Eight Thousand Seven Hundred And Sixty Hours

Before I get stuck in to the main part of the article i owe you guys an apology, it’s been quite some time since I last posted anything on here! The main reason being that I’ve started a Youtube channel and that’s been taking up a lot more time than I had originally anticipated (Who knew editing was co complicated?!) Now I’m starting to get the hang of it a bit more though so I should be able to start posting more regularly again. Feel free to check my channel out, it’s NidgePlays (Shameful advertising) But anyway, let’s get into the article!
Three hundred and sixty five days, eight thousand seven hundred and sixty hours, five hundred and twenty five thousand six hundred minutes, that’s a conservative guess as to how long I have spent playing video games up to this point in my life. It sounds like a phenomenal amount of time when I say it like that, but all that is based on is just two hours of gaming a day for twelve years. In my mind two hours a day is very easily done by most gamers, heck i’d almost brand that as casual gaming. This number immediately bought two different things to my mind, half of me wants to know what games and consoles have contributed most to the grand total, and the other half of me wonders if you could class two hours a day as an addiction, I’m going to try and answer both of these questions, starting with the former, what has contributed the most to my total?
After thinking long and hard about consoles I’ve owned and games I have played this is my estimate. Console wise the Xbox 360 is definitely be my biggest contributor, it’s the console on which I spent most of gaming prime, it was in that beautiful moment in time when i’d have 6 weeks holidays from school, and when I’d finished my final exams but wasn’t working, those days I’d easily rack up 5-6 hours a day playing FIFA, Call Of Duty, and Skate. The rest of the contributors however are a little bit more balanced, the Playstation 2 and original Xbox both counting for a pretty significant chunk of game time, games like Final Fantasy on the Playstation, and Rainbow Six 3 and Forza Motorsport on the Xbox being the games that standout the most for me during that era. The N64 also has to have contributed a good 1000 hours with games such as Super Mario 64, Banjo Kazooie and Donkey Kong, all games that I played a tonne of during my childhood, the remainder of time I think is made up by a bit of a mixture of platforms, the Gameboy with Pokemon, Football Manager and Call Of Duty on the PC, and the Playstation One combined making up the rest of the time with a big contribution between them as well as the new Xbox One of course.
This though brings is to the second part of the article, does spending two hours a day gaming make it an addiction? When people mention the word addiction it carries very negative connotations, I usually think of things like smoking, drinking and drugs, but video games is often compared to these things and is considered by some to be just as serious. In the past I’ve read stories of gamers staying up for days on end, not sleeping, eating or drinking, and that’s clearly not healthy, but where exactly do people draw the line? If someone smoked everyday, or drank alcohol everyday then most of society would brand them as addicts, as unhealthy people, and although playing video games for a couple of hours a day isn’t the same as having a few pints or smoking a few cigarettes i’m intrigued to know where the line begins. Personally I don’t consider playing a couple of hours a day as an addiction, days go by when I don’t play at all, and days come along where I’ll play more than 2 hours, so at what point does it become an addiction? Would doubling it to 4 hours a per session, but only three days a week make it more of an addiction compared to 2 hours a day? What I’m trying to ask is is it worse to play it for a longer duration each time on fewer occasions, or to play it every day, but in smaller doses? And how many hours a week would you have to rack up for it to be considered an addiction?
In this modern day it can be even more difficult to get away from the console, not only do you have the games, you have music services, television, Netflix, Twitch, Skype, the list goes on, you have literally everything you could possibly want all on one box, and whilst this is fantastic for convenience it can mean that it’s very easy to sit down at 10am, and hardly move until you go to bed.
Can gaming an addiction? Of course it can, but WHEN does it become an addiction? As a gamer myself it’s a very difficult question to answer, as I mentioned earlier there have been time when I’ve spent 5-6 hours a day on one game, so i know personally how easy it can be to get sucked in and how quickly the time seems to fly by, you get pulled into the fantasy world and before you know it will be 3 or 4am. Personally I think that if you’re playing around the 50 hour mark a week then you’ve probably got a problem, that would make it around 7 hours a day, 7 days a week, but once again I’ll stress that I’ve done that myself and I don’t consider myself to have a problem.
What do you think, have you ever considered yourself as a gaming addict, and how many hours do you think you have to play a week to be considered one? Has there been that one game that you just couldn’t pull yourself away from? Let me know your thoughts on the matter, it will be interesting to see a few different perspectives!

One Week On- EA Sports UFC

Joao Paulo Lages

I’m not quite sure why, but i’m always a sucker for these wrestling type games. I think it goes back to my younger days when i was a big fan of the WWE, but even now, about 10 years on, i still really enjoy the games, whether it be the WWE titles, or in this case, UFC. I didn’t get the last couple UFC games that came out on the Xbox 360, but i did get the original, so i was expecting the game to have moved on quite a lot from then.

