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Aston Szlatoszlavek Shaw's blog

2:12 PM on 02.28.2014


The way I see it, every media has its defining Sci-Fi epic. For film it’s Star Wars. In TV it’s Star Trek. For Video Games, it’s without a doubt Mass Effect. Created in 2007 by Bioware, of Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic fame, Mass Effect puts the player in the role of Commander Shepard, as he hunts down an Alien fugitive named Saren, as he leads an army of sentient machines known as the Geth in service to a higher power, lurking in the shadows; The Reapers.

What’s Shepard’s character? Well that’s dependent on you, the player. Your every action shapes how the universe perceives the main character, and at the same time how the player perceives the character. Maybe you’re a noble and charismatic ambassador, or a ruthless warrior who uses fear to force his enemies to back down. Of course there are plenty of games that allow you to make such choices and create a unique character, but Mass Effect is elevated above the standard affair in a manner that we will explore when we look at the sequel Mass Effect 2.
For now, we’ll focus on my Shepard; a war hero who will always seek the diplomatic route. However he’s not afraid to use intimidation to get his way. So I was pretty much trying to be Jack Bauer, with Vin Diesel’s face. I was going for the balanced approach. Usually this information would be inconsequential, but trust me, I’m going somewhere with this.

Conversations make up the majority of the game, split between a friendly or paragon response, a neutral response and a renegade response. Building your paragon or renegade bars allow you to accomplish goals without fighting, making your mission a lot easier.
There is also the option to ask for more information on a subject, but only if you’re inclined to learn more about the world. This is expanded through codex entries on the universe, which really help flesh out the universe. One of the major criticisms of the Star Wars prequel trilogy was the way it explained more about it’s universe, with a lot of attention being put into the existence of medichlorians, which give the Jedi Knights of the universe their psychic abilities. In Mass Effect it could be handled differently. How many players of Mass Effect know how the Biotic humans came to be? Or how they use their powers? Or how medi-gel works? If you just played through the story, you would never know. But that’s the beauty of Mass Effect; it’s all about choice.

Of course when diplomacy fails, the game comes down to it’s combat. Too bad the combat blows chunks. The combat portion is a 3rd person shooter with cover physics. Bad cover physics. It’s always a little sticky to get in and out of cover when you need to. For the majority of the game however the enemies will forsake cover in favor of rushing you, swarming you in a matter of seconds and helping you realize how useless the melee function is at causing damage. Strangely this only applies to the side missions, while enemies in the main story use cover to their advantage. You can make the argument that the AI works where it’s needed, but it also makes the side missions a pain in the ass, since auto saves apply to the beginning of the entire mission as opposes to when you enter a new area; again unlike the main story mode. This may not sound like incredibly infuriating aspects to the game, but trust me; we’re going to cover this bullshit in greater detail later.

Fortunately you have a variety of weapons and powers to customize your experience. Soldiers have more armour and can use all weapons; the assault rifle, sniper rifle and shotgun, in addition to your hand dandy side arm. Tech experts specialize in damaging shields, disrupting weapons and hacking machines, and biotic experts wreck havoc with force blasts and crippling attacks on organics. You can also choose characters with a mixed focus; a solider with biotics or tech, or a biotic with tech abilities. So you have a lot of flexibility, which a lot of games don’t offer.

On top of that you have your squad; each taking up one of the aforementioned classes and can be customized for specific situations. For example, you can be a soldier going into an area infested with mechs, so you take your combat/tech expert to help fight, while your engineer provides support. Or perhaps it’s a mystery. So a biotic commander can take a squad with both combat and tech specialties to cover all areas. There’s even a bar at the bottom of the squad select screen which tells you how balanced your team is. However, all the balance in the world won’t save you when your team has the intelligence of a sack of rocks. From standing in front of you while your trying to shoot, to ignoring your team commands and everything in-between; I don’t feel like I’m leading a badass squad of space marines, rather it’s more like I’m Baby sitting!

But this is a Bioware game, so all gear is customizable. You can add different mods to weapons and armour, giving your sniper expert the best rifle for his profession etc. It does drive obsessive compulsives like myself insane when you have to make sure that all gear is updated after every mission is update and organized properly, so I can sell what I don’t need immediately in order to keep it from messing up my inventory, but I digress. The amount of customization again plays into the major theme of the game; choice (if I seem to mention that Mass Effect is all about choice an lot, it’s only because I’m leading up to something in regards to the ending of Mass Effect 3. But let’s keep focused on this game for now.)

