Fez: a game that started out on consoles and PC but seems perfectly suited to the handheld format.

Fez: a game that started out on consoles and PC but seems perfectly suited to the handheld format.

Say what you like about Fez creator Phil Fish (who spectacularly quit the game development industry last year and cancelled Fez 2 after a Twitter spat), indie game Fez is one of those games that is a delight to play, not only because of its twisted perspective but thanks to its 16-bit graphics style and some innovative game play features.

Fez was one of my most favoured games of 2012 and with the move to the PS Vita, I think it’s perfectly suited to the handheld.

The game sees main character Gomez in a flat 2D world but after stumbling across a giant gold polyhedron suddenly finds he can view the world in 3D. However, the polyhedron is shattered, the 32 cubes it’s made up from scattered about the game world and it’s up to Gomez to find them all, bringing order back to the world.

At first, Fez seems a simple 2D/3D puzzle game where the player guide’s a pixelated hero from place to place, collecting the shards from the exploded polyhedron, but then in an instant, thanks to the ability to rotate the game world 90 degrees creating a 3D playspace, the game opens up new possibilities to tackle problems.

But how?, I hear you ask. Like this: being able to change perspective on-the-fly using the Vita’s left and right shoulder buttons means suddenly a platform that was moments ago out of reach is now accessible. It’s mind-boggling and means that jumps that were seemingly unreachable before are suddenly much closer when you rotate perspective.  In a world punctuated by waterfalls, lighthouses, shacks and precarious drops, and where entering one door can lead to a completely different dimension, a change in perspective can literally mean the difference between one step closer to a wayward cube and a drop to the depths below.

Fez is a game that can be mesmerising and confusing at the same time, and often that confusion can lead to some frustration, especially when you get lost and aren’t really sure where you should go next. Some of the puzzles, too, might see you scratching your head (there’s one with a bell early on) and heading online for a walk through to help you solve them.

Minor frustrations aside, Fez was one of my most loved games when it came out on console and PC and now that it’s out on Vita, I can see it being one of my most loved and most played on Sony’s handheld. Fez + PS Vita = a gaming partnership worth discovering.

 

 

I’ve been riding a jet ski in my lounge room for the past couple of nights.

Now before you do another “Whaaaat?”, I haven’t been riding a real jet ski in my lounge, but a virtual one thanks to Microsoft and Kinect Sports Rivals , an Xbox One game that puts a sports arena at your fingertips.

Set on a sporting paradise simply called The Island, Kinect Sports Rivals is a game where you jump and wave your arms in from of the Kinect camera in an effort to taste victory in six sports, including rock climb, soccer, wave runners and tennis.

I haven’t played enough of the game yet to do a proper review but I want to touch on the tech behind the game, which uses the Xbox One’s improved Kinect camera to take a full body scan of the player before you start playing  - and the result is pretty damn impressive, actually.

Hey, it's me: My Kinect Sports Rivals avatar as captured by the Xbox One's Kinect camera.

Hey, it’s me: My Kinect Sports Rivals avatar as captured by the Xbox One’s Kinect camera.

When the game starts, its narrator – former Dr Who star David Tennant – asks you to stand in front of the Kinect camera, which then scans your body and face. During the face scan you have to move your head up and down and to the let and right.

Once it’s obtained all the information it needs, you see pixels materialise into the shape of a person. It’s creating your virtual character. This is when you get to see whether the scan looks like you or not.

The first scan didn’t do too well, giving me glasses and a beard, but to be fair, it was due to the abysmally poor lighting in the room that I’ve temporarily got the Xbox One set up in.

A scan the following day with full sunlight streaming into the room  was much more successful. You can see a picture of my virtual sports star in this blog. Look to your right.

During the creation process and your face is just a mass of pixels, the narrator urges your to smile, frown and make faces to see that the on-screen face will move with your facial movements.

