FUTURE TECH: OCULUS RIFT

The theme at CES 2013 appeared to be have given an impetus to innovation.  It is heartening to see that, even with technology (and gaming) companies becoming bigger and more removed from their roots, there still exist teams that bring us technology that is going to reshape the way we live our lives.

Today, let us talk about the Oculus Rift. The Oculus Rift is what virtual reality (VR) was always meant to be: not the trashy 3D glasses they hand you out at the neighborhood overpriced PVR Cinema.  The story of how the project is heading toward completion is quite humbling. There was this happy-go-lucky guy called Palmer Luckey with a pet project.  He posted about his project on a forum where it was discovered by the legendary John Carmack, founder of id Software.  Eventually, Carmack became a fan and proponent of this pet project and even pushed it on stage at an E3 convention.  This technology later landed on Kickstarter, our favorite crowdfunding platform.  The project raised $2.4 million.  Yes, that much.

The Oculus Rift is set to change our view of virtual reality.

The Oculus Rift is set to change our view of virtual reality.

The VR unit is meant for end consumers, which means it is going to be affordable.  This means you and I will (should) soon be able to use this as our HUD while we slice down evil mercenaries of the C.E.L.L Corporation in Crysis 3 (actually, the release dates for both will definitely not coincide that squarely, but you get the point).

HOW IT WORKS.

Shaped like ski goggles, the unit has two lenses pointed at a 7″ LCD panel.  This LCD delivers two separate images to each eye, somewhat like what a regular 3D goggles aims to achieve.  Inbuilt gyroscopes and such-likes ensure that the unit is able to sense your own movements and correct the LCD’s vision accordingly.  As you move your head, so does the picture in the LCD.  Imagine dive-bombing into enemy outposts in Battlefield 3 with the air zooming past you as you careen toward your target: yes, that good.

WHAT NEXT?

It may be a while before the VR unit is ready for production, but the devkits are out this March.  If you are technically inclined, you may preorder them off the Oculus Rift website here.   To really understand the power of this product, check out some of the initial reactions captured by the Davis Daily:

WHAT THIS MEANS.

With devkits out in March, it might still be a while before the gaming world is ready for the implications of this technology.  We don’t expect that adoption will be as slow the Kinect, which means most developers will jump at this much faster.  We peg the release around early 2014.  Anticipating this timeline, some developers are already joining the bandwagon.  For instance, Adhesive Games announced that its Unreal Engine-based free-to-play Hawken will be Oculus-ready when it launches this December.  Here is a screenshot:

Unreal Engine-based Hawken will support Oculus.

Unreal Engine-based Hawken will support Oculus.

OUR TAKE.

This piece of hardware will revolutionize the way games work.  Additionally, this will have amazing consequences for training — imagine manufacturing, aerospace, and hazardous materials training.  This technology could easily change what the future looks like for us.  A future might even be a combination of Google’s Project Glass and Ocular Rift.

ALSO,  A NOTE OF THANKS TO CROWDFUNDING.

The broader picture here deserves a mention.  A lot of how this project came to be is serendipity.  If we left it to bigger corporations to get us there, we would still be depending on 3-D glasses (we have seen how slow innovation in that sphere has been).   Companies such as Kickstarter and Crowdfunding.com have provided the impetus to bring such innovation to the masses.  It may still be a while before crowdfunding becomes the preferred route for entrepreneurs and techies, but nonetheless it is a step in the right direction.

In India, we have seen at least one such initiative, Wishberry, that brings the concept to our shores.  India is a hotbed for innovation and companies like Wishberry can make it happen for all the ideas that get shelved for lack of investment — at the very least, entrepreneurs and innovators will have one less excuse for not following their dreams.

We are looking forward to trying out the Oculus Rift the moment it is up for grabs.  In the meantime, it’s back to the trusted DualShock to liberate my friends from the evil Vaas.

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NO PAYNE, NO GAIN!

The third person shooter category is not an easy one to nail. Even if you are a rockstar (sic) working on maximum pain (sic, again)! Jokes apart, we took Max Payne 3 for a ride recently (admittedly a bit late). Did it meet our expectations? Read on…

Max’s new avatar makes us think Rockstar may be planning to star Bruce Willis in the next Payne movie!
Source: Joystiq

Max is now older, more depressed, and slower — which, in fact, is a relief given that Rockstar hasn’t always been known for realistic scenarios (remember war tanks falling from the sky?). Max is now on a “protection” detail protection hapless, rich, spoilt brats with shady lineage.