The other aspect to combat is the Mako ATV; a small tank used for exploring planets and driving segments. Now this is where the game really starts to get frustrating because the freaking car drives like a blind folded elephant with one of it’s feet sealed in a cement block! To compensate for the rough terrain you often find yourself in, the Mako has a tendency to bounce and flip over a lot. As a result you really need to stick to flat land, or your going to spend most of your commute in the air upside down. It gets worse when you enter combat; you can aim the vehicles gun to fire at a target while strafing, but if you hit a hill wrong your going to leave your self open as you go floating through the air. Imagine trying to concentrate on something to your left while pushing a shopping trolley at high speed. You just don’t stick to the ground in a way that feels comfortable.
And unfortunately you’re going to be spending a lot of time tolerating this thing.
I found myself avoiding using it for combat by sniping from the top of a hill. It’s a little more complicated, but at least the shooting mechanics work well at a distance.

This brings me to the uncharted planet mechanic; each system in the galactic overview has a planet where you can drive around in the Mako and explore. Each planet has it’s own mission and all feel unique, with different environments and the occasional risk of freezing or poisoning when on foot. Which would be cool, but unfortunately there are a few issues with these side planets.

Firstly, the structures on the planets are copy and pasted to hell. You have the option of warehouse A, warehouse B and mine. I realize that it would be a lot to ask for around 30 unique structures, but that doesn’t make the experience any less repetitive. Secondly there’s the aforementioned decrease in enemy AI in side missions, which leads me the third problem of auto saves. The game saves when you land on the planet automatically, and the rest are manual. So if you mess up you’re doing the whole planet again from the terrible vehicle sections. Perhaps I’ve become dumbed down by AutoSaves in recent years; I don’t have to worry about manually saving anymore when the game does it for me after all. But that doesn’t make the gameplay any less tedious and repetitive. I will give the game credit that these free roaming planets were ambitious. It had promise; I would usually scout from the top of a hill, and then send my team in on foot while I sniped from the cliffs. It feels very Battlefield-esc, in the best possible way. It could have used more polish and probably better hardware to help improve the experience. It’s a shame that the mechanic wasn’t improved in the later games, but the Mako segments were dropped in favor of improving other aspects.

The heart of the game however is the Normandy, your home ship from where you can chart a course from the galaxy map, or interact with your crew. You get to know each of their different quirks and personalities, helping to connect with them. There is also the possibility of romancing a crew member, which I somehow fell into with my team’s combat expert, Ashley. It’s actually strange because I wasn’t trying to romance her; my Shepard seemed like the type of person to keep people away in that regard, like he’d already lost so many already. To be honest I was just trying to be friendly with Ashley, and yet she and Shepard got together at the end. Normally this wouldn’t be worth noting, but once again, it’s important when talking about the sequels. Other love interests include Kaiden for the female player character, and Liara for either gender, since she’s is from an all female race that procreate psychically with any partner. You might think that this is some strange bi-sexual alien fantasy on the part of the writers, but the speices and their customs are treated with a lot of dignity and depth…and hotness, but I digress.

The idea of bonding comes to a head near the end when squad mates can die! In one case a member of the team, Wrex, is at odds with Shepard regarding the destruction of a lab which could help cure his race’s disease, which was slowly killing his race off. If you can’t convince him that it’s the right call, you’re forced to kill him. Fortunately I was able to save him on my play through, which AGAIN comes into play in the sequels, which is why I brought it up.

Another case involves saving either Kaiden or Ashley. I went with Ashley since she was also with a squad, as opposed to Kaiden who was with only a few. It came down to logic, “the needs of the many” and all that, but because I had formed an attachment, it was hard to let Kaiden die. It was something that stuck with me throughout the rest of the series. This is where Mass Effect really shines! It makes you care about your choices. There’s no right or wrong choice; it all comes down to what your Shepard will do, and ultimately what your own personal experience with the game is.

Throughout this review I have constantly repeated “I’m going somewhere with this” and “when we look at the sequels.” That’s because the magic of Mass Effect lies in its place as a series rather than as an individual game. For example you can play any Mario game and get an experience unique to that game. Playing Super Mario Bros will have little to no impact on your experience with Super Mario 3 for example (Super Mario 2 less so, considering that it’s an entirely different game), but Mass Effect requires every game in the series to fully explore it.