Down to the final product, then. While it’s not a pixel perfect representation of what my face looks like, I can definitely see elements of my face in my Kinect Sports Rivals avatar, so it’s succeeded in that regard (sadly, I don’t have a chiselled chin and piercing blue eyes). I’m wearing some sort of skin-tight body suit which can be upgraded as I progress through the game.

I’ll get a review up as soon as I can (we’re about to move into a motel for four nights until our earthquake-damaged home is finished getting repaired) but I thought I’d just show you what the new Kinect is capable of when it comes to scanning people.

titanfall_screen_1Titanfall (Xbox One, PC)  is the game that has brought me back to online gaming.

I don’t tend to play multiplayer games much these days.  Maybe it’s because I can’t be bothered playing with  the whiney 12-year-olds that seems to be online when I am  (I always mute other players anyway, both on my team and on the opposition) or maybe it’s because my ageing reflexes just can’t cut it with the young whippersnappers that populate popular online game: I’ll often fumble trying to change a weapon as a foe approaches, only to be taken down by another who has snuck up behind me.

I’ve  dabbled in Halo, Battlefield 4 and other online games I’ve tended to give up after a couple of days (and a few hundred deaths). Titan fall is different, though.

The debut game from Respawn Entertainment (a development studio made up of a lot of people who worked on Call of Duty), Titanfall has, somehow, captured me with its mix of giant robots and fast, frantic combat. It’s prob ably the novelty of controlling the game’s titular Titans that has swayed me but every day since the game launched I’ve played several matches a day, keen to level up my avatar. I think I’m sitting at level 18 at the moment, which isn’t that impressive compared to the high rankings of other players, but it’s much higher than any rank I’ve got in any other online games. It’s clearly doing something right if it can capture the attention of a gamer who usually despises online gaming.

At it’s very heart Titanfall is similar to the bulk of online games out there: pick a character and Titan class (Atlas, Ogre or Stryder), drop onto a map, take out the enemies/capture the flags/hold the markers, re-spawn when you die - but it has a notable point difference in that once a match is over, it’s not actually over: The match doesn’t end  until the victors have either stopped the defeated team from boarding a jump ship or the defeated board the jump ship that evacuates them from the war zone.

If I’m being honest, I’ve hardly made any evacuations when I’ve been on the defeated side (which is many times) – maybe six or seven in the numerous games I’ve played – but it’s thrilling trying to make it to evacuation point without being spotted by enemy foot soldiers or Titans. Do I wait until the last minute to sprint for the waiting ship, fingers crossed that I’ll make it on time? Or do I hide near the pick up zone, cloak then hope like hell I don’t get spotted?

Rodeoing a Titan: this .gif shows just one of the neat things you can do in Titanfall.

Rodeoing a Titan: this .gif shows just one of the neat things you can do in Titanfall.

Players start each match as a pilot class (there are three classes available) and the more kills you get the sooner you’ll gain access to your Titan, a heavily armoured and armed mechanical robot that drops from the sky with a ground shaking thud. But, often, I found many times that I don’t actually call in my Titan during a match, despite the fact that I could. There’s something exciting about being a pilot parkouring around rooftops and walls, activating your cloaking device then dropping silently onto the top of an unsuspecting enemy Titan – it’s called rodeoing – , ripping off a maintenance hatch and blasting its innards, causing it to become doomed and exploding into pieces just as you jump off.

That’s the thrill: Not duking it out with several most likely higher ranked Titan, where the odds are more stacked against an inexperienced pilot. That said, it’s great ejecting just as your Titan’s core goes nuclear, propelling you into the air, the resultant explosion destroying the foes in the vicinity.

As you progress through the game you’ll unlock more tech and weapons for both your Titan and your pilot (sidearms, rifles, ordnance), and at first I favoured the assassin’s smart pistol – a sidearm that locks onto a target before you can pull the trigger – but I quickly realised that while the smart pistol is useful against the AI- controlled grunts that make up the numbers during matches (there are only six human players each match: The rest are AI-controlled minions) that usually just stand there and shoot, it’s not so great against human opponents who are more unpredictable, making locking onto them all that much harder.

