Uncharted 3 Gameplay Looks Amazing, Gunplay Less So…

So today eurogamer.it posted a new and unseen gameplay demo of the Chateau level, part of which was previously demonstrated on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon. The footage, seen below, is a lot better quality than any footage seen to date and does a good job of showing the stunning graphics and smooth, flowing animations.

In fact, with another 10 months until release it’s looking pretty darn good, all aside from the shooting aspect.

The gunplay has always been the weakest part of the Uncharted series and that’s not to say it’s bad, just that the guns never seemed to feel like they had the power of the firearms in other games that have mastered this aspect such as Killzone 2 or Counter Strike.

The power of a gun in a video game is conveyed by two things, the sound of the weapon and the reactions of those being shot. Now since the game is still almost a year away from release it seems unfair to nitpick on these aspects but what the hell.

The guns sound just flat-out weak. Maybe they’re placeholder sound effects but when firing a weapon just sounds like someone dropping a baking tray instead of a 140 decibel mini explosion. This isn’t something new to the series either, the previous two games had exactly the same problem but now is the time to sort it out.

Here’s what firing a Colt 45 Defender actually sounds like:

Similarly, judging by the gameplay footage, enemies react as if they were shot with a BB gun until their health runs out and they just drop to the floor. You need spatters of blood and dynamic enemy physics to make their reactions either plausible or just flat-out cinematic, something Killzone 2 perfected, as seen below:

With a tentative release date of November 2011 exclusively for Playstation 3, there’s still plenty of time to iron this stuff out but despite this Uncharted 3 is already looking fantastic.

Playstation Store Prices are Extortionate

With the rapid increase in broadband speeds and its increasing availability over the years, the use of online content delivery seems like a natural progression.  Both Sony’s Playstation Store and Microsoft’s Xbox Live Marketplace offer this, albeit a version limited in the content you can download, with few full retail games available to download.

Both downloading and purchasing from retailers each have their own advantages and disadvantages and gamers will have polarised opinions about the future of purchasing video games but judging by the current state of the Playstation Store (although the same applies to the Xbox  Marketplace) retailers have one key advantage at this moment in time: price.

At present there is a shocking disparity between the prices for games offered on the Playstation Store and on Amazon.co.uk.

Let’s look at a few examples.

Prices were correct at the time of writing but will probably change in a couple of weeks, making this article redundant.

Sony has recently released the excellent Assassin’s Creed onto the store. It’s odd that they’ve only just got round to releasing a two year old game but the price tag of £23.00 is even odder, especially considering the price of the game on Amazon.co.uk is only £9.99

The game’s sequel Assassin’s Creed II costs the same as its predecessor meaning that you can buy the first two games from Amazon.co.uk cheaper than you can buying just the one from the Playstation Store.

Then there’s the original Call of Duty. The PC version was released in 2003 and is currently selling on Amazon.co.uk with the United Offensive expansion pack for just £4.75. It’s recently been ported to the PSN  (minus the expansion pack) and released for £11.99. That’s right, £11.99 for a port of a 7 year old game.

Moving on to SOCOM: CONFRONTATION, you can buy it on the Playstation Store for £19.99 or you can pay half that on Amazon.co.uk, or better yet pay just £5 more than the Store price and get a free wireless headset with it.

Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six Vegas 2 goes for £23.99 courtesy of Sony. Or if you’d rather pay a little less for a game more than two and a half years old just head over to our old friends at Amazon.co.uk to pick it up for a tenner.

There’s plenty more examples for you to find yourself and the same will no doubt apply to the Playstation Store in other countries and with Sony continually expanding the store content such extortionate pricing seems set to continue.

According to Forbes, 20% of the cost of purchasing a game goes to the retailer. For a full price £40 game this would be around £8 and because if this it stands to reason that by Sony selling a game directly to the customer through the Playstation Store they’re essentially cutting out the middleman meaning that they should be able to sell the games for a cheaper price than you’d find at a retail outlet.

If paying for downloading games is to take off with the current and future iterations of the Playstation then Sony needs to offer gamers some incentive to fill their hard drive with software with what is essentially ‘renting for life’ a copy of a game.

One in Ten UK prisoners have a games console in their cell

Want to commit a murder but don’t want to miss the next Call of Duty game? Well if you’re in the UK you needn’t worry as according to a one-off survey carried out by the Ministry of Justice in 2008, 11,200 prisoners had a games console in their possession.

To put this in perspective, according to according to a Ministry of Justice report, the population in custody as of August 31 2010 was 85,600; meaning that more than 1 in 10 prisoners can continue gaming from behind bars.