I’ll start with UFCs strongest point, graphics and presentation. The game looks jaw droppingly good, the fighters all looks fantastic and very lifelike, and the details on them are fantastic, from their personal movements movements, to their body shape and even tattoos, these are probably the best character models i’ve seen in a game. Their expressions change throughout the fight, you can even see them flinch when they take a big hit, and what impressed me a lot was the cut system, when you’re beating the crap out of somebody the cuts will appear in the spot your beating them, not just the generic spots like on the older games, whether it be above the eyes, the cheeks, even the body, if you beat on a certain area enough, you’ll be able to tell you’re doing work!
The general presentation is the games other strong suit, any EA sports game tends to be well presented, whether it’s Madden, FIFA, or NHL, but UFC takes it too the next level, i really like the little video clips that you get before certain fights, or after certain events, for example, if you’ve got KO of the night you will get a congratulatory video from another UFC fighter, the same goes for things like big winning streaks, and championship fights, it adds the games overall authenticity and even though after 10 hours of playing it became a little bit irritating, it was very rare that i got the same message twice, i thought that was pretty impressive.
You also get little dramatic montages about all the aspects of UFC fighting, these are really cool, real fighters talking about how it feels to make another pro submit, to knockout the opposition, or to be given the chance of a title shot, it’s these kind of touches i wish they’d put into FIFA, they don’t happen too often and are really enjoyable to watch. In FIFA you could have players talking about playing in an FA Cup final before your final, or winning the title before the game where you could win your league, it’d be something genuinely new and i think it would be well received if they could do it as well as they have in UFC.
The most important aspect of a game like this is without doubt the gameplay, and it’s an area where UFC is pretty solid, the game feels smooth, when you get a big hit it feels like you’re doing damage, and i like the mini game that you have to do when trying for a submission. There are hundreds of different moves and combinations that you can use and this helps ensure that each fight isn’t the same, however once i’d found a couple of simple, and very effective combos i did find myself becoming a little bit untouchable, but if it does get to easy you can always turn the difficulty up and i’m sure this would counteract that, i was dominating for a while on easy, and stepped up to normal, it took some getting used to but i did find it a lot more rewarding.
The career mode on UFC is without doubt the area that i played the most, i love creating my own character and slowly upgrading him in any game, and this is no exception. Career mode actually works quite nicely to begin with, you have to earn your UFC contract by fighting your way to the Ultimate Fighter title, then when you get your shot at the big time it begins to get a little bit predictable and repetitive, i felt like i could have being playing Fight Night Round 3 on the Xbox 360 all over it again, it always seems to be, fight, gym, fight, gym. It’s difficult to know how they can change this, or make it feel like less of a chore, you occasionally spar with other pros, but aside from that it becomes a bit monotonous, but then again that could be said for most sports games. One touch i did like was the career longevity meter, this meter measures the amount of big shots you take, meaning the more you get beat on, the shorter your career will be, this encourages you to fight a bit more tactically and not just take punches for fun in a slugfest.
In my career managed to get from a rookie to number one in my weight class in around 8 hours, it’s not the shortest game i’ve ever played, but it’s by no means the longest either. Once i was number one i didn’t find there was any incentive to keep fighting and defend my title, i thought it would have been nice to perhaps change up my weight class up and go again with my same player, but if you do another weight class you have to start again. I think if you’re a UFC fanatic you could get plenty more time out of the game, it does also offer an online seasons mode, but that’s something that i won’t be going on too much for the fact that i usually have my ass handed to me. Therefore if like me you like this type of game for it’s career, you won’t be spending too long on it, and it’s not worth the £45 price tag for you.
What this mainly comes down to is how much you like UFC, if you’re a big fan, get it, you’ll love it, the pro interaction is great, and the presentation and gameplay give you everything you could possibly want. If however you’re more of a career game player like myself although you’ll still enjoy it and it’s without doubt a better than average game, i’d wait for the price to drop a little first. On the whole UFC is a solid game, but for me, it’s not a knockout.
+ Great Graphics & Presentation
+ Good Gameplay
– Short, Generic Career
– Becomes Repetitive Quickly

UWG Roundtable Discussion: Do We Need E3?

E3 Discusiion

With E3 done and over with, we at UWG decided now would be a good time to take a hard look at shows like E3 and ask a tough question:

“In the digital age we now reside in, are these big media shows like E3 really warranted anymore? If all the information we need is now easily consumable on the internet, what purpose do these shows serve anymore?”

Joining us in our discussion are Niall of Niall’s Ramblings, Derek ofGamerCrash, and Sam of CheeseToastie And Video Games. If you like what they have to say here, there’s much more where that came from at each of their sites! Do yourself a favor and take a look!

Jake: After thinking about it for a time I’d like to make the point that maybe the purpose of shows like E3 has evolved over the last 15 years or so. They’ve always been there to generate excitement for the games and hardware. They’ve always had the side-effect of bringing gamers together as a group, and I think the focus has been shifting to that side-effect rather than just the hype generation as it was in the past. Do we need these shows for this? I don’t think so, but I would say they do a lot to help.

Duck: I actually don’t know a whole lot about E3, but I agree that the main purpose such shows now serve is probably just to get people excited and to make a big deal about the new games.  We don’t need these shows for information anymore because we get most of that from the Internet, but the Internet can’t get us excited about new games quite like E3 can.  And I like Jacob’s point about E3’s ability to bring gamers together.  It makes me think of comicons, in a way.  Part of what I love about them is that it gathers tons of people with similar interests in one place.

Sam: As I handle business development for a video games studio and a large part of my job is going to trade shows like E3 and GDC, it probably won’t surprise you when I say that I do think shows like this are absolutely necessary  – at least for industry professionals. Over time E3 has become one of the industry’s biggest events of the year as it gives devs and publishers a space to build hype or make big announcements. I won’t lie – much as I enjoyed going to Sony and Ubisoft press conferences this year, I don’t think it was really necessary for me to fly all the way to LA to see them, when I just as easily could have received all that info sitting on my couch. However, I still think that E3 provides a necessary stage where small and big game companies alike can demo or show off games they’re working on and where eyeballs are guaranteed. Indie studios in particular would never be able to generate that kind of interest. Also, much as E3 has become a place for consumers to enjoy the news about the games they love, unlike PAX or Comic Con, E3 is still a trade show and is one of the few times a  year that industry peeps can get together to share info and for business-y people like me it’s where the real work is, where you can pitch games and make new contacts.

Niall: I’ve never been to E3, it’s always been something that i would love to do, and from a very young age it’s always been on my bucket list. The closest thing we have to it here in the UK is Eurogamer which i went to for the first time last year, it was fantastic. I had a rough idea of what sort of layout to expect from seeing the shows through the eyes of websites like IGN & Gamespot in the past, but it’s not just the sheer amount of games that made it such a fantastic experience, it was the atmosphere. It’s not very often that you get so many like minded people under one roof, and with the huge amount of queuing that you inevitably end up doing you have a chance to swap opinions, and just generally talk gaming. It’s also a rare opportunity to meet some of the faces behind the games, not only with the staff on their respective stands, but also with the talks done by people that are well known in the industry. Of course getting hands on with the new games and consoles is a big highlight, whether it be having the chance to play a game you’re really looking forward to, or discovering a game that wasn’t even on your radar, the sheer scale of the whole thing is mind blowing. The amount of games on show is incredible, the downside of this is that you can’t play them all, with the 2-3 hour queues for the big titles you really have to be quite frugal with your time, unless you’re lucky enough to be at the event for a few days that is.