There will come a time when Titanfall becomes repetitive and I’ll put it down and move onto something else: That hasn’t happened yet but it’s only been a week or so. I’m hoping Respawn will counter that potential repetitiveness with more maps and new game modes. I’d also like to see match making done a little better: Many of the matches I played had Level 35 players squaring off against Level 10 player. Hardly fair, really, is it? Perhaps Respawn can work out someway to have similarly skilled pilots against each other.

TitanfallcockpitTitanfall will probably result in increased sales for the Xbox One – lets face it: It’s one of the few games worth having on the console at the moment – and it will probably have the same effect on other gamers as it did me but with  no single player campaign, it’s got a limited appeal for gamers who love an engaging narrative.

If you want a story-based game, Titanfall isn’t the one you want to pick up. Another downside for Titanfall is that because it’s totally reliant on an internet connection, if your internet goes down – which it will  - you can’t play it. Keep that in mind.

When the game first launched, my games were connecting to a data centre in the West Coast of the United States, giving pings of about 164ms – not ideal for online gaming where you want as little latency as possible – but since Australian servers came online late last week, I’m getting pings of 62ms, which is much, much better, and I’ve heard of gamers in Sydney – where the Aussie servers are located – getting pings as low as 18ms.

Overall, Respawn has delivered a solid, satisfying game experience that will satisfy online gamers and has done enough to stand out from the stock-standard online games out there. Now the job for Respawn is to make sure it supports it so that people will keep playing it in the months and years ahead.

Uodate: I forgot to mention Titanfall’s burn cards, which, I guess, can be likened to Call of Duty’s perks. You earn burn cards as you progress through the game and while you can activate one as soon as each round starts, generally a burn card will come into effect once you’ve died and you re-spawn. Burn cards can range from anything to reducing the amount of time it takes until your Titan falls to extra XP for killing enemies to spawning a group of grunts around an objective to protect it to swapping out a particular weapon for a higher powered one. You can have three burn cards active at any one time, so you’ll often find you’ll swap and change while you’re in the lobby to find the one that will best fit the situation.

Update two: I finally got around to trying out the so-called campaign mode. What a waste of time it is, to be honest. I don’t really know why Respawn bothered to tack it on, apart from perhaps trying to give a bit of backstory to the IMC and Militia conflict. The campaign is just online multiplayer matches with some narrative layered over it, but sneakily, the only way you can unlock two of the three Titan classes is complete both sides of the campaign. If I thought the campaign was worth playing, I’d be prepared to do that but I’m not, so I’m stuck with the Atlas Titan chassis for the foreseeable future.

It wasn’t the usual opening line I get in emails, but it was an opening line that got my attention: “You don’t know me, but I’m a follower of your blog. You’ll have to forgive me for stalking your domain to find your email address!

It was mid-2013, and I was still blogging for Fairfax New Zealand with that other blog I used to do (I remember what it was but it’s ancient history now), and the email was from Tim Johnson, the then-Canada-based head of Dot Kiwi, a group founded to establish the .kiwi domain name – a domain name that Kiwis could be proud off and own themselves.

In his first email, Tim told me that “we’re eager to partner with various organisations and individuals who are influencers” to get momentum going in the .kiwi domain names. Being a journalist I guess I had a bit of an ego when it comes to how much what I write about influences people, so Tim classing me as an “influencer” boosted my ego immensely.  How could I not want a piece of this when my ego had been flattered by classing me as an “influencer”?

Tim and I stayed in touch over the next few months and over the course of about 30-plus emails it’s finally got to this domain name: gamejunkie.kiwi – a truly New Zealand-flavoured domain name that I can call my own. And you can call it yours, too, if you want, I mean, gamejunkie.kiwi is as much mine as it is yours.

You can learn more about .kiwi here, where you can find out all about the .kiwi story, the people behind it and it’s where you can register your interest so that you’re kept in the loop about what’s going on. It’s currently in the Sunrise phase, which is where existing trademark holders can apply to have a .kiwi domain name that matches their brand name.