Rodrigo Branco, Max’s employer, doesn’t make you like him — and you get a feeling Max is only trying to wipe off his demons by working for him. Things take a turn for the worse when Rodrigo’s trophy wife, Fabiana, is kidnapped on Max’s watch.

The cut scenes, once you get over their long-winded nature, are an essential component of the game and provides you with an insight into Max’s psyche. They hold the story tightly wound. That said, at some points it does seem like a bit too much — as an ardent Call of Duty and Battlefield fan (yes, there are people who like both!), I like to climb my own ladders and really don’t appreciate having control taken away from me when I need to do something as mundane as climbing a ladder.

The gameplay is relatively smooth too. At times though, you may feel under-weaponed: we have had to empty almost two magazines into a single enemy even when we are shooting straight into him. Our advice: aim for headshots. Like all third person shooters, Max Payne 3 isn’t without it’s share of glitches: for instance, once while we were crouching behind a barrier, Max decided it was time to swim — the ground beneath him turned into water and he struggled to keep floating eventually giving up and deciding to restart the game instead! We have seen such instances in other popular games too, so we aren’t complaining too much (on that note, also check out our picture of FIFA playing on Modern Warfare 3)!

Unlike Ghost Recon and a few other third person shooters, you can’t shift seamlessly from one crouching position to another without getting up first. That typically puts you out there to be shot to smithereens. I really like how Ghost Recon allows you to do a crouch-run from one location to another — but that’s for another story.

Bullet Time: Killing in style never goes out of fashion in Payneland.

Max’s signature moves — Bullet Time and Shoot Dodge — are easy to master and, as always, fun to execute. Max does not regenerate life when shot, the only way to recover is through vials of painkillers that you may (or most likely, may not) find during regular gameplay. In our opinion, it makes the gameplay more exciting (and longer).

The single player runs about 8-10 hours, but you won’t really feel like it has been that long (unless you get some at some point you just can’t get out of!).  The Arcade mode is pretty interesting too — especially New York Minute with its Eagles-esque name, where you are timed to 5 mins of life and are supposed to kill enemies to keep the clock running.  Reminds me of the movie In Time.

The multiplayer is not at all the failure I imagined it might be! You have to first start with noobish Deathmatches but can unlock more modes as you go along.  Gang Wars tries to weave some story-line into the multiplayer mode, which is an unusually tough thing to do.  You have a different objective in each of four different rounds: from eliminating a key enemy (Gears of War 3 style) to claiming territory (Battlefield 3 style).  Multiplayer seems like a whole lot of fun, even though many Battlefield fans will tend to disagree (but hey, that isn’t a fair comparison, right?).

What were your experiences with Max Payne 3?  If you haven’t played it yet, or are on the fence with if you want to invest in it — then we have some great new preowned options for you too! Check out the links below:

Pre-owned: Max Payne 3

XBOX:  http://bit.ly/KBEDee

PS3:  http://bit.ly/LQIVki

New: Max Payne 3

XBOX: http://bit.ly/LQJkmM

PS3: http://bit.ly/LQJj2n

ASURA’S WRATH: YOU’LL EITHER LOVE IT OR HATE IT

As those of you who read our post on How To Ruin A Video Game in Five Simple Steps know, we are big fans of innovation.  Asura’s Wrath was a game that had really passed us by – maybe due to the rubbish cover art, or the fact that we were busy preparing for the GamesINC soft launch (national launch coming soon, ladies and gentlemen).  So when we read this on IGN:  “Asura’s Wrath is not like any game you will ever have played before” – we jumped off our chair, and ordered it, well, from ourselves (there are some real perks to this job!).

At first glance, Asura’s Wrath hits all the right buttons.  Completely innovative, tick!  Heavily inspired from Anime, tick! Strong story line, tick!  Not another shooter, tick!  So I volunteered myself to write this blog – justifying some down time from work to play for “research”. And after the first five minutes, I started seriously regretting the decision (Max Payne 3 anyone?).  

