Tag Archives: Splash Damage

Gears of War gets a Xbox One special edition bundle

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Coming this November to stores is the newly announced special edition Xbox One console bundled with Gears of War. The white console comes with a digital copy of Gears of War Ultimate Edition, Superstar Cole  multiplayer skin and early access to the Gears of War 4 beta when it rolls out next year.

Purchasing the bundle will land you a digital copy of all the original Gears of War games at no additional cost.

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You can check out our Gears of War review here!

https://youtu.be/rwbYhvlrQbc

Gears of War Ultimate Edition review

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Gears and Halo have a lot in common, and I don’t mean in terms of gameplay. Both titles made huge waves on the Xbox, which defined the console as something for shooter fans; they both garnered a huge fan base and even grabbed the limelight in the eSports scene. Halo has had its turn to ‘shine’ on Xbox One with the Master Chief Collection – now it’s Gears’ turn.

With the Gears of War license firmly in Microsoft’s hands, Black Tusk Studios were given the series and consequently rebranded as The Coalition. Former Epic Games’ Rod Fergusson heads the studio and in his hands one would hope that the future of Gears is a bright one.

The Master Chief Collection was plagued with problems so it’s no wonder that the much-rumoured Marcus Fenix Collection hasn’t been released. Instead The Coalition has lovingly recreated the first title in the series, with the help of independent UK Studio Splash Damage. Rather than just remaster Gears of War with a spit of HD polish, the Ultimate Edition includes reworked cutscenes, the missing chapters that were cut from the Xbox 360 version, and refined gameplay mechanics.

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Pick up the game between launch and December 31, and you will be able to download the full Gears of War back catalogue, via the Xbox One’s new backwards compatibility feature. You will also get early access to the Spring 2016 Gears of War 4 beta – surely this alone is enough to justify purchasing the Ultimate Edition, which can be bought digitally for £29.99/$39.99/€39.99.

Running at 60 fps and in 1080p, the Ultimate Edition looks absolutely stunning, you would be forgiven for thinking this was a brand new title for the Xbox One. However, I did suffer some minor texture pop that I caught out of the corner of my eye. I also witnessed several character glitches while playing campaign, with AI squad mates getting stuck in doorways, getting in my way or shooting at nothing.

They are also rather ineffectual at taking down the Locust (when they actually hit them), although equally, the Locust were often no better, paying me little to no attention as they walked up behind and straight past. For returning fans, it’s worth noting that the Normal difficulty is now the old Casual setting, so it’s a breeze to play, and the new Casual setting is somewhat laughable.

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It’s great to step back into the campaign of Gears of War and find that the emotion and tension of the game’s story still shines through even though I’ve played the original multiple times. The set pieces still deliver excitement, panic and sheer euphoria at beating them, and yes the Berserker encounter is still as dramatic as you remember. This in part is down to the stunning remastered Dolby 7.1 surround sound – making full use of my ASTRO A50s – the Corpser in particular sounds so much more intimidating.

The part I was most excited to play was the extra missions that were cut from the Xbox 360 release, which continue the story of the Brumak that rocked up at the end of Chapter IV. This totals around 90 minutes of extra Gears campaign goodness and it really cements the creature’s purpose as it gives chase to your escaping APC, rather than being resigned to a mere cutscene.

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COG tags are also given more purpose in the game, collecting them reveals pages in one of five Gears of War comics. Each of the five comics – Unseen, They Also Serve, Unsaid, Promise Me, and Harper’s Story – can be zoomed into and read just like any digital comic.

The biggest change to the gameplay though is the inclusion of Gears of War 3’s movement, cover and Tac-Com. Not only does the Tac-Com allow you to give orders to your AI teammates in campaign, but you can also tag enemy positions, which is carried into the multiplayer, great for teamwork, but I’m sure some Gears fans will accuse this of cheapening their beloved game.

The pressure from the Gears faithful has always been my problem with playing online – it felt very elitist – and something that was hard to get into. Multiplayer is focused on one-life combat, and if you are the weakest link, boy did you know about it – making online feel quite unwelcoming to newcomers, and with the absence of bot matches to practice on, my Gears career was resigned to campaign and co-op.

