So it turns out that the long-anticipated Nintendo NX console has done a Project Natal on us and changed its name. It’s the Nintendo Switch now, and it was formally announced today with a preview trailer reminiscent of one of those Gap store commercials, the kind that shows a lot of diverse, trendy, non-threatening people playing the game in areas that are statistically proven to be considered cool. Right on, Nintendo. Groovy, baby.

So what is this new creation on offer from March next year? Well, it’s a console… Sort of. And it’s a handheld… Sort of. And it plays games from five years ago… Sort of. Because is it just me, or did Skyrim look a bit more pixelly and unresponsive than I remember it being?

I’ll be honest, I have mixed feelings on this one. Nintendo never seem to remember that trying to master two things at once means you only end up with something that’s compromised in both aspects. That’s why the Wii U was a handheld device, but only assuming you never felt like leaving the house or playing with a decent screen. And the 3DS was also a handheld device, again making assumptions that your hands were shaped like Doctor Claw’s and you still didn’t want a decent screen. This new device is apparently a hybrid console. I’ve seen hybrids before, you know. I saw a liger on TV once when I was a kid. It was completely infertile, rather sickly and not expected to live very long. Pardon me for not being filled with optimism for this hybrid, either.

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This is the new Nintendo Switch… At least until it suddenly looks like something else.

But with all those developers allegedly behind it, the game library could be pretty tasty. I’m sure the Switch’s battery will agree with me, carrying on that noble Nintendo tradition of gorging itself on energy and lasting the length of the average nose blowing before it needs a recharge. The Wii U controller can’t even maintain four hours of Earthbound from 1994, so I’m a little skeptical about how this new thing will deal with the cutting edge of mainstream gameplay (or rather cutting-edge by Nintendo’s standards, which means some cartooney, non-hardware intensive stuff and a game from half a decade ago).

The big question is whether the third-party support will be enough. Nintendo have often had problems with such relationships, such as demanding they capitulate to unconventional hardware restraints or gimmicks, but the Switch doesn’t appear to have a motion controller or muffin dispenser thrown into the mix, so it should be a little more cooperative to those poor, bullied designers. Apparently there’s a touchscreen in there somewhere, but ideally that should be an optional extra that will only be utilised IF THE THIRD-PARTY CREATORS WANT TO, NINTENDO. After all, the public are so used to touchscreens by now that I doubt it’ll even be considered a selling point. Nintendo might as well try and sell us on the exterior being made out of plastic – it’s just not worth the effort.

The console’s main promotional feature seems to be versatility and adaptability. In the trailer we see people playing it on a TV, on a plane, in a car, in a skate park, whilst ignoring a dog, whilst ignoring an attractive girl, whilst ignoring their friends at a party, and we see the inevitable pathetic capitulation to eSports that must now hound every major gaming product like a sickly relative demanding you bring them more soup, ‘ere they cut you mercilessly from their last Will and Testament. Am I the only person who still doesn’t give a damn about people I don’t know playing games I have no stake in? And am I also the only one who noticed that the crowd for that eSports tournament looked a little… CGI-ish? I’m not saying I’m one hundred percent certain that they’re fake, only that they might want to stop performing the same jerky movements over and over if they want to leave the uncanny valley anytime soon.


Yep, that certainly looks like a man who’s entranced by what he’s seeing, and not a low-cost actor/model hungrily waiting for a paycheck that’s being dangled over him.

But the big new idea is that the Switch can, rather suitably enough, switch forms. There’s at least five different configurations for this new contraption, including a handheld mode, a TV-slot thing, dual controllers like you’d get with VR tech and a little prop to stand the device up whilst you play.

And I won’t even complain about this aspect. Seriously, none of this is a bad thing. It’s not very exciting and I know that as long as one of the configurations works fine for me I can safely ignore the others, but as long as it doesn’t have a drawback I can’t really see a reason to be sniffy about this news.

Except for this bit – why is Nintendo treating this rather boring feature like their ultimate draw card? In the trailer the games themselves seemed secondary to the promotion of the hardware, with the audience only capturing glimpses of Zelda, Mario and the aforementioned Skyrim. I can’t help but wonder about all the many, many things I’m not seeing, because I honestly don’t care much about Switches’ switchin’ power. That’s just a functional utility tool to allow me to play the games, but you’re not showing me any of those!

And speaking of, I must ask what’s going to happen when it comes to backwards compatibility? The hybrid nature still leaves us confused as to whether this is more of a successor to the 3DS or the Wii U, but the Switch seems to be utilising cartridges more similar to the former, which is annoying to hear if it’s only going to run 3DS games. Because the 3DS library was (and is) pretty rubbish, but there’s still a few niceties gathered around the skirts of the Wii U. The opportunity to play Wind Waker on long plane trips sounds superb, but the opportunity to play MGS3 and Pokémon X does not. Of course, that’s assuming we’re given backwards compatibility at all, which given the current state of the industry seems unlikely. After all, everybody knows that consumers come last in the ridiculous pecking order. We’re just the ugly sods who have to spend the money.


I genuinely laughed at how the guy on the far right is desperately trying to ignore him playing on that thing. You’re not fooling anyone, Dave.

The online response seems to imply that I’m the only one who feels iffy about this thing. I admit that there isn’t a lot of info to go on yet, but I still feel uncomfortable about it nonetheless. Because my fundamental question, maintained throughout all of this unbridled, unhealthy hype, is this – how is the Switch better than any of the consoles, computers, handhelds, hybrids, tablets, phones and microwave ovens that I own already? It’s not outmatching them in terms of hardware or choice of games, because my laptop runs far superior tech, holds Steam within its mighty clutches and also gives me a lot more options, such as the capacity to write this article and watch porn simultaneously. And if the Switch is selling itself on how easy it is to use, I do already own a smartphone that puts that aspect to shame, much like everyone else on the planet and their dog does.

So that leaves exclusives, which should be disregarded because a) exclusive titles are a nasty, anti-consumer practice, and b) I’m still not sure that Nintendo won’t abuse its third-party developers again and lose the right to all the good exclusives. I do have a memory, Nintendo. Erasing backward compatibility ain’t going to change that, despite everyone’s best efforts.

It should be maintained that this is all first-glance stuff, with very few details to go on at this point. Perhaps future knowledge will make me think more highly of it, but for now I’m approaching with a sense of caution. And with the teaser trailer for Red Dead Redemption 2 coming out today, we’re all pretty much in the dark about everything that’s going on, but at least we can ensure that the latter will allow us to shoot buffalo. Something tells me that Mario won’t have the stones for that one.

You can find the Nintendo Switch Teaser Trailer here.


You know, I’ve been doing a lot of thinking recently. A lot of consideration about the industry we’re looking at. After my plea for a greater consumer awareness at the end of the Arkham Knight article, I was looking back over it and thinking about the statement I made – that the big publishers don’t respect us.

It’s not universally true, of course. Valve has a fairly good history of treating players with dignity. Nintendo make some mistakes in my mind, but I suspect that it’s usually down to stupidity rather than nastiness. There can be good publishers, I wouldn’t say otherwise. If it wasn’t possible for a publisher to be good, I wouldn’t spend so much time lamenting the fact that so few of them are.