You start with some incomprehensible scenario of 8 demi-gods fighting some evil spawn, with the evil spawn big daddy emerging from the crust of the earth wiping out a territory the size of India.  And the play seemed to be some silly linear flying simulation where the aim is to tap square a lot and then tap the button the screen asks you to, a la God of War.

But boy was I glad I pushed through…

Uninspiring Cover Art Hides A Potential Cult Classic

You play Asura, one of the eight demi-gods responsible for protecting the earth from the evil Gohma (still no idea where they come from – it’s the will of the planet apparently).  Asura has some serious anger management issues on a good day.  So when he is betrayed by his fellow demi-gods, cast to hell for 12,000 years, and bad things happen to his family – well, he develops a lot of wrath:  thus the title you see.  Asura also has teeth that remind you of a Velociraptor.  That doesn’t really impact the story, they just look really odd.

The game is made up of 18 episodes of ten-twenty minutes each (with a hidden one), each set up like Japanese anime episodes – with each ending wanting you to come back for more (think DragonBall Z type structure if you’re not an anime fan).  The game is inspired by Asian mythology (Hinduism, Buddhism, Shintoism to name a few) in a very loose and futuristic kind of way – there is a spaceship-like weapon that looks like a massive Buddha and is named the Brahmastra (ya, exactly!), mantra are the souls of the humans that power the demi-gods, and there’s some demi-god called Sergei who is very very weird.  In each episode, there a few minutes of game-play – it really is a fusion of video-game & anime in one. 

The graphics and cut scenes are truly astounding – whether it’s Asura fighting a fat guy bigger than the earth, some bearded crazy impaling Asura from the moon through the earth with a rather long sword, or one of the many times Asura decides he needs another 4 arms in his back. The game also includes a lot of fantastic concept art which is unlocked after every mission – which will please fans of the genre no end.

One Of The Many Unforgettable Cut Scenes In Asura’s Wrath

The gameplay in itself is, well, ok.  It’s not bad, it’s not great.  You fight a limited number of characters – each time you build up fury by repeatedly punching, shooting, or countering enemies.  For the bigger enemies, the aim is to build enough fury before you get killed – and the fury will generally unleash a big punch in the face which kills your opponent.  It is third person a la God of War (again), you have a limited number of moves, the way the camera pans makes it hard to see where your enemies are, the bosses are all too predictable (I saw 4 GameOver screens during the whole game, and I’m embarrassed I saw as many), and the shooting scenes are just plain silly.   Having said that – the fury and the counter-strikes are very enjoyable, and I did enjoy the game play but it is no God of War.

There are other things wrong with the game – the Gohma (the Evils) have a pretty pathetic collection of mutated animals (tortoises, elephants, grouper fish, manta rays, squids, and gorillas – no lions, tigers, panthers?).  The game takes place over 12,000 years – but the demi-gods don’t age (ok, they’re allowed too) but neither do their ships, their soldiers, or the villages on earth (still protected by wooden ramparts).  Oh, and the game also finishes in six hours…which is probably why I didn’t mind the game play.

But I couldn’t care less.  The fusion of gameplay and cut scenes/anime made Asura’s Wrath for me.  I love my anime, I love good stories (well, decent stories in this case), I love good cut scenes.  And for this – I forgave the slightly boring game play & some of the silly aspects.  The whole experience felt like Capcom was trying a new form of entertainment (pushing even further than Unchartered 3’s masterful attempt) which totally engrossed me.

However, this game is not for everyone.  If you don’t care about storylines, are non-plussed about cut scenes, want to have an intense shoot ’emup experience or role playing experience, then don’t go near this game – you’ll hate it. If some of the things that make me tick make you tick, then you can’t miss this game.

Oh, and the final thing.  You fight Ryu and Akuma from Street Figher in the DLCs – how good it that?

But it’s not cheap – it’s at INR3,299 on both PS3 & Xbox (and the DLC is extra too).  We don’t have any pre-owned ones yet – but this is the ideal game to buy & trade back (although you may see one appear on the pre-owned section for PS3 very soon).