What does this mean? Well that will be the subject of the next Stuff I Remember, when we look at Mass Effect 2.


6:09 PM on 02.25.2014


For the past week or so I have been contemplating the next topic to write about for my next article. Maybe I should do a 'Flashback' feature about one of the many games in my collection, Stubbs The Zombie to be precise (Maybe I'll save that one for a rainy day!). Or perhaps I should write about my first gaming experience, that I can remember......It was probably something to do with the SNES and Super Mario World. Then it hit me! Why don't I write about something that makes men the world over explode with passion, celebrate a 90th Minute winner like it was real life and Don their finest Armani Suit (Or whatever the Primark equivalent is) for the most important day of their footballing career so far! To quote Rolf Harris "Can you tell what it is yet?" Let me give you abit of help if you are struggling......FOOTBALL MANAGER!

All throughout my teenage years up until this point, I have had an unhealthy obsession with this game! From picking a team who's 'War Chest' is full to the brim so that I can buy the best players imaginable, to picking a team in not such a great position or league and try to reach the Holy Grail of transforming them into one of Europe's, or indeed the World's, premier teams. I would love to say that I absolutely love this game, but at times its more of a 'Love/Hate' relationship! One moment the game will aid you with that vital win or gift you with a signing that is a master stroke, but just when the CPU thinks things are going a little bit too well, BOOM! It sends you on 5 game losing streaks that causes irreparable damage to your whole season or just for a laugh decides to injure your star player and leave him on the sidelines for the rest of what remains of your season, lying there in tatters on the floor.

Many of my female friends don't understand why me and the vast majority of my friends like this game so much. They claim that it's "Just clicking! You don't actually do anything!" but believe me it's so much more than that! Not long a go I purchased a book titled 'Football Manager Stole My Life!" and some of the stories told in this book by ordinary people like you or me is absolutely extraordinary! There was one guy who was fortunate to do a semester of his course in Seville during his final year of college. As you can imagine he was a huge fan of Football Manager and by coincidence he had been playing the game incessantly as Sevilla FC, around the time they still had Dani Alves and Freddie Kanoute. The directors of his course had heard him non stop talk about his exploits in the game and his knowledge of the club, so on the off chance he was interested, he told him of a job opening as he was THAT impressed with his knowledge of Spanish football . He said yes even though it was unpaid, but it turned out that Sevilla FC we looking for a Spanish to English translator. He couldn't speak a word of Spanish but as luck would have it during his interview, the interviewer insisted on speaking English to better grasp his understanding of the language. Amazingly he was given the job and moments such as meeting the Sevilla FC chairman, sitting in the front row of the stadium next to then manager Juande Ramos (who kind of stared at him in a bemused way as he sat that taking pictures of everything), sitting in on press conferences for new signings and meeting a vast majority of the playing staff are sure to stay with him for the rest of his life. All that from knowledge gained just by playing a computer game!

But its not all happy endings in the chronicles of Football Manager! Other tales from the book consist of one guy, who had broken his toes on four separate occasions due to the old incarnation of the game Championship Manager, had an extreme case of 'Gamer Rage'. He was in a relegation dogfight and required one point to stay up but, as you can imagine, he lost 1-0 and missed a penalty in the 90th minute that would have saved his season......he didn't take this very well an ended up punting his desk and breaking three of his toes! Other people have had friends stage interventions they were THAT obsessed with the game that they would borrow their house mates laptop to 'complete Uni essays' but instead would have a Football Manager break consisting of a few hours!

Now I can't say that I have ever experienced any of these extremes, save for spending a lot of my spare time at uni watching little virtual men run around a pitch and even going as far as firing a game up and playing during a University lecture, but I don't know what it is that prevents me from putting the laptop down and running for my life before it takes my soul! I have 'new' XBOX games that I have barely even played because every time I say to myself "This will be my last match! Then I will turn it off and play State of Decay/GTA V/Forza Horizon/Minecraft/Dead Island (You get the idea!)". But as soon as those words seem to have left my lips, I appear to have played another 5 matches because I'm on a win streak and don't want to quit lest my luck run out when I return to the game, then I eventually end up going to bed in the wee small hours of the night! This game along with FIFA and Mass Effect are the only games that cause me to induce a bout of Gamer Rage because I know I am good at them! But no matter what you try to get yourself out of a rut (changing tactics, rotating your team, making emergency/desperation signings) NOTHING WORKS! So you find yourself saving before each game so that if you lose you can just reload the game and keep trying until you win, but this could take an age! I got that frustrated once, otherwise known as 'Incredible Hulk Mode', that when I lost a match I punched the laptop screen and broke it......the downside to that is that it wasn't my laptop, it was an ex girlfriends! I just told her it fell off the desk and hit a corner of a chair and that was what broke it! The lie was accepted and all was well in the world, because that gave her the motivation to throw away the prehistoric laptop and get a shiny new one, so you could say it was a blessing in disguise!