But these paragons are a minority. For every Valve, there’s a dozen Activisions. For every Nintendo, there’s a dozen Ubisofts. And let’s not forget the real wicked witch, the black hole of gaming: Electronic Arts. That’s EA to you and me, or more possibly just AAAGH!

God, where to start? After looking at a truly bleak history, you can see how they got the “Worst Company In America” award for two years in a row. It would be strange to see them not get such an award after the tricks they’ve gotten up to.

How about we start with their utterly awful creation, Origins? A service that will sell you downloadable EA games at the prices of physical copies, for no reason other than a blatant attempt to scrape money out of your wallet? How about the fact that they gouge more and more content out of each instalment of major franchises like The Sims, so that it can be sold additionally to you as DLC? What about the fact that they refuse to innovate and reduce all their products into bland, formulaic sludge to give everything a mass-market appeal, ironically pleasing nobody?

It’s not just their disrespect for the players that shines, they make it miserable to be part of the company too. Have you heard about when EA had to be slapped on the wrist when it was making workers put in over a hundred hours a week, even when there wasn’t a need for it? Or about their habit of buying and then destroying smaller games companies, when they demand the developers take responsibility for the failures that EA put them up to? Ask yourselves, where is Bullfrog Entertainment? Or Pandemic Studios? Or Westwood Studios, Black Box Games, Origin, PlayFish or Mythic? All dead, all gutted by the hungry entity that is EA, and that’s not even the full list.


If you want to get this much done in Dungeon Keeper Mobile and you’re not willing to pay, it could take a while. You might have to give your phone to your descendants, because you’re not getting this done within your lifetime.

My favourite example of all this evil was the Dungeon Keeper Mobile incident. You see, Dungeon Keeper was a respected old game from the nineties, in which you had to build and manage your own D&D-style labyrinth. And EA, seeing the potential for using nostalgia to their advantage, made a mobile game with the same premise, using a free-to-play model based completely around micropayments.

It was awful. The game was essentially unusable without these constant fees to speed up the process. Just digging out a four-by-four empty room could take the best part of a day, if you weren’t willing to cough up the green to accelerate it.

EA’s reaction was so wonderfully faceless and corporate-like, it made me laugh. When called out on this by angry fans of the original game, and by those who felt insulted by such an obvious attempt to scalp them, Frank Gibeau, the guy who ran EA Mobile, had this to say.

“I don’t think we did a particularly good job marketing it or talking to fans about their expectations for what Dungeon Keeper was going to be or ultimately should be. Brands ultimately have a certain amount of permission that you can make changes to, and I think we might have innovated too much or tried some different things that people just weren’t ready for.”

Yes, I think you did innovate too much Franky, in the same way that throwing an assault rifle into a kindergarten might be considered an innovation to the idea of kiddy’s playtime.

I mean, you see what he’s done there, right? Rather than admit that the game was a nasty attempt to take cash from you, he’s told us that it’s our fault for not keeping up with the times. Ha! Right back at you, EA. People who work their staff like slaves and can’t catch up with the quality of modern gaming shouldn’t tell us that we need to catch up with them.

EA is probably the worst offender, but it’s not the only one. Everything they’ve done has, at some point, been done by other games publishers too. It’s just a nice example of one of the more horrible corporations out there, and what they’re willing to do to you to make money. Think about it. It’s not aimed just at other people, they’d take your cash too if they could. I have a friend who flatly refuses to buy any product from EA, because he can’t bring himself to give money to such an awful cause. I can’t say I blame him.

But this leads back to that first troubling thought. Why? Why are they all so willing to rob us in this manner, to give us so little respect? This doesn’t happen at the same level when it comes to other entertainment, like music or books. Even the film industry looks almost saintly when you compare the two.

Maybe it’s the fact that the games industry is so comparatively young and has exploded so suddenly in the last few decades, to the point where it’s all exciting, untrodden ground. Maybe they have to push these boundaries until they find what the limits are, and that’s when they’ll get pushed back.

Or maybe it’s the fact that an industry based around play is always going to view its audience as childish and immature, easy prey for the good con-artist. We know that many high-ranking executives don’t know anything about games themselves, they make the jump from other industries, mainly packaged and physical goods, and find themselves in positions of power in an artistic movement they have no interest or respect for.

The good, the bad and ugly

Grand Theft Auto V, or as it’s known in the games industry: Ker-ching!

Or maybe it’s just the money. Gaming is now the biggest entertainment industry in the world, GTA V and its absurd success showed how much there is to be made here. Perhaps they just can’t resist, can’t drop the thought of making a little more cash and profit at the expense of this culture. After all, those indie developers can deal with the artistic side of gaming. We’ll just sit here and make box-ticking blockbusters, we’ll be the Michael Bay of gaming. Isn’t that a horrible thought?

It almost doesn’t matter what the cause is, because we know the cure. A combination of tenacity, self-discipline, and self-righteous anger. The first two suck, I know, but the third one is pretty fun. And we’re going to need all three, because we have to start telling these companies when they’ve gone too far. We have to refuse to buy products that treat us like idiots, rather than just putting up with it. If enough people dig their heels in and refuse to budge, it WILL work. If EA, Activision and Ubisoft start losing money, they’ll listen to what we have to say. They won’t have a choice.

It won’t even be that hard. If two major releases from a publisher flop badly enough, I think they’ll sit up and take notice. They’ll put an ear to the public, and the public message will be this: stop treating us like arseholes.

It’s not much to ask of them. I think it’s about time we took our dignity back.


You’ve probably seen that old Simpsons episode, the one where Homer ends up trying to jump an enormous chasm on a skateboard and it all goes horribly wrong. Falling short by several metres, his fall is thankfully broken by a jutting piece of jagged rock. And another. And another. By the time he’s halfway down he’s hit more stones than a miner with good work ethic, and they just keep coming. When he finally reaches the bottom he’s a bruised and bloodied mess, beaten into submission and needing to be taken off by an ambulance

I was reminded of that episode by the horror surrounding Arkham Knight on the PC this week. Every time it looked like that game had ballsed up as much as it was going to, it was suddenly struck by another rock and it all starts over again.

Let me be clear here – I’m referring to both the game as it ran on my computer, and to the general management strategy of Rocksteady Studios and Warner Brothers. They’ve all committed the kind of errors that need a bloody ocean of Tippex to even think about cancelling out.

I should probably explain to those who aren’t in the know. Batman: Arkham Knight, the highly anticipated conclusion to the critically beloved Arkham Series, came out three days ago. It was, by all accounts, a very good game, at least according to those who played it on the PS4 and the Xbox One. Not that those who bought it for their computer would know, because on that platform it’s unplayable.

That’s not an exaggeration. For most who downloaded it off Steam, the framerate was so poor and the game so riddled with glitches that it’s essentially unusable. I bought it myself, determined to see what the fuss was about, and it’s pretty bad. I have a high-end gaming laptop, and even on the lowest settings it still found a way to chug, still managed to fuck up everything it tried to do. I even downloaded a specialised driver that the game recommended, and it didn’t do anything to help. Eventually I got it to the level where I could basically play it (though it still resembled a slideshow at times and never actually looked good) and decided to power through, cataloguing every error and fault I could see.