Yes, It’s True. Asura vs Ryu In The DLC

GAMES FROM 2011 YOU SHOULD NOT MISS: PART II

The second in our three part review of the best games of 2011 features one of the best games of all time, and two games that pleasantly surprised us. With such a fantastic line up of games hitting our consoles last year, the three games listed below really focus on a great single-player experience.

Pick one of these up new or pre-owned, you will not be disappointed!

Unchartered 3: Drake’s Deception

A rollercoaster story, visuals with beauty and depth, intuitive and riveting game play, and great character build ups makes Unchartered 3 the best single-player game of the year, and dare I say all time? If you play games for great single-player modes, then you just cannot miss Unchartered 3. Actually, if you have a pulse you shouldn’t miss Unchartered 3 (however faint the pulse) – it is one of the ultimate entertainment experiences (across all forms of entertainment). Naughty Dog have done the impossible and improved on Unchatered 2 (voted best PS3 game of all time by Play magazine).

The game starts in the wet streets of London where you end up in a pub brawl. Your journey propels you to an abandoned Chateau in France, a crusader castle in Syria, a pirate lair, and an abandoned city in the desert of Yemenon to trace Sir Francis Drake’s mysterious voyage in the Middle East. Mind blowingly beautiful sceneries often force you to slow down and admire the view. The game itself builds on the previous versions of running, climbing, hand to hand combat, and shoot offs with groups of bad guys. The hand to hand combat is seriously improved and shooting mode works seamlessly – while not at the level of a BF3, it is very enjoyable nonetheless.

Riveting Action, Stunning Landscapes, and Great Characters - Unchartered 3 Delivers

Riveting Action, Stunning Landscapes, and Great Characters - Unchartered 3 Delivers

The character building and story line immerse you so deeply in the game that it is nearly impossible to put down. The cut scenes work so seamlessly with the game and often lead to rollercoaster game sequences (whether it is escaping a burning down castle or hanging onto the ropes of a cargo plane). In fact, the character building and action are so good they are looking at turning the franchise into a movie. There is also a great coop mode and the online multiplayer is surprisingly good. This game is the answer to the prayers in our blog post (How to Ruin a Video Game in Five Simple Steps). Unchartered 3 is the one game you should not to miss from 2011 (and that is saying something with the quality of the competition), so go and buy it NOW!!!

Deus Ex : Human Revolution

Deus Ex was the surprise of the year for us. While it’s predecessor, Deus Ex, lies in the Hall of Fame, we were expecting another Duke Nukem; but boy were we wrong! Human Revolution does not have the multiplayer modes of Battlefield 3, it is not the complete package of Unchartered 3 – but it is a really deep single-player experience. Picture Metal Gear Solid meets Red Dead Redemption meets Infamous meets L.A. Noire. The game is set in a futuristic cyberpunk style world where humans can be augmented by humans. You play Adam Jensen, who (yes, you’ve guessed it), is seriously augmented as a result of a terrorist attack leaving him in near death status. Your aim is to track down the perpetrators of the attack and as you progress, you go deeper into a global conspiracy theory revolving around your lost ex-wife and your current employer.

Multifunctional Augments - The Arm Blade: Useful for Killing Enemies and Slicing Your Morning Bread

As you progress through the game, you can augment your character with some interesting features: a 360 degree grenade, the ability to jump ten meters in the air, become invisible for short periods of time or punch through walls. Human Revolution gives you the freedom to decide the style of play you want: depending on how you choose to augment your character, you can take a stealth approach, a brute force approach, or a mixture of both – and these apply also to the open world of each city. There are also a number of side missions on offer which tie in very nicely with the main story line, and don’t feel pointless like is so often the case. We preferred the stealth approach, as the brute force approach seemed to less intuitively go with the game. Though we did get a surprise when the first boss required a brutal set up…

If you like deep one player experiences with strong story line, then Deus Ex is a game you can’t miss.

L.A. Noire

Mmm - That Is A Strange Place To Fall Asleep

L.A. Noire is a bit like Shah Ruh Khan as in you either love it or hate it. You play a cop in post WW2 LA, traumatized by the war and the decisions our man had to make. This is a sleuth game with a straight story line coupled with a free world environment where you can pursue additional cases. You solve cases by finding clues and interrogating characters (using both the innovative face reading feature and the clues you have gathered). You also get involved in tailing suspects, or more hardcore car chases and full on shoot outs with gangsters.