When you think about it, though, as Kiwis it makes sense to have our own unique domain name system, right?

New Zealand might be a small country at the bottom of the world but we’ve forged a pretty damn strong identity with the Kiwi brand name, an identifier known around the world. Up until now, we’ve been restricted to domain names like .com or .co.nz or others but .kiwi was never an option. Until now. Now it is. Surely having a .kiwi at the end of your brand name or company web address is really championing New Zealand and announcing to the world that, yes, I’m proud to be a Kiwi? I know I am.

As of today, March 10, the domain name gamejunkie.kiwi, which Dot Kiwi kindly gifted me,  has been registered and is up and running. The process was pretty smooth, actually, and the only major change was that my WordPress basic account was upgraded to a Premium account so the new domain name could be attached to my WordPress account. You can now also email me at gerard@gamejunkie.kiwi, if you like. Go on: I’d love to get an email from you.

In the scheme of things, nothing’s really changed: It’s the same content, the same person running it (me), the same irregular blog posts, except you can now get to this blog using gamejunkie.kiwi domain name.

By going .kiwi, I’m embracing my Kiwiness. That’s kinda cool.

Sok! Pow! Crack! Kazow!

OK, so the above words come from the Adam West version of Batman in the late 1960s (it was so camp but fun to watch: Oh, and let it be noted I watched it much later in life, not during the 1960s) but they’re so fitting for the announcement trailer of WB’s next Batman game, Arkham Knight – and man, am I shaking in my Batcave for this one to come out.

OK, so it’s only a cinematic trailer so we shouldn’t get all excited but damn, it’s hard not too when you get a glimpse of the caped crusader and all that’s going on in the 3 minute-something trailer. And the game’s coming from Arkham Asylum and Arkham City developers, Rocksteady. Yay!

The trailers got explosions, Penguin, Two-Face, Harley Quinn, (I think) a voice over from The Scarecrow telling Gotham City that this is its only warning,  and a contemplative Bruce Wayne (oh, there’s also a voice over reading out the last will and testament of Thomas Wayne, Bruce’s father, who hoped that  Bruce used his money and legacy to the benefit of Gotham City).

In a nice touch, the trailer has Thomas Wayne hoping that Bruce didn’t waste the money on fast cars, outrageous clothes and a destructive lifestyle – just as we see a glimpse of the Batmobile and a new-look Batsuit.  The Batmobile here is a pretty kick-ass Batmobile but it’s very reminiscent of the tumbler one in the Christopher Nolan Batman movies, and that’s not a bad thing.  THE BATMOBILE (calm down. Breathe, breathe).

The last Batman game, Origins, was, in my (semi) professional opinion pretty rubbish, if my memory serves me correctly.  It just didn’t stack up against Arkham Asylum and City – and not surprising. given that it was  made by a new studio created by WB while Rocksteady were secretly working on the next game in the franchise.

Well done, WB, well done, you kept this one quiet.

Back to the trailer, though: Woo-eeee it looks good. And did I mention that the Batmobile is in the game? And you get to drive it? I did? Oh, sorry.

And Batman Arkham Knight is being made for this current-generation only (that’s Xbox One, PlayStation 4 and PC). There’s not going to be versions for the PS3 or Xbox 360, and I think that’s a good thing. It means that Rocksteady can put all its effort in to creating good current-generation content rather than diluting it by having to make last-generation versions, too. More developers need to do that, actually.

So, Batman Arkham Knight is due out in October sometime. Time to start saving up some money, then.

Update number 1: I can’t believe I forgot to mention that Kevin Conroy, who really is the voice of Batman, makes a return as the Dark Knight in Arkham Knight, after being replaced by another voice actor in Arkham Origins. Yay for the return of Kevin Conroy.

Update number two: Here’s some more information I gleaned from Joystiq today. 