The Batmobile – terror of villains, monsters, and PC framerates alike.

By the end of this process I had cramp in my writing hand. It’s a horrible mess. Aside from the constant framerate issues, there were the usual suspects to back it up. The game crashed a couple of times when I went to a new area, the  positioning of enemies often warped when I wanted to do takedowns, and anything involving the Batmobile, gliding, or combat – the three main mechanics of the game – made it freak out and cause the framerate to fall even lower. Not to mention a couple of other problems that were so absurd that they were almost funny.

For example, dialogue is spoken at a consistent rate, but the game is unable to handle something as complicated as one character moving their lips, and starts to slow down the visuals so it doesn’t explode. This usually means that after a character has finished their sentence, they still flap their mouths at the person they’re talking to for a few moments, making wildly emotive gestures in awkward silence, until the other person decides to interrupt just to put them out of their misery, only to do it themselves. This wasn’t a rare thing, mind you, it happened for all the dialogue that wasn’t in CGI cutscenes, and there’s a lot of that.

Another one that made me laugh was when Commissioner Gordon walked purposefully across the room in a highly dramatic scene, only for his gunbelt to bob behind him in perfect unison like it was auditioning for the Sorcerer’s Apprentice. It took the tension out of the moment, but I think it was worth it. It’s about the only thing that was.

It’s sad, because the game itself seems to be really good. The brief moments of functionality I managed to grab were genuinely enjoyable, and there’s a horror-based sequence near the end that was one of the most chilling moments I’ve witnessed in a video game in years, not to mention a phenomenal moment where you have to navigate around a major villain without being spotted as he… Well, I won’t spoil it for you. I’m incredibly happy to say that the game worked on those moments, but it’s not enough to be worth buying it. Not that you can buy it anymore.

You see, at time of writing there’s been quite a bit of scandal around the whole thing. Quite rightly so – if a major product is sold in an unusable state, people should get pissed off. It should be a scandal. Immediately the game was hammered to death on Steam, where reviews currently put it at thirty-two percent positivity.

Thirty-two percent! Aliens: Colonial Marines is on fifty-four, and that game’s a load of dishonest wank. Things were not looking good. And then the companies really went and put their foot in it.


Guess she played the PC port of the game too, judging by that reaction.

Weirdly, they’d actually done it twelve hours before the game was even out, but somebody noticed and made a note of it. And then they got the word out, and EVERYBODY noticed. Half a day before the game was playable, they very sneakily altered the required specifications for the game without saying anything about why. They also mentioned something that people might want to have known before:

“There are some known issues with the performance of Batman: Arkham Knight for PC owners using AMD graphics cards. We are working closely with AMD to rectify these issues as quickly as possible and will provide updates here as they become available. We thank you for your patience in this matter.”

“Issues” is the right word. Whilst it was buggy for most, the game was unplayable for those who were unlucky enough to have older AMD graphics cards. I’m sure they might have wanted to know that, but by that point they were already downloading the thing.

It became even worse with an update later on, this time all about the various computer specifications you’d need to run it in “greater” detail. The final straw was when they told us the recommended specs, the ones that would cause the game to dry heave with the strain and which weren’t even that good, and then they said the unforgivable.

“The Recommended Spec is intended to deliver an experience on par with the current generation of gaming platforms.”

Now I don’t know about you, but if I fork out over twice the price of a console on a gaming computer, or potentially even more than that, I don’t want to be told that I’m lucky if I can reach the level of a PS4. No way, no how. You don’t get away with it that easily. Let’s forget for the moment that the game has been proven to be less visually detailed on the PC than on the console versions (though I know I won’t), but it’s still inexcusable.

Finally, thankfully, Warner Brothers realised what they had to do this morning.

Arkham Knight Delay

Took your time there, lads. Guess even the evil deities that run triple-A games publishers can understand that it might, just might be bad publicity to be selling a game that doesn’t work.

So who gets the blame for this farce? Well, I doubt it’s Rocksteady’s fault. They’ve gotten a lot of flack, but judging by my knowledge of the games industry, I’d be surprised if they really had a hand in this. It’s more likely that they made a console version as they normally do, and Warner Brothers provided a company afterwards to make a PC port.

Except in this case it was Iron Galaxy Studios who had to do the PC work, or rather, just twelve people from Iron Galaxy. With only eight weeks to do it. Well, hardly surprising then, is it? Especially when we recall that Iron Galaxy aren’t seasoned PC coders, also focused more on console work, and that they helped ruin the launch of Arkham Origins too.

Oh god, it’s all so obvious now that we know the facts. If I had understood exactly how little care was going into this project, I’d have hidden beneath the bed and kept my PC away from me with a spear and a copy of EA Origins.

Honestly, I suspect that Warner Brothers are the ones to blame. They would have known what this game was like before it was released, they’d have been in charge of finding a group to do the PC work, and they’d also have made the decision not to push back the PC launch until it was ready, something they’ve now been forced to do. I can only suspect that they’re pressuring the developers into taking some of the blame for this, as the big publishers always tend to, so now the prestigious Rocksteady is getting wounded by their efforts too.

Contrary to what you might think, I’m not even angry about all this. Just kind of sad and bitterly unsurprised. You see, I worked something out as I was writing this – that the video game industry is one of the most toxic industries that has even walked the earth. One of the most nasty, the most deceitful, the most uncaring and calculating systems we’ve ever seen.

It used to be better, back in the early days of the PS2. We all knew how it worked then – symbiosis. If a publisher and developer produce a good game, then we will buy it and fund their lifestyle as well as the production for other games. We all kept each other happy and satisfied.

It’s not like that anymore. It’s a sustained conflict, in which they are trying to gouge every penny out of you as fast as they can, before you catch onto the next trick they’re planning. We have to keep watching, keep being wary, because they will do anything they can to us and developers, if it will raise those profit margins. It’s stopped being symbiosis and has become parasitic.

This is the price that is going to have to be paid. In any war, there are casualties. Last year it was Assassin’s Creed and Unity, this year it’s Batman and Arkham Knight, two big sagas that have been inherently damaged by publisher’s attempts to con us. It’s always sad when a beloved franchise takes a bullet, but there’s no way around it, not now. We let them get away with too much, and now they want to see how far they can push it.

Choke a bitch

This would be a good technique to deal with major publishers. Sadly the law stands in our way.

So I’m not angry about that, because this is just the way it is if you want to play games. But I am angry because of something I saw. When I was looking through news sites online, observing people’s reactions to the story, one comment said that we shouldn’t be so hard on Warner Brothers. Everybody makes mistakes now and then.

Fuck you. How dare you make excuses for that kind of behaviour? How dare you try to stop people being angry at such an offensive attempt to rob them? Do you really think that this was a mistake? Do you really think that they didn’t know how horrible this thing was? Do you really think that they were unaware of the product that they were selling?