The game play is intuitive as you’d expect from a 2011 release, and the story line is well written and keeps you hooked onto your haunted character. How you perform on each case will also modify the story line and how quickly you rise through the ranks of the police force.

If you’re looking for a very different game or love crime shows and solving crimes, then L.A. Noire is well worth the investment.

2011 DISAPPOINTMENTS: SHOOTERS

There are multiple articles out there on what you should buy in 2011 and what you should look out for in 2012 — and we will write one shortly on each of those as well — but this one is a bit different.  There is only so much money that your parents will give you for pocket money, and only so much you can earn in your internship, and only so much free time your life-sucking corporate job will allow you, so it is of utmost importance to choose the games that justify your time, effort, and money.  We asked our team what games they absolutely regret playing this year.  Not surprisingly, a  lot of them were in the shooter genre.  This is a genre already overcrowded with a lot of players, each one trying to become the next Call of Duty franchise.  But as we have always seen, not every dog (really) has its day.  Here is a list of games that made us want to shoot the publishers and ask for our money (and time) back.  Admittedly, we have not tried every single aspect of these games, so we urge you to take our thoughts with a pinch of salt.

HOMEFRONT: THQ

Homefront is a game that had potential but was marred by a struggling storyline and unremarkable gameplay.  Homefront is based on a alternative future in 2027 where North- and South-Korea unite to form an United Korea, and launch an all-out attack on the United States.  Incredulous?  Yes, that is how we reacted too — LOL-ing in real life.  We were more comfortable with sticking it out with the Russians or, our more recent favorites, the Afghans.  Anyway, despite our first impressions, we tried to give it a shot and started the campaign.  The gameplay, although not worse (or better) than any other shooter, didn’t really excite us.  Follow your leader, shoot at enemies, finish a task, then follow your leader again — this isn’t really different from what other shooters do but Homefront doesn’t do it differently or better than any other shooter.  It just ends up playing very much like a poor cousin to the Call of Duty series.

An interesting story failed by less-than-awesome execution

The most disparaging thing about the campaign is that it sort of keeps you interested in playing through because of the promise of greater glory down the path, and then suddenly, out of the blue, ends.  Just when you thought you were advancing to the next chapter that promised a return to glory!

The somewhat redeeming factor is the online multiplayer.  Its nothing  different from other online multiplayers, but a few aspects — like how you score more as a team than as an individual, and how you can customize your suite of arms — do make it enjoyable.

Overall, this is a game well played, but if you are looking for that perfect shooter, we suggest you move on.

BRINK: BETHESDA SOFTWORKS

Now this is a game I was actually looking forward to but, in hindsight, it was probably a lack of research on my part.  The storyline works quite well —  Brink is set atop a floating city, rightly called The Ark, occupied by thousands of people escaping the horrors of ecological disaster.  Soon, the social order of the original occupants is disturbed and two factions emerge from this chaos: Security and Resistance forces battle for control of the Ark and you are made to choose right at the outset which team you are going to support.   This premise makes for some good storytelling and gameplay, but unfortunately the developer Splash Damage fails to capitalize on it and create a compelling campaign experience for us.

Great graphics? Except that this isn't really in-game footage.

Brink allows you to choose first, which side to play on and then what “class” of soldiers to play as.  Unfortunately, there isn’t much difference between each of those classes during gameplay… until you hit a point and realize that you have chosen the wrong class (e.g., when you blow your way into an enemy stronghold as a Soldier only to realize that you needed to be a Medic to rescue the Person of Interest you are trying to rescue from the stronghold).

Another thing that completely does not work for me is how characters have this shining border around them: this looks bad enough on multiplayer modes in certain games, but in a campaign mode it is much much worse!  This completely ruined the experience for me so much that I didn’t bother finishing the campaign mode at all.

An important aspect that Brink messed up in is storytelling.  Although the storyline had potential, the cut scenes seems to make their way into stories at odd timings (e.g., you are shooting at an enemy soldier lunging for you and suddenly the cut scene shows you following your team mates into a different door).  Through the campaign, Splash Damage seems to have given up on the story altogether.  That may explain why the game was completed ahead of schedule and released a week earlier than announced.  We wish they had stuck it out a bit longer.

