All posts by James Pinnell
peter molyneux

By on February 17, 2015 at 10:40 am

Like almost everyone over the age of 30, there have been times where I have been stung by the bee of nostalgia. Our generation seems more determined than almost every other to demand a constant reinforcement of our childhood’s pop culture, whether it’s re-releases, re-makes, re-imaginings… or a combination of all three. When our demands are met, we reward them with cynicism and derision, after we quickly release that nostalgia is generally something that cannot be recaptured, let alone recompiled into a easily consumable package.

In reality, sentiment links us back to a particular moment or feeling in our past – somewhere safe, just and stable. Hollywood aren’t the only ones capitalising on this obsession, with a host of early game designers popping out of the woodwork, promising that their new (old?) projects and new (old?) ideas will right the wrongs done by those evil publishers who so long ago prevented these geniuses from realising their destinies.

Enough is enough.

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battlefield hardline

By on February 12, 2015 at 2:49 pm

I was talking to a friend on Skype after we had just played our first hour of Battlefield: Hardline‘s recent open beta, which included the new games modes Hotwire and Heist. We were discussing its improvements over the first Alpha test, which included noticeable polish, especially around the way that vehicles control and little things like frame rate and whatnot. I asked what he thought of the game in general. He paused for a moment before replying with “Well, it’s definitely Battlefield”.

He’s not wrong. Battlefield: Hardline is not a lot of things, and many of them for good reasons, but it’s almost certainly a Battlefield. Surprisingly enough, this is also one of its major problems.

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Satellite Reign

By on January 15, 2015 at 4:14 pm

Satellite Reign, one of the few local Kickstarted titles to funnel its way into a proper office not too far away from my own in Brisbane, has been ticking all of the Early Access model boxes. Since they escaped the 30-day Kokoda Track that is a crowd sourcing campaign, they have been hard at work, keeping their backers updated roughly twice a month for the last year and a half. Bravely, they asked us if we would like to take a look at the recently released Alpha, ensuring that what we would see is only a tiny taste of what was to come.

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By on November 24, 2014 at 2:25 pm

The modern stable of Grand Theft Auto titles are arguably the best life simulator available in the land of video games. This is a game where you can follow police cars on patrols, sit at a traffic intersection for an hour and watch a true day and night cycle, complete with sunsets, rush hour, traffic jams and drive-by shootings. It’s also a game where you can push people in front of buses, and murder practically everyone that exists with almost zero consequences.

So when the PS4 iterative update of GTAV dropped in my lap, I figured this would be a good opportunity to see if Rockstar was able to improve on what was already an impressive feat of software engineering.

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Star Citizen

By on November 17, 2014 at 12:15 pm

At this year’s PAX Australia was lucky enough to sit down with Chris Roberts, the man behind Star Citizen, for a nearly hour-long chat about everything to do with the game.

As you can see below, we cover topics like size and scale, delivering on promises, creating “safe” areas for new players, the influences of Freelancer and Wing Commander, immersion, exploration and more. Check it out.

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Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel

By on October 22, 2014 at 11:55 am

When you’ve been overseas for a fairly long time, you start to yearn for something more familiar. Not cane sugar Coke, Tim Tams or any of that rubbish, but the basic elements of social interaction that genuinely make you feel comfortable. Deep inside the Alps about 10 years ago, homesick and lonely, the Byron Bay-born bartender at my hostel became my best friend for three hours.

Hearing a genuine Australian accent within 20 minutes of starting Borderlands: The Pre Sequel instantly gave me a rapport with the game that only a few thousand other people would share. For once, there was regional humour, slang, and jokes in a game that weren’t painfully ripped out of a failed Crocodile Dundee script, and I fully appreciated all of the touches that said “Yes, this game was made in Australia, by Australians, and we should be proud of that”. But The Pre-Sequel is the sum of all its parts, and I wouldn’t be a very good critic if my entire review was simply an acknowledgement of the fact that 2K Australia exists, would I?

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Shadow of Mordor

By on October 15, 2014 at 4:26 pm

The almost universally positive reaction to Shadow of Mordor‘s AI and Nemesis System shows us exactly why scripted narrative needs be dramatically scaled down in many titles. I have argued on many occasions, on this site and others, that the sandbox is like an engine room for creativity and unique story generation — how many more videos are there on YouTube for games like Minecraft, GTA5, Just Cause, DayZ and Rust than traditional scripted fare like The Last Of Us? While what Naughty Dog have done with TLOU is a brilliant example of how to do scripted, linear, gameplay, it doesn’t necessarily engage people in a manner that pushes them to go back or share their experiences.

It also demonstrates why their is still a need for scripting in many games – but just not every game. Here’s why.

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By on September 16, 2014 at 2:30 pm

There is nothing more satisfying than finding and buying a new pair of quality jeans, especially when the first pair you try on fit perfectly. For me, jeans will always be a distinctive part of my fashion repertoire, as they bridge that gap between tight slack wearing hipster and “my tie hurts” professional businessman. They are fairly season agnostic, and most importantly, no one will make passive aggressive jokes about your life choices both in front of and behind your back. They are a safe bet. It’s the reason why almost every man in the world owns at least 2 pairs and wears them almost all of the time. Next to a pair of Converse sneakers and a Blade 3 hair cut, they are about as average and conventional as life in a first world country can get.