Bullshit. They knew, of course they knew. They proved it with the update before it was released, it was all damage control. They were hoping we’d suck it up, that we’d sigh and say “well, it’s just one of those things.” They’ve only taken it off Steam because we forced their hand, because we locked all the other doors and told them that this was their only way out. Don’t make excuses for them, don’t tell us to go easy, because these companies don’t respect you.

They really don’t. They made a calculated decision before release, they weighed potential profit in one hand, and your dignity as a consumer and as somebody who might care about the product in the other. And you know what? You were found wanting. You weren’t good enough, your happiness came second to a thirty-five quid profit.

How is it, to know precisely how much they think of you? Thirty-five pounds or less, that’s what you amount to in their eyes. That’s what they think of you. And we all know this, but it’s inexcusable to forgive them for it, to tell us to stop being so mean to the poor little mega-global corporation. I’m not surrendering, and neither should anybody else.

This is the dilemma – I love video games, but I hate the video game industry. It’s partly why I do this site, because I feel that people need to understand how ugly these companies can get if they think they can take your money, how games we care about will suffer if they are permitted to do as they will. Because games often suffer, Arkham Knight suffered just this week. It won’t ever get that stench off it now, it’s too late. I didn’t want it to happen, but it did.

But we need to understand that it’s only when this happens that we can provably point at something and say those six magic words. “Don’t you dare do this again.” If we make apologies for them, it will happen again, because they’ll think that they can do this sort of thing to us, and to this great art form.

Don’t let them get away with, my friends. Love and forgiveness are greatly overrated.


Like so many good things in the gaming industry, Valve did it first and best. “Meet The Heavy,” the first animated trailer for Team Fortress 2, was released in May 2007, featuring the Eastern-European colossus getting overly excited about his minigun, like somebody on a train trying to explain YuGiOh cards to a stranger.

It was a funny little video and since then there have been about a dozen separate TF2 shorts to promote the game. But recently I’ve started to see others like it, most with that detailed animation style and emphasis on character humour. The funny thing is, they all keep coming from a certain type of game.

The free-to-play market is one of those things that started out with so much potential. Good games could be released to the public for no cost, and if they provided a good experience then players would be motivated to donate money for additional gameplay benefits, or even just to show their appreciation. Loadout is a good example of this – a fun game that doesn’t require any money, but unlocks more options if you do feel like putting some cash into it. Everybody wins.


Why don’t you at least be honest, Final Fantasy? Have the characters beat the bad guy to death with wads of cash or something.

Then it became this horrible, bastardised version of what it was. You weren’t downloading a game any more, you were downloading a platform onto which you could basically rent gameplay for a short amount of time. Then a barrier would be thrown up again, and the game would demand more money like a baby demanding regular feeding, only a great deal less lovable.

The Simpsons: Tapped Out, Dungeon Keeper Mobile and Final Fantasy All The Bravest are probably the most offensive examples, particularly the last one. In FFATB, you essentially just pay a micropayment, at which point the game will briefly play itself for a little while, until it gets tired and needs more cash.

Nothing could have been more insulting, it showed what Square Enix really thought of its fans. This kind of mentality is what leads to publishers thinking of customers as “whales.” You know what I mean, and you who think like that know who you are. “They’re just profit on legs, and any way we can cut the money out of them is to our advantage.” You know, it is possible to make some green and still retain your mortal soul. It’s easy – look at what EA does, and then do the opposite.

But anyway, for some reason I’ve kept seeing animated or even live-action trailers for free-to-play games online, and it’s weird. Clash Of Clans, Boom Beach, that Game Of War trailer with the distractingly buxom goddess – it’s baffling to me how these things help, because they’re inevitably unrepresentative of the game itself. If they showed tiny little sprites blipping around a cut-rate management game, that would be fine, that would make sense. That would actually be the game they’re selling you, but they’re not showing you that. They’re doing character jokes, and physical comedy, or having that chick with the enormous rack ride in slow motion in front of the camera, just to give you no credit whatsoever.

Cleavage Queen

Game Of War would like to remind you that breasts exist. Thank you for your time.

And I’ll admit, some of the trailers can be cute or funny. I laughed at a couple of the Boom Beach ones, but I didn’t laugh when playing the game. It was just boring. But I think I now know why they do this, they’re trying to make that TF2 lightning strike twice.

See, one of the things that raised TF2 above the level of the average shooter was the characters. They all had distinct visual personality with exaggerated features and physiques, and would often make funny, conversational quips during matches. The online trailers served to reinforce those personalities and flesh them out, until we were playing with genuinely likeable characters whom we could understand and appreciate properly. Whenever somebody asks me my favourite class to play as in TF2, I’ll usually say the soldier. But when I’m asked my favourite class in total, I usually say either the Spy or the Medic, both of whom make me laugh and are truly amusing archetypes.

BB Gameplau

I think if you show this gameplay to somebody for ten minutes straight, it has the same effect as a beer with a roofie in it.

But these free-to-play games don’t have that. All they have is boring gameplay with financial barriers added in, so what do they do? They try to inspire personalities in their little sprites, and hope we get attached, hope we feel invested. Look at Clash Of Clans – the games don’t tell you jack about all these disposable minions and how they feel about things, but the trailers would have you think otherwise. The barbarians are nuts, the archers are sensible and the wizards are egotists.

It’s fairly empty, but it’s all they can do. It’s like giving names and character traits to all the furniture in the living room, in the hope that people will enjoy sitting on it more. They won’t – it’s still bland, basic furniture – but they don’t want to risk showing us actual footage. They want players to think that it’s all a wacky, sitcom-esque series of jokes and one-liners behind the cash wall and the dull gameplay.

Boy, are they in for a disappointment.



Bloody hell, what did I just see? The Microsoft HoloLens was one of those things that I hadn’t even heard of until I saw it demonstrated, at which point I had to pick up my jaw where it was dragging against the ground. Sorry, when did we get interactive 3D holograms? I kinda feel like I should have been informed earlier, that’s some Iron Man tech if I’ve ever seen it.

The HoloLens looks good, that’s the long and short of it. Don’t get me wrong, it’s an extravagance, and I’d rally against it being pushed into games in which it didn’t fit, but there’s a lot that would work with this new device. Pretty much anything in which you take a top-down view would fit nicely, though I’m baffled by the choice of Minecraft as an example. I can think of much better games that would suit it, like XCOM and Civilisation, or maybe even something like Hotline Miami. Who wouldn’t want to see a tiny digital psychopath, charging around with a katana in full hologram mode? Or peer down on a simulated battlefield like some disinterested general, pushing little soldiers towards the enemy with the tip of your finger?


Foolish mortals! Your tiny, cuboid world is nothing compared to the might of Giant Glasses-Wearing Man!

The HoloLens looks best suited to tactical gameplay, and I hope it gets the attention it needs. It’s the best kind of gimmick, that which adds to the experience of gameplay rather than distracting from it. That said, I expect the technology will probably cost too much in the foreseeable future. Maybe get it when it’s going cheaper in 2020, but show your support for it now, otherwise we’ll be seeing more sputum like the Wii U controller.


