920-1080The storyline is a new(ish) take on the platform game by integrating multimedia with collectible toys. These plastic toys ‘unlock’ characters/abilities that allow you to experience more and more. Now here is the downside. If you want to be ‘Wreck it Ralph’, then you need to spend £ 9.99 for the toy. There are lots of these toys. The starter pack comes with Jack Sparrow, Sully and Mr Incredible. However, if you want Woody, Buzz Lightyear, Vanellope, Davy Jones, Else, The Sorcerers Apprentice, Rapunzel, Cars (from Lightning McQueen to Doc Hudson) to the characters from Frozen you are going to have to spend £9.99 on each and EVERY one!

The upside is that when you place, say Buzz Lightyear, on your Infinity Base (a wicked piece of tech that uses Near Field Technology (NFT) to help you unlock your character as each figure has a microchip that can, contactlessly, engage with the NFT base), you unlock the entire Toy Story saga. This means you say hello to the aliens, to Mr Potato Head, Slinky and of course Woody. It’s great – whatever you want to do, be it free play or adventures (from racing against each other to more) you are free to explore the world of Toy Story. So whatever your (or your kids) favourite Disney Pixar movie is, there is a world of fun awaiting you. It should be noted that there is a lack of ‘legacy’ characters. You won’t find Belle from Beauty and the Beast, Raffiki from The Lion King or even Merlin from The Sword in the Stone. It’s pretty much (apart from The Sorcerers Apprentice) all post Pixar movies. This is a big downside.

The Challenges

It must be noted that this is a kids’ game, that said it is a rather challenging, and in parts, difficult game to play. Disney Infinity has elements of conformity and of creativity. For example, the “Toy Box” setting (nothing to do with Toy Story per se) allows you to mix and match and create whatever universe of fun you deem suitable. Therefore, you can play and interact with characters from the entire universe – so for example you could be Jack Sparrow playing with Buzz Lightyear in the world of Cars. This means you can build castles, islands, boats, buildings or anything you can imagine. This element of the game allows for the full creativity of you (or your child’s) imagination to be unleashed.

“Power Discs” are another addition, our starter pack had Rapunzel which meant you got to interact with the world of Rapunzel – which was somewhat wonderful as you got to really explore the entirety of the world from the comfort of your seat. Another additional perk of these discs is that they offer three types of qualities. They include toys, customisation and abilities. For example, toys can give you new objects or vehicles that you can use whilst an ability gives you new additions to your characters from health boosts to loot collection skills. Finally, customisation allows you to add themes to your “Toy Box” – this is far and away the best perk of the discs. It should be noted that these “Power Discs” also cost money. You are looking at £ 3.49 for a two pack of “Power Discs” – this is another drawback of the game!

Disney Infinity Cars

The Fun Factor

You can be Buzz Lightyear or Sully, or even Lightning McQueen, how fun is that. It cannot be stated enough that Disney Infinity is the definition of fun, whilst Call of Duty: Ghosts or FIFA has an edge, if you want a laugh out loud game that’s simple, unobtrusive and unrestricted you can do no wrong getting this game. I spent time with my niece playing this game and she loved every minute of it. She found the “Toy Box” mode enthralling – really I could have left the house, caught a plane to Tokyo, flown there and back again and she wouldn’t have even noticed I’d gone! It’s a deeply enthralling game for the little ones and for any big kids out there it is also hugely entertaining.