Prisoners are allowed games consoles as part of the Earned Privileges Scheme which rewards prisoners for good behaviour and cooperation for sustained periods of time. According to the MoJ “the scheme has three levels; enhanced, standard or basic level, only prisoners on the enhanced level of the IEP scheme will be entitled to the privilege of having games consoles in their possession.”

Between 2005 and 2008 the prison service spent £221,726 on providing games consoles but as of July 23 2008 the purchase of video games and consoles with public funds was prohibited, meaning if you get locked up you’ll need to buy your own games so if you’re going to go on a killing spree, best go on a shopping spree first.

Click here to view the Ministry of Defense report, obtained through a Freedom of Information Request.

Gran Turismo 5 Nitpicking Exceeds Expectations

Despite being released to a metascore of 86 and selling 1.8 million copies worldwide in just two days (to put that in perspective, Halo Reach still hasn’t sold that much in EMEAA countries), Gran Turismo 5 has suffered a barrage of bitch slaps by fanboys since its release.

Here are just a few examples of articles that currently litter N4G’s news feed:

Gran Turismo 5: Flying Karts and Texture Loading Problems from the Final Build in Action

Gran Turismo 5 Graphical Review

Gran Turismo 5 Installed vs. non Installed

GT5: Can this be true? Incredibly ugly standard cars

Gran Turismo 5: Online mode is full of problems

GT5 is full of bugs

Gran Turismo 5: Non Premium Cars Look Awful

While its certainly true that many of the scores given out by reviews are incredibly minor disappointments as most gamers were expecting hordes of 90%+ ratings, a metascore of 86% is very good, as are the early sales indications and general feedback from the gaming community who are after all, the ones who really matter.

Where Gran Turismo 5 is unparalleled is in the nitpicking from the rest of the community. When Halo: Reach. Forza 3 and various other Xbox exclusives were released N4G was spared the cavalcade of articles comparing various in-game models and angrily complaining that “they look less like real life and more like a videogame”. No shit.

That’s not to say that it’s the Xbox community who are largely to blame for the reaction GT5 has been getting; the PS3 community demonstrated extraordinary hubris and even started the in-game model comparisons, frequently comparing screenshots to Forza 3 and declaring it “a game-changer” and “better than real life” way before the first actual gameplay footage had been released.

GT5 seems to have set a precedent of nitpicking, and one that could possibly be applied to every hyped console exclusive from now on.

The fact of the matter is that Gran Turismo 5 is nowhere near a flop. If VGChartz is to be believed (and to be honest, it probably isn’t), it sold more in the first two days than Mass Effect 2 did in ten weeks. From this it’s pretty much guaranteed to be a financial success and with positive reviews across the board this is bolstered even more. Granted, it’s not as perfect as we’d have liked it to be but a majority of the big issues that reviewers had with the game can be sorted out with future game updates and patches. Knowing Yamauchi’s dedication to the game this is a near certainty.

Could the Reviews of Gran Turismo 5 even affect its Sales at this point?

At present, the gaming world is waiting eagerly for the review embargo on Polyphony Digital’s highly anticipated, ultra-realistic racing simulator Gran Turismo 5 to be lifted at 8:01am GMT on Wednesday.

Currently, N4G’s news feed is littered with links to newly uploaded screenshots and gameplay videos posted by those lucky enough to have received their copies early as gamers pore over any new scrap of media they can get their hands on until the official verdicts can be released.

Early impressions seem highly positive, with Gameinformer stating:

The game not only looks as good as advertised, but each vehicle also handles really well, giving you a great flavor of all kinds of vehicles and the various challenges associated with their braking, horsepower, engine placement, etc. Snow, night, and rain weather effects throw a kink in some of your best-laid racing plans, but tackling the elements is all part of the experience.”

The above sentiments are also echoed by posters on various forums although OPM claims that the AI “remains a long way short of passing the Turing Test”.

Should the unpredictable (and highly unlikely) happen, with Gran Turismo 5 not earning the triple A ratings expected of it, it seems doubtful that this would put off potential buyers.

UK retailer ShopTo.net has stated that pre-order sales for the game “went through the roof” and it’s still in the top 5 at Amazon.com, casting doubts on whether the GT5 momentum could be halted by a string of mediocre views.

Furthermore, the timing of the release couldn’t be better for Polyphony Digital, considering the newly crowned Formula One World Champion Sebastian Vettel was involved with the production of the game and even featured in a trailer, seen below:

Although strangely, neither Sony or Polyphony Digital have chosen to exploit his involvement in the game in light of his recent success.