Oh EA, why? No, that’s not me reciting random letters from the alphabet, it’s what I said when I was watching the fifteen minute Battlefront gameplay trailer.

It started off so well. I was really getting excited, because it was the sort of thing I wanted to see from E3, that I wanted to see from every presentation. Pure examples of core gameplay that’s mostly unedited and untampered with, why is that so much to ask? And I was as surprised as everybody else seeing EA resorting to such an honest advertising method, it would be like the government in 1984 suddenly spinning on their heels and turning into liberal hippies.

But the video seemed like a good thing, and the gameplay itself looked pretty nifty, especially bringing down the big AT-AT with a satisfying crash and hearing all the rebels wooping, like boozed-up frat boys crashing their friend’s car. There’s also interesting elements such as air strikes, which should add to the chaos a fair bit, and the playable heroes look pretty badass – basically, I was getting invested.


God, this is easy. I just can’t that horoscope prediction out of my mind, though… “You should beware of starships with wire guns.” What on earth could it mean by that?

But then, right at the end, they went and spoiled everything. In what was probably the most scripted bit of gameplay ever to emerge from E3, a single rebel hears the hum of a lightsaber activating behind him, and turns to see Darth Vader and several bodyguards looming over the poor squaddie dramatically.

And right then all my enthusiasm for the game trickled out of my trouser leg and started to make the room smell. EA had decisively shown that they were happy to show a gameplay trailer, but had thrown the whole thing into suspicion. How do I know that anything I saw was really valid, that it wasn’t the eighth take on an attempt to get that perfect shot? I don’t, quite frankly. And for that, they get a big thumbs down.


Oh, god, it looks like the angry brigade is back. Should I take my steroids now, or just wait until my soul patch has grown in and my douchebag bandanna has arrived in the post?

There’s always been something terribly cringeworthy about the Gears Of War franchise, the kind of thing that makes me want to roll my eyes and throw the disk away. I think it’s the way it seems to have so little self-awareness, the way it really believes it’s cool. And yet watching Marcus Fenix and chunky squad growl their way through the previous games was only boring and slightly irritating, because everybody on that team seemed to be utterly one dimensional.

Think about it. Fenix was basically angry 24-7, to the extent where he probably had to shout abuse at his cereal before he could eat it. Cole’s character was “Eighties action hero” and anything else got lost in the planning stage. Even Dom was no more than “Misses his wife quite a lot.” Yeah, OK, whatever. Why do we care about her, though? I guess the thirteen year old writing this shlock must have neglected to ask that question. There’s a reason that Bulletstorm felt the need to make fun out of this sort of thing, and it was right to do so.


He might look cool, but whenever they get back to base he just won’t shut up about his Magic: The Gathering cards.

And then there’s the visual design, stuck halfway between the worst parts of Warhammer 40k and Halo, with a bit of grungy Half-Life thrown in for good measure. Everything is so overdone to the point where it looks silly. You can’t wear normal kevlar and helmets, even simplistic power armour like Masterchief. No, you have to fit inside a big, bulky flak jacket with glowing lights dotted all over it, that covers your chest and nothing else. You get given guns that are stupidly big and look more like farming equipment than firearms, and to top it all off we add the worst elements of fashion from a biker gang and set these wankers lose to fight the alien menace.

I can almost hear the protests of a confused recruit. “But sir, what if I get shot in the arm, where there’s no protection? What am I supposed to do then?”

At which point his sergeant stops doing weight-lifting and wearing tank tops, and other manly things, and spits his cigar out with rage. “What? You mean to say you haven’t built up enough muscle to render yourself bulletproof?! Get straight back in the gym, young man! Also, you’re going to be a main character, so put that helmet down! We’re getting you a headscarf and an over-designed weapon. And I’d better see a chinstrap beard by the time I get back!”

It seems that Gears 4 has taken all of these complaints and ran with them, at least in the gameplay trailer. Yes, that elaborate cutscene was a gameplay trailer. We have them bumbling around for several minutes, trying to fit through doorways and making snarky jibes about pondwater (no, really), before we see a lightning tornado and a monster, at which point it just sort of ends.

Well, at least it was quick. Thank god for smell mercies, eh?


Well, well, well. Of all the things to pop back up out of the woodwork, who expected Doom? Nobody born after 1995, that’s for certain. I was surprised that anybody remembers what Doom is this far forward.

But yes, the new Doom game was revealed at E3, and it’s got all the subtlety and temperance of a suicide bombing, though I don’t think it’s without its charms, in a weird, homicidal way. It seems to have shrugged off the sludge of modern shooters pretty well, avoiding aspects like cover and regenerating health, whilst focusing more on psychotic murder sprees and beating a monster to death with its own leg.

I have to admit that I started grinning when the double-barrelled shotgun made a sound like a sledgehammer coming down on a bob-bomb, and all that was left of the victim was a couple of surprised legs that slumped to the floor a moment later. I’m even willing to ignore the fact that this was stolen from Bulletstorm, so happy was I to see something that was just so… Gleeful? Is that the right word? I hope it isn’t, but I suspect that it is.

You can’t help but be slightly stunned by how much Doom clearly delights in wretched amounts of gore. Gunshots leave visceral splatters, melee takedowns involve terrifying feats of brutality, and one puzzle is solved by watching a monster kill someone before finding the victim’s corpse, so that you can rip his arm off and slap it on a palm scanner. How about next time we just go with a keycard, yeah?

Doom hands

Look, will you hold still? I’m just trying to get the sand out of your eye!

I will say that I hope that Doom doesn’t try to do horror at any point. The gameplay made it clear that the Marine is the most powerful thing since Superman on steroids, so any attempt to threaten him is going to seem silly when he’s just ripped out a demon’s intestines and garrotted it with them. You can’t say it’s not tonally consistent for there to be horror, but I’ll be honest – it would surprise me if any demon had a kill-count anywhere near that of the protagonist’s by the end of this game. Perhaps I’m getting the wrong impression, maybe this is the set-up for an Alien: Isolation style game in which you play a frightened Revenant, trying to avoid the evil, unstoppable Space Soldier who will think nothing of murdering you in the most awful way possible. Huh. Now I kinda want to play that too.

I do wonder if it’s in Bethesda’s interests to resurrect Doom from the grave this late. The old Doom titles have a great lineage and demand respect, and nothing pisses off a fanbase more than a company bastardising the memory of an old franchise so they can make some cash from name recognition. Thief, Syndicate, Prince Of Persia, XCOM, and the embarrassing mess that was Duke Nukem Forever, they’re all examples of this. The only way to get away with that is to make the best game you can, and I’ll be damned it if doesn’t look like they’ve done that.

Let me add that I much preferred the Doom presentation to the Fallout 4 one. That’s what I wanted to see, Bethesda, ten minutes of uninterrupted and varied core gameplay giving a good indication of what we’re going to be experiencing, not dialogue trees and the most boring combat scenes in the game. If village maintenance reared its ugly head in Doom, it would get a fist pushed so far into its face that it would be able to smell its own brain. And speaking of utter absurdity through violence, let’s look at the game properly.