The obvious problem with all of this is the money that it costs the industry to put on, when it is now so simple to reach millions of people through social media and Youtube, delivering gameplay, trailers and even betas to their doorstep, you have to ask, is a huge show like E3 really necessary, or at all cost effective? To a certain extent i think that depends on how good and how well known your game is, for example, Call Of Duty could not have a stand at Eurogamer or E3 and they’d still sell a huge amount of copies of their game, is having a stand at the shows adding many more sales? There’s no doubting that having a good conference and stand does help, you only have to look at something like Sunset Overdrive which i personally was unsure about, but since seeing it E3, i’m pretty excited for it. Personally i hope it continues, and i think 99% of gamers would probably hope so to, it’s great to see everything under one roof and be able to talk to the people behind the games, something that you rarely get the chance to do.

Cary: I’ve also never been to E3 or any gaming tradeshows, but I have been to tradeshows that have nothing to do with gaming, and they are lots of fun. It’s great to be able to get up close and personal with new things and converse with people about new designs and new ideas. So I get what Sam says about E3 being a vital part of the business and networking side of gaming. Shows like E3 help build hype and build and further cement audiences that can’t be captured virtually. They also serve as pretty good barometers of the industry’s health; the more exciting the better for everyone, gamers and developers.

From the “me as a consumer and player of video games” point of view, I don’t know that I feel the same way. Not to be a fly in the ointment, but over the past couple years, thanks to the way information leaks and the Internet, I haven’t been terribly excited to watch E3. I do because I know everyone will be talking about it, but with each year it seems that there’s less and less new stuff to discuss. Game companies are shelling out big bucks to tell us things we already know. And so what if the big-name press conferences include a snippet from a rumored-come-true game or a teaser for something that’s coming out in a year. I’m tired of hearing about games that were teased years ago and are only just now coming to fruition. I’m tried of getting excited about things that end up getting cancelled. That decision to ride or get off the emotional rollercoaster is a frustrating one. And with things like E3, I’m almost to the point where I’d just rather avoid it altogether.

Jake: Perhaps the answer is in figuring out who E3 is for. Sam makes the point that E3 is still meant to be a tradeshow as much as it is a news and hype vehicle, perhaps even more so. We consumers are happy enough with a stable news cycle and the simple fact that these show are around to reinforce the idea that those behind one of our favorite pastimes are still doing well and still doing their best to push the envelope. Do we need the shows to see this? No. So in this sense maybe shows like E3 are really only necessary for the professionals participating in them.

Derek: For me, I absolutely love it. E3 represents the promise of new. Sure, this year’s show was preempted by what seemed to be more leaks and reveals than usual, but it didn’t diminish any of my excitement. E3 is a giant spectacle and a way for the industry to kind of show off. Not only that, based on people I know in the industry, it’s a way for them to not only get a closer look at the competition but to meet up with friends who they either don’t get to see often or haven’t seen in quite some time. I still enjoy covering them, watching them, and hopefully someday, to attend them. Granted, this is a view point from someone on the outside looking in, but I can definitely understand the points that where Sam and Niall are bringing up about cost and necessity as well.

Cary: I think my general interests in gaming, save for a handful of mainstream titles (Dragon Age, Mass Effect), are steering away from what E3 represents. Still, there’s no way game companies are going to give up on marketing, and E3 is marketing at its best, so I’m with Jake in saying that trade shows are necessary for industry professionals. But that need to build hype extends to what Derek says about the spectacle and excitement of the whole thing and how they affect consumers in positive ways. I’m just stodgy and cynical when it comes to believing in any for-profit companies, game companies included. I want to believe that shows like E3 are made and promoted in the consumers’ best interests, and maybe they once were (and still are). But my gut says otherwise.

Maybe I just need to go to one someday, and I’ll end up eating my words.

Over the course of this discussion we’ve seen that maybe E3 is more necessary for developers than it is for gamers, even though it’s something that still manages to rally those of us with a love for the medium each year, whether we’re really into the show or not.

Is this the definitive answer? No, of course not! Which is why we need you to add to the discussion. What is E3 to you? Do you think we still need it?

