23 6 / 2012

This interview is the first in a series of interviews that will look to delve into the mindset of the most prominent characters looking to drive the UK console eSports community forward. Looking across the community and picking out a range of individuals who constantly strive to improve the scene for the better. From the hard-working founders behind the biggest communities and organisations to the shoutcasters and players who make the live games a spectacle to watch, I’ll be looking to pick their brains and find out their thoughts and feelings about the Xbox gaming community and its’ future.

The first interview features M3lm0th aka Paul Kent, the founder of the WGL. The Warped Gaming League, for those who aren’t a part of its madcap and loyal fanbase, is a community with a difference. The site supports multiple titles such as MW3, FIFA, Gears of War 3 and Battlefield 3 with different league formats and rulesets for each game, ensuring that it is always possible to find something you’ll want to participate in. The community surrounding the WGL is its’ greatest asset however, with a strong emphasis on sportsmanship and enjoyment of the game, the competitive edge behind the leagues are tempered by each team’s determination to enjoy each match they play.

The WGL announced in early 2012 that it was partnering with Multiplay, the well-respected company behind the Insomnia LAN events, to present the Xbox eSports community with an opportunity to experience the joys of competitive LAN events coupled with its’ trademark emphasis on socialising and sportsmanship. Due to the success of the events at i45, the partnership with Multiplay has continued and the second event at i46 on August Bank Holiday is likely to further cement the WGL’s place as an integral part of the UK eSports scene.

Partisan: Paul, thanks for taking the time to answer some questions for me.
I’d like to start by asking, for those who are unaware of The WGL’s beginnings, how did it come into existence?

M3lm0th: No problem at all. I’d love to say the WGL came into existence due to a great longing to give something back to the community but, if I’m being honest, this wasn’t the case. Traditionally I am a PC gamer and had been playing in online leagues since the age of 15 on my 28.8k modem. However, due to one reason or another I had to quit PC gaming and went cold turkey for a few years until I realised how much I missed the competitive buzz of playing. Rather than getting back into the PC scene I thought I would try the console scene. I soon joined a team but couldn’t quite believe that there was no UK based league in existence, only the GB ladders and realised how much console gamers were missing out, so with 8 teams the WGL was born in 2009.

P: What was your vision for the WGL when you created it in 2009?

M: The thing we all dreamed about as a kid was a place to compete. Doesn’t matter what sport or activity you were into as a kid, we all day dreamed about being good at something but unfortunately not all of us are born with the physical skills to take part in mainstream sports at a high level. I wanted the WGL to offer a place where everyone could compete, regardless of ability.

P: In your own words, what does The WGL now offer compared to Gamebattles or other competitive Xbox leagues/ladders?

M: The WGL offers a more complete community which provides a platform for players and teams to get involved as much or as little as they would like. Be that with our live broadcasts of games, player and team interviews or even betting with virtual money on upcoming matches. We also hold people to account which is part of the reason our community is known for being so friendly. On sites like Gamebattles if teams lose a game they can quickly close their team and start another one with a different name so they can have a perfect record, we don’t allow such childish actions on our site. Most importantly, we do not tolerate trolls and actively stamp them out which again adds to the atmosphere we provide which others don’t.

P: Speaking of which, you are notorious for your merciless wielding of the ban hammer, is there ever a way back into your good books?

M: I think this is more than a myth than anything else! The WGL now has roughly 6 thousand active users and we have less than 10 people who have been permanently banned. I do not suffer fools gladly and people who bring nothing but negativity to our community are simply not welcome. That said, I also understand people make mistakes and do things in the heat of the moment. These are the type of people who, when they calm down, apologise and hold their hands up and are more than welcome back again. Some other people just never accept they are in the wrong and find it completely acceptable to cause trouble and hurt other people for laughs, most of the time these people come with a giant chip on their shoulder and are not wanted in our community.

P: How much further do you believe you can take The WGL as an organisation? Can it rival an American organisation such as Gamebattles?

M: I would say the project is about 20% complete. However, it would be impossible for us to rival Gamebattles without serious investment and I would be surprised if that ever materialises.

P: Is outside investment a possibility then for The WGL?

M: I would love to think so, phone me! On a serious note, we would love to talk to anyone about investment as with investment we could start to make some of our dreams for the WGL a reality.

P: Regarding the recent success of WGL’s involvement with i45, how did the partnership with Multiplay come about?

M: I actually met the owner of Multiplay (Wizzo – Craig Fletcher) at a LAN when I was 15 in Edinburgh, when he was supplying the network cable as a favour for the guy who was running the event. This was before Multiplay had even been born and, over the years, I have attended a few events and even presented prizes for various tournaments on behalf of Creative. It wasn’t until a year or so ago that I thought the WGL was ready to be involved with a LAN and so it was only natural to contact Multiplay to see if we could do something with them. Due to busy schedules these talks got sidetracked by a year but I’m pleased to say we did our first event with them at I45 and it was a relative success!

P: Do you think that Xbox interest will ever rival that of PC gamers at LAN events?

M: I think it has the possibility to surpass PC gaming but only if all the organisations and communities start working together in the same way the PC scene does. I could go into great detail on this but perhaps that is best left for another day.

P: Do you think a team from the WGL will ever achieve success at a LAN event?