Despite all of these setbacks that myself and others have experienced, the flame that is love for this game never seems to be extinguished. Men, and sometimes women, seem to be drawn together to share the roller-coaster of emotions that they have experienced at the hands of this game. I am not ashamed to say that I have gained the vast majority of my footballing knowledge from this game, from the latest wonder kids to come out of South America (Diego, Robinho and Freddy Adu were all the rage when I was younger!) to the history of various leagues and competitions around the world. I have even used my knowledge to help me earn a bit of cash during Euro 2012! I put a couple of pound on Alan Dzagoev to score first for Russia v Czech Republic......I only did this because I know he is absolutely AMAZING on Football Manager, and it turns out that quality translates into reality because the bet actually came off and he scored the first of Russia's four goals in a 4-1 victory. Many a conversation I have had with my friends has turned to Football Manager conundrums such as "I need a new Right Back!" or "Holy Shit, I managed to beat Borussia Dortmund 3-0 away with Aberdeen!".

This is the beauty of Football Manager, or Video Games in general if you think about it, it manages to bring people together in a shared appreciation of something, you could even say people have found a way to be anti social together! Some football clubs have even used the game as a tool to scout new players due to the fact a lot of scouting work actually goes into all the players that are feature in the game, with Sports Interactive creating their own scouting network that spans the length of the globe. So if you are ever puzzled by why Football Manager is soo popular and well loved, just try your hand at it......But be prepared to never have a girlfriend/boyfriend ever again!

As always leave your thoughts and opinions in the comments section below!


7:58 AM on 02.04.2014


At my website Battle Misfit we are always looking for readers to add their views, opinions and experiences to our site to make it more varied and enjoyable for you guys to read. From New and Retro games, to any experiences you have had online or the experience of a game or console midnight launch! We will only grow with the help of you guys so don’t be afraid to submit something to us either on our Facebook page ( or to our email address ([email protected])! We look forward to hearing what you guys have to say!   read

2:20 PM on 01.30.2014


Ever since I started playing Video Games, I have tried to avoid the Horror Genre like the Plague! Now more than ever I find myself terrified by the thought of bringing myself to play games such as Slender, Amnesia and Outlast. Just watching the various playthroughs of them that feature on YouTube has me filling my pants with fear! I didn’t fare much better with the flash games that used to appear on sites such as Mousebreaker and Newgrounds, games such as The House and Exmortis. It’s even got to the stage where I am mistaking Work Shirts that are hung up to dry on my skylight in the middle of the night for Slenderman, and nearly dying of a heart attack when I wake up still half asleep! But what is it that is stopping me from going toe to toe with Slenderman? Or tangling up with the inmates who run the insane asylum in Outlast? I can’t put my finger on it…

Maybe its because I dislike Horror films as well so that naturally makes me have an instant distrust of anything to do with Horror when it comes to Video Games. With Horror films all the scares are fixed in place and predetermined, whereas with Horror Video Games a scare can literally come from around any corner in a variety of different shapes and sizes. I have actually attempted to take on some of the devils hordes in a couple of Horror games. In fact, a Horror game is actually in my list of favourite games and that game is F.E.A.R! I dont know what it is that actually made me play it in the first place! Maybe I just decided I should grow up that day…..or maybe I thought I was Iron Man or something! But I must say I really enjoyed it despite me jumping out of my skin once too often. F.E.A.R, if you haven’t played it, draws its influence from Japanese horror and as you may well know the Japanese are King when it comes to making people crap their pants or drop dead through fear! Drawing influence from films such as The Ring and The Grudge, F.E.A.R draws you in before giving you a sucker punch with a scare. A particular moment stood out for me in one of my playthroughs. Picture the scene. I was in a pitch black office complex, in the company of invisible super soldiers jumping and flipping off walls and ceilings trying to cut my head off. After a few blasts with my shotgun, and a few clicks of the ‘Bullet Time’ button, I managed to clear the room of these acrobatic henchmen. I clicked on my Torch (Or Flashlight if you’re American, Gavin and the other guys at Achievement Hunter argue about that a lot!) and slowly started to make my way down a corridor with glass walls on either side. Without warning a dead, possessed body came flying through one of the panes of glass! I had to pause the game and calm myself down for a good five minutes I got THAT scared!