Watch Dogs- One Week On

Watch Dogs 2
Watch Dogs is a game that i had been really looking forward too for quite some time now, in my eyes it’s one of the few games to have been released on next gen consoles that actually offers something new, and by that i mean it’s probably the first big new franchise to hit the shelves since the consoles launched at the end of last year, so now it’s been one week since it’s launch i thought i’d talk about how i’m finding the game.
As you’d imagine the first part of Watch Dogs is an introduction to the future Chicago as well as the games main protagonist, Aiden Pearce, a very serious, dark character who has a voice so husky that it rivals Batman. Aiden, dressed in his long coat and cap looks like a classic badass, but  seems to show very little emotion, and as a player i think he’s very difficult to get attached to, this does take a certain something from the game, something that you find in games like Mass Effect with Commander Shepard, in Splinter Cell with Sam Fisher, it’s that X Factor that makes the main character special, thankfully though the game does have a fantastic supporting cast for Aiden, with his accomplices Jordi, a slightly psychotic man who wouldn’t look out of place as a James Bond villain, and Clara, a tech wizard who seems to find herself in too deep in Aidens crazy world, these characters both bring plenty of personality to the table and i found myself more attached to them more than Aiden.
Watch Dogs is set in the city of Chicago in the future, where everything is connected, a city where if you have the right skills, as Aiden does, you can use the city itself as a weapon. This is Watch Dogs’ strongest asset, not only is Chicago absolutely breathtaking to look at, but it also provides endless possibilities to ambush your enemies, whether it be overloading electric boxes, bursting steam pipes, or even just changing the traffic lights, it really is fantastic, and surprisingly simple. I think this may actually be not only the best looking city i’ve ever seen in a game, but i think it may also be the most alive, a great example of this is the rain, not only does Chicago look breathtaking during a storm, but you see all the civilians start popping up their umbrellas and taking cover under ledges and canopies, something so simple but it really impressed me.
 (Watch Dogs Rain Walk)
The next thing i want to talk about is the gameplay, more specifically, the controls. Now that i’m a long way into the game i’m used to the controls, but for the fist couple of hours i can’t tell you how many times i pulled LT to sprint and ended up whipping my gun out, causing mass panic and hysteria on the street i was on, the first couple of times it made me chuckle, but after a while it got a bit annoying, i mean i can’t remember the last time i played a game and RT was sprint, like i say after a while i got used to it, but it just seems like a strange choice. I should add that you can customise the controls if you want to, but that’s something i generally don’t do because i think if that’s how the developers have set it up, there has to be a reason for it!
This aside though the gameplay is very good, as i briefly mentioned earlier hacking is very simple, whether you’re stalking an enemy from range, or whizzing round the streets in a car it’s never too difficult, yet it still feels very satisfying when you get it right, i actually think they got the balance about spot on.
The pièce de résistance  of your hacking arsenal is the blackout, this turns of the entire grid of Chicago, disabling all enemy communication and electric technology, this basically gives you a small window to disappear before the power comes back on. I’d advise anyone that has the game to perform one of these on a rainy night in downtown Chicago, watching the grid go off and slowly come back on really shows off how good looking this game is.
Driving is not at all what i expected, it is extremely ‘arcadey’ and that’s something i really like, some of the muscle cars handle pretty poorly, but on the whole you can find yourself drifting through the streets of Chicago in no time.
The combat is also fantastic, Watch Dogs uses a traditional cover system that allows you sneak around, something that i always enjoy, but even more so in Watch Dogs, the reason for this is the headshot sound, it’s hard to explain, it’s almost like a wet, squelch like noise, whatever it is it makes it extra rewarding when you’re  taking out a whole base of enemies with a silenced pistol, without anyone knowing a thing about it, i think the best way to describe all this is smooth, from driving, to sneaking Watch Dogs feels like a smooth well put together game.
 (Watch Dogs PS4 Gameplay Trailer)
The main story in Watch Dogs is a pretty generic one, not that there’s anything wrong with that, it’s just nothing new, it keeps you busy for a good 20 hours though, which is a decent amount of time, and when you pair this with the side quests, of which there are many, you’ve got a pretty big game on your hands.
The side quests are actually really enjoyable which is always a sign of a good game, they range from taking down criminal convoys, to taking out gang hideouts, to just preventing one off crimes such as assaults and robberies. My favourite moment in the game was when was escaping from a criminal convoy, i was driving past the train station when i saw the train pull up, i managed to perform a blackout and just about got on the train before it pulled away, it’s moments like this that really show off this game and it’s endless possibilities.
Another part of Watch Dogs, that initially had concerned me, was the online hacking part of the game. This mode allows you to seamlessly join another players game without them knowing, and then trying to hack them and download their data, at which point they are notified of your presence and have to find you within a small zone, if you get caught you have to escape or be killed, if you complete the download you are victorious. Now i thought people randomly joining my game would be irritating, but it doesn’t happen all that often at all, and when it does it’s actually a lot of fun, particularly when your the hacker, watching someone run around like a headless chicken can be very fun! Once again Ubisoft have got the balance right, it happens, but not too often, it can be a nice break from the story and keeps the game fresh, it feels like a side quest in itself rather than an online game mode.
The game does have it’s flaws, a couple of times later in the game i had big frame rate drops, and again once or twice i’d hear things before they’d actually happen, for example, explosions or car crashes, however in 20+ hours of playing this was only a couple of times and didn’t ruin the overall experience at all.
On the whole i think Ubisoft has done a fantastic job with Watch Dogs, the game looks beautiful and the story is a very good length. I think although it will be compared next to GTA due to it’s open world city nature, however i think it offers enough variety to keep it not only different to GTA, but different to any game we’ve had in recent times. Having all that technology at your fingertips is endless fun, the side quests offer a break from the story mode and are not only fun, but infectious. Watch Dogs’ biggest weapon though is it’s endless possibilities, with the environment as your weapon you can do any mission one of a dozen ways, whether it be sneaking and stealthy, or all guns blazing, in my eyes aside from the small flaws the only major weakness is Aiden himself who needs more personality and emotion, but despite this Watch Dogs is an excellent game.
+ Beautiful Graphics
+ Smooth Gameplay
+ Lots To Do
– Weak Protagonist
– Occasional Frame Rate & Sound Issues

Number 4- Call Of Duty 4!


There’s not a lot that i can say about Call Of Duty 4 that hasn’t already been said, the fact that still now, in 2014 (Yes, it’s now SEVEN years old) it’s regarded as the benchmark for all first person shooters says it all, and to be completely honest, since 2007, i don’t think anything has really come close to it.

It’s one of those games which was released in a period of time that i consider to be in my golden era of online gaming, that time when i was still at school and everyone seemed to own an Xbox 360 and with it a copy of Call Of Duty 4. I’d get in from school and by 4:30 it seemed like half of my year were online, i’d flick down the friends list and it’d just read ‘Playing Call Of Duty 4, playing Call Of Duty 4, playing Call Of Duty 4’ I think it’s fair to say most of us spent days on that game, and it was time well spent.