M: I would like to hope one day it will happen, as like DC DaNoLd (Daniel Pesic – Quake player) once said; ‘Any player can have a great aim that comes down to practice, practice, practice’ and he was one of the greatest FPS gods of all time! With the addition of aim assist with in games such as MW3, this should be even easier. However what sets teams apart is teamwork and map control, this is something that can only be taught to an extent and is pretty instinctual the rest of the time and only time will tell if we have this in teams in the WGL.

P: Do you ever think that eSports can become a mainstream interest?

M: Most certainly, it’s only a matter of time. We have already seen the huge strides that MLG have made in the last few months to see the true potential in eSports.

P: OK, going right back to the beginning now. What are you first memories of gaming?

M: Playing Robocop on my Spectrum 128k is one of my earliest memories of gaming, however I would say getting Mario 3 on Christmas day along with a NES was my favourite earliest memory. Staying up all night playing what was truly an amazing game!

P: What game sticks in your mind as the first to get you really hooked?

M: Quakeworld. Never before or since has the world seen such an unforgiving relentless beast! Even now more than 15 years later this game is still evolving with new tactics and strategies. When I hear the console community cry about spawn systems it makes me chuckle inside as COD has it easy compared to this sinister beast. On certain maps you could die and then quite quickly die another 7 or 8 times within a few seconds due to the spawns. That’s what made this game excellent though

 This game truly had no skill ceiling and that is what made it so beautiful. I can still remember playing a Champions League match against a Swedish side on the map DM3, trying to hold a key area while waiting for the powerup, Pent (this made you invulnerable for 30 seconds).  I was spamming my team binds (we had no voice comms in those days) asking for help from my team mates while taking down the entire enemy team twice (8 kills) on my own with nothing but 3 rockets and a shotgun. 

P: Sounds immense! What is your fondest memory/experience of life in The WGL?

M: The T5 Tournament we did. This was an online cup quite similar to the Champions League which seemed to attract the imagination of the entire community and had huge interest all the way to the final.

P: And your least fondest?

M: Dealing with idiots, including one who tried to blackmail me.

P: Wow. I think we’ll steer clear of that topic then.
Going back to the subject of classic game titles, will The WGL look to cater for CS:GO upon its release?

M: We have already made plans to support the game and are really excited about it. For now, we can only hope it goes on to be the game we hope it will be and that enough teams get behind it otherwise it will die very quickly.

P: Are there any other games that The WGL plans to support?

M: If HALO4 or any other game takes off we would of course support it. It all comes down to the following really. If a game has enough teams wanting to take part then of course we would support it.

P: People will be dying for at least one member of the WGL community to get a shout-out so who has been the most individually skilled player you’ve come up against in your time in The WGL?

M: If you had asked me this question in regards to PC players I could have written you a novel! Unfortunately, in regards to console players I don’t really get to play that much anymore so I would have to go with 2 players that stood out when I did get to play. Doores and Disturbed were two players who, during the MW2 period, were quite frankly outstanding,

P: This question is something that also comes up quite often amongst the WGL’s newer members, can you finally put it to rest for us: At times the suitability of the Admin Council to make decisions for the WGL community has been questioned as potentially the wrong method. Do you think there’s any validity to these claims?

M: Yes of course there is validity to these claims. If there was a perfect system for leagues to use that would please everyone then every sports organisation in the world would be using it. Unfortunately, of course there isn’t and every system has its pros and cons. However, I would suggest the system we are using just now, although not perfect, does work and this statement is backed up by the fact that our league is growing every single season.

P: And finally, for those looking to get involved in joining the community at the WGL and playing in a league, how easy is it for them to add their clan/find a clan?

M: Very easy! Just hit the register button on our site and after a few more clicks your profile will be created! From here you can either use our in built clan management system to create a team and join a league or head on over to the forums and put up a free agent post!

P: Thanks very much for taking the time to answer these questions Mr Kent. Look forward to seeing you at i46!

M: No problem at all, I hope I can finally shake off my image as the grumpy, ban hammer-wielding Scot around the place now!

P: Little chance of that. Byeeeee!


That brings the first mammoth interview in this series to its conclusion, for those that managed to make it all the way to the end, I congratulate you. There is no prize, other than the priceless knowledge bestowed upon you from reading such an epic volume of work.

For those interested in participating in The WGL, please check it out here.

Make sure you follow me on Twitter at iamPartisan for more details of the next interview in which I’ll hopefully be talking to one of the UK’s best shoutcasters.

Thank you kindly fellow gamers! Toodle-pip!

13 6 / 2012

16 games to watch in the 2nd half of 2012 – Part Two

The second article in this epic four part series for Xtreme Gaming UK casts an eye over the releases scheduled to arrive in the month of September. A notoriously difficult month to attract huge sales due to the impending ‘blockbuster’ gaming month of October looming over it like a playground bully looking to steal its lunch money, September still promises to put up a decent fight and offer a few titles that will get gamers reaching for their wallets.