To give credit where credit is due, F.E.A.R is one of the few horror games that I have actually played that has actually given me a scare. Whether that be the previous example I have just mentioned or the appearances of ‘Alma’ one of the games Antagonists, I could never predict what was going to happen, how it was going to happen or how I was going to react to it and that in itself seems to be quite a unique trait. However, I get the feeling that if I liked F.E.A.R, how many other great games am I missing out on? Don’t get me wrong there are other horror games I have played on, such as the equally brilliant Alan Wake and I even managed to play the first half an hour of Condemned until I handed the controller to a friend and watched him complete the playthrough (One particular part which unnerved me was the part in the Abandoned Shopping Mall with the mannequins, if you have played this game you will know what I’m talking about!), but I feel as though I should pluck up the courage to at least attempt to play through Slender, Outlast or Amnesia. Sure I have played tense games such as The Last of Us and Dead Space but those games didn’t give me a true sense of fear I felt when playing horror games and left me feeling as though the enemies in the game were actually coming after me and not the character I am playing as, this could be due to the fact that in a lot of horror games you are looking through the eyes of the protagonist and that tricks your brain into thinking that someone is attempting to murder you. Just from looking at the variety of playthroughs on YouTube etc of these games kind of makes me say to myself “Come on! Just play a Horror game just this once! They look like a riot!” instead of cowering in the corner at the mere sight of some of the iconic Horror characters out there such as Pyramid Head or Nemesis.

Maybe I am still limited by my inner ten year old, or maybe I am not as tough as I thought I was but I am determined to throw off the shackles of Horror Game oppression, look it dead in the eyes and say “YOU DON’T SCARE ME ANYMORE!”….

If there are any Horror Games you think I should tackle, please feel free to let me know in the comments below


7:59 AM on 01.26.2014


When I play Multiplayer on most games, I try to be a helpful and noble person. On GTA I like to try and help out people who are in trouble with the police or if they have picked up a ‘Simeon Vehicle’, I like to give them an escort to where they need to go so at least they have a fighting chance of earning a bit of money in the On-line mode. On Battlefield, I actually use each class for its intended purpose! As crazy as it sounds, I actually use the Medic class to go around and help people who are bleeding out! I also use the Engineer class to repair vehicles that are moments away from engulfing the driver in a fiery ball of death! Even in Left 4 Dead 1 or 2, a game based around team work, I find myself sprinting out of the sanctuary of the ‘Safe Room’ and helping a player who has been incapacitated because as you will more often then not hear in a war movie “WE NEVER LEAVE A MAN BEHIND!!!”. I can almost hear you all say “Aston, you are like the Robin Hood of video games!”, but I can tell you with disappointment that most of my efforts are not repaid in kind!

As many of you will know, an attempt to be a saint in most games is usually rewarded with a swift bullet to the virtual head! I myself have actually suffered racial abuse at the hands of some people on-line, when I’m sure in reality that these people would do anything for anyone, whether that be helping old ladies across the street or holding the door open for somebody (OK, I’m thinking quite small but you get the gist!). So what is it that makes these people treat others like this? Anonymity? Maybe they think there will be no ramifications? Trying to impress their peers? Regardless of it being ANY of those things, there is no excuse for some people treating others the way they do! Yes, Microsoft and Sony etc have made ways for you to report these individuals but more often than not these seem to go unused in favour of a slanging match in message or chat form over Xbox Live or the Playstation Network! Here’s a novel concept that some people might not be familiar with, maybe the other player is just better than you…..said no gamer ever. Imagine in a perfect world that, for example, two players have a spirited game of FIFA. The lead gets traded back and forth when in the 92nd one player snatches the winner. “Good Game!” (or ‘GG’ if you fancy yourself a hardcore gamer) is traded between the two and then they go their separate ways and on to the next footballing encounter. Now I know what you may be thinking, that I’m probably living on cloud cuckoo land, but I ask you this….Why cant it be like this? Instead of one player ‘Rage Quitting’ or hurling abuse at the other player, they can come together and appreciate that they are both technically gifted at their chosen game.