The game had some superb maps, Crash, Strike & Crossfire were my personal 3 favourites, yet whenever you talk to anybody about Call Of Duty 4 maps there’s only one that seems to crop up, Shipment. Shipment may possibly the most iconic map of the last decade, yet it’s so simple, just a tiny square space filled with shipping containers, so small that would rarely walk around a corner without a confrontation, but this is why we loved it. I’ve lost count of the amount of times we’d have a private, knife only match on Shipment, and it never disappointed, it was always so much fun. And my Lord, God forbid you got on the wrong side of someone i a regular game, you could guarantee you would get a message along the lines of ‘1V1 me on Shipment!!’ Usually partnered with some abuse, ah, those were the days.
I’m pretty sure i’ve mentioned this before, but i’ll mention it again anyway, i’m dreadful at shooting games, First person ones in particular, i don’t have the aim, the reactions, or the patience to be a good player, so when i spend over 20 hours on an online FPS, i consider it to be a success, after all, if i’ve spent 20 odd hours being killed time after time and i’ve still not thrown my console out of the window, it must be a pretty fun game! Call Of Duty 4 achieved this more than any other FPS i’ve ever played, i think i spent around 80 hours on it altogether, not only is this a hell of a lot of time, incredibly it was far less than most my friends. The game was so good that i was determined to improve my K/D which sat around the 0.7 mark, i spent a long time trying to hit what in my eyes the holy grail, 1.0, and low and behold by the time i’d finally moved on from the game it was sitting pretty at a whopping 1.07! It may still be pretty poor compared to most, but i cannot tell you how happy i was to break the 1 K/D mark and i think that this shows how good the game was, the fact that i was willing to improve myself and not be that player who every team seems to have holding them back, not very many games achieve that with someone as fickle, and quite frankly as awful as me.
Not only did Call Of Duty 4 have a fantastic multiplayer, it also had a very good campaign, something that can often be overlooked in Call Of Duty games, you play through the majority of the campaign with John ‘Soap’ MacTavish, who is not only blessed in the art of warfare, but also has perhaps the most Scottish sounding name i’ve ever heard. The campaign was a decent length and like most Call Of Duty games took you all over the world, the most memorable to myself being the section the very eery, abandoned city of Pripyat in Ukraine, also the home of the map Bloc. It’s also one of the few Call Of Duty campaigns i finished, i normally find they get a bit stale, but not this one, it’s up there with the best.
Hopefully in the next couple of years something can match Call Of Duty 4 and in the future we’ll be talking about that, but until then the title of ‘Best FPS Shooter’ still remains with this veteran, and i can’t see it losing it for a while yet, Call Of Duty 4, thank you for taking a huge part of my childhood away!

Number 5- Forza Motorsport 4

Forza 4

Forza Motorsport is a series that i am a huge fan of, from the original on the the Xbox through to the latest installment, number 5, on the Xbox One. A Forza title was always going to be in my top five, the difficulty was just choosing which one, but after a lot of thought i think from my own personal experiences it had to be number four. I’ll explain why number 4 later, but first i’m going to talk about what recurring themes made me fall in love with the Forza series.

The first thing that they have always offered in abundance is customisation. It has endless potential with  the painting and decals, you see cars that have been personalised with players names and own original decals, you see cars with paint jobs based on iconic cars from the movies such as ‘The Fast and The Furious’ and ‘Dukes Of Hazard’ and then you see cars modelled around public service vehicles like police cars and even the odd taxi!

Then you have the mechanical upgrades you can apply to your vehicle of choice, you can do anything you can imagine, from changing the drive type, to swapping the engine, to simply adding some new flash rims, when you combine this with the extraordinarily deep tuning that allows you to completely change the balance of your car, you can imagine that it’s very rare that you come across the same car twice.
The second thing Forza have always done very well is the detailing on the cars, obviously Forza 5 has much more detail in the cars than the original Forza, but it has always looked fantastic at the time it was released. Whenever i play any Forza game i always feel like i’m on the cutting edge graphics wise, and i think that the latest release on the Xbox One backs that up, it really does look incredible. The way the light and shadows react with the cars, and the way that every single car has the same dashboard setup to its real life counterpart, it really shows how much time and effort that they take with each individual car.
I think all the Forza games appeal to both ends of the racing game spectrum, it’s easy enough to pick up and play, but then at the same time with all of it’s customisation and tuning it also caters for the more hardcore race game fans. I have also noticed how many different types of racers that the game seems to attract, you can stumble across lobbies with players who just drift around the tracks, you get players who race the top end performance cars, things like Le Mans, and then you get people who race Mini Coopers, it just shows that it really can be a game for any race fan, you can even play car football on number four, what more could you ask for?!
The reason i have gone for Forza 4 out of the five that have been released is the fact that it’s the one i played the most of, by a mile (Pardon the pun..) It has the most tracks and cars than any of the other installments, something that a was a little disappointed with in the latest installment, and i remember it was when i’d just broke up from school for the six week holidays that i played the living daylights out of it. Me and a friend used to go on almost everyday and do a 70 lap race around the same track with S- class cars, writing that it sounds very dull, but after a week or so of it we ended up with a decent sized group and the races were fantastic, we had perfected the cars for this specific track (I think it was called Sunset Infield) We even used to have a tea and toilet break around the half way mark, and used to wait on the line at the end to make sure that everyone finished the race before the timer went down so they got their credits, it’s fair to say that we were gentlemen of the road..
For anyone who hasn’t played Forza before it’s a game series that i highly recommend, especially if you’re a race fan, but if you are a race fan and have avoided it for this long i can only assume that you’ve been living underground for the past few years! In any case they’re all fantastic games and without doubt worthy of a place in my top five!