The Verdict

It’s fun… I cannot praise it enough. I was Jack Sparrow for a day! I was Syndrome from The Incredibles and I could be Mickey Mouse or any other character, I can explore, imagine and create Disney worlds and mix and match until my hearts content. It’s also very challenging – the creativity is what makes this title so challenging. The “Power Discs” add to the complexity of the game as much as the game modes themselves. The storyline is unique as it is not set. Other game titles have a pre-defined story (even free-play titles have a certain element of conformity). However, this is not the case in Disney Infinity, you can place whatever character you want on your “Infinity Portal” and you’re good to go! That said, as with all reviews, there is always a flaw. The Skylanders issue, of creating a game and having additional figures as additional game add-ons created a new genre. However, Disney seems to have taken the commercialized route a bit further. The Xbox 360 Disney Infinity Starter Pack with the game, the “Infinity Portal”, three figures and a “Power Disc” costs £ 41.99. Each figure thereafter costs £9.99 whilst every two-pack of “Power Discs” costs £ 3.49. It would cost, if you are that way financially inclined to buy for yourself or your (wealthy) little ones a grand total of £ 366.60 for the entire collection. That’s a lot of money and I think this is the biggest issue with the game. We cannot fault how clever, challenging and fun the game is. However, the cost associated with the game really undermines the experience. Pester power, something kids are really good at, will cause parents a lot of anxiety and I don’t think Disney should have put parents under such pressure. So, due to the product pricing of the game, I have to give it a lowly seven out of ten.

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Skylanders Swap Force Art- - Ultimate Gaming Paradise

SKYLANDERS: Swap Force – A Great Game but incredibly costly for Mum and Dad!

I hate in-game purchases, I despise DLC upgrades packs and I detest ‘add-on’ purchases for games and consoles. Therefore, when my niece came to stay with me and my partner for the weekend, I eyed-up her Skylanders rucksack with distaste. Low and behold she opened up the rucksack and out came Skylanders – the game. According to the missus, I had a pretty disgusted look upon my face. However, when my niece, smiling as sweet as a buttercup, looked up longingly, I caved-in and let her play Skylanders on my Xbox One. I was intrigued, so after my niece had given up and went off to do other things, I decided, for the sake of journalistic gusto, to step up to the plate and give it a damn good go.

Skylanders_SWAP_Force_Boom_Jet.jpg  - Ultimate Gaming ParadiseFor those who have been living a hermetic lifestyle, Skylanders Swap Force is the next incarnation of the Skylanders franchise. The game is a platform video gamer, published by Activision. It is the third in the series of Skylander titles. It’s pretty easy – you use a Swap Force Portal (a USB device) to swap figures. Once you place your plastic figure on the portal they come alive on screen. Each figure is unique and has different abilities and attributes. However, what is different with Swap Force is that each figure can be split in half. You can change top and bottom halves on a figure to strengthen their skill base. There are sixteen characters – however you can use older games figures as well.

The game is pretty unique – it’s fun, fresh and vigorously entertaining. Therefore, the swapability is enthused with dynamism as you can create over 150 different combinations of characters – some “Swap Zones” require different skill sets to enter. Therefore, it is a game that offers challenges and it offers fun. Once I realised this, I decided that UGP needed a review. Skylanders is not a new game – it’s a spin-off with it’s heritage in the 90s PS title Spyro the Dragon. It’s a platform game and has a very surreal retro look and feel (that is not to say the graphics are retro). It is a very connected game. The story is simple, the Skylanders are on a ‘quest’ to stop the wonderfully entitled Koas from doing very naughty things. In order to stop Koas, the Skylanders need to travel through a multitude of make-believe inspired levels. The Skylanders need to help one another out and they need to battle Koas’ minions whilst collecting treasure – which lets the Skylanders buy abilities and items. It’s pretty simple really. The name of the game is quite literally; divide and conquer. All you need to do is to create the right Skylander (with the right skills) to win the day!

Skylanders-sf-skylanders-swap-force

The gameplay is quite unique, that I didn’t realise. I spent some time with my niece drawing (when not playing Skylanders) and her imagination was wondrous. She drew pictures of dinosaurs, of pop stars, of knights and dragons, of wizards and birds. This ‘unlimited capacity’ to envisage a world of enlightenment is the reason why Skylanders is so popular. It allows children the scope to play with different genres of toys in one central premise. This multi-genre narrative captivates adults and children through being fun – it is this fun’ness that really makes the game a success.