 Due to the daunting sales environment posed by this time of the year and knowing full well that their games might be compared unfavourably to the polished sheen of the AAA game releases, some game dev’s chose to push back their release dates until they are completely confident in their finished product. Such is the case with Forza Horizon, with its anticipated release date of mid-September being confirmed by Microsoft Studios at E3 as being pushed back to October 23rd to enable them to add some technical flourishes and a quick spit-shine. As a result, the game no longer qualifies to feature in my September releases feature and instead I’ve had to sub in a legendary Japanese fighting games series to take its place: Tekken Tag Tournament 2. A preview of the new Forza title will instead be pushed back to a later article.

So, without further ado, let’s see what games should be whittling away your wage packet in September:

Far Cry 3

Release Date: September 7th

Genre: Open World First Person Shooter

Mode(s): Single-player/Multiplayer

Age Rating: 18

Possibly the game of E3 to cause the biggest collective spitting of coffee over keyboards was Far Cry 3, due to its depiction of fornication with native tribeswomen (with added jiggling breasts and a watching crowd!) and almost obligatory weapon for a 2012 release,  bow and arrows. Whipping up a Twitter storm from commentators and fans alike due to Ubisoft Montreal’s controversial decision to include the nudity in its E3 promo video, Far Cry 3 has already generated a degree of attention but what of the gameplay?

FC3 looks set to follow in the open-world footsteps of its previous incarnations and will have gamers’ assume the mantle of Jason Brody, a tourist who has been stranded on a tropical island paradise due to the violent conflict raging around him.  Interestingly, Ubisoft Montreal have elected to make the protagonist a regular guy, not a specially trained space-marine with raging testosterone levels or a grizzled war veteran with a penchant for mowing down battalions of enemies.  Brody has a simple task to fulfil in the game and has no more noble motive than finding his girlfriend from who he’s become separated from and hauling ass off of the island. Standing in his way is a jungle environment set across of a chain of islands all teeming with local warlords and unstable characters whose minds have become unhinged by years of atrocity and death. Not just a stroll in the park then, eh?

Brody’s nature as a regular man, trapped by his unfortunate yet dramatically necessary wandering into the heart of conflict, will dictate the nature of the gameplay. Recent interviews with the game’s narrative director, Jason Vandenberghe, have hinted at the fact that Brody is a man out of his depth who will have to learn and adapt over the course of the game to survive. Expect to start the game without any particular skillset then with stealth playing a big role in surviving early encounters and a possible evolution into a mean Arnie-style jungle warrior as the game progresses.

Multiplayer returns for Far Cry 3 and gamers should expect to see key single-player features such as fire propagation, where fire spreads realistically and can be used to set off explosive chain reactions, to return and provide for an engaging and thought-provoking MP experience.  Lobbies will support up to 16 players at a time and gamers will be able to get to grips with six different classes and a plethora of customisation to use across a range of modes. The inventive and original ‘Firestorm’ mode sets an offensive team the objective of lighting two ignition points in the enemy camp but it can only do so through air support dousing them with gasoline, something the defensive team looks to thwart by controlling the radios.  Far Cry 3 looks set to take a leaf out of the Battlefield 3 MP manual and encourage teamwork and co-ordination instead of rewarding selfish gameplay from wannabe heroes; players will be rewarded with Team Support Points in Multiplayer which can be spent on buffing your allies’ stats or affecting the enemies’ abilities. Damaging effects such as Psyche Gas will cause enemies to see every player as a demon silhouette with no idea which team they are on, making for riveting gameplay with team cohesion and communication a must to overcome the opposition.

FC3 should definitely interest every serious gamer out there, with unforgiving single-player gameplay providing a challenge for the lone wolf, tactical and thoughtful teamwork providing a thrill for the multiplayer fans and an open-world setting and map editor letting the creative explorers get their kicks.

And, the pervert in all of us, even gets the benefit of the jiggling bosoms of native tribeswomen…high five!

Tekken Tag Tournament 2

Release Date: September 14th

Genre: Fighting

Mode(s): Single-player/Multiplayer

Age Rating: 16

The second pillar of the mighty Japanese fighting game industry (Street Fighter being the other, just in case y’know, you’ve been in kept locked in an attic for the past 25 years or something) Tekken Tag Tournament 2 is the sequel to Namco Bandai’s fighting masterpiece of 1999, at the time a Playstation exclusive. Fortunately for us, this time the Xboxers get to join the party!

Tekken Tag Tournament 2, a console port of 2011’s arcade version of TTT2,  for any newcomer to the fighting genre utilises the gameplay mechanic of being able to tag a partner into gameplay during a round, enabling players to pull off some devastating and visually stunning double-team combo’s and moves to smash their opponent into a pulpy mess of bruised bone and flesh. The original Tekken Tag Tournament boasted a ridiculous roster of 40 playable characters, which TTT2 looks set to emulate with a cast of over 50 characters enabling players to find the right fighting characteristics to match their playstyle.

The game, although at first glance appearing to be daunting to the non-accustomed fighting aficionado, includes some features from Tekken 6 that enable any player taking a complete ass-stomping to quickly find their feet again and turn the battle against their aggressor.  The ‘Rage’ system kicks in during Solo play mode when a players’ health bar drops below a certain amount of vitality and when activated, gives the player a much needed damage increase when they attack. The ‘Netsu Power’ system works as a desperate tag-out ploy to your partner and is triggered when a player is attacked a certain number of times without retaliating against their opponent. The players life bar will flash and at this point if they make the tag to their partner, the freshly introduced colleague will receive a buff to their damage stats. Think of it like one of those matches in WWE, a greased up, muscled freak in lycra is getting an ass-kicking but finally manages to make it to their corner and tags in their partner who goes about demolishing the opposition within moments, kind of like that.