Lead AI and combat programmer Tim Hanagan told Game Informer that “at any given time, there are between three and four times the number of thugs active in Gotham City than there were in Arkham City,” and that larger riots in the game will have up to 50 characters wreaking havoc.

Arkham Knight is set one year after Arkham City, in which Batman’s foes have banded together to tear the Dark Knight’s attention away from a crumbling Gotham City. The single player-only game will also include an arch-villain created from scratch by Rocksteady and DC Entertainment CCO Geoff Johns. Rocksteady’s initial announcement focused on another big addition to the Arkham series: Players will get plenty of time in the driver’s seat of the Batmobile, which can be fetched at the press of a button, can handle the jumps and boosts expected of the more reckless drivers among us and will eject Batman out of his seat at times. Also back to voice characters is, Nolan North who will voice Penguin, Wally Wingert who will voice Riddler, Tara Strong will continue as Harley Quinn and Troy Baker will voice Two-Face again.

I haven’t done much video gaming lately. Maybe it’s because it’s the first-quarter lull before games start arriving.Yeah, that’s probably it.

Maybe it’s also because we’ve temporarily shifted house for five weeks and all (bar about five) my games have been packed away in cardboard boxes and are sitting in a shipping container, waiting until I can take them out and stack them lovingly on my hallway bookshelf and in my entertainment unit (the unit under the TV is where I put all my “currently”playing games; The hallway has all the I-might-play-these-some-time-soon-but-I’m-not-sure games).

That said, I took my Xbox One, PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 with me to the temporary house, expecting to be playing lots of games. That was the plan, anyway.

When we did an inspection of the house it had a TV fitted to the main lounge wall so I thought “Sweet. We can watch TV on that one and I’ll bring one from home to play games and stuff on”. It’s funny how things don’t always work out as you plan.

You see, it seems the set-top box that was mentioned on the “House list” wasn’t there anymore. It had been taken away by the owners (the property manager only told me after I’d moaned about it not being there)  - and my usual set-top box has a standard aerial connection not a coaxial one, so I couldn’t get anything to work. Even when I bought an  adapter that apparently should have let me connect a coaxial cable to my Freeview box. As much as I tried nothing.

So we’ve got a lounge that has two TVs but only one of them is functional. It’s not ideal but it’s only for five weeks (hopefully less) so I can live with it: One TV with three consoles and a DVD recorder attached. There are cables snaking everywhere. It’s probably a fire hazard.

I’m still living in the land of unemployed, not having managed to have found a full-time job yet. I have been writing regular articles for Australia website techly.com.au, which is pretty cool.  Of the four articles I’ve done so far, I’ve done one on the Titanfall beta, which I loved and I’m really looking forward to the game.

Falling from the sky: Despite being multplayer-only, Titanfall is a game that I'm really looking forward to - and I don't usually do online-only.

Falling from the sky: Despite being multplayer-only, Titanfall is a game that I’m really looking forward to – and I don’t usually do online-only.

I’m hoping to pick up a copy of Titanfall when it’s out. I haven’t decided whether I want PC or Xbox One. I’ve been internally going through the pros and cons of getting either: The PC one looks better and I can still use a game pad with it, but I’ve got hardly any friends that will be playing it on PC. The Xbox One version might not look as good as on PC but I’ve got heaps of friends who will probably play it on console. I’m sure I’ll make a decision before the game’s released early this month.

King LeBron: My son's loving NBA2K14, but he's not loving being on the Minnesota Timberwolves. The team isn't very good, apparently.

King LeBron: My son’s loving NBA2K14, but he’s not loving being on the Minnesota Timberwolves. The team isn’t very good, apparently.

My son’s played more games than I have lately on the Xbox One, spending his time on NBA2K14, desperate to get his character transferred from the Minnesota Timberwolves. He got his wish yesterday when he asked for a transfer: Turns out he was traded to a team worse than the Timberwolves (the Washington Wizards or something? Is that right). He now wants to go back to Minnesota! I just laughed at him and said he should be careful what he asks for.