Now, whilst the visual element was stunning, the storyline intriguing and strangely comforting with a large dollop of fun, there is another more suspect issue facing this game. Money! Parents will buy this game for their kids. Adults can play it, but it’s really a kids game. Therefore, you need to know the cost:

The Skylanders Swap Force starter pack, with three figures, the disc and the portal cost £ 55. If you want all sixteen characters you will have to buy thirteen more characters individually. These rang from £8 to £ 22.31 on Amazon UK. Therefore, a quick calculation finds it could cost approximately £ 124 to buy all the figures. Therefore, you’re looking at around £ 160 to fully kit out your Skylanders Swap Force collection. This is a lot of money. In fact, this is approximately the average UK part-time worker’s weekly income. Therefore, pester power and children wanting what they see on TV and in school will be a big factor in the Skylanders experience – the game isn’t cheap and you need to be aware that it can cost. However, it should be noted that you don’t need all the characters to complete the game. In fact you don’t need the full set. That said, you get out what you put in. Therefore, for the best experience it has been designed to favour the full collection in terms of entertainment value.

REVIEW VERDICT

UGP believes games have three unique elements that, when combined, makes a great game – even greater! Therefore, using the UGP Triple Lock, which means we focus on three elements, that surrounded the perspective (the storyline), the difficulty (how challenging the game play was) and how indulgent the game was. I can say that the game offers a fun and fantastic storyline – something, quite literally, for the whole family. The challenging element of the gameplay and storyline really means you can work on the swapping element to really find the right Skylander, which means you have invested and the result is epic. Finally, the game is fun, fun and more fun! It would, on it’s own, get 9 out of 10. However, as a hater of additional purchases I find the applicability of further purchases  in a kids game rather baffling. The pester power issue is apt and the necessity to purchase figures to continue game functionality means the pressure element is an unfair stress for mums and dads. Therefore, due to the extra expense to experience epic gameplay, I have revised the review verdict to 7 out of 10.

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Playstation 4

PLAYSTATION 4 REVIEW: A technically brilliant example of console creativity

Okay, the PS4 has been out for a while now so you might be thinking – UGP is a bit behind the curve? Well, no! First day reviews are shit. They fail to really pick up on the nuances that make a console great or bad within the scope of an hours’ ‘supervised’ gameplay in some PR office. So, at UGP, we have spent two weeks in the company of the PlayStation 4 and we now think we are in a good position to really tell PS4 fanboys or those who are unsure about which console they should get – the full skinny on the console.

We live in difficult times. The launch, last month, of Microsoft and Sony’s next-generation consoles have created a lot of ‘head scratching’. This review will give a neutral and un-biased examination of the PlayStation 4 .

 

THE BASICS

THE COST

It’s cheaper than the Xbox One. At its core it is cheaper and it only costs £ 349, which is cheaper than the Xbox One, which costs £ 449. You should be aware that you don’t get the Sony EYE camera – the PS4 alternative to Kinect bundled free of charge. That’s an extra £ 59.08 plus an extra £ 14.99 for the table surface clip. You will also need PlayStation Plus membership for multiplayer – something you didn’t need for the PS3 – which costs £ 39 for a year’s subscription. Your total inward cost is £ 462.07.

 

THE DESIGN

The console has something the Xbox One doesn’t have, which is design flair and a bit of pizzazz. The Xbox One is a bit of a pig. However, the PS4 has a design nuance in terms of minimalism fused with art deco. This mash-up gives the box a certain uniqueness that really gives it some presence and some gravitas. The PS3 could ‘blend’ into your cable or satellite box and your huge ass TV. However, the PS4 won’t blend so easily. Its design is very ‘in your face’ but with a scope of angular minimalism that hides great touches like touch-sensitive power and eject buttons along with a beautifully almost engraved PS4 logo that, on its own, is a beautiful analogue to the core design principles of the system. The slot loading mechanism is beautifully crafted – the very slot runs into a narrow gap that adorns the fascia of the console. Here further along you will find hidden away the USB sockets. The rear end continues this design flair with block vents on an angle. These block grooves hide the multitude of connections – including the HDMI, PS4 EYE Camera socket and the HDMI. There rest are vent holes for the console’s big processor, graphics card and mainboard!