The game, as its predecessor, is considered non-canon and does not feature a typical Tekken storyline for single-players to get to grips with. However, this shouldn’t put off any potential fighting fans as the game’s massive fighting roster should provide plenty of a challenge to master and the new ‘Fight Lab’ will enable players’ to practice their moves against ComBot, a bot who will enable you to hone your skills should you wish to take the fight online against fellow humans. Multiplayer functionality will be a strong part of the game and will allow fighting fans to battle their favourite characters against fellow enthusiasts from around the world.  Tekken has always had a strong community surrounding its’s games and this game shouldn’t prove to be any different, allowing you plenty of hours to kill against friendly, skilled players.

Namco Bandai have a tendency to provide a couple of surprises in their games with the hilarious Tekken Bowling being a feature of the original game, something which would make a welcome reappearance in the latest offering. Gamers’ should expect similar off the wall hi-jinks from the developers and Namco have yet to disappoint, already announcing at E3 a special ‘Snopp Dogg Stage’ which will feature the rapper as a non-playable character. Frivolity aside, the game should provide a fresh challenge for fighting game veterans and, with the ‘Fight Lab’ easing newbies into the series, newcomers should expect to quickly become hooked on the title.

A definite must-buy for those looking to get a bit handy and punch away the tension of everyday life, so grab a partner and get ready for the Tekken tag team action on September 14th

Marvel Avengers: Battle for Earth

Release Date: Autumn 2012 (anticipated end of September)

Genre: Fighting – Motion-controlled

Mode(s): Single-player/Multiplayer

Age Rating: TBC

Proving that the Xbox can provide a wealth of variety in its selection of games and even within the same genre, Marvel Avengers: Battle for Earth could not play differently to TTT2 above. Making use of the much-maligned Kinect technology, MA: Battle for Earth sets out to prove that motion-control is not just a one-trick pony suited only to dancing games brought out for a gaming session after too units of alcohol have been consumed (Just me then?!)

MA: Battle for Earth has a chequered developer history, the game was originally being developed by THQ Studio Australia as a first-person shooter/brawler that would tie in with the 2012 Avengers: Assemble blockbuster movie. THQ was an unfortunate casualty of the global recession that has caused a number of high-profile development studios to go out of business in recent times and so the original premise for the game was cancelled. Marvel took back the rights to an Avengers game and in May 2012 announced that they would be teaming up with Ubisoft Quebec to develop the title and the game would instead make significant use of Kinect in its gameplay.

The game is no movie tie-in however and instead opts to follow the Secret Invasion storyline, a Marvel Comics storyline that sees a hostile group of shape-shifting aliens called The Skrulls replacing many of the Marvel heroes with imposters and attempting to seize control of Earth. So far, so good for the Marvel geeks amongst us.

The game will look to cast off the shadow of previous Kinect fighter failures such as Fighters Uncaged and PowerUp Heroes and develop a fighting system that feels natural and not a bolted-on attempt at finally making the Kinect feel more worthwhile than just an expensive paperweight. Players will get to play as their favourite Marvel characters such as Wolverine, Hulk, Spider-Man and Iron Man and will utilise real-life movements to mimic the special skills of their chosen character. Hulk, for instance, can see a player reach down and mime ripping a great big hunk of concrete from the floor to either then hurl at their opponent or use as a makeshift shield to fend off damaging attacks from the enemy. The game will also feature a tag system similar to that of TTT2 and will also enable you to create devastating combos as a result, although attempting this in two player mode with someone who you aren’t already intimate might result in court proceedings as you end up crumpled in a explicit heap in the middle of the floor.

The game also features the meter system that seem synonymous with modern fighting games, a meter that fills as a player takes damage, this will unleash a defensive ‘breaker’ move when it is half full to break their combo. When the meter is full, it will unleash an Ultra, a powerful airborne move that will require a player to pump their fists as fast as possible to get the biggest possible combo and dependent on their age, possible cardiac arrest. The game might frustrate some dedicated fighting fans due to the fact you can only control the defensive and offensive actions of your character, movement and positioning is automatically determined by your actions and some may find this alien to them.

The game should definitely be one that gamers’ give a go at least once, as the ideas behind it are definitely interesting enough to warrant getting together a group of friends and giving it a bash, even if it is just to laugh at your friends’ frantic attempts to emulate Wolverine. Modes such as Arcade, challenges and tournaments should also ensure that the game has extended playability far beyond its novelty value and with multiplayer support as well, you could soon be throwing windmills at fellow Marvel fanatics from around the globe.

Borderlands 2

Release Date: September 21st

Genre: First-Person Shooter/Role-Playing

Mode(s): Single-player/Multiplayer

Age Rating: TBC

The original Borderlands game, released in October 2009, took the gaming world by surprise when it seemingly came out of nowhere and proved to be a smash hit for 2K Games, selling 2 million copies within its few months and gaining a positive critical reception upon release. The game continued to sell as gamers’ slowly had their interest piqued by its combination of elements of role-playing games and traditional FPS elements. As of February 2012 had sold a total of 4.5 million copies, a feat that very few would have predicted before the game’s release.