I’m still laughing about it actually. It’s virtual basketball and he’s so invested that he wishes he could be traded back to the team he wanted to get out of. Ha.

Left Behind: We find out what happened to Ellie and Riley before the events of The Last of Us.

Left Behind: We find out what happened to Ellie and Riley before the events of The Last of Us.

The Last of Us was one of last year’s best games on the PlayStation 3.

Heck, it was one of the best games of the year on all formats.

Left Behind is the first – and 0nly – story-based DLC for Naughty Dog’s survival/horror (can it be classed as a horror?)  game and while it’s not long – I think it took me about two to two and a half hours to complete – it’s probably one of the most emotive pieces of DLC that I’ve played in a long, long time. If you like strong narrative and some tying up of loose ends from the main game, then Left Behind fits the bill <There could be some slight story line spoilers here so tread carefully like your wandering through an abandoned house full of clickers>.

First things first, though: If you own a PlayStation 3 and haven’t played The Last of Us I really recommend you do. It’s well, well worth it.

Left Behind is split into two tales, each intermingled. It starts with The Last of Us’ Ellie and Joel in an abandoned shopping mall. Joel is severely injured, caused by an earlier incident in the game’s Winter section. It’s alluded to in flashback form at the start of the DLC.  Ellie has to search the mall for medical supplies to stop Joel from bleeding to death.

The other story is that of Ellie and her friend Riley, her best friend from a Boston military school, and the months before Ellie met Joel. Riley is mentioned in the main story of The Last of Us but we never knew what happened to her (well, we know she died but we aren’t told how). Left Behind fills in the blanks.

Combat is less than in The Last of Us: This is DLC that is more about an emotive story than body counts but when there is combat it has a nice twist in that both human scavengers and infected  can be “urged”to fight each other, making it easier for Ellie.

In situations where you find both, if you  attract the attention of a group of clickers to where a group of scavengers are – say tossing a brick where two humans are. sending the clickers to the source of the noise – then  you can sit back and watch the two factions kill each other, often only leaving one or two of each faction to take care of.

Time to be young: Some of the most touching moments in The Last of Us take place in an abandoned shopping mall, where Ellie and Riley get to be teenagers.

Time to be young: Some of the most touching moments in The Last of Us take place in an abandoned shopping mall, where Ellie and Riley get to be teenagers.

Some of the most emotional moments of Left Behind are with Ellie and Riley in an abandoned shopping centre. They explore, they laugh, they take snapshots in a photo booth, they joke around in a Halloween-themed shop.  It’s a far cry from their reality since the infection, and while, things turn to custard  by the end,   Left Behind shows what masters Naughty Dog and its creative director Neil  Druckmann are (incidentally, I found an old newspaper clipping of an interview I did with Druckmann about the Uncharted series. This serves no purpose other than to tell you that I’ve spoken to him).

Left Behind is a nice addition to the foundations that The Last of Us built and shows that done right, video games can be the ideal medium for delivering compelling, emotive narrative.

Deserted playground: Left Behind deals with the relationship between Ellie and friend Riley.

Deserted playground: Left Behind deals with the relationship between Ellie and friend Riley.

Update: I’ve played the Titanfall beta – and I love it, even though I got my arse kicked the first couple of rounds and had my Titan destroyed, too. And it’s all thanks to  a good chap who I follow on Twitter called Sidawg2 (Simon Bishop to his friends and family).

He had a friend in Australia, no less, who received a PC beta code but didn’t need it – so he thought of me. I appreciate it, Simon.

I’ve played a few rounds but want to try and tackle some more today, if I can (I’m supposed to be starting to pack for a move to a rental property next week while our house gets repaired) so I’ll post my impressions in the next few days. Short version: I like it a lot so far (I mean, c’mon, it’s giant robots: What’s not to love?)