I had an experience once where I had won (It was pretty one sided, not to brag or anything!) one particular game of FIFA. I thought I would still be the bigger man and commend him on giving me an interesting game. “Hey Mate, thanks for the game!” I typed out and hit send expecting a like-wise reply, but no what I actually received was “F**k you, You N****r!”. I was absolutely gob-smacked! Surely my friendly message didn’t warrant a reply of the lowest order in my opinion. I did what any sane person would do and hit the report button straight away, but the only thing that annoys me about this that you are unsure whether or not the powers that be have actually done anything about it and not just disregarded your complaint and thrown it to one side. Other things that I have experienced online, granted not as bad as my previous example, are your teammates on Call of Duty or any of the endless parade of gray/brown shooters sacrificing you with the goal of getting a better kill streak and unlocking the various forms of death to unleash on unsuspecting, innocent and unskilled players such as myself (I’m not bitter at all!). Or to bring this whole thing full circle, GTA Online. I dont think its right that you go on expecting AT LEAST a pleasant playthrough, when in actual fact you are having to cower behind every chest high wall at the mere sight of another white dot approaching yours on the minimap! To quote Rodney King (The last person I expected to use a quote from in this piece!) “Why cant we all just get along?”

Its not all doom and gloom! There are actually some nice people and occasions that happen Online. I have had quite a few encounters with these people but two stick out in my recent memory. In GTA V (Its all I have been playing recently) I was barreling down one of the main roads in the center of Los Santos when I noticed another player in a flash supercar driving towards me from the opposite direction. I thought, in my unimpressive car, that it would be funny to crash into him (Again, not bitter at all!). However as I crashed into the front of his car, I was catapulted up into the air performing a front flip and landing safely on all four wheels! We were both so amazed that for the next minute or so we were sat stationary honking at each other, me with my ‘La Cucaracha’ horn and him with his big rig horn. This is where it gets interesting, just incase a front flip in a car isn’t interesting enough for you! He then proceeded to gift me with over ONE BILLION in game credits! Finally my dream of owning a ten car garage and a plush apartment can come true! Until Rockstar updates the game and takes the majority of my money away because it wasn’t gained legitimately (Cue the violins). Another occasion was when I was part of a Wedding. I was all dressed up with a bowtie, took off my facepaint and even sprayed my Adder white to drive the bride down to the beach to give her away. Alright it did end in murder and mayhem, but you can’t deny that it was one of the more unique and nicer moments in Online gaming.

Moments like this may only come along once in a blue moon, but when they do they always stick out in your memory and have you grinning to yourself like an idiot. If you have yet to have one of these moments, don’t give up! A lasting memory may be just around the corner…

As always, let me know what you think in the comments section   read

9:06 AM on 01.24.2014


As the credits rolled on ‘The Last of Us’, a sudden feeling of dread came over me. Then I pinpointed what it was that was causing me to feel this way. The realisation that I will never be able to play this game for the first time again! THAT is the exact emotion that I want to feel every time I finish a video game! It was a similar feeling when I completed the Mass Effect trilogy. Bioware had done such a fantastic job over the course of three games that when I had finally arrived at the climax of the third game, I was literally sat on my bed for half an hour agonizing over which ending I should choose and screaming at my Xbox “WHY ARE YOU DOING THIS TO ME!?”. But alas every coin has two sides and the other side, in my opinion, isn’t a pretty one. 