The game, gloriously described as a space western by fans, is set 5 years into the future on the dystopia that is the world of Pandora and gives the player the choice of four fresh new faces to choose to embark on the game’s primary quest: eliminating the despotic Handsome Jack before he gains control of an ancient evil called ‘The Warrior’. Handsome Jack is the overlord of Pandora who controls the Hyperion Corporation forces and who, alongside the various hostile crazies that make up the population of Pandora, make up the game’s main antagonists.

The sequel will build upon the previous RPG elements of the original game by forcing the player to choose one of four characters with specific skillsets with gamers’ choosing a particular branch of the skillset in which to specialise. The characters that gamers’ will be spending more time with than their families in future months are a varied and interesting bunch. Salvador, a gunsmith, will have the ability to dual-wield any combination of guns to devastating effect and will be the main choice of gamers’ wanting to focus on the FPS elements of the game. Maya, one of the last remaining 6 sirens, a being with superhuman power who can manipulate dimensional portals with which players’ can confound enemies. Axton, utilises mechanical turrets to damage enemies remotely and from afar and lastly Zer0, a rogue-style character who creates decoys of himself to trick enemies into letting him close to administer critical stealth strikes. Each character will be able to buff their abilities as they gain experience throughout the game, allowing them to tackle the toughest of Pandora’s wildlife and bandits with increasing ease.

The definitive characteristics of the original Borderlands game return with the beautiful cel-shaded graphics that paints everything in a slightly surreal and nightmarish light and the often black humour that the player encounters as they traverse the world of Pandora. Enemies will often fling insults at your character during battle and conversations with quest-givers can often leave you chuckling at their stupidity or outright rudeness.

The post-apocalyptic Pandora built by 2K Games feels like a living, breathing ecosystem that the player is moving through and the developers have taken pains to ensure that the game retains an element of realism despite its’ often crazy characters and missions. Allowing a NPC companion to die during a mission may not immediately fail a mission but will instead force a player to deal with the repercussions throughout the rest of the game, changing the game experience and ensuring that Borderlands 2 has heaps of replayability. 2K Games have also worked hard on improving the often derided AI of the original game with the result that gamers’ will encounter packs of enemies who will work together to heal and revive their injured companions, employ tactics to flank you and even use a fellow grunt as a fleshy shield to block your incoming bullets (at great expense to the well-being of their colleague!).

The RPG elements of the original game will still play a fundamental part, it is unconfirmed at present whether the sequel will be able to rival the original Borderlands claim of almost 1 million different weapon variations for gamers’ to sink their teeth into but will surely have more loot than even Diablo III stalwarts know what to do with. Vehicles have been also confirmed as also returning to the game and the Borderlands joyriders out there will be happy to hear that changes have been made to ensure that the ‘drifting’ ability of the vehicles is as realistic and smooth as possible.

Multiplayer co-operative play, a big part of the appeal of the original game, will again be a massive part of the game for many and will enable up to 4 players to join forces and take on the varied missions and goals that Pandora asks of them. As with the previous title, the more players that join the fight, the more difficult the enemies become but with the added bonus of increasingly valuable loot as reward. 2K Games look to have kept with the tried and tested formula that made Borderlands such a huge hit and have instead looked to tweak the world of Pandora to increase the immersive experience for the player, a fact that should see Borderlands 2 certain to further establish the series as heavyweight gaming titles that every self-respecting gamer should invest in.

Gamers’ yet to experience the Borderlands phenomenon should look to be first in the queue when the game is released on September 21st.

And so concludes the second part of this series of articles.  The end of Summer doesn’t seem so depressing with the September releases looking to brighten the doom and gloom of Autumn, and it’s only going to get better. How does this next feature sound? Previews of the first round of the October blockbuster titles Resident Evil 6, Dishonored, XCOM: Enemy Unknown and Assassins Creed III all previewed for your pleasure?  That’s four of the years’ biggest games all in one article!

That got you interested? No?  Well there’s no hope for you then. For those that answered correctly, I look forward to trying to express the awesomeness of those games in something other than guttural grunts and groans of pleasure for you next time. Wish me luck.

Lastly, if you still haven’t had enough of my blinkered view of the world of Xbox gaming and you can’t wait for more nonsense ‘til the next article then please feel free to add me on Twitter - twitter.com/#!/iamPartisan

08 6 / 2012

Peter Molyneux, the former head of Lionhead Studios and all-round creative spark that brought us all the visionary genius of the gay marriage and vulgar genital-thrusting of the Fable series has announced his first project since leaving his former employers in March 2012.

Curiousity, is both the name of the project and my first emotion when I happened upon the headline ‘£50,000 DLC up for grabs in Molyneux’s new title’. Curiousity; my emotive state, not Molyneux’s virtual heist/retirement fund project, swiftly turned to wide-eyed amazement at the balls-out audacity of the project in question.

Curiousity, coming to PC and mobiles soon, is the first project of Molyneux’s new company ’22 Cans’. The aim/gameplay of the new title is simplicity itself. The player, upon firing up the game, will find themself in a virtual room, with a solitary black cube for company.  The player can chip away at the cube with a chisel causing small fractures to appear in the cube, other players’ amateur sculpture efforts will appear in real-time for the player who will be able to see the fractures that they cause.

