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A simple lover of video games and the gaming industry.

I enjoy anime, pop culture, reading and of course video games. I have a highly particular interest in books that explore the lore and worlds of video game universes.

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PSN ID: frozenglory3210
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Freedom Wars, the latest offering from Sony Computer Entertainment Japan with the collaborative efforts of Japanese developers Shift and Dimps has stood out as one of the most highly anticipated Vita titles of the year but did it live up to expectations?



Freedom Wars has a fantastic premise, taking place in an post apocalyptic world where the earth’s resources have been largely depleted and the last bastions of humanity have formed totalitarian states (known as Panopticons) to wage war with each other over the remaining resources. Freedom Wars’ world is a brutal place and throughout the game, players are continually immersed in its world and its bleak reality.This is achieved through the entitlement system. Want to leave your prison cell? You must ‘Request an Exit Permit’. Want to lie down when you sleep? You must be ‘entitled’ to do just that.This immersion fleshes out Freedom Wars’ dystopian setting, where Sinners (Freedom Wars’ equivalent for prisoners) are deemed as disposable resources who are barely even treated as human beings.

The game’s story revolves around our protagonist’s life as a Sinner who must  work off a lofty 1,000,000 year sentence as punishment for being deemed counter-productive to society after suffering amnesia as a result of an injury in the game’s opening sequence. This sentence can only be worked off by serving the Panopticons and its free citizens by completing missions or donating resources and goods for what the government deems as ‘The Greater Good’.

While the premise sounds highly intriguing, the actual story itself is fairly underwhelming as it fails to fully capitalise on the game’s setting and as players progress further in the storyline, the intrigue slowly vanishes as the story descends into a generic tale. This is compounded by the characters who are unfortunately not distinctly memorable and fall under generic anime stereotypes, if you played any JRPG then don’t expect the cast of Freedom Wars to amaze you.

As such, Freedom Wars’ exciting and interesting premise feels wasted due to its plain storyline.  



Thankfully, it is in the gameplay where Freedom Wars shines for the most part.

Freedom Wars is focused around obtaining resources and materials used to acquire better gear and weapons upon the completion of missions. There is a fair variety of missions ranging from citizen rescues to escort missions, however the mission themselves aren’t entirely original and unique. This also applies to the game’s handful of mission environments which is unfortunately lacking in diversity as such players will find themselves completing missions on the same maps multiple times. These mission can be played with either an AI controlled party or a party made up of other players.

However, players will derive most of their fun from the game’s excellent combat system and mechanics.

 

Battles are daunting and combat is viscerally fast-paced and frantic. For the most part, players will be battling giant mechanical-like monsters known as ‘Abductors’. These Abductors are difficult to take down as they can withstand a lot of punishment as well as dealing out devastating attacks of their own. This difficulty perfectly reflects Freedom Wars’ world in which every mission may be your last and it is incredibly satisfying to survive these life and death battles. While combating Abductors is incredibly fun it is unfortunate that fighting human opponents is just not as satisfying in comparison. It feels that the game’s combat mechanics were primarily designed for fighting Abductors as they don’t translate well into Sinner VS Sinner combat.

In combat, players can switch between two weapons (ranged or melee) at any given time. From assault rifles to grenade launchers, players will find themselves a large variety of options to choose from when attacking from a distance and this extends to the game’s melee weapons. Each weapons feels distinct, each coming with their own set of special moves and strengths and weaknesses. In addition to these weapons, players are also able to equip and use support items ranging from first aid kits to stimulants as well as a good variety of different traps and explosives.

Freedom Wars’ combat revolves around three concepts: maneuverability, team coordination and constant adaptation to changes in battle.

All Sinners come equipped with a special tool known as the ‘Thorn’. These thorns allows players to travel quickly across short distances  as well as latching onto surfaces and enemies. The thorns also come in three different classes, each one serving a different contributing role to the team. These thorns gives the game’s combat a sense of verticality and speed where players feel that they must quickly maneuver and make full use of the environment to both dodge incoming enemy attacks as well as exploit opportunities to deliver devastating amounts of damage.