Doom scanner

The most intellectually sophisticated thing in the gameplay trailer was centered around ripping off a man’s arm. I’m strangely OK with that.

As mentioned earlier, the guns look nice and cathartic, with two exceptions – the plasma rifle and the chainsaw. The former is easier to explain, it just looks boring, making generic pew-pew noises with no sense of weight or impact to it. But the chainsaw seems odd, almost a bit pointless. The game already established that we can kill an enemy if we’re close enough, and not only that, we can do it quicker than the chainsaw, which takes longer and runs the risk of breaking flow. Though that isn’t going to stop me from using it often – I mean, it’s a chainsaw for killing demons. Even if I had to break my fingers every time, I’d still do it, because IT’S A FUCKING CHAINSAW FOR KILLING DEMONS.

I’m also very much in favour of how the game keeps a fast pace by having enemies drop health. Good action games like Saint’s Row 4 have remembered this, it’s a fantastic way of rewarding reflexes and going on the offensive, and of course Doom is nothing if not offensive. I like how you move really fast, I like that there were no directional icons when the puzzle bit came up, I like how you can hold more than two weapons, and I’m definitely going to find a place in my stony heart for the Heavy Assault Rifle, a gun that wouldn’t look out of place on top of an aircraft carrier and was so powerful looking I’m pretty sure you could bring down a planet with a couple of clips worth of ammo.

So at the end of the day, I guess Doom looks pretty good. I’ll be interested to see what kind of story there is – “Hell invades Mars” is all very well for the nineties, but I’d like to see a bit more thought put into it this time, just to contextualise it nicely. But if that hits the mark, then I’ll definitely be on board. Here’s hoping that E3 was actually honest today – because if not, then I’m going to be very disappointed.


Right, it’s eleven in the morning, a couple of days before I normally get up, but today I’ve made an exception, to bring you the cutting edge in gaming news. I hope you all appreciate the sacrifices I make for you lot.

Actually, I was watching the last episode of Game Of Thrones season 5, but because of that I had something to watch whilst it was loading. Killing two birds with one stone, or perhaps that should be shooting two of them down with one burst from a plasma rifle – yes, it’s Fallout 4 again! It debuted at E3 last night, and after watching the presentation I feel very strongly about it, but only about the fact that I would like to see some actual gameplay to feel strongly about.

I started to get suspicious when they cut away from the entrance to the vault and the detonation of the bomb, having only gone through character creation and a couple of dialogue trees in the video so far. Hold on, I thought, I was just getting into that. Why have you pulled away from the game literally as it was getting good?


Welcome back, Robo-jeeves. Can I swap you out for the dog that’s following me? You seem like a better conversationalist.

“We don’t want to spoil anything,” explained the presenter, and then went about spoiling the fact that everybody else in the vault died and you’ve been asleep for two centuries for some reason. Sounds engaging, I thought. Could I possibly get to see that? This is basically the stuff you’d put on the back of the DVD after all, and I’d quite like to see something that wasn’t completely scripted. If you’re going to warble on about player freedom, then you could show it to us.

Either my wishes fell on deaf ears or somebody behind the scenes had lost the video file they were looking for, because the next ten minutes were Bethesda talking about the collector’s edition of the game and some free-to-play app that I couldn’t have been less interested in. Fast-forward, fast-forward.

Ah, we’re back. Oh shit, it’s crafting.

Alright, some of it looked interesting. I like the manner in which you hammer bits of weaponry together, because that’s in keeping with the theme, but the house-building dynamic made me rear back like a viper. No, no, no. I know Bethesda aspire to create something for everybody, but this just looks dull. The most boring aspects of Skyrim and the last two Fallout games were always the house management mechanics, and adding turrets isn’t going to spice it up much when I could just wander out to find enemies myself.

I realise I sound like a downer here, but there is stuff I like, and most of my beef is with the manner in which it was presented. I like how Power Armour can be tweaked and seems like more of a vehicle than actual clothing, and when I saw the jetpack I began drooling uncontrollably, a bit like that dog that follows you around.

Speaking of which, I do have some demands about Muttley. Firstly, if it can’t look after itself than I will drop it at the first Deathclaw nest I see and be on my merry way. I’m not interested in playing post-apocalyptic Nintendogs, that animal is going to have to feed and heal himself. Secondly, I suspect that he’s going to glitch a lot, so please, please have that fixed before we get the game. I thought it was cool that you can send him to get stuff for you, but even in the presentation he had to stop suddenly and wrenchingly turn to face the right direction, not to mention that Bethesda games have history of glitchy behaviour.

What else is there? Well, the Pip-Boy now seems more intuitive than the average brain operation, which is nice, and looks less like a badly-made menu system and more like an actual tablet device, though I don’t know why they bothered putting in archaic minigames inside it. If I pay fifty quid for a cutting-edge title, and it immediately asks me if I want to play Donkey Kong, I’m going to politely decline, thank you.

There’s not a lot to be said about the combat, mostly because we didn’t see it much. There was one boring conflict with the most standard enemies and weapons you can get, and then there was just a highlight reel featuring a lot of flash and no substance. Why not show us a low-level fight and a high-level one, so that we can compare the two? By the time I could work out what I was seeing, it had already flicked to the next bit. I hope there weren’t any epileptics in that audience, they’d be in more trouble than the molerats.


Look out! That molerat’s wearing a high-visibility jacket!

Fallout 4 still looks good and whilst the graphics are still letting it down, the actual visual design continues to be superb, capturing the atmosphere and sense of history well. But I’m worried the game is spreading itself too thin, because we really didn’t see much, even though it was trying to show us everything. One fight, a sped-up crafting demonstration, and all the less interesting bits of the plot, and to top it off, the presentation still had to be padded with the dull-looking app and the Collector’s stuff. Look, Bethesda, why don’t you show me what this game is actually like before you try to convince me to buy the version that costs over a hundred bucks?

I’m inherently suspicious of gaming promotion and E3 in particular, but there’s almost nothing to be suspicious of here. If the game isn’t finished, then say so, but this was just weird. It spent so long bouncing between unconnected threads that we didn’t focus on any one thing long enough to understand it. I hope that wasn’t intentional, but like I said, E3 makes me very wary.

You know what I wanted to see? Half an hour of the best gameplay it has to offer, uninterrupted, unedited and live. Fallout 4 seems to be interesting, and it’ll probably be really good, but nothing makes me nervous like the feeling I’m being manipulated, and this presentation gave me that feeling quite badly. It didn’t help that after watching it and feeling kind of average about the whole thing, I was greeted online by an unnervingly rabid fanbase, who’d either been watching a different presentation to me or had all been smoking weed in preparation. It was like stumbling through the doors of some weird cult and suddenly wishing you could leave as fast as possible.

Anyway, what’s next? Battleborn? Yeah, let’s do this.


You know what I hate? When I pay the standard video game price and just get given the whole thing at once. God, it’s annoying. Just one payment, just one download, and bam. Suddenly I’m staring at a WHOLE GAME. What on earth is going on?