You might be wondering whether all this frantic chiselling is effort in vain or some digital stress-reliever but the reality is much more intriguing. There is something located at the heart of the cube which will reveal itself only to the player who makes the decisive chip on the block and will be their prize to claim, and only theirs! Now, this triggered some deep-rooted memory as I was reading. I was sure that I’d played something similar before, maybe even in the real world and as a small child. It was then that memories of jelly and ice cream, bouncy castles and projectile vomit flooded through me and realised that Molyneux seemed to be attempting to convince gamers to play, and invest significant amount of time in, the digital equivalent of Pass the fucking Parcel! Rather than feeling disgruntled that the years of time and effort that I had poured into understanding and embracing increasingly sophisticated games was being thrown back in my face so that I could revert to my infantile self in ripping virtual layers off a virtual present, I felt I should applaud Molyneux’s bravado.

This was only compounded further when I read on. Molyneux seeks to add additional factors to the gameplay by allowing players to purchase in-game ‘chisels’ as DLC that will offer increased ability to inflict damage upon the cube. These chisels offer around 10 times the chipping power of the default tool and costs around 59p to purchase, a seemingly reasonable investment for the potential to be the sole recipient of the cube’s secret.

Then things just go batshit crazy. One lucky (!) player will also able to purchase a much more formidable chisel, a unique diamond chisel with 100,000 times the power of the default tool. The player will have to part with a completely insane £50,000 for the privilege however and the added costs of divorce proceedings when their spouse finds out how much they just spent on a virtual chisel. To clarify, that £50,000 chisel will enable you to POTENTIALLY win the unknown and unvalued virtual prize of a game, it offers you no guarantee that you will be winner and makes no apologies for the fact. To put this into perspective and to continue my Pass the Parcel theme, you would be the child at the party who gives away all his presents for the chance to rip away a few extra sheets of wrapping paper without knowing what’s inside or whether you’ll walk away empty-handed, bawling your eyes out at your newly discovered injustice in the world and your equally newly discovered stupidity.

Peter Molyneux stated to New Scientist “”It’s an insane amount of money” and that Curiousity was not “…a money-making exercise; it is a test about the psychology of monetisation.”  I might be a little jaded at the world and fail to comprehend the true meaning behind the game but my first instinct is that Molyneux is intrigued to see how far gamers are willing to go to claim elite status by being the first or the only person to be able to lay claim to an achievement.

Molyneux further claims that Curiosity will “…record and study how news of what’s inside spreads across social media in an attempt to explore the psychology of social media users. “  This only seems to add to the fame factor that lies at the heart of Curiosity’s appeal and what that £50,000 will potentially bring; social media quickly elevating the person with more money than sense to a level of fame/notoriety in the gaming world that would be difficult to otherwise achieve.

 And therein lies my major issue with Curiousity, other than the get rich quick accusations that could be levelled at it, the game seems to wilfully appeal to the very worst side of the gaming hardcore. With the noblest intentions of psychological experimentation aside, it plays out as the opportunity for the rich or foolhardy or just extremely fortunate to have the ultimate ‘FIRST!’ post, like those that adorn every Youtube video or gaming forum around the world and drive every self-respecting gamer crazy.

How hopeful I am that £50,000 won’t be the key to the secret of the cube but the prize, like Arthur drawing Excalibur from the stone, is won by a worthy gamer just wanting to relieve their days of childhood parlour games…

29 5 / 2012

Written for Xtreme Gaming UK (www.xtremegaminguk.com).

May 29th 2012

As my first article for Xtreme Gaming UK, I’ve decided to write a preview of the upcoming releases in 2012 that will no doubt persuade us to part with our hard-earned cash, test the strongest of relationships and keep energy drink suppliers profits looking very healthy indeed.

Due to the sheer abundance of titles that look set to mark 2012 as the year to smash all sales records for the video game industry, I’ve had to divide the article into four separate sections.

This first part details the releases scheduled to land in shops during the Summer months and as a result of being outside the generally accepted ‘blockbuster’ game release period towards the end of the year, boasts three titles that range from the quirky and innovative through to the downright insane. The fourth title… well, the fourth title happens to be Counter Strike: Global Offensive.

Possibly one of the most eagerly anticipated games ever by casual and competitive gamers alike; CS: GO seeks to regain its crown as king of the FPS games in 2012.

The following part of the article will look at those games released in the difficult month of September such as Far Cry 3 and Borderlands 2 and whether they can make a dent on the big-hitters released a month later. Parts 3 and 4 will focus on the heavyweight titles from the likes of Treyarch, Ubisoft and Capcom and provide some insight into which games should be snapped up on release day and which games can wait for the fat man in the red suit to leave under the tree.

So, if everyone is sitting comfortably, I’ll begin…

Lollipop Chainsaw

Release Date: June 12th 2012

Genre: Action - Hack & Slash

Mode(s): Single-player only

Age Rating: 18

 Most gamers have quickly become tired and jaded by the game developers’ overuse of the mindless, shambling zombie archetype as the primary aggressor in games. The relentless drudgery of mowing down wave upon wave of the undead has obviously been noted by Grasshopper Manufacture, the developer braaaaaains (couldn’t help myself) behind Lollipop Chainsaw. Taking its comic inspiration from fellow zombie-bashing series, Dead Rising, the game boasts a plot, gameplay and visuals lifted straight from the mind of a sleazy B-movie director.