During combat, players are also able to issue commands to both their personal mechanical team mate overseer (known as Accessories) and their fellow Sinners. There is a good variety of orders to choose from and further in-game, players will be able to customise these orders. Surprisingly not only is the AI highly competent, easily holding their own against enemies in combat but they are also very responsive to player commands. This really makes it feel that players are not fighting lone battles encouraging the use of the game’s command system which is easily accessible at the simple press of the Vita touch screen.

When fighting against Abductors players are able to sever and destroy certain limbs and mechanical parts. This results in weakening the offensive capabilities of enemy Abductors however in turn, the enemy AI’s behaviour reflectively changes and adapts to its new conditions. As such, Abductors feel smart, adapting and changing their attack patterns to reflect their current condition. This makes battles feel dynamic and makes enemies feel more challenging thus it becomes more satisfying to bring them down as you slowly tear them to pieces.

The customisation in Freedom Wars is highly extensive. Besides the good variety of weapons available, players are also able to customise and modify these weapons, increasing both their stats as well as applying elemental effects to them. Customisation isn’t just limited to weapons and equipment. Freedom Wars character customisation is staggeringly deep with extensive customisation ranging from physical appearance to attire and equipment. As such it is thankfully relieving for  players who can at anytime upon a submitting a ‘Request’ (once unlocked) can return to the character creator to update or even fully change the models of both their character and their accessory. This gives players the ability to adaptively change their physical appearance to suit their new available customisation options and preferences. Though it is strangely unusual from a story context as the game’s characters don’t respond at all to your new look in any form or way.

While the game’s learning curve is significant, not only is the tutorial readily available upon returning to your prison cell but the game’s excellent pacing is highly accommodating easing players to new aspects of the game. However, as missions in-game become longer with further story progression, the game’s portability is somewhat lost as it requires players to open up fairly long amounts of time to complete missions. Freedom Wars pacing also suffers from a fair amount of backtracking but this is rectified by the game’s quick travel and notification systems.

The game also has a trading system however this aspect of the game is implemented poorly. Throughout the game players can engage in conversations with other NPCs however they constantly repeat the same dialogue. Players can trade with some of these NPCs but the problem is that the game provides no information into what players will receive for their goods. It is incredibly frustrating to travel around the entire Panopticon to find that one NPC who has the item you want but the game provides no way to direct you to them.  This makes the trading system feel completely reliant on players remembering where they got their trade goods from amongst the game’s many NPCs.


In addition to the lengthy single player campaign, Freedom Wars' multiplayer extends beyond cooperative missions, featuring a PvP mode.


The game’s has some highly appealing visuals featuring an anime inspired aesthetic which is crisp and detailed with very minor degradation during combat but this is mainly a result of the game’s frantic battles and solid frame rate which rarely dips. The game’s soundtrack is solid and diverse ranging from upbeat tracks to stark, deep bass. Unfortunately the game has no english dubbing however the Japanese voice-overs is done well and the game’s english subtitles is well translated.




THE VERDICT: 8/10

There is no doubt that Freedom Wars is an excellent game and a great action RPG. The combat is great and every fight feels challenging leading to plenty of satisfaction upon completing a successful mission. The game’s customisation is extensive and provide players a large magnitude of options to tailor their character and the combat to suit their ideal playstyle. It is just unfortunate that the game’s excellent premise is held back by the game’s average story and that the combat doesn’t translate well when battling the game’s non-primary enemies.









Announced back in January this year, Sony came up on the stage at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) 2014 and announced what Sony's acquisition of Gaikai has accomplished and what it could mean for the future of the Playstation brand.
The result was Playstation Now, a video game streaming service that was to be made available to Playstation consoles, Sony televisions and mobiles and perhaps even more.

At first, I thought this could absolutely change the gaming landscape where Playstation content becomes highly accessible on a multitude of devices without the need of a Playstation console. I saw it as a whole new dimension of introducing the fun and joy of high budget video game experiences like The Last of Us, Uncharted, God of War, etc to a much wider audience just like how smartphones changed the gaming landscape by introducing millions to gaming through the casual games.
I also saw Playstation Now as a service that was highly beneficial to existing owners of Playstation consoles as it gave us in a sense backwards compatibility with the highly extensive and vast PlayStation game library. 