 

PS4 Controller

THE CONTROLLER

The DualShock 3 controller was praised by many as a solid controller – not equal to the Xbox 360’s well-received controller. But, none-the-less, fans and aficionados did pick up on failures with the length of the grips and the stick playability. However, Sony took the design back to the drawing board – the result is the new DualShock 4 controller. It’s longer more angular grips mean your gameplay experience is more defined and, to me anyway, more concrete and solid. I always thought the PS3 DualShock was flimsy compared to the more rugged Xbox 360 controller. The increase in size hasn’t quite made it ‘rugged’ but it has given it more prominence and thus made it more comfortable. Technically, they have also moved the rumble sensors which mean the video game feedback is more precise. This was another fault on the DualShock 3 gameplay. Another big plus is the fact you can charge the controller through any Micro USB cable you have, from your phone to computer. [UGP HINT: When you first get your PS4, you will need to switch on charging functionality as it isn’t set automatically]. The controller isn’t cheap – £ 51 for a console controller is a lot of money. Therefore, you need to think about this if you’re a parent with 2 or more kids!

 

 

THE SET-UP

Getting the PlayStation 4 out of the box is a doddle. It takes literally seconds. However, downloads, patch-updates and signing into WiFi can eat up a lot of ‘start-up time’. So please be prepared for “You need to download…” messages. Since launch day there have been 4 patches from Sony PlayStation 4 EMEA and they have been fixes for 1080p, the PlayStation Store and GUI innovations. If you opt for the PlayStation 4 EYE Camera – the setup process will be a wee bit longer (around fifteen minutes calibrating the camera). You will also need to be aware that EVERY game will need a ‘patch update’. It took me around 40 minutes to setup the camera, Twitter, the PlayStation 4 store and all patches for games/console.

 

LIVING WITH THE PLAYSTATION 4

It’s there underneath your TV. You’re setup and now, and only now, will you experience the pure genius of the console. Once you are up-and-running it’s a delight. The boot-up time is seconds – the home screen has hundreds of avenues of entertainment and gameplay – all at your fingertips. The Xbox One ‘Windows-esqe’ metro UI has been attacked by many critics for being to messy. However, the PlayStation 4 UI is intuitive and beautifully minimalist. The home screen has a simple wheel-driven scrolling graphical array that you can use to choose your entertainment format. The UI is intuitive and the process is so fluid – you simply scroll around bars of ‘items’ and then they have sub-menus. It’s a simple interface. However, therein I believe is the GUI’s failure to capitalise on the success of the Xbox One layout. The lack of customisation, as opposed to the Xbox, means it can be a chore to get to certain sections (like your account etc.)

The console has a big plus – in the shape of the PlayStation Network Plus membership. Unlike the Microsoft Xbox One console – you don’t need PlayStation + membership to watch BBC, NetFlix, LoveFilm or IGN on the console. All you need to do – similar to the Xbox One – is download the app. However, the PS+ allows users to access media without a subscription. This is a big plus for the console!

 

Killzone-shadow-fall-ps4-wallpaper-in-hdWHAT IT’S ALL ABOUT: GAMING

At its core, the PlayStation 4 is a video games console. So living with it also means playing some games. The media aspect, the design aspect and other elements are great touches – touches you can live with! However, it’s all about gaming! Unlike the PS3, getting right in there and just booting-up and playing a game is much, much easier. The new UI makes simple video gaming a doddle. It’s as easy as ABC, all you do is boot-up, home screen and then click on recently played. It’s that easy.

Playing games on the console is delightful. The 1080p HD graphics, the super powerful processor and RAM and other technical elements really highlight the difference. This is a powerhouse console. It’s technically gifted and as such the on-screen results are marvelous. It is easy on the eye whilst showing media renderings that are out-of-this-world. When you play, for example FIFA 14 or even KillZone Shadow Fall, you will be amazed by the graphical detail – the arenas and the grass on FIFA to the awesome thematic gameplay on KillZone. The console makes the visual element of gameplay awesome.

The controller really does improve the balance between you and the console. The DualShock rumble really ‘hits’ the spot when you’re playing, and wanting tactile feedback from the game. This really helps improve, in my opinion, the relationship between the gameplay and the console. The Xbox One controller is epic. However, the tactile feedback is much more constructive on the PlayStation 4. This means your connectedness with the game is deeper.