Yes, you guessed it, I am referring to Activision’s cash cow the Call of Duty franchise. Don’t get me wrong, I do enjoy playing these games and I can see why they are immensely popular to most people who have even the slightest interest in video games, but they greatly lack the emotional depth that games like The Last of Us, Heavy Rain, Beyond: Two Souls and Mass Effect have. Time and time again I found myself sat on my bed upon completion of Call of Duty (you could also argue a case for Battlefield and a few others being in this category!) thinking to myself “….is that it?…Guess I’ll start playing something else now…..” Every year they don’t add very much to mix up the formula to make the series new and refreshing like it was when it first arrived on the scene. When the Call of Duty franchise first appeared, I was instantly drawn to it through my huge interest in World War two era. The amount of stories, myths and urban legends that they could draw upon is limitless! For the first time you weren’t just placed into the boots of some unstoppable super soldier, but were placed into the boots of Russian soldier leading the charge at the Battle of Stalingrad, a British soldier taking part in Operation Market Garden and an American Paratrooper jumping into occupied France as part of Operation Overlord. If you were popped in the head, that’s it ‘Game Over!’ just as it would be in reality. When you were moving from cover to cover you were acutely aware of just how exposed you were, frantically urging your boot-clad feet to “MOVE FASTER!”, which I can imaging how many a soldier would feel when being under fire, trying to desperately find that bullet hole ridden wall that may just grant you an extra few minutes of life! There are even historical accuracies such as the American Paratrooper John Steele hanging from the church spire of the French town Sainte-Mere-Eglise (Which is actually a fascinating story, if you don’t know anything about it I suggest you have a quick blast through Wikipedia!). Unfortunately, the times of tense fire fights and historical accuracy have given way to sub standard graphics and plot detail compared to other top games out there, absolutely atrocious A.I and an army of 8-15 year old’s claiming to have slept with your mum (But not quite put as nicely as I have written it.). If you asked most people that buy any Call of Duty game most would say they only buy it for the Multi-player, which lends weight to the opinion that Activision would rather sacrifice great story telling and emotional depth for the sake of that extra few zeros at the end of their profits! Even the Season Passes that they release for each annual instalment doesn’t add any extra hours game play to the single player campaign and just concentrates on added map packs and weapons for the Multi-player and ‘Zombies/Extinction’ modes.

There was a game released by 2K Games in June 2012 that was overshadowed by some arguable bigger games that came around the same time, such as Rockstar’s Max Payne 3, Telltale Games The Walking Dead and the Xbox 360 version of Minecraft on XBLA. The game I’m referring to is Spec Op’s: The Line. If you are unfamiliar with this game, the plot goes something like this…“In Spec Ops: The Line, you assume the role of Captain Martin Walker, who is sent into a Dubai ravaged by a natural disaster with an elite Delta Force team on a reconnaissance mission, where they find several dead American soldiers. Upon the finding, Walker declares that the team’s mission has changed, and that they will search for any survivors that remain in Dubai and send for evacuation“ Now upon reading that plot summary you may think “How does that differ from most shooting games out there?” and you might be right. But its only until you delve further into the single player mode that some of the choices you make actively have you asking yourself “I really hope I’ve done the right thing….”. Without giving too much away, there was a section of a game involving a phosphorus Mortar cannon and I remember thinking to myself afterwards “…….SHIT! WHAT HAVE I DONE!?” That’s how much of an emotional impact it had on me! Whenever anybody in the store asks me for a game recommendation I always go out of my way to recommend this with the line “Its’s like Apocalypse Now, but in game form!”. This isn't intended to be fun experience for the player, but goes more down the road of seeing what the player is willing to put their character through in order to achieve their goal. Throughout the game we see Walkers loss of sanity through subtle changes in the scenery, auditory hallucinations and his issuing of orders becoming more and more fiery and ragged. Even his kill confirmations border on the psychotic further on in the game.

It’s sad that this is one of only a few games on a list that have had some sort of emotional impact on me, the others being The Walking Dead Season 1, Mass Effect, The Last of Us and Heavy Rain. God dammit, even Guitar Hero/Rock Band have shaped my life in some form or another, getting me into Bands and Artist I wouldn't have necessarily have heard of otherwise. So on the off chance that EA or Activision ever see this (and I hope they do, they should be paying attention to the little guys!) I urge you to think more about what goes into your single player campaigns instead of just dismissing it as an after thought. Challenge the players perceptions of morality and make us emotionally invest in all of your characters, maybe even love them. Make people turn around re-think their attitude towards you and say “You know what, maybe I was wrong about EA and Activision!”. I promise you that if they can do that, this current generation of gamers will be a lot better off for it and have stories to tell their friends and families about for years to come!

Let me know your thoughts and opinions in the comment section below!
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2:20 PM on 01.22.2014


Picture the scene. You are behind the counter working in your local Video Game store, sorting through the mountains of traded in consoles and games due to the imminent release of the XBOX ONE and the Playstation 4. You turn around to see a parent standing with a copy of Grand Theft Auto in their hands ready to buy. "Ah good choice" you say, "You will get soo much out of this game! Rockstar always craft outstanding worlds infused with top notch dialogue!" (Okay, maybe not exactly in that way!) "Oh its not for me! I know nothing about games!" they say, to which you reply "Oh! Who's it for if you don't mind me asking?" "Its for my 8 year old."..........Yes you heard that right, this parent wants to buy an 18 rated game FOR THEIR 8 YEAR OLD!