Original story: While it seems like most of my Twitter feed is playing the Titanfall beta on Xbox One or PC (and bragging about it), I’m not (although if I’m lucky enough to get a beta key I’ll be playing the shit out of it) but until that happens, I’m dusting off  my PlayStation 3 and playing Left Behind, The Last of Us’ first (and only) story-driven DLC went live tonight.

In fact, it’s at 79% complete as we speak. Come on PSN download service, you can do it.

I’m looking forward to playing it tonight, actually: It’s been a while since I’ve had any quality time with Ellie, the young girl from Naughty Dog’s great PS3 game.

Ellie and Riley at the broken highway_1392204777I know very little about it except that it stars Ellie and her friend and mentor, Riley. There’s no  Joel in this DLC. I think it takes place in some military boarding school and apparently has both infected (Oh, god how I hated those clickers) and human foes. It’s hefty, too, weighing in at a shade over 5GB in size.

Take that, Titanfall beta. I’ve found something to take my mind off all the chatter on Twitter (at least until I get a beta key myself).

2004. It was the year something called Facebook launched,  the year the New Zealand government banned smoking in public places and the year that Lionhead Studio’s released Fable on the original Xbox console.  It was the year I turned 35, too, if you’re interested.

Fable Anniversary: the new look hero from the remake of the 2004 original.

Fable Anniversary: the new look hero from the remake of the 2004 original.

Casting my hazy memory back to the days of the original Xbox is hard but I remember playing Fable on Microsoft’s first console. I liked it, I think,  but it was a game that it’s creator Peter Moyneux talked up big. In fact, the things he said about it caused a bit of a stir, if I remember rightly. I think at one point Molyneux claimed that if you planted an acorn in the ground in the game eventually you’d see it sprout into a towering oak tree. It proved to be complete rubbish, which we all found out,  but it indicated the ambitious things that Fable wanted to achieve.

I trawled through some old newspaper clippings to see if I could find my review of Fable, but I couldn’t (the review came out before the newspaper I worked for archived anything like video game reviews online so I only have a hard copy – and only God know where that is), but one of the things I remember most about Fable was the wicked British sense of humour that oozed from just about every pixel.

The townsfolk were voiced by real Britons (not Americans trying to sound like Britons) and our hero could fart at the press of the D-pad. He could fart! I think that was pretty much unheard of in video games at the time. He could also chat up women, steal stuff, smash down doors, get back tattoos, get huge sideburns and sleep in beds that he wasn’t supposed to. It was a sort of action adventure game with role-playing elements where you could be a goodie two-shoes or a complete shit. It was up to you. According to Wikipedia, it was the biggest selling game of 2004.

Anyway, with 2014 being 10 years since Fable came out, Microsoft have done what it did with Halo and had the game re-made by Lionhead and called it Fable Anniversary. It’s for the Xbox 360 (and not the Xbox One) and it’s the exact same game that came out in 2004 but it looks much, much better thanks to its HD lick of paint.

The environments look much cleaner, the textures are a lot crisper (watch the comparison video at the end of this post and you’ll see what I mean) and the people generally look a lot better. It’s the same game as the 2004 original though, apart from the updated graphics and audio: the same main character - the Hero of Oakvale – the same enemies, the same quests and the same quirks as the 2004 game, but thanks to the powers of modern graphics tech, it looks great. But the question is: Should you buy Fable Anniversary if you’ve played it?

It depends on how much of a Fable fan you are, I guess. If you haven’t played it before, and own a 360 and want to check the series out, it would be a good starting point but if you’ve played the original to death then it’s not going to be that worth it to you.

The game still had a few quirks, too, that bugged the hell out of me. While the game’s menu has been overhauled – and it’s all the better for it – the lock-on system plays silly buggers from time to time. Pulling the left trigger locks our hero’s weapon (be it a bow or an edged one) onto the closest target but sometimes in the heat of battle it would lock on to a trader in the distance rather than the bandit (or the balverine) advancing on me. The speech also loops quite a bit, which is annoying. During one mission where I had to meet the hero’s mentor, he (the mentor) would stand there yelling “Over here” over and over again, until I went over to him. I also inadvertently hit the right analogue stick while in the midst of battle with a group of hobbes (small goblin-like creatures), popping the mini-map to the middle the game screen, blocking my view. That one, though, is purely on me.