DUKE NUKEM FOREVER: 2K GAMES AND GEARBOX SOFTWARE

Speaking of sticking it out a bit longer, no list of lame games will be complete without talking about Duke Nukem’s return to Forever.  This game took about 15 years to develop and it actually plays like it should have been released in 2001.  Clunky controls, immensely tiresome loading times, and bad execution make this game a terrible waste of time and money.

Duke Nukem’s sense of chauvinistic humor may have been acceptable in the 90s but leaves a bad taste in your mouth today.  And if you were looking for some sad internet porn, you would go to sad internet porn sites — not a lame console game with frame-rate issues.  While its predecessor, Duke Nukem 3D, used some amount of obscenity to drive the story along, Duke Nukem Forever seems to have been created just for that.

To say gameplay has taken a hit in this season of Duke Nukem is putting it mildly.  There is really no gameplay worth writing about.  Most games go through a linear process of shoot ’em up > cutscene > shoot ’em up, but the cutscenes in this game are so ill prepared and tedious, it makes you want to shut down your console and get on Facebook to bitch about the game instead.  Even within the sequences where you get to blow up aliens, there are instances of lack of simple attention to detail: for instance, when you hold down the left trigger, you don’t bring up the ironsights… instead the entire screen seems to move forward a bit.  Didn’t developers already fix this years back?

And if that doesn’t hold you back from playing this game, checkout this video:

So this is our short list of games you shouldn’t spend your time on.  What games do you wish were on this list?  Let us know!

FIFA 12 FOR IPAD: WASTE OF SPACE OR NEXT-GENERATION GAMING?

So when GamesInc was sitting in its Ivory Tower deciding the theme of it’s next blog post, something really strange happened. A conversation which involved armies taking over Europe, human baseball, treasure hunting across the world, ice skating for old people, an Elephant called Minimus and a Mouse called Gigantus, and whether chopsticks could be good game controllers (think about it, really!) led us to – a review of FIFA 12 for iPad. There is method to the madness – we wanted to see how iPad gaming had evolved and what it meant for the PS Vita coming out next year.

I was not enthused with the idea as I had to spend hours playing FIFA on my ipad. This sounded as appealing as counting frozen chickens in a deep freezer. But boy was I mistaken.

Positives
I must admit my preconceptions were broken as I played FIFA 12. The graphics, whilst nowhere near the console equivalents, are surprisingly good. You get a good sense of space on the pitch, and play build-up is enjoyable. Although the close up of players is pathetic – they look like they’re built of Lego – but you can live with it as it doesn’t take away from the game.

Player characteristics are surprisingly realistic – Messi is god, Rooney is unnervingly quick, strong, and accurate, Benzema will score from anywhere with the ugliest shots ever, and Zoolander can turn in one more direction than Walcott (right).

The iPad touch-screen controls work surprisingly well.

The touch screen playing which was my biggest fear turned out to be surprisingly enjoyable. You have three touch screen buttons, and by pressing, double-tapping, or sliding them you get nearly all the options of the console.  There are some nice innovations too, you slide your finger over the screen in the direction you are aiming for free kicks and corners, meaning you can curve the ball away or towards goal easily. The ability to give directions to players off the ball by tapping them onscreen is interesting, although good luck doing it when you’re sprinting down the field. You can also use your iPod touch or iPhone as controllers which means it takes more of a console feel to the game.

Negatives

Manager Mode tends to crash randomly.

You obviously don’t get the same multiplayer joy from the iPad as you do for it’s console cousins, even with two players on iPhone controllers. Despite the playability being good, it’s no PS3 or Xbox version.  There are also some irritating in game habits. In the manager mode, the game would crash at random game moments meaning I had to replay or simulate the game–which, when you’re crushing Chelski 3-0 at half-time, is very annoying!  The commentaries can also be ridiculous and after blocking a clear goal scoring opportunity for your opponents at the expense of a corner, your team look distraught as if someone had just told them that Nestle had decided to stop producing Maggi noodles. And if you have quick wingers you can guarantee that they’ll be able to sprint the length of the pitch and get into the box nearly unopposed.