However, after watching footage of Playstation Now and seeing images of the service in action, I'm growing increasingly concerned with its capability to provide us a highly responsive gaming experience as well as providing good service for its value.

As some of you may know, Playstation Now is utilising a gaming rental system where we are able to digitally stream an entire game for a limited time based on the fee we pay. Here's my first problem, at the current moment the pricing at Playstation Now is at the current stages of the Beta, downright ridiculous. $4.99 for 4 hours of streaming Final Fantasy XIII-2! $30 for 90 days...I can get the full game for $20 at my local games store. Now I understand that Playstation Now is currently in Beta and these prices are by no means, the final prices when the full version of Playstation Now is released but Sony, should be well aware that these prices are highly unreasonable. You can buy the entire game on the Playstation Store at a cheaper price than renting the game for 90 days. When doing a Beta, you want to not only show off the service and its capabilities, but you should also leave a good impression that Playstation Now is providing good value for money but right now, we are being left with a sour taste in our mouths.

Second, prices are decided upon by the participating publishers and developers. This means, that Sony wouldn't have full control on the pricing in the first place which may be a good thing considering how expensive games on the Playstation Store can be when compared to retail sometimes but I need a guarantee that should a game depreciate in value because it's so old so let's say at launch a game was $60 but now drops to $20, I want to have a sense of certainty that the pricing of said game is adjusted on Playstation Now. 

Finally, after watching some footage of Playstation Now at work on both Kotaku and IGN. Playstation Now is going to give a lot of people some major problems. As you would come to expect, Playstation Now requires a fast and stable internet connection and as such Sony recommends that you hook up whatever device you're using Playstation Now on to an Ethernet cable. Here's the problem, not all of us have wireless devices. Yes it's true that more devices, PCs included are being manufactured with in built wireless connectivity but some of us don't have them. Also, my impression is that streaming a whole video game is going to put a lot of stress on the overall speed of our internet connections but like I said this is expected but there's a lot of people especially here in Australia where our internet speeds aren't really all that great.
That's where biggest major problem lies, Playstation Now ability to provide a smooth gaming experience is entirely dependent on our Internet speeds and while this is expected, I see no possible way that Sony can help us smooth out our gaming experiences with patches to Playstation Now. Sure that can fix bugs but that's it.

I know some people will have no problem with Playstation Now because they got a strong internet connection and good speeds and to them I say "Have fun playing" but not everyone is like that and this raises another concern of mine. Sony said they had plans to provide Playstation Now to the Vita, tablets and mobiles. These portable devices don't always have access to good internet connections and speeds and public Wi-Fi isn't fast so, what is the Playstation Now experience going to look much less feel like when it becomes available to portable devices. So far, I can only see Playstation Now working well on stationary Playstation consoles that usually have access to the Internet.

Hopefully, Sony can prove my wrong in every way because I like the idea of Playstation Now but I just can't see myself being able to have a smooth and excellent experience playing on the streaming service just yet.
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Sony is planning on indie and third-party games — as well as Remote Play — to support the PlayStation Vita, with less of a focus on first-party games.

While this shouldn’t come as a surprise considering the lack of announcements of first party titles for the Playstation Vita, it is nonetheless depressing to see. The Playstation Vita is a powerful handheld console that is full of potential but to reduce the Vita to a hub for indie games isn’t the right way to go about selling the handheld. Indie games will only go so far, they aren’t system sellers. Yes sometimes an Indie like Bastion, Transistor or Journey comes along but not only do they come every so often but how much influence did these Indie games have in convincing gamers to buy a console.  Even, then Indie games face stiff competition from the casual games market available on mobile and tablets, as a lot of people seem to struggle to see much of a difference, as most Indie games aren’t tailored for a hardcore gaming experience.

Third party games support for the Vita remains strong in Japan. Handheld consoles always did have a stronger presence there than home consoles but if Sony is withdrawing their support from their own console, what kind of message does this send out to Third party developers.