 

THE EXTRAS

WEB BROWSING

With tablets, smart phones and netbooks, you might not use the PS3 or Xbox 360 as a de facto web browsing device. However, on the PlayStation 4 the browsing experience on the whole is shit! Sorry for the crude language. I did attempt a more caustic response. But the experience left me scarred and on the whole is not something I want to ever experience again. The Xbox One has IE, whilst crap compared to Chrome or FireFox is still a lot better than the crappy browser bundled with the PS4. The issue surrounds the thought raised by the browser – they seem to have developed the browser to help you sign-in to social feeds (and that’s it!). This makes the text unreadable and as such the whole experience is dreadful – one I would really not want anyone, including an enemy, to attempt in the comfort of their own homes! Keep to your phones, tablets or PCs people!

 

PLAYSTATION VITA – REMOTE PLAY

A little cool feature, which I stumbled upon, is that you can play video games using the PS Vita. As a proud owner of a PS Vita, I found that you could use the VITA when playing Marvel Super Heroes. It’s gimmicky but its cool gimmicky. Remember that you will need an internet connection and to have updated you PS4 to the latest patch and connect into the same PS Network + account for both devices.

Sony is hoping that this will help to increase the flow of gameplay data and metrics to help improve gameplay experiences. However, many argue the move is too gimmicky and backwards. Some journos are arguing that the move is just a way of helping to ship more PS Vita consoles – a console that needs more sales to save it from ruin! I found it fun. However, I didn’t use it all that much. In fact I tried it only twice. So for a ‘wow’ factor with your mates it’s fun, but on a daily basis is a bit boring!

 

Sony-Playstation-4APPY TIMES – SONY PLAYSTATION 4 APP

We live in ‘appy’ times, and no games console experience is complete without the assistance of an ‘app’. PlayStation is no different. Go on to the Apple App store or the Google Play Marketplace and you can download a PS4 app. The app is, much like the Xbox One alternative, crap. It really is just a ‘web’ capture of your PS network website data. It gives you information on game stats – its only saving grace is the ability, like the VITA experience, to double-up as a ‘second’ view screen for game play. But again I found this a little too gimmicky.

 

THE GAMES – WHAT TO BUY

The next six months will bring about a barrage of great titles. Therefore, if you want a great video gaming experiences why not feast your eyes on these upcoming gems? I played Call of Duty: Ghosts, Marvel Super Heroes and KillZone Shadow Fall. However, I felt underwhelmed – this was in part due to the patch-happy approach of the games developers. There doesn’t seem to be that one ‘killer’ PlayStation 4 video game yet – KillZone Shadow Fall is close, but not close enough! However, we have 2014 and some great titles to look forward too?

Thief (Feb 2014) is coming back to the PlayStation. The game sees you become Garrett, a thief with stealth capabilities who is trying to save his city from forces intent on destroying it. Another great title is Infamous: Second Son and The Elder Scrolls: Online due out in early Q1, 2014. An epic zombie-esqe title called Outlast will be launched in early 2014. The game sees you take control of a photojournalist at an insane asylum – just before a ghoul/zombie attack – looks epic!

 

THE VERDICT

BattleField 4, Call of Duty: Ghosts and FIFA 14 glitches and patches haven’t helped the perception that next-gen gaming seems a bit ‘buggy’. However, the PlayStation 4 is super powerful and has a lot of potential for gamers and entertainment fans alike. The graphics power is awesome and as such, completely peerless. The next wave of 1080p PS4 games will be awesome on the console.

The design, the UI and the controller is brilliant – they are minimalist and yet have a hidden depth. However, you feel that you are missing something ‘big’. The Xbox One has the right balance of epic coolness and some solid titles. But you feel underwhelmed at the helm of the PS4. However, this might be down to a lack of ‘must-have’ titles on the platform. If you are a Sony fanboy (or girl) you will love it. If you want the most powerful next-gen console then buy the PS4. If you are an Xbox’er wanting to switch – there isn’t enough pizzazz to really push you overboard into the PlayStation sphere of influence. You see that the console, whilst brilliant and powerful, seems to be soulless and this lack of ‘heart’ gives the console a sense of technical superiority whilst inferior spirituality as a gaming device.