Yes, that was sarcasm, but lay off, I’m in a bad mood. You see, episode three for Tales From The Borderlands just got announced, and now I’m pissed off because a) it comes out on the same day as Arkham Knight, meaning I’m going to have to choose between them, and b) I’m going to have to play it all over to remember what happened, because episode one came out seven bloody months ago and episode two was was offered four months after that.

First world problems, am I right? I can barely remember where the cambozola cheese is, I’m so angry.

It’s a double-edged sword, because the only reason that I’m this annoyed is because episode one and two were both really good, probably some of the best material Telltale has done. A good story, lots of laughs, exciting action, interesting choices and some genuinely likeable characters. But after part three comes out, I feel I’m going to be lucky to see this story conclude by Christmas.


This is what Borderlands fans have to do to get their episodes on time, god bless ’em.

I do struggle to see the advantages of episodic gameplay. Alright, so you get to basically have five separate releases per game, boosting your profits because of how often it gets to ping up on the Steam homepage, like a money-powered jack-in-the-box, but what about benefits to the actual players? It’s just annoying for me, and looking at how much vitriol was in the comments on the news site for this announcement, I feel safe to say it’s not just me feeling like that.

The fact of the matter is that I’m also kicking myself for having bought the whole season when it first came out, rather than do what my friend is doing and just wait for it all to be finished before coughing up money. Because doing it this way feels like I’ve been watching an exciting movie, only for it to get to a climactic moment before some prankster pauses it and runs off with the remote.

It wouldn’t be as obnoxious if they had a schedule planned out from the beginning for us to know about, like what Resident Evil: Revelations 2 managed, i.e., releasing an episode every week for a month. I could deal with all this if they’d just told us straight up when it was all going to be ready, because then I DEFINITELY would have emulated my friend and waited the extra century.

But I guess when you’re a critically and commercially successful company working squarely within your comfort zone, it must be a bit hard to work out basic planning techniques. Oh snap! Seriously though, I’m not asking for a timetable that’s accurate down to the minute, but an idea of what month I can expect the rest of the game would be nice.

Here’s a thought, Telltale. What if instead of spending all that time working on that weird Minecraft adaptation, you could in fact NOT do that, and finish the games you already started half a year ago? Or what about releasing games one at a time, rather than having to divvy up your efforts on several games at once? Or even just release a whole game in a single go, like what human beings do?! How’s that for some fucking out-of-the-box thinking?!

Minecraft horror

No, it’s not a joke. We only wish it was.

It’s weird, because I wouldn’t care so much if the games were rubbish, but they’re really not. The Wolf Among Us, The Walking Dead Season 1, and what so far exists of Tales From The Borderlands have some of the best video game stories I’ve played, ranging from grim and despairing, to suspenseful and mysterious, to joyful and anarchic. But having given us a meaty bite of gameplay experience, Telltale then decide to whip the sandwich out of our mouths, and just sort of wave it in front of us until they feel like giving us another bite, and it’s hard not to feel like we’re being teased.

Not only that, but why is it that the Game Of Thrones story, released a month after Tales From The Borderlands, is somehow two episodes ahead of it? Especially when just about everybody seems willing to agree that the Borderlands game is better? Exactly what kind of madman is running this system?

There’s nothing intrinsically wrong with Telltale games, but this episodic stuff is surreal and more than a little frustrating. Especially in today’s age, when a whole culture has been built around not making people wait for their purchases. Netflix, iTunes, even Steam itself, their main selling point is not having to wait for your product to show up or fiddle about with it when it does. It’s more convenient, and it’s pretty sweet. But clearly Telltale don’t get it. I bet they cook meals with about a week between starters and main courses too.


Yes, I admit it. I like good graphics in a game. It’s not the be-all-and-end-all, but it’s a nice bonus if the game has that “extra-polished” feel. For some games it can make a good experience into a great one. I like the online space simulator Elite: Dangerous, and there’s something kind of spell-binding about the visuals in that game. The very act of taking off has a wonderfully smooth and seamless feel to it, made all the more exciting by how utterly realistic it looks. It’s genuinely awesome, and for that experience alone, I’m not going to say that graphical quality doesn’t ever matter.

Minecraft pic

Welcome to Minecraft. Anybody caught bringing in an object with curves will be shot.

But how pretty a game looks is not the only way to rate. As I pointed out in the Minecraft article a while back, one of the most popular games in the universe has a look that wouldn’t have been out of place in 2001, a vague hybrid of origami and cut-price kid’s toys. But people seem to cling to the idea that the measure of a game is how she looks, not how she plays. And let me tell you, this is having rather nasty consequences on gaming as an industry.

But how did this come about? Well, I have a theory that I’ve been working through the past couple of weeks, and every bit of research I do seems to back it up. And whilst I’m proud to be right, I’m upset about the truth of the matter.

Where to start? Probably at the beginning, I suppose. Yes, that makes sense.

This horrible little life cycle starts with the release of a new console generation, just like the one we’ve recently had to endure with the three big offenders: the PS4, the Xbox One, and the… What’s this one? I’m not familiar with it. The Wii U? Has anybody heard of this? No? Huh, how strange. Perhaps I’m reading it wrong.

Anyway, every time that there’s a new console generation, we can depend on one guaranteed feature – more processing power! This is not a bad thing, I’ll admit that. I’m not hugely happy with how they put it to use, but fine. There’s nothing inherently wrong with a console that can process like Alan Turing on speed.

The problem is that this is a major selling point, and all the console manufacturers have quite a bit invested in demonstrating just how hard this ugly machine can think at us. It’s one of the reasons why you have to pay an eye-boggling three hundred quid, MINIMUM, so they’d better rub it in our face as hard as possible.

But how to bring across the amazing power of this machine in a way that the average punter will understand? It’s got to be pretty explicit, it’s got to distract him from that jawbone, for a start. How do they show how cutting-edge this thing is on screen?

You’ve guessed it, they settle on graphics. That makes sense, right? Gameplay might not come across as easily, or designers might be resistant to changing it, so suddenly a memo goes around to everybody who’s making games for these titans. Better graphics! Make it look spectacular, you understand? And any game made by the console makers themselves are always polished to a high sheen. Well, at least visually.

But then something starts to change in the mind of the public, and it’s down to the fact that all the console front-runners and exclusive titles are advertised to high-heaven. When Destiny came out I couldn’t walk down the street without seeing massive billboards for the stupid thing. And we all remember Titanfall and Ryse: Son Of Rome swanning around on the side of buses, don’t we? Big games and big names mean big expectations. Not only that, but these titles are seen as representative of the whole console’s library.


FEE-FI-FO- BANG! Heh heh. I’ve been wanting to say that all day.

And just like that, the bar is set. These bigwigs become the standard by which the graphics in all games are judged, at least in the mind of the general public. Yes, YOU lot out there. You’re responsible for this mess, at least partially. Bet you regret putting that jawbone down now, don’t you?

And it’s not fair for graphics to be this flashy, because artists and big skyboxes cost not just an arm and a leg, but a whole aeroplane disaster’s worth of discarded limbs. Making high-quality graphics is bloody expensive. It’s why nearly all indie games tend to gravitate towards cartoon visuals, like Limbo, Braid, Fez, Papers Please or Mark Of The Ninja. They have to accept and acknowledge the idea that they just can’t afford to make anything hyper-realistic. Bummer.