Remote Play is great, I’ve tried it and it really helps to free up my television when I want to watch something or finish off some of my PS3 games but not everyone has great internet speeds and the connection range of remote play isn’t all that great. It would be idealistic if good and fast WI-FI is available everywhere but sadly this isn’t the case.

Now you can go and mention Playstation Now but this feature is being expanded to beyond just the Playstation Vita, meaning while does add value to the handheld, it doesn’t make it stand out. Exclusive features and games makes a console different and Playstation Now doesn’t make the Vita much more of a must have console.

Overall, the Playstation Vita is just being demoted to an accessory of the Playstation 4, making it a device comparable to the Playstation camera. Yes the Playstation camera’s popularity caught Sony off guard but the same cannot be said about the Vita. Console accessories don’t sell in the tens of millions and as such the Vita at this point will never come close to the sales of its predecessor the PSP.  Sadly, the future of Playstation Vita has become extremely bleak and it is safe to say, Sony is really wasting the Vita’s potential.








Last year, Rockstar games released the highest grossing video game of all time Grand Theft Auto 5, now the game is being released and remastered on next generation consoles and PC.

With the remastered visuals and technical improvements, the world of Los Santos got some much needed improvements.  If we thought GTA5 on PS3 and Xbox 360 looked impressive, then the remastered version is another step forward to what kind of worlds Rockstar games may have in future installments of their franchises.

The vegetation in the environments which were severely lacking on the PS3 and Xbox, is now there in abundance on next generation consoles. Fauna are more prevalent in environments on the remastered editions and with more NPCs, more activity bustling around in Los Santos, the world of GTA5 just became more alive and vibrant. 




Grand Theft Auto 5 was already an impressive open world with so much activities to do but with the remastered editions, the world just got a lot more visual flare and maybe it's worth jumping back into the world of Los Santos.








OK, E3 you gave us a lot of games to look forward to but I think we've all noticed a new trend in the gaming industry. It's cooperative multiplayer.

Which makes sense considering how both Sony and Microsoft have been pushing this whole "Interconnected community". I like the idea, honesty I truly do but this is my fear after watching all the E3 footage I can and then sleeping on it.

What happened to local co-op? Were we told that Assassin's Creed Unity supports split screen? What about Far Cry 4? Evolve? Fable Legends? Anyone?

See the problem. At E3, we were told that all these great games have cooperative multiplayer and cheers to that. Who wouldn't want to explore and kill hundreds of guards in Assassin's Creed Unity with other players online but I have a second Playstation 4 controller at home gathering dust.

This is my fear for gaming's latest trend. With both the Playstation Plus and Xbox Live Gold services needed to play online on next gen consoles, more people are subscribing to these premium services, meaning more people are connected to a continuously growing online network whether that is the PSN or Xbox Live.
However, I feel that game developers when seeing this data suddenly feel that the next stage in improving their games in particular the multiplayer aspect of their games, is to tap into this growing number of people being connected online. Therefore, when they make the multiplayer, developers are tailoring them to be played online and support for  local co-op is being ignored.








Announced and teased at the end of E3 2014, the Steamboy is an ambitious startup project that aims to bring the Steam Machine experience into an already saturated handheld market filled with the 3DS, Playsation Vita and Nvidia Shield.

The Steamboy is an independent project that isn't associated with Valve and is backed and developed by independent third party company Steamboy Machine Team.

While exact details on the specs of the portable handheld's hardware have yet to be confirmed, a representative from the Steamboy Machine Team told The Escapist, that the Steamboy features a Quad-Core CPU, 4GB RAM, a 32GB built-in memory card, and a 5" 16:9 touchscreen. The Steamboy will also be able to connect to the internet via Wifi and 3G and will play "the majority of Steam Games".

With the Steamboy most likely running on the SteamOS operating system which is tailored to a Linux architecture. Games developed for the PC and Mac that are available on Steam are likely to be incompatible with the Steamboy.



Based on the Steamboy's announcement video the Steamboy will feature the Steam Machine Controller's signature round track pads, an Xbox controller button configuration and a screen positioned between them. The Steamboy also seemingly has 4 trigger buttons on the back. 

The Steamboy slated for a release in 2015.
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