You’ve Got To Pick A Pocket Or Two- Thief Review

Thief is one of those games that over the years i’ve heard plenty about, but never actually played, predominantly because it’s been exclusive to PC, until now, so when it was announced that it’s fourth installment was coming to Xbox One i was quite excited! I think it was a great choice of release date by Eidos, two weeks before Titanfall and three before Infamous hit the shelves here in the UK. i’m almost seeing it as something of a filler, something that can keep me busy until Titanfall launches on the 14th, because as we all know, there’s not a lot of choice on the next gen consoles right now, but hopefully in the next couple of months that will change with Titanfall and Infamous Second Son both imminent on their respective consoles, nevertheless until then Thief is a very welcome break from the consoles launch titles, don’t let that mislead you though, Thief is still a top game in it’s on right.
Thief, as the name suggests, follows the story of Garrett as he pickpockets and steals his way through a dark, wet, grim looking city which it seems is based around London at the time of the plague, or as it’s referred to in the game, the “Gloom” A time when the people on the streets are struggling to survive, i think Thief gets this across really well, you almost feel like a part of their struggle. The tone of the game matches this, the game is dark, the City is a pretty miserable place to behold, but take nothing away from the graphics, they’re very good, and the lighting effects are fantastic, the shadow casting is superb,  something you’d expect though as the game involves a lot of sneaking around in them.
The game offers two very contrasting settings, one minute you will find yourself sneaking through the poverty stricken streets, and then after sneaking in through a window or a secret passage you find yourself transported to the other side of the city, the grand palaces of the rich, artwork on the walls and fine goods everywhere, as a player when i enter these places i almost feel warmer, there is a lot to admire about these places, from Garretts point of view you really do envy the rich, it’s a different world.
When you’re out in the streets you still have to watch your back with guards seemingly around every corner, at first i thought this might become a bit frustrating, but i found that i genuinely enjoyed sneaking around them, i’ve almost now got my set routes through certain parts of the city, as mad as it may sound you get used to the guards shift patterns, to me that’s all part of the fun, taking your time and scouting out areas to plot your way from point a to point b, but i do understand that this process could prove to be a bit annoying if stealth isn’t your thing.
As well as the slow sneaking around side of the game when you do get caught and need to escape there is a free running engine that allows you to fly through the streets, it’s no where near the level of Assassins Creed or Mirrors Edge, but despite being a bit clunky at times it’s still enough to feel exciting and rewarding when you carve out a quick escape, after one particular mission you have to escape after being caught red handed stealing, you are put into what looks like a pretty set route to make your escape, but it still felt and looked fantastic as you slide down rooftops and jump across alleys,to make your escape.
I personally play on the Thief difficulty level which is the equivalent of “Normal” but i did have a play around at the start and i think that what they have done with the difficulty levels is great. You have your easy, obviously the most forgiving level, followed by Thief, where you can still see the status of the guards, but they are not as forgiving, and as you creep up the difficulty all the markers on screen start to vanish, making a much more difficult, but a much more pure game for the more hardcore Thief players out there. I thought this was a nice touch, it showed that they were not neglecting their original fans that have took them to this point. I have to say though even on Thief difficulty the guards could sometimes have the tendency to be quite idiotic, on a couple of occasions they have failed to spot me even right under their noses, literally, but this is something that i think most stealth games struggle with and isn’t a problem that occurs a lot.
Weapons wise it is what you would expect from the time period, with your arsenal mainly revolving around the traditional bow and arrow, with many different types of ammunition such as a water arrow, great for putting out sources of light, rope arrows, good for making a path where there sometimes isn’t one, and of course your standard shoot to kill arrows, all this being said you are able to go through the entire game without entering into any combat, something which i am just not patient enough to have achieved..
One thing that i will add is that despite Thief coming long time before it it, many have compared this game to Dishonoured, a game that i have unfortunately not had the pleasure of playing, but having seen bits and bobs i can see what they mean, but the general consensus is that even though Thief is next gen and in my opinion a solid game, Dishonoured is better in most areas and has effectively beaten it to the punch.
On the whole i think Thief is a good game, as well as being a great introduction to the Thief series to a newcomer like myself i’d like to think it also pleases the more old school Thief fans. The atmosphere in the game is fantastic, it does have it’s little flaws here and there with the at times poor AI and the free running although decent, could definitely have been better, but on these flaws aren’t enough to ruin the overall experience of what is a very solid game.
+Great Atmosphere
+Rewarding Stealth Gameplay
– Could Get Frustrating
– AI aren’t the best
– Free Running Engine could have been a lot better
Overall- 7/10

The Ducks Top 5 Mario Levels

United We Game’s February community posts continue, with today being the day the Duck will present you all with my entry on the topic of levels in the “Mario” series. Gamer or not, pretty much everyone’s heard of Mario, and there’s a reason this squat plumber is so popular even after people have been playing his games for over three decades. Because the games have something in them for everyone. They have good, old platforming goodness through a wide variety of environments, an innocent charm that people of all ages can enjoy, challenge (and boy, can they be challenging), not to mention princesses to save and big Koopa Kings to toss. There are so many “Mario” levels out there, and yet they still manage to find ways to do something new with each one and make them stand out from the rest. So I decided for my post that I would list my top five “Mario” levels, and to make it fair, I am going to list my top level from each of my five main “Mario” games in order from least favorite to top favorite. The games I considered for this post span 1991-2010, “Super Mario World”, “Super Mario 64”, “Super Mario Sunshine”, and the two “Super Mario Galaxy” games.
5. Okay, this first one is not strictly my favorite level from a particular game. I chose it more because I have some good memories associated with this level that I can’t really claim to have with the others. This level is Stand Tall on the 4 Pillars, which is found in Shifting Sand Land from “Super Mario 64”. In this level, you go into the pyramid and fight the boss, called the Eyerock (consisting of two hands with an eye on each palm, a surprisingly common boss in games), for a star. As I hinted at before, the level itself is not that exciting, but the last time I played this game was the very first time in about 10 years of owning it that I finally got 100%. And this particular playthrough consisted of my very first time through this level. Ever. So, for one thing, getting to play an entirely new level in a game I had been trying to beat for a decade was pretty exciting, which is one cause for my fond memories of it. The other reason is what took place while I was playing it.
I remember I was relaxing in my most comfortable chair one afternoon playing this game. It was quite a peaceful time, and for some inexplicable reason, my cat, Alex, decided to jump onto the chair with me, which he had never done before and never did ever again. The chair was much too small for the two of us, so he had to settle with largely laying on my lap, making it that much more fun to play the game. And this happened to be during this very level, which was also a surprise, considering it was my first time through it and my first time ever seeing this boss. And so I will forever have pleasant memories of playing this level one lazy afternoon with a comfy chair and a cat on my lap.