In the years since Fable was released, games have evolved and the things that Peter Molyneux touted as revolutionary are now commonplace (and some of Fable’s quirks were sorted out in Fables 2 and 3).  The question is: Should you play Fable Anniversary? If you haven’t played the original and want to have a look, then, yeah, it’s probably worth a look but to be honest, while Fable Anniversary looks great, has retained the wicked sense of humour and is fun, part of me wonders whether a remake was really necessary and was it done for nostalgia’s sake or as a way to milk an old franchise for a little bit longer?

New character: It's mechanic Nick Ramos' turn to take on the zombie hordes.

Dead Rising 3: Can you really call a 13Gb download an update?

Dead Rising 3 is a probably one of the best games out for the Xbox One at the moment, and it’s a genuinely fun game, but the announcement by developer Capcom of a 13GB patch recently could set a dangerous precedent, especially in countries – New Zealand included – where internet data caps are still in force.

It seems that the update was designed to prepare the game for the first lot of DLC (downloadable content) , Operation Broken Eagle, and tweak with the final version of the game, but first things first: How can 13GB be called an update? It’s almost an entire game!!

And what’s with publishers not wanting to call them patches anymore? I guess patch implies that the developer is fixing something that is broken but at 13GB in size, this isn’t just a small bandaid: It’s a full on plaster cast, so it’s clearly fixing some major issues.

But has the update actually improved game play?

Over at Eurogamer, there’s an interesting critique on whether the update improves anything and it seems that it doesn’t actually provide a smoother game play experience from the original.

So have Capcom replaced complete parts of the game using the update, I’m not sure, but I wonder whether the 13GB contains both updated content that needed fixing as well as the DLC, so that it’s a quick unlock when people actually buy it. I hope this isn’t the case and Capcom isn’t forcing people to download content that they may or may not eventually want to buy. If that is the case, I’ll have to seriously consider whether I want to play another Capcom game again.

More of a concern, though, is now that we’re in a new generation of games consoles, how many more publishers are going to start releasing patches/updates of this size? Is this going to become the norm in the new generation of games consoles?

If it’s going to become the norm rather than the exception, then how many gamers will be reluctant – or unwilling – to update their games because the update will push them perilously close to their monthly ISP data cap?

Despite the advent of “all you can eat” and “unlimited” internet plans and society being in a golden age of technology, the reality is that many people in some countries are still on monthly plans with data caps. And if they want the large data plans, they’ll pay through the nose for it.

I’m on an unlimited fibre plan with a New Zealand ISP, offering download speeds of unto 100Mbps and upload speeds of 50Mbps. It costs $134 a month, I think.  The beauty of an unlimited plan means that I can – and do – download a lot of games from Steam and watch a lot of movies using Apple TV, but frankly, $134 a month is a lot of money for internet when you have other bills and expenses (once we’re back in our house after it’s been repaired for damaged caused in the February 2011 earthquake I’m going to downgrade my fibre plan). It’s easy to see why people go for more affordable internet plans, many of them hampered by a less than fantastic monthly data limit.

This is 2014, so I’m sure that savvy gamers have wrangled data plans that give them enough data to satisfy their needs but not everyone has the money to pay for unlimited or 200Gb of data a month, so patches the size of 13GB are going to cause serious problems for some Xbox One owners. If you’ve got a monthly limit of 20GB, then that’s more than half your allowance for the month gone in one download.

I’m really hoping that updates of this size are the exception rather than the norm – and that Capcom isn’t lumbering Dead Rising 3 players with DLC that they may not want to own – but the existence of data caps from many ISPs around the world still shows that the world isn’t ready for a digital-only game distribution system yet.

It’ll happen – eventually – but it’ll take a while to get there.