Now I'm not here to call into question anybodies parenting skills, but when you cave in to your child's demands to buy for them an 18 rated game because "All my friends are getting it and I will be the only one who doesn't have it!" then it is inevitable that you going to tumble down a deep hole of disaster! A colleague of mine told me the other day that a customer had to take a copy of Grand Theft Auto from their 10 year old child because they began to have episodes of rage that she couldn't control, so that was the only course of action she could take. That example right there displays why an 18 rated game has been classified as such. In all fairness, I don't believe that the Video Game was the soul cause of this episode of 'Rage' and that there are other factors that come into play that contribute to this. Maybe the child is used to getting their way more often than not, or that the parents ignore this type of behaviour so the child thinks they can get away with it. I'm not saying that I have NEVER had a bout of 'Gamer Rage', because I have, but I would never take it out on another human being in any way, shape or form........Although I'm sure a few of my Xbox controllers would protest against this point!

Most kids between 8 and 12 wouldn't understand most of the content within these 18 rated games i.e. why Trevor from GTA takes any drugs he can get his hands on or why he murders people with no explanation, or an antagonists motivations for anarchy and destruction within the game world in the Call of Duty or Battlefield series. When I was their age (Wow I feel really old! Somebody pass me my Zimmer Frame!) I had no interest in games that were too old for me! All I cared about was how to get to the secret zone in Super Mario World with my brother, sisters and parents or attempting to pass the level 'Slippery Climb' on Crash Bandicoot, which I have purchased again recently and it took me about 50 attempts to reach the end! I have no idea how I even finished the game as a kid, let alone got past that level! The same goes with Zelda: Ocarina of Time, I felt the dungeons and Bosses were insanely hard for a child my age but with 'a little help from my friends' (And my Step Brother) I was able to get relatively far in the game. Granted I never managed to finish Ocarina of Time but I still had fun in all the times I failed. THAT'S what gaming should be about for a young child, having fun playing a game with their family and not worrying about what the latest game craze is!

This is why I applaud parents who come into the GAME in Southport where I work and buy games such as Minecraft, Just Dance or any of the endless Super Mario games that Nintendo release, which shows you what kind of parent they are and judging by the games they buy for their kids, they are damn fine ones! If I had a child and I had to pick between a Call of Duty or a Minecraft, I would choose Minecraft every time because it challenges the young children to engage their vast imagination that kids possess these days. The things I have seen my 12 year old brother, or anybody for that matter, create in his little world is absolutely astounding. While I'm stuck attempting to build a small house for shelter away from the endless parade of Creepers and Endermen or attempting to mine what little Iron I can find in the world, other people are making to scale replicas of Hogwarts or The Starship Enterprise! Just take a look at what the guy's over at Achievement Hunter have done with their Minecraft world and you will think "How is that even possible!?". That's what I love about the game, Who's tagline is "You are only limited by your imagination!", that you can pretty much create anything you like within the game world. Just ask the schools that have implemented the game in their school as a way for children to learn about City Planning, how to care for the environment and even teach children about different aspects of Science, such as Gravity. I feel that this is more engaging for a child rather than just sitting down at a desk and listening to a teacher drone on and on for hours and hours, which I can testify to, tends to cause your mind to wonder to other subjects such as "I wonder what mum is making for Dinner tonight?". The field of Medicine has also started to use the XBOX Kinect Sensor to view MRI scans without ever having to leave the room! With a simple wave of their hands, they can move around and see everything right in front of them instead of having to go through the rigour of having to disinfect their hands, check every scan, come back to the operating theatre and then disinfect their hands all over again!

So if you have children and are thinking to yourself "Maybe I should just get them this game if all his friends have it! Maybe it will give me some peace and quiet for a change" DON'T!!! Go away, have a think to yourself and then have a chat with your children about their different interests and likes and get some games based on that, such as your FIFA's or Minecraft's, or something that the whole family can join in with like Mario Kart! Don't bow to pressure, cause in the long run it will benefit your children exponentially!

Let me know what you think in the comments section below!

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