Video from Youtube user: MrGamingZone
4. My next favorite level comes from “Super Mario Galaxy”. This level, despite not being a fan of the fiendish creature called the bee one bit, is Bee Mario Takes Flight, a level in the HoneyHive Galaxy. And I just love it, for many reasons. To start, it’s just such a cute level. It’s so bright and colorful, with cute, cheery music. And then there’s the bees. Not just Bee Mario, but the regular bees in the level. While most bees are terrifying and evil, these bees are just so darn adorable! I’m not kidding you! They are so cute! They are plump and fluffy, and they make adorable sounds when you go up to them. Honestly, it’s mainly the adorable bees that make me love this level, not just Bee Mario, even though he can be pretty useful, the way he can fly and climb around on certain surfaces. But, I guess in the end, it’s really the adorable bees that make this level great. This level and the bees that populate it are the bee’s knees.

Video from Youtube user: Overhazard
3. My next favorite level kind of bends the rules a bit. This one comes from “Super Mario Galaxy 2”, and my favorite level from this game is, without a doubt, Return of the Whomp King from the Throwback Galaxy. I’m kind of cheating here because, oh, my gosh, this is actually a level from “Super Mario 64”! A bit ironic, as I honestly was not a huge fan of “Super Mario 64” (it was so darn hard, and that’s why it took me a decade or so to beat!), but this level was just so great because of the pure nostalgia. This level is a replica of the second world from “Super Mario 64”, complete with the same delightful music and everything. And it makes me happy because it was a world I actually liked from “Super Mario 64” (because, unlike most of the game, it was much easier). Then, you get to fight some Whomps. I like Whomps. They look goofy. (Even though we all know Thwomps are better.)

Video from Youtube user: omegaevolution
2. My second favorite level comes from “Super Mario World”, the Donut Ghost House. I always liked the ghost houses. They were creepy, with the spooky music and the dark interiors, not to mention all the ghosts (the big ones were so freaky!), and they were confusing, with all the doors and the strange order in which you had to go through them in order to escape, but that was what made them fun. And I just love those old-fashioned Boos. Adorable. Except the ones that follow you when you look away. That’s rather scary. And so, since these levels were my favorites from the game, I just chose this one because it’s the first and because it’s the easiest. Easy is good.

Video from Youtube user: BURTTtv
1. And my favorite “Mario” level, as you’d expect, comes from my favorite “Mario” game, “Super Mario Sunshine”, despite this one being the most different, but maybe that’s why I liked it. I love this game, and I always loved Noki Bay most of all, a rather beautiful place with peaceful music and towering cliffs (which are, oh, so fun to climb), and I actually found the water to be even prettier when it was purple and polluted. This level was so lovely and had such fun platforming that I always loved visiting it. And as odd as it is, my favorite level in this place was Eely-Mouth’s Dentist, where you go underwater and clean the teeth of this giant eel. The boss music in this game is quite awesome and epic (even when you’re playing dentist), and I just found it so darn satisfying cleaning up all those filthy teeth (except it was gross when some of them came out). Maybe I’m a weirdo for getting such a rush from cleaning eel teeth, but I did, and that’s why I found this level to be awesome.

Video from Youtube user: Anon7906

Duck, Dentist of Eel Teeth

Community Post: Mario, You Lead & I Shall Follow


No matter how many times Mario’s adventures are hashed and rehashed, games that prominently feature that famous plumber, his princess, and that evil dinosaur we call Bowser, remain fresh, fun, and playable dozens of times over. Mario games are level-driven games — you’ve got to make your way through stages or levels in a series of worlds in order to reach the final battle with Bowser. And only a few games, like Paper Mario and Super Mario RPG, have deviated from the platformer tradition started by Super Mario Bros. Despite that fact the games usually contain worlds of similar themes, each is unique in presentation and design. Even so, I will never cheer upon traversing a snowy/icy world because Mario is already slippery enough, no matter how many penguin suits he owns. I will never get excited for those pre-Bowser, fire worlds, as I will never have enough patience with lava and fireballs. So when it comes to my favorite Mario levels, there will be nary an ice storm or fire waterfall in site. But there will be something “big.” Curious? Read on!

Big Island (Level 4): Super Mario Bros. 3 (NES)

You’re going to find a recurring theme in my list — I like oversized Mario things. I really can’t explain why, but I’m almost certain that the seed for this quirk was planted upon first playing around in Big Island in Super Mario Bros. 3. So like the moniker says, everything on Big Island, is …well big. The koopas, the goombas, the piranha plants, heck, even the clouds and backdrops are larger than life. I simply find it highly enjoyable to be a little Mario running around a land of giants, and being able to squash those giants as easily as anything!

Video by YouTube user MegamanNG

Yoshi’s Island (Level 1): Super Mario World (SNES)

Last week I wrote a post for UWG on the importance of any given game’s first mission or level or quest (embed link: http://wegameunited.com/2014/02/20/you-never-get-a-second-chance-at-a-first-level-impression/), and in it I mentioned how most Mario games have great lead-in levels. Yoshi’s Island in Super Mario World is a perfect example of this. Not only does this level contain a plethora of Yoshies (my favorite Mario character), but it’s a fun place to be generally. The individual worlds aren’t extremely difficult to traverse and there’s plenty to stomp on and collect. Plus, it introduces some of the best Mario musical theme renditions available.

Video by YouTube user bpblu

Tiny-Huge Island (Level 13): Super Mario 64 (N64)

Following in my preference for all-large-things-Mario is Tiny-Huge Island from Super Mario 64. But as much fun as it is to take on gargantuan enemies, this level is especially wonderful because it can be played in two different ways, with or without the giants. And it’s not just a matter of choosing to play one way or the other, you must play the level both ways, often switching between the tiny and huge, in order to get all the stars. Tiny-Huge Island occurs somewhat late in the game, and after repeatedly going through static level after static level, the notion of working through a level that changes, if only through the size of the enemies, is refreshing and welcome.

Video by YouTube user Nintendo64Movies

The “Invincible” Tubba Blubba (Level 3): Paper Mario (N64)

I hold the two Paper Mario games I’ve played in pretty high regard as I enjoy not only the turn-based style of combat and the games’ stories, but I simply adore the graphics. It looks like the characters were all colored in and cut out of a coloring book — so cute! The “Invincible” Tubba Blubba level sticks out in my mind because it contains friendly boos. Little, ghostly boos have been haunting and taunting Mario for years, but in Paper Mario, Mario has to help save their town from the clutches of the ghost-eating Tubba Blubba. One ghost even helps you along the way! I love the role reversal, as it was something so in contrast to the traditional enemies in Mario games.