But then the public refuses to stop drooling over anything pretty, and suddenly the big companies have an idea. Why don’t we just keep blinging up all the visuals and not bother doing diddly-squat to the gameplay? After all, tweaking the mechanics is risky, it might not be well-received. But everybody loves a picture-accurate locale, right? Let’s just do that for ever and ever, and let culture stagnate, like a man face-down in a swamp.

It only gets worse, because at some point it gets to the ludicrous extent where they have to consider that they’re pushing the limits of the processing power again. The touted next-gen consoles aren’t powerful enough for our super-graphics! What are we going to do?

And thus they’re presented with a choice. They can reduce the graphical settings, or they can start to reduce the gameplay. And by this point they’re committed to option one. Did you hear that bang? That was any hope for gameplay innovation being shot by a ditch, sorry about that.

And what do you do then? You wait for the next console generation to come out. The cycle begins anew. Hip, hip, hoo-fucking-ray.


I know how you feel, bro. If I sold three million games and was told I wasn’t good enough, I’d get out the pistols too.

There’s other flaws I haven’t mentioned yet. What do you think having entire squadrons of animators and artists costs? They don’t do all that for free, you know. In fact, it’s one of the aspects of game manufacturing into which the most money is sunk, and it only makes profiting from it that much harder. A while ago, Square Enix was whimpering about how their three big products: Hitman: Absolution, Tomb Raider and Sleeping Dogs, all underperformed and hadn’t sold enough copies. They were considered failures.

Seriously? Hitman sold 3.6 million, Tomb Raider sold 3.4 million, and Sleeping Dogs managed a respectable 1.75 million. Not only that, but EA were telling us that Dead Space 3 had to move five million units to get a sequel, and Capcom were disappointed with Resident Evil 6, which actually managed to reach that monstrous figure! I can’t quite believe how inflated the budgets must have been. How on earth were you expecting to move that level of product? And, more to the point, how much did you spend making them look marginally better than other games?

What other problems are there? Well, let’s get an obvious one out of the way – some studios just can’t attain that level of graphical perfection. They just can’t. They don’t have the staff, or the money, or the time. So when that studio releases a game, the graphics of which are just “OK,” – well, suddenly they’re hammered from every angle. How dare you look just OK?! Get out of my sight and never come back! You’ve shamed this world and the civilisation that spawned you! Not to mention the fact that certain games I might mention would like to think that looking nice is all it takes, meaning you can get away with shit gameplay.

When actually I suspect that it’s the other way around. Team Fortress 2, World Of Warcraft and the Mario games, they all have basic cartoon graphics but reliably sell copies. Perhaps this might be because that people don’t care about super-realistic skin tones and rock textures as much as the industry thinks? Perhaps we just want a game that plays well and is generally fun?


That dragon started talking about texture quality! Get him!

Remember, I’m not against kick-ass graphics, nor am I opposed to a game looking accurate or realistic. But the costs involved, be they financial, cultural or just both at once, they’re too much at the moment. Can anybody realistically disagree with that?

What I wonder about is what the executives are going to do in twenty or thirty years. Once games get to the point where they just look unfailingly real, then they’re going to have to stretch their tiny minds to think of a new selling point.

I can just see them desperately watching footage of Call Of Duty: Really, Really Advanced Warfare, tearing out their hair and racking their brains in abject terror. “Oh god, it looks just like the last generation of games! We’ve reached the peak of what graphics can do! Christ, we’ll have to start advertising gameplay! People are going to have an idea about whether a game is good or not before they buy it!”

Oh, I’m waiting with bated breath for that day…


Oh dear, this isn’t Bethesda’s week, is it? Fallout 4, perhaps one of the most anticipated titles since Skyrim, is announced to the world at large with a big, flashy trailer. Except that whilst it was big, it wasn’t that flashy. The public, it seems, aren’t too enthused about the graphics.

And yes, I’ll admit it. Games these days can and do look better in terms of aesthetic realism. The dog that bounces around the trailer as a focal point is probably the most noticeable flaw. It moves well, mostly, and has the right kind of behavioural animation, but it looks kind of flat. The fur that doesn’t look like fur, the slightly angular body shape, the way its feet don’t quite seem to touch the ground with any impact, it all makes it look a bit like a robot – a really well-made robot, mind you – that had an Alsatian painted over the top of its chassis.

What else? Well, the humans have Lego hair, we see a couple of people with an identical running animation (one that looks a little floaty, like in the previous game), the ghouls in the supermarket somehow push against big metal trolleys with no resistance, and people’s faces seem to have that slightly glassy, mannequin look that’s almost a Bethesda trademark at this point. No, it’s not the best graphics I’ve seen in a major video game, not by a long shot.

And yet, I don’t really care. Because it looked gorgeous.


The outside world’s not in HD? Guess we’re staying underground, then.

This is probably what I was most excited about from the trailer, because the series really seems to have gotten some colour back into its cheeks. Everything, from the contrasting blue cot in the faded bedroom, to the bright, toybox spectrum of the pre-war streets, to the beautiful cinematic shot of the neo-noir city, it all shone with visual personality.

I really liked Fallout 3 and New Vegas, but I did tire of greys, greens and browns. I know that this world is meant to look scarred and sickly, but there’s a difference between faded colours and no colours at all. So Fallout 4 splattering itself with all the best members of the rainbow is a plus in my book.

Not to mention the visual design, something that stays with us long after we’ve forgotten about the graphics. The sweeping shot of the huge pirate ship, the mighty doom-Zeppelin floating in the thunderstorm, the prowling deathclaw in the radioactive mist, they all point to ideas that aren’t just realistic, they look good. Old concepts like the Protectrons have gotten some life into them visually, with the glint of a red LED eye shining within their circuitry, or the hanging suit of DIY power armour, a massive network of hydraulics and gears solemnly draped from its supports. Even the blue Vault-tec jumpsuits look more blue. The whole thing seems delighted to see you, and that’s pretty cool.

I know, the images could be better, could be clearer. They still might be – remember, this is a trailer, not a finished product – but yes, it would be nice if they were as svelte as other games, Perhaps it’s a little disappointing that a game with this kind of pedigree and expectation behind it couldn’t manage graphically what titles with smaller budgets can do, but I still can’t bring myself to be all hot and bothered over it. You could record an orchestra doing Beethoven on your phone, and yeah, it might be little grainier than intended. But it’s still Beethoven. It’s still excellent at its core.


Here I am, brain the size of a planet…

Perhaps I’m just bitter because an excellent game series has just been announced to have a fresh new game incoming, and all anybody can talk about is the aspect to games that engages me the least. Nobody’s talking about what might be contained in Vault 111, or whether we get to use vehicles for the first time, or if we might see a user interface that doesn’t make me want to gouge my eyes out. I can’t help but notice the ugly cube of a Pip-Boy lashed to the protagonist’s arm. If he has any sense at all, he’ll drop it for an iPhone the first chance he gets.