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I first began to gel with multiplayer when the second game released and I really hit my stride with the third title, so for me, bringing Gears of War 3’s movement and cover system into the Ultimate Edition makes it far more accessible than I ever found the original title. Don’t worry if you are a Gears purist, you can still wall bounce around the map and run circles around weaker players like myself, but for folk like me, you will find a far more accessible game – although there still aren’t any options for bot matches.

If you do need to pick up some tips, then you can join a match in one of the two spectator slots and cycle through the map or player cams. Spectators can’t communicate with players until they are dead, so unless you use party chat, there’s no advantage in having a friendly spectator onboard.

Even with the tweaks to multiplayer, Gears is still a tough game so don’t expect to be able to go in and rack up huge kill counts. The one-life team modes are certainly where veterans of the series will be lurking, but for those that prefer multiple spawns, there are a whole host of modes to choose from including the new fast-paced Blitz mode – an adaptation of King of the Hill.

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The beauty of Gears’ multiplayer though is the intense shotgun battles, which also have their own 2v2 mode that was created in conjunction with the Gears of War community. Get into a one-on-one fight and it will certainly be an adrenaline-filled battle.

Playing online has been the most intense multiplayer experience I’ve played in any competitive shooter – when you are the last man standing and triumph over three enemy players to win the match, boy what a great feeling, and something that no other game has ever come close to instilling in me.

The multiplayer of the Ultimate Edition is topped off with dedicated servers and all the original and DLC multiplayer maps. Similar to Titanfall, you can choose which server you play on, so no more blaming lag or accusing players of having host advantage – it’s buttery smooth and so much fun – it will certainly feature regularly in my online gaming sessions.

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I have fond memories of Gears, and I’m glad to see that the campaign not only stands the test of time, but the multiplayer is now something I can really get into – is this the Ultimate Edition? I would have to answer with a resounding “Shit yeah!”

With Halo and Gears set to battle it out for supremacy as the console’s lead title, it’s now over to Halo as it launches its first full Xbox One title. We will have to wait until next year for the first full Gears title on Xbox One, but the Ultimate Edition has already signed an eSports deal with ESL so the pressure is on Halo 5 to redeem the mistakes made with the Master Chief Collection… your move 343!

Thanks to Xbox for their support

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https://youtu.be/rwbYhvlrQbc

Batman: Arkham Origins Review

xl_batman_arkham_origins_logo2013 is the year of the prequel. With Gears of War: Judgment making waves on our side of the spectrum, and God of War: Ascension punching gods in the face…’over there’, Batman: Arkham Origins was the only one to be met with some form of distain. The reason being that the Arkham series is so beloved and so well-made, that when it was announced that London based Rocksteady wouldn’t be making this, but rather WB Games, people thought it may not be quite up to scratch. Let me quell those fears right now, the game is identical to Arkham City, in the gameplay sense. On a personal level, I believe that Arkham City is near enough the perfect game, so I should automatically love this right? It’s not without its faults, but read on and find out why I think the game is well worth your precious time.

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Let’s jump right in. As the name suggests, this is something of an origin story for the caped crusader. The majority of the street thugs and even future bat-friend, police commissioner Jim Gordon don’t even believe the bat is real. This adds a nice little bit of extra ‘oomph’ to the title as you genuinely feel great popping up in front of some wannabe mobsters and confirming their suspicions. This iteration does not falter in that regard. The fact that you are supposed to be Batman starting out makes him feel more vulnerable, and is therefore a tad more interesting. Although it’s an origin story, you seem to be starting out a couple years into the bat-career, Bruce Wayne is not yet, the Dark Knight. He’s more a billionaire who learned karate and made a fancy suit. This story is definitely a coming of age for the Batman, and I will say that the story and scriptwriting is the area that this game truly beats the other Arkhams.