Video by YouTube user luigifan64d

Soda Jungle (Level 5): New Super Mario Bros. U (Wii U)

Did you think I wasn’t going to end with yet another ode to the oversized?? I recently completed New Super Mario Bros. U and I think it’s the best interpretation going of Mario’s original Princess-saving story. The Soda Jungle is a perilous place with acidic seas and other things to avoid, but it’s also got one level with huge enemies and one level with an enormous wiggler that made me want to laugh and cry at the same time. It’s also a level with lots of variety, spanning from above ground to underground challenges. But by and large, that introduction to Giant Brick Blocks, Grand Goombas, and Gargantuan Koopa Troopas really made my day; and I love going back to that level simply because it brings me joy to do so.

Video by YouTube user At the Buzzer

Community Post: Mario, The Innovator

My childhood was dominated by Nintendo, it’s fearless red plumber and his crew. My first exposure to the world of video games came when I was very young with the Nintendo Entertainment System and of course, Super Mario Bros. It’s safe to say, I was hooked for life after pushing the jump button on the controller for the very first time. I’ve gone on countless adventures with Mario from his 8 bit days, all the way to modern times so there’s a lot of material to draw from when thinking about what aspects of a franchise you love. Have you ever stopped to think about why the Mario franchise continues to be a force after all these years?

As any person who is invested in games can tell you, the levels themselves are what make these platformer games great. I mean, think about it for a moment. Pretty much 100% of your time is spent running and jumping through them so if the levels are boring or poorly made, the game as a whole will suffer. That’s the key to understanding why Mario is consistently great. It’s the level design that shines through.

The tricky part then becomes trying to narrow down a gigantic list of Mario levels into just a handful of favorites. It’s almost like trying to pick a favorite child, pretty much impossible. So instead, I’m going to look back at some incredible innovations and trends that Mario has started by highlighting some of his bigger moments and legacy. The really interesting aspect here is that for decades, Mario has led the platforming charge. Typically, Mario innovates and others work to catch up.

Lets begin with the original Nintendo Entertainment System and the iconic title, Super Mario Bros. I think we can all agree that prior to this landmark title, the platform genre was incredibly different from what we know. Just booting up the game for the first time, you’re pretty much sent right along without any real instruction. Instinctively, you just know to run to the right and avoid enemies. As the NES ventured on we were also given Super Mario Bros 2 and 3 both of which were extremely different from one another in terms of gameplay and graphics. Each game added additional elements such as new power ups, new enemies, and more diverse bosses. For me, Super Mario Bros 3 still stands as one of the best platformers ever made. Running through those airships and defeating the boss characters for the first time was exhilarating and extremely exciting. I don’t think I’ll ever look at the sun the same way after the second world’s desert and that stupid grinning sun trying to side swipe you.

The Super Nintendo was next and with it came Super Mario World and it’s sequel Super Mario World 2: Yoshi’s Island. Yoshi’s Island to this day remains in my top 5 games I’ve played, ever. While Super Mario World really opened the door in terms of advancing the genre with it’s colorful graphics, tight controls, and engaging worlds, Yoshi’s Island took things a step further with a superior presentation on top of already addicting platforming. For one, the game looks like it was made from crayons and felt pens, giving it a unique and memorable look. What’s interesting in this game is that Mario is no longer the star as he’s pretty much rendered helpless as a baby being transported by a horde of Yoshis. As such, the controls are a bit different with Yoshi’s being able to shoot eggs and flutter jump. I can remember bosses in this game being supersized versions of more traditional creatures such as Raphael the Raven. The objective here was to run around on a rotating sphere and ground pound these pegs so they’d hit Raphael on the other side. It was as unique and different a boss battle as I’ve experienced in a platformer. It’s also the first gameplay moment that comes to mind when I’m thinking about Yoshi’s Island.

If you want innovation, look no further than Super Mario 64. It’s amazing to think where we’d be without this title. Mario 64 pretty much kicked off the 3D platformer generation, as other titles worked to try and capture that magic which Mario had unlocked on the Nintendo 64. Seriously, without this game where would Crash Bandicoot, Spyro, Bajo-Kazooie, Rayman and others have gone in this era? It’s a hard thing to imagine. Using Princess Peach’s castle as a hub world, collecting starts to unlock new sections, and jumping into and out of paintings to access new levels was pretty much genius. Obviously, Bob-omb’s Battlefield, the first “level” you’re given access to, stands out because it really marks the first time you’re allowed to experience Mario in a 3D world. I can still remember grabbing the wings which let you fly around the level. For a person growing up in the 2D space with Mario, this moment really blew me away. The genre of “platformer” really evolved after this title.

I’m going to jump ahead next right to the Nintendo Wii as Nintendo delivered one of the most unique experiences I’ve ever played when they released the Super Mario Galaxy games. As usual, Nintendo used Mario to once again push the boundries on what people though were possible with platformers. The twist with “Galaxy” is that Mario is now in space and could visit all of these different galaxies each with their own unique themes. Some were more traditional platform style worlds while others could have Mario running around on a true 3 dimensional shapes. Better yet, Galaxy tapped into a completely new physics system which allowed each celestial object to have it’s own gravitational force letting the player walk sideways, on the ceiling, or run completely around the object. The Honey-Hive Galaxy still stands out not only for the introduction of the bee suit, but because it was the first galaxy to really remind me of a traditional 3D Mario world in this title. It was a nice break from all the planet hoping at that time.

To me, Mario remains timeless because of the thoughtfulness put into each one of his levels. If you’re someone who has played at least one Mario game in your life, I’m sure you can pick out one or two levels that really stuck with you. That’s some incredible magic and a rare quality that Nintendo is able to tap into game after game. Mario has given us some amazing adventures and memories through the years and here’s to many more to come