Overall impressions and what it means for PS Vita
Despite all the positives, FIFA 12 on iPad is nowhere near it’s console equivalents – but then it’s not supposed to be. Buying an iPad for it’s gaming offerings is like buying a PS3 for it’s Internet browsing – a silly idea. Having said that – I throughly enjoyed playing it and I still whack out my iPad randomly to continue my managerial career (although the amount of in-game crashes has curbed my enthusiasm).  It’s also been significantly less powerful for picking up chicks in coffee shops than reading a Tolstoy, Steinbeck, or Proust, but that’s hardly surprising!  Picking up chicks in India is a tough task anyway.

So what does it mean for Vita and gaming more broadly?  Well first of all, I’m not sure I’ll buy a Vita. I’m guilty of having bought a PSP and given up on it early, not really getting the gaming joy out of it, and finding my need for a portable gaming device not as big as I needed. Despite the Vita promising some innovations such as the rear touch pad, and two joysticks – it’ll need to deliver significantly more than the PSP for me to consider getting one in addition to my iPad. Having said that, there are 26 launch titles (including Wipeout and Unchartered) and another 100 games in the works. Having all the benefits of Internet access on the go and my media files, means that the media offerings of Vita are not going to sway me (the PSP ones were interesting but failed to deliver). So all in all, I will need to be convinced by the Vita before I get one – at the moment, my limited on-the-go gaming needs are well fulfilled by my iPad.

PS Vita and Wii U integrate touch screen functionalities.

The one thing that did occur to me while playing FIFA 12 is how well the touch screen can work, and hopefully console makers will take note. Nintendo seems to have already taken note with WiiU where there will be a touch screen included in the remote controller. Sony also promises that the Vita will integrate effectively with the PS3. But if you think beyond that, the development of Move and Kinect could integrate with a sort of touch screen option (or even a virtual touch a la virtual reality).  We’re not there yet – but surely the development of different types of gaming platforms will take to whole new realities of gaming in the future, which can only be a good thing!

What are you’re experiences of gaming with your iPad or iPhone? Do you agree that these types of development will push gaming forward? Want us to tackle new topics in our blog – just let us know!

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BATTLEFIELD 2: BAD COMPANY REVIEW

I have always been a Call of Duty fan, but lately I was somewhat disappointed by Activision’s Modern Warfare series and the Black Ops edition. Not that they aren’t great games – I understand what most folks like it. But you haven’t really seen a great shooter in action until you have played Battlefield.

As we prepare for a Battlefield 3 release in just ten more days, I figured this is the best time to check out the last edition of Battlefield 2: Bad Company. I won’t be reviewing its multiplayer capabilities today and will focus on its extensive campaign. Besides, if you would like a technical review, you can always go to IGN.com.

Exotic locales and attention to detail encourage you to lighten up and enjoy the sights

Exotic Locales that Make You Want to Go Slow

The campaign takes you from one location to another (I was too busy blowing up stuff to really pay attention where I was going), and at times the immaculate graphics make you want to stand and stare for a bit before you go back to blowing stuff up. Icing on the cake is that everything is explosion-friendly: you can blow up everything from cars, armored vehicles, and building as long as you have the necessary firepower.

Squadmates that Go Beyond Traditional AI

One key irritant in the Call of Duty series is how inept your squadmates are. More often that not, you will find them shooting at walls or walking on air. Not so in Battlefield 2, each of your squadmates: Sarge, Marlowe, Sweetwater, and Haggard, has a unique personality and the story is built around them closely — not as dummies to shoot at enemies you can’t always reach. The is subtle humor in the friendly banter between them as well, but sometimes it tends to get lost with all the action around you.

Ride your quad bike on icy terrain chasing enemies down the treacherous slopes

Diverse Gameplay

While the Call of Duty series also provides you with a bit more to do that point and shoot, I found the experience in Battlefield 2 much more engaging. The realistic gameplay and accurate use of controller vibrations almost makes you feel like a part of the action, something I never quite got from Black Ops. You get to shoot at enemy soldiers off your helicopter, ride your dune buggy into enemy territory, and blow up a wall to make way for your team.