With the game officially released tomorrow, along with the reviews, only time will tell whether it’s the racing experience we’ve all been waiting for.

The Hypocrisy of the Medal of Honour Taliban Controversy

For those of you living under a massive rock, the latest incarnation of long-running first person shooter franchise Medal of Honour was released earlier this month to generally positive but few gushing-with-praise reviews and selling a hugely respectable 1.5 million copies worldwide in the first five days of release thanks largely to an extensive marketing campaign, no small feat for a reboot of an IP that has festered over the last few years.

However the release was overshadowed by possibly the largest video game controversy (that’s right another one) since Modern Warfare 2’s ‘how man holiday-goers can you shoot in the face?’ level. It seems that when you make a game that pitches you, as a member of the US army, against the Taliban, the logical decision to make the Taliban the playable opposing force in the multiplayer mode isn’t acceptable.

Fox News were typically ‘fair and balanced’ about the whole situation:

On top of this, UK defence secretary Liam Fox was quick to speak out and was quoted as saying:

“It’s shocking that someone would think it acceptable to recreate the acts of the Taliban. At the hands of the Taliban, children have lost fathers and wives have lost husbands. I am disgusted and angry. It’s hard to believe any citizen of our country would wish to buy such a thoroughly un-British game. I would urge retailers to show their support for our armed forces and ban this tasteless product.”

Canadian defence minister Peter Mackay was quick to read the minds of all 30 million people in his country:

“I find it wrong to have anyone, children in particular, playing the role of the Taliban. I’m sure most Canadians are uncomfortable and angry about this.”

Putting aside the obvious fact that in his country it’s the ESRB that is responsible for the T rating that the game has earned which enables ‘children’ to play the game, not Electronic Arts, the whole controversy over the matter is a shameless hypocrisy for two very simple reasons:

1. It was seemingly fine to play as a Nazi in the previous Medal of Honour Games

That’s right, all previous incarnations of the series which pitted the player against the Nazis have featured multiplayer modes that let you take control of members of a political group responsible for the deaths of:

  • 6 million Jews
  • 2 million Soviet prisoners of war
  • 2 million poles
  • 250,000 disabled people
  • 200,000 gypsies
  • 15,000  homosexuals

Granted, none of the games were as callous as to let the player take part in any of this but the newest game doesn’t let you kill any civilians either, instead it simply focuses on the conflict between the US army and the Taliban, or at least it did until the developers caved in to pressure and renamed them the ‘opposing force’.

EA representative Amanda Taggart was quick to point out the logical necessity of having the Taliban in the multiplayer mode, just like the Nazis in the previous games were also a necessity, saying:

“If someone’s the cop, someone’s gotta be the robber, someone’s gotta be the pirate and someone’s gotta be the alien.”

It’s true that the war against the Taliban is still ongoing whereas the war against the Nazi party has long been over, although fringe groups still exist, but anyone who compared the Taliban with the Nazi party would certainly agree that the latter ‘s actions were by far more devastating and immoral than anything the Taliban has ever done. And despite the fact that the Nazi party was disbanded a long time ago, most of the criticisms about the latest Medal of Honour game don’t stem from the fact that the Taliban are still active, but more that they’re responsible for the deaths of many citizens from the Western countries that are criticising the game, a charge that can also be pointed at the Nazis.

All of which brings me nicely onto the second reason why the controversy is hypocritical:

2.The forces fighting the Taliban aren’t beyond moral criticism.

The War in Afghanistan, as well as being condemned as illegal by many, has also seen the estimated deaths of between 8,991 and 28,583 civilians killed as a result of US led military actions, far exceeding the civilian casualties enacted on the West by the Taliban.

In addition to this there is a vast array of documented civil rights abuses, from the illegal detentions in Guantanamo Bay to the beating to death of an innocent taxi driver at Bagram Air Base, actions widely condemned by human rights groups from across the globe.

Without wanting to enter a drawn out political debate about the necessity of the War in Afghanistan, the civil rights abuses and the collateral damage incurred as a result, it seems that it wouldn’t exactly be unthinkable for some people to claim that of the two forces playable in the multiplayer mode of Medal of Honour, both sides are at least equally morally repugnant. There’s no denying that the Taliban is a terrorist group responsible for atrocities, but then again the US and indeed to other countries in the coalition have, in instances, been as reprehensible and I’m sure that many gamers in Afghanistan would be equally as offended by the prospect of playing a game as a soldier from the same army that has invaded their country.