 The game’s protagonist, Juliet Starling, is a zombie hunter and cheerleader and sports the sort of outfit that is likely to quickly become imitated at every future cosplay event. Juliet is tasked with ridding her former school of the zombie menace, led by a group of former students turned zombie rock and roll lords (I’m not making this up). She also carries with her the severed head of her former boyfriend, having decapitated him when he received a zombie bite. For reasons unclear, the head is still alive and forms an integral part of the comedy dialogue, conversing and arguing with his former beau mid-fight. Interestingly, the head can even being used as a weapon in several ways, as a ranged weapon by being thrown at enemies or placed on top of a headless zombie to control it and cause devastation.

 The rest of the gameplay appears to be the only thing that is traditional with this release, with typical hack ‘n’ slash fare utilising light and heavy attacks to cut through the zombie multitude. As the title of the game suggests, an upgradeable chainsaw wielded by Juliet will also feature prominently and should provide plenty of features for gamers to get excited about.

 With a range of gigantic and bizarre epic boss fights also apparently part of the game, Lollipop Chainsaw has the potential to be a refreshingly novel game that will provide both laughs and a challenge for wannabe slayers of the undead.

Lego Batman 2: DC Heroes

Release Date: June 22nd 2012

Genre: Action – Open World Platformer

Mode(s): Single-player/Multiplayer

Age Rating: U

The vastly successful Lego series returns with a title likely to get DC Universe fans hot under the collar. The sequel to 2008’s Lego Batman: The Videogame widens its portrayal of the world of DC Comics further by featuring a cast of over 70 playable characters including Superman, The Green Lantern, Nightwing and Wonder Woman.

The plot is rumoured to revolve around the Dynamic Duo of Batman and Robin having to team up with the Justice League of America when their arch-nemesis, the Joker, forms a deadly alliance with Lex Luthor and tries to force Gotham City to make him President. One of the main selling points of the Lego series is its’ comedic interpretation of the world which it seeks to portray. A fact very much evident in missions in the game such as an annoyed Batman hunting down The Joker in search of his stolen and very much prized Man of the Year award.

Gameplay is as expected from a Lego offering, allowing players to choose their favourite character and team up to tackle missions. Some hidden extras require teamwork and the particular skillsets of a character and will ensure that the game has significant replayability, both solo and with friends.

Interestingly, the game will be the first in the Lego series to feature dialogue and will feature the vocal talents of Clancy Brown (DC Animated Universe) reprising his role as Lex Luthor and Troy Baker (Batman: Arkham City) returning once more to voice Two-Face.

 As a fan of DC Comics, the opportunity to see some of my favourite characters immortalised in Lego form is almost irresistible and should provide fellow comic geeks with a sense of thrill at getting to play as some of their most beloved and cherished characters.

Darksiders II

Release Date: August 14th 2012

Genre: Action – Hack & Slash

Mode(s): Single-player

Age Rating: 18

The second hack ‘n’ slash title to feature on this list, Darksiders II features a more dark, foreboding style and lets everybody’s inner Goth squeal for joy (or whatever a Goth does when they’re happy) as they take on the mantle of Death.

Darksiders II plot revolves around the idea of the Four Horseman of the Apocalypse, with the player taking on the character of the Horseman, Death. Following the events of the first game, Death begins a personal crusade to absolve his brother and fellow Horseman, War, of the crime of beginning the Apocalypse early. Fighting through sprawling dungeons and the Nether Realm, the region between Heaven and Hell, Death searches for the evidence to prove his brother’s innocence.

The game looks set to continue the theme of the action of a hack ‘n’ slash action game coupled with puzzle elements and the added RPG staple classic of  seemingly simple side quests handed out by annoyingly persistent NPCs. With the ability to mix button-pounding, elaborate physical attacks with magic-based moves the first Darksiders allowed players to take out all their frustrations on the demons they encounter whilst laughing manically and Darksiders II looks set to play very much the same way.  Huge bosses also look set to return with players being forced to think fast and move faster, QTE battles were a common feature of the original and should be expected in the sequel.

Although the gameplay might not set the world alight in terms of its originality, the temptation to wield the power of Death in your mortal hands should prove too difficult to resist and Darksiders II should be of definite interest upon its release in August.

Counter Strike: Global Offensive

Release Date: Summer 2012

Genre: First-person Shooter

Mode(s): Multiplayer

Rating: TBC

Wow, where to begin?!

Although the game has not strictly received an official release date from Valve Corporation so far, the hope is that the game will see a release on XBLA towards the end of the summer. Although I enjoy the sunny days, drinking in pub gardens and skimpy female attire that Summer brings, CS:GO  is causing me to quickly count down the days ‘til it ends and the days just aren’t going quickly enough!

Counter Strike, for the uninitiated, was originally a mod for the game Half-Life but due to its popularity was released as a standalone game in November 2000; quickly establishing itself as a gaming classic. Its simplicity and balance as a FPS game meant it became one of the most popular games to ever be released on the PC and created a whole new culture of competitive gaming that has influenced and shaped the world of gaming as we see it today. The sales figures for the game are able to deliver a more fitting demonstration of how iconic the series has now become; as of August 2011 the franchise had sold an incredible 27 million copies and was still rising. Not bad for a game that is over a decade old!