Overall, it was about 10 hours of extreme fun. If anything, this has peaked my interest in Battlefield 3. If you haven’t played Battlefield 2 yet, then now is the right time — grab it (at a huge discount) before Battlefield 3 releases this month!

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CRYSIS 2: REVIEW

I will start this review with a disclaimer.  I have only played Crysis 2 on XBOX and I have never played Crysis on PC.  Having got that out of the way for Crytek fanboys, I am ready to share my views on the game.

The first thing that strikes you about this game is the graphics.  The moment I slipped the DVD into my console, I was hooked on to how

Breathtaking visuals and larger-than-life destruction add to Crysis 2's gameplay

real everything appeared.  The entire game is in first person.  Throughout the game, you are provided with snippets into the life of Alcatraz — the (new) recipient of the nanosuit, a powerful armor that provides you with exceptional strength, resilience, and stealth.  You move through the story maneuvering the abilities of the nanosuit.  You start off by barely making it out of a submarine into chaos at New York (how a submarine gets into NY is anybody’s guess).

The usual issue with first person shooters is that you often head down paths that lead to nowhere or, in the case of more dumbed-down shoot-em-alls, an arrow always points you in the right direction.  Crysis 2 also provides you indications on where to go, but does it in style with its tactical options that allow you to survey the area and mark points of interest.

The AI in the game is pretty intelligent: most enemies do not follow the same route every time you load from a checkpoint. If you use your stealth mode to walk past enemy soldiers or aliens, you will see that slight suspicion in their movements as they sense you near them.  You may not face too many opponents on the way but if you foolishly initiate a shoot-em-up, enemies will converge on you in a more coordinated manner.

Realistic surrounding and great 5.1 recording keep you hooked on to every split second.

Unlike most first person shooters, Crysis 2 tries to keep your attention on the story (written by science fiction writer Richard K. Morgan).  There are moments of relief between action, where you are provided with a strong storyline that explains why you are doing what you are doing.  There are twists in the story as well – so make sure you are listening.

I have not played Crysis 2 multiplayer online on XBOX Live too much – but from what I have played, it is extremely difficult to make it alive beyond 30 seconds.  I don’t suck too bad at first person shooters, but maybe I am just not doing something right!

Overall, I rate it a 9/10 on my book.  If you have not had a chance to play it yet, go ahead and get yourself a copy today.  If you have a chance to play it on PC and on console, let us know which version you like best and why!

GLITCHES OF WAR: GEARS OF WAR 2 REVIEW

I know this is going to be an unpopular review with a lot of people.  Some of my closest friends in the gaming community are very fond of this third-person shooter.  In fact, I bought my first XBOX after checking out the superb videos of Gears of War 3 on youtube.  Wanting to be ready for the September launch, I got myself the Gears of War Triple Pack — this included Gears of War, Gears of War 2, and a Multiplayer Pack for download.  

As I started playing Gears of War 1, I felt it was too glitchy and the graphics weren’t exactly something to be excited about.  Given that the game was released quite some time back, I gave it the benefit of doubt and moved on to the Gears of War 2 hoping the developer would redeem itself in the sequeal.  That was not to be.  In the end, this is what Gears of War 2 looks like — move ahead to kill Locusts (evil alien enemies), move ahead to kill Grunts (more evil alien enemies), then view a bit of the storyline, then repeat killing Locusts and Grunts in exactly the same fashion again.  Those of you used to playing games with a bit of storyline and diversity of campaigns will find Gears of War 2 a tad repetitive.

Another issue that really pestered me is the AI.  The enemies would follow exactly the same strategy to try and kill you.  So all you had to do if you got killed by a Locust was to make a note of where the enemy was hiding: so the next time, you can proactively shoot the hell out of it. It takes the fun out of killing for sure.

The last issue I found was the high amount of glitches.  Running from an enemy, you could suddenly find yourself hovering a few feet above the ground with no way to get down.  The only solution is to wait around to get killed or restart from your most recent checkpoint.

The good folks at IGN do not agree with my review above.  But then, they wrote it back in 2008 when the game was first released.  Read their review here.

Unlike books and movies, every game tends to improve with sequels.  I imagine Gears of War 3 will not disappoint.  Check out the E3 launch of Gears of War 3 that prompted me to go for the XBOX.