Out of 10, I’d give PlayStation 4 an 8

 

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Rocksmith promo

Rocksmith – Rockin’ All Over The Xbox

Everyone knows that the most fundamental lesson in bass guitar is learning to get your axe as low as you possibly can and still play it – preferably on the same level as your slightly bent knees – and perfecting your sneer.  Ideally it’s the “Sid Vicious” look that you are aiming for, with one side of your top lip arching up to almost nostril level, but anything more eye-catching than “Billy Idol’s” limp affair is acceptable.  Having previously mastered both of these elements, I was intrigued as to what the latest version of Ubisoft’s Rocksmith might teach me.  “Intrigued” is my middle name – well, it would be if it wasn’t Roger – so I procured a copy of it to see if there was actually more to strumming my banjo than I had previously imagined.

Rocksmith in gameRocksmith was launched as a serious guitar-tutorial program in 2011.  Initially only available for PS3 and Xbox 360, it migrated into a PC version in 2012 and gained the bass guitar capability at the same time.  That was when it became of interest to me, as I’ve never mastered any more than four strings and prefer tones that liquefy bowels rather than allow communication with bats.  I tell people that the bass appeals to me because, as a fundamentally rhythm instrument, it places me at the heart of the band and is the instrument of choice of both “Roger Waters” and “Krist Noveselic” – two of my bass guitar heroes – but in reality I do it because it’s not as complicated as having six strings to worry about.

The game requires you to have a real instrument and luckily, despite being bruised and abused by my inquisitive children, my “Fender Precision Bass” still falls into that category.  I had to connect the output jack to the Xbox via the supplied USB connector so, I had to make sure that my console had a spare one to plug into.  Once done, it’s into the game where I was presented with the option to tune my guitar.  This was a useful addition as, being mostly tone deaf, I’m never entirely sure if my “Precision” is actually in tune and I had to admit that it sounded better after tuning in Rocksmith,  just reinforcing how out of shape my ear really is.  I had played Guitar Hero before so felt completely comfortable with the interface.  In fact it was so familiar that if I was on the board at Ubisoft, I’d be half-expecting something nasty to turn up from the tame lawyers of Harmonix, concerned that their IP had been infringed!

Following the tune-up session, I was launched into the basics where the program taught me the fundamentals.  This section is part of an intuitive program that monitors how well you do at lessons before opening up new sections of the game as my skill broadened so that I was really sure of getting a full tutorial.  But this is fundamentally where Rocksmith falls down; it is a program aimed squarely at the novice or learner and a pro-user trying it will find it frustrating as they cannot just move onto working their way through the extensive song list without completing the basics first.  In truth, a seasoned guitarist would work through the lessons and games quicker than the casual user, but it would be an exercise in frustration; a bit like having a Ferrari but only a small area to drive it in.   Apart from that, the only other complaint that I had was that I couldn’t turn the in-program amplifier up to 11, but you can’t have everything.

Rocksmith infoRocksmith is intuitive and always interesting – even when I’m learning something.  It breaks down learning chords into a series of visual sessions as part of a section called the Guitarcade which uses unrelated video game type graphics to assist with getting your fingers in the right place.  One moment I was shooting at approaching ducks and the next it was whacking zombies, all done by playing the right chords!! Amazing!  Once I had proved myself adept, I got to play the in-game tracks, which seemed to compose of a few well known tracks, a bunch of B-sides and album fodder from well-known bands.  There wasn’t any “Aerosmith” who, love ‘em or hate ‘em, are a must when it comes to loud music.  Worse still, “Aerosmith” didn’t figure on the downloadable content so maybe Rocksmith is too highbrow for “Steve Tyler”.

Like masturbation, Rocksmith is essentially a solo endeavour but is also ultimately satisfying.  I completed the lessons in order and found that I had actually picked up a few new and slick moves, concentrating on perfecting my slap-bass, ‘cos it’s just so sexy and looks great and, as far as I’m concerned, image with bass guitar is way better than trying to play it right.

If Santa has just left you your first guitar in your stocking, then I urge you to dash out to get Rocksmith and work through it; if you are already a pro with your axe, don’t bother!!

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