Destiny is a pair of Levis 514 Straight Leg jeans.

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Dead Rising 3

By on September 4, 2014 at 10:47 am

The relentless open(ish) world of the Dead Rising games allows you to indulge in all of those zombie-destroying fantasies that you may have imagined in your stranger hours. The very first game, which debuted on the Xbox 360, gave me and many others the ability to mow down the undead with lawnmowers and baseball bats. Now the latest third one, which continues the apocalyptic slog, has introduced it to the next generation. Dead Rising 3 is, arguably, the best zombie experience that you can have on any gaming machine in 2014.

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By on July 23, 2014 at 3:00 pm

The more I play Destiny, the more I struggle to define what keeps drawing me back in.

On the surface, there’s a lot to offer. Perhaps it’s the way Destiny manages to recycle much of the same content while still keeping it fresh and enjoyable — something many other MMOs have not been able to do. The combat is satisfying in a way that many shooters fail to execute correctly, because they either make the enemies too easy or too difficult. Charging through the nameless hordes, organically pouring out of dropships or quietly shuffling around the guarded shells of a dead Earth, continues to excite especially after you find that great new weapon or apply that upgrade.

The grind still exists and Destiny isn’t pretending it isn’t there — it’s just going out of its way to make sure you’re still having fun while doing it.

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By on July 14, 2014 at 12:48 pm

There are times when I’m playing a game — during those crucial stages where you desperately search for some sort of new mechanic or interesting function to latch on to — where I audibly sigh. I sigh because the game is uninspired, because I feel overly cynical for making such a snap judgement, and because I realise I’ve been playing and critiquing games for so long that it becomes second nature. Survarium made me sigh because I struggled to see the point of why it existed, in a sea of titles that were genuinely attempting to make a mark on the landscape and taking risks. The fact that the game took a shocking 36 hours to download should have given me an indication that the PVP-only beta I was about to play wasn’t even hosted properly.

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Sniper Elite 3

By on July 1, 2014 at 10:45 am

I share a longstanding joke with a colleague where every single Nazi-themed game instantly fails if you do not get the chance to kill Hitler. Hitler can be in any sort of form: Robot, Zombie, Art Deco, whatever. He just needs to have the iconic mustache, short stocky stature and a strong dose of facist dogma in order to meet the grade, and provide that most excellent of releases that video games were designed for.

The problem is that World War 2 was, frankly, a World War, and Hitler couldn’t exactly be in every theatre at once. So, unfortunately, in Sniper Elite 3 you do not get to kill Hitler.

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By on June 16, 2014 at 2:57 pm

Activision’s brand new console-exclusive IP Destiny is a huge risk — the whopping $500 million dollar budget makes it the most expensive video game production ever, almost doubling GTA V‘s development cost of $267 million. There’s no denying that developers Bungie have got the goods, and their hallowed Halo history makes them well-placed to build the most expensive and expansive shooter ever — but can it deliver where others have failed? I took a look at the recent alpha weekend on PS4 and asked myself: will this work, and does it also deserve to have a place on PC?

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Everquest Next Landmark

By on May 29, 2014 at 3:10 pm

“Maybe you’re just tired of the genre?”

Every time I try to communicate my frustration at the glacial pace of innovation within MMOs, somebody comes along and says something similar to the above phrase. After all, when you have millions of active players sharing a pliable world, why should we attempt to widen the length and breadth of our thinking? Why not simply bash away at the same beasts, the same quests and the same dungeons over and over again? Am I right? No, actually. It’s been 15 years since EverQuest created the base line for what a 3D online role playing game should have been, and since then we’ve refined that concept to the point where the model is almost perfect. The problem is the players — they’re no longer happy just being pawns within the walled playground.

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By on May 23, 2014 at 2:42 pm

One of the (few) luxuries of being a freelance games journalist is that I rarely tend to be uninformed when it comes to most titles. Many of my colleagues are generally across almost every inch of every genre of every platform; meaning I usually know what’s good and what’s not by the time embargo lifts. But every now and again, just like everyone else, I fall head over heels with the idea or the concept, rewatching trailers and gasping at the pure adrenaline of the hype.

Deep down I know it’s a poor idea, with every ounce of logic in my body pushing against the charging train of sheer want. So I preorder. I preorder Sim City.  I preorder X: Rebirth. I preorder Diablo 3.  I beg and plead for early keys from the online grey suppliers, desperate for the bucket of games heroin to quench my nagging thirst. But the payoff, when it finally, initially blissfully, arrives, I’m left wanting: The game is bad.

But the marketplace is not the same arena that it once was, where games came permanently hardcoded onto cartridges, CDs and DVDs. There were no updates, patches, mods or expansions back in the golden days, so if a title was poor, it stayed poor for eternity. Game breaking bugs could destroy the livelihoods of a developer, squandering years of work in a matter of days and weeks as returns and leftovers piled up on store shelves. But in 2014 things are different.

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Earth 2066

By on May 13, 2014 at 2:52 pm

It’s easy to understand the appeal of crowdfunding, at least on paper — being able to pick and choose the projects that the community feels need direct support, and ensuring that they get a decent chance at completion. The reality, however, is much more fractious and complex. I’ve made it fairly clear over a number of features and editorials on this wonderful website, that crowdfunding of titles and the new regime of pre-funding development isn’t something I feel is a great idea.

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