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The story kicks off with a riot at Blackgate Prison, the prison has been overrun and the warden taken hostage. What an apt time for the Batman to swoop in and ply his trade. After some punchy encounters, you quickly become face to face with the scaly monster known as Killer Croc. It becomes known to Batman that Black Mask has put a $50,0000 bounty on his head, and hired 8 assassins to do the job. The night quickly becomes a race to round up these assassins before they can kill the bat so that Bruce can make it home in time for Christmas morning. I did feel a little cheated with the assassins as you take one of them out before it’s even known to you, Killer Croc being that very one. As well as some of the others being demoted to mere side missions. Hell, even Black Mask himself who was billed as the game’s main antagonist is just a side mission. The big man to defeat is once again, The Joker. I’m unsure as to whether or not the big-wigs out there believe that there can be a Batman game without The Joker. But I will say that it is done much better this time around. The Joker’s psyche as he first meets Batman is particularly engaging. It’s almost as if he falls in love with the dark knight. Many people were distraught at the loss of Mark Hamill’s amazing rendition of the killer clown. Let me break this down, Troy Baker is better. He gives a spine chillingly sadistic portrayal of the character, and I can’t wait to hear him have a go at it again when he inevitably gets the role in other mediums. Another great addition to the story was the adoption of a more serious Alfred. One that would care for and shout at Bruce, and truly guide him whether it’s telling him what he doesn’t want to here, or preparing a well-cooked turkey roast for the emotionally scarred 20-something. It is much akin to Michael Caine’s Alfred Pennyworth from the Chris Nolan films. I can go on and on about each character and how well-done I think they are. I will just say that story and character development have not been done as well as this yet.

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In terms of gameplay, I have nothing too noteworthy to say. It is Arkham City all over again. The perfect freeflow combat makes a comeback. The gadgets are identical, apart from ice grenades being replaced by glue grenades. In layman’s terms, they have received Arkham City, wiped the content clean, and added their own story. It’s nothing more than a glorified expansion. However, it’s still jam-packed full of hours of fun and wandering. It will take you a very long time to fully experience everything the game has to offer, and it does not feel like a chore whatsoever. Much like Arkham City, you’ll be gliding and grapnel boosting between rooftops looking for Riddler Trophies which are now dubbed ‘extortion data’. The Riddler isn’t even The Riddler at this point in time, he’s simply known as ‘Enigma’.  The only new aspect of the game is quick travelling, which caused more problems than it solved. Every time I used the option, I was quickly greeted with my Xbox completely freezing and having to restart. Luckily I wasn’t one of the many that lost all of their game data due to this fact.

There are a lot of boss battles, these are unfortunately oversaturated with quicktime events. The same quicktime events. Over and over again. It becomes quite boring quite frankly. After doing the same block/punch combo to Deathstroke for the eighth time, I found myself just wanting the experience to be over. The only boss fight that was even slightly unique was against Firefly, who uses a jetpack and a flamethrower. But even then, the quicktime events came thick and fast. This is one area that the game severely needs improved, and truly hinders the fun experience you get when battling your everyday street thug.

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There’s also not a great deal to say about the environments. Rehashed straight from Arkham City, complete with snowy backdrops and not one civilian. Made all the more boring by having to traipse across the same bridge over and over again. I mean, it looks nice. But it’s the exact same thing we’ve always had. Would be nice to have a couple new areas to explore.

Multiplayer has been thrown into this one. It does have an interesting format. Three vs. three vs. two. The teams being Bane thugs, Joker thugs, and Batman & Robin. Batman & Robin work the exact same way they do in the campaign, glide, rappel, hide, and take down the thugs to raise your intimidation meter. Dying lowers your meter, max it out to get the win for the caped crusader and the boy wonder. The thugs work slightly differently, you have a number of lives. When you get to zero, if you all die, it’s game over. Kill Batman or Robin to earn yourselves more reinforcements. IT’s a third-person cover based shooter. An extremely dumbed down version of the Gears of War Unreal Engine. You can expect poor movement and running into a lot of walls. You can also earn yourselves the right to play as Bane or the Joker. Joker has a gun that kills in one hit, but Bane…man. Bane is an absolute monster, smash and grab like the Hulk, even wielding a rocket launcher that he pulls from his back pocket. In short, it’s really quite poor. If it had the fluidity of other well-made shooters, they’d really be on to something great here.

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To sum up, Bat fans can be sure that they’d have a good time. If you liked Arkham City, you will like this, even if you end up feeling a little underwhelmed. If you don’t mind paying big for what could really just be considered Arkham City DLC, I would recommend picking it up. However, for an experience tantamount to the Dark Knight’s travels in Arkham City, I’d wait on Rocksteady to make the 3rd in the Arkham stories for the next generation (hopefully).

It’s good, but it’s not quite the god damned Batman we’re used to.

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