The game focuses on two teams, the Terrorists and Counter-Terrorists, attempting to either complete their objective or eliminate all of the opposing team. In the game if you are killed, you have to wait until the beginning of the next round to respawn and so players are forced to abandon gung-ho tactics, play intelligently and utilise teamwork to win the game. In-game currency is earned upon completing objectives or killing opponents which can then be spent at the beginning of each round on weaponry or armour, adding another layer of strategy for gamers to get to grips with.

Without the ability to aim down sights and with punishing levels of recoil for the trigger-happy gamer, CS:GO will come as a refreshing change to the typical FPS game mechanics of recent years, giving newcomers a variety of factors to master and will be welcomed with open arms by the Counter Strike faithful.

The XBLA port looks set to follow the classic Counter-Strike formula whilst adding a number of completely new weapons and equipment such as the Molotov Cocktail, a projectile that covers an area with flames forcing the enemy to find an alternative route. The game should appeal to new converts and hardened CS stalwarts alike and should challenge Modern Warfare 3’s dominance of the Xbox Live charts for a number of months upon its release.

After watching a friend play the Closed Beta for CS:GO on PC at the beginning of this month, I have extremely high hopes that the XBLA port will cause a new generation of gamers to take an interest in the Counter Strike phenomenon and keep the franchise going strong for at least another decade.

And that, dear reader, wraps up this opening gambit in my games to watch in the 2nd half of 2012. The summer months look set to provide us with some entertaining releases that should keep us pounding away at our control pads ‘til our friends tease us for our pasty complexion.

I hope you enjoyed this first piece of writing for Xtreme Gaming UK and look forward to releasing the 2nd part for your amusement/derision which will tackle Borderlands 2, Far Cry 3, Forza Horizon and the potentially genius Marvel Avengers: Battle for Earth.

Lastly, if my garbled chattering of gaming-related nonsense entertained you then please feel free to add me on Twitter where I can bombard you with snippets of joy throughout the day - twitter.com/#!/iamPartisan

24 5 / 2012

After receiving some extremely positive support from members of the WGL community (Warped Gaming League - link at foot of page) about my first bits of content for the blog, I was delighted when I got some further good news.

Recently I attended Insomnia 45 (also called i45 for those too lazy/busy to give it its full name), a well-established PC gaming LAN hosted by Multiplay, which has just begun to embrace the Xbox competitive scene through its Modern Warfare 3 X360 tournaments. I had the pleasure to meet a variety of characters over the course of the event through our shared love of gaming, poor diet and consumption of alcohol. One of these fellow sorry souls was Alan Brice aka BR1C3Y; Xtreme Gaming UK’s community manager, eSports shoutcaster and advocate of EnduranceCOD.

EnduranceCOD for the uninitiated was the product of an insane decision at 2am at i45 to begin a best of 7 Sabotage game on COD4 with no time limit on Overgrown. Sounds like fun huh? The game lasted 3 hours, almost resulted in my crashing the hire car at least 4 times on the way home and left some participants unable to even reach their beds before succumbing to exhaustion! (See exhibit A for the damaging effects of EnduanceCOD - http://youtu.be/BEXw3xjJLsg)

Apparently a common side-effect of over exposure to EnduranceCOD

Perhaps feeling some guilt at almost killing me through his reckless recruitment of the unprepared to his EnduranceCOD cause, BR1C3Y agreed to help me pursue my goal of getting game-related content out to as many people as I could. As a result, Xtreme Gaming UK, the first Xbox 360 dedicated game centre in the UK, have agreed to allow me to write content for their website and will publish future reviews and articles that I write.

To say I’m overjoyed at the prospect of writing content for a (hopefully!) interested and captive audience is an understatement! Xtreme Gaming UK provide a state of the art environment in Colchester, Essex for gamers young and old to pursue their hobby using the best peripherals and equipment available. I feel honoured that a company at the forefront of the UK gaming scene is willing to take a punt on little old me and let me share my thoughts on the latest news and releases.

Make sure you head over to their website at http://www.xtremegaminguk.co.uk to have a nose around at their site and cry a little bit inside when you realise that you don’t have something similar where you live. Make sure you check back frequently as articles should start appearing soon and any support would be much appreciated.

Also, if you’re daring, track down BR1C3Y and ask him to show you the white-knuckle ride that is EnduranceCOD.

Just make sure you don’t have to drive the next day.  

If you’re interested in competing against like-minded clans across games like MW3, Gears of War, Battlefield 3 or FIFA then visit The WGL and sign up – www.thewgl.co.uk

LAN gaming more your thing? Take a look at the Multiplay website for the forthcoming i46 in Telford and book a ticket to meet fellow gamers face to face - iseries.multiplay.co.uk/i46/

Keep up to date with the world of Xtreme Gaming UK by following all the news and announcements via its Twitter profile - twitter.com/#!/Xtreme_Gaming

And lastly, if you stumbled upon this blog by accident and enjoyed it then you can get daily bite-sized chunks of garbled nonsense through my Twitter profile - twitter.com/#!/iamPartisan