Happy New Year, I guess, this being the first post on here dated 2013 and all. If you're at all familiar with my blog you'd know going weeks without posts shouldn't seem too out of the ordinary. I generally don't adhere to the philosophy that more content is better. I'd much rather there be a post ever month or two where I actually have something to say as opposed to once or twice a week where I have to force myself to write about something that I don't particularly feel the need to. I was the same way when I used to make silly Call of Duty videos on YouTube. I didn't have a partnership, so I didn't make money, so there was no benefit for me to shit out videos every day. I could put out something when I felt I actually wanted to, and as a result, my soul remains thoroughly intact.

But today, I do have something to write about on here. Since last we met, I've attained an entirely new device for playing video games on. A PlayStation Vita. I didn't really ask for anything for Christmas, so I was originally planning on using the inevitable Christmas Money towards a Wii U. However, since the new Nintendo console is on the better side of £300 (and there's fuck all games for it yet), I decided to hold off for a while and put my money towards a Vita instead. So imagine my surprise when I was gifted one on Christmas. First time in a long time that I remember being genuinely surprised at what I received. I had casually mentioned to my mother that I was interested in one and might think about picking one up maybe 6 months prior, but apart from that, I'd made no mention of the thing.

So I picked up a few games for it, both retail and downloadable. The hardware itself is very nice. Sleek, sexy black, with an absolutely gorgeous OLED screen. It's a capacitive touchscreen as well, and is really responsive in that regard. The analogue sticks feel pretty decent, considering their size. The Dpad is nice (and apparently one of the best in existence for fighting games). The system just feels good. The OS interface itself, is not so good. It's fine for what it needs to do, but there could definitely be some improvements. Being a touch screen, it's inherently easier to simply navigate than the XMB was, but the OS has some really odd omissions, like not being able to manage your save files. The home menu apparently has a 100 item limit as well, which may not seem like a total problem now, but a couple years down the line when the system is (hopefully) more established, it could be a real problem for people who play a lot of games. The use of expensive, propriety memory cards is annoying as well, especially considering the system doesn't even come with one. But other than a few glaring issues, some of which could hopefully be fixed with firmware updates, the system overall seems pretty well made.

oh jeez what

oh jeez what

But onto the games. I'm yet to amass a vast collection, but I've picked up a few: Need for Speed: Most Wanted, Modnation Racers: Road Trip, Uncharted: Golden Abyss, Metal Gear Solid HD Collection and Persona 4 Golden. Mortal Kombat and Gravity Rush I also got through PlayStation Plus as well. I'm not going to talk too much about them all (except for Persona 4, which I will at some point in it's own separate post), but they're as you'd expect. Console-like experiences on a handheld system has always been PlayStation's thing, so the games play as you'd expect, though obviously not with quite the same amount of graphical fidelity. Need for Speed in particular has some particularly brutal framerate issues, especially in multiplayer, in my experience. Uncharted as well, while looking pretty fantastic for a handheld game, is nowhere close to the quality you'd expect from the full-blown console releases. When comparing with console releases, I should probably make special mention of Mortal Kombat, since they're pretty much functionally the exact same game. The portable version has taken a pretty hefty downgrade in the looks department though. The character models, especially when viewed close up, are laughably terrible. The game still runs at 60 FPS though, so that's something. Whether or not this is indicative of the system's power or simply a case of devs not being intimately familiar with it remains to be seen. For the most part, the games I've seen look pretty good though, considering the context. Unfair comparisons are inevitable though, simply due to developers aiming for console like experiences on a system that can't handle the fidelity expected of such releases.

But overall, the system is good. Would I recommend one? That depends. Generally, I'd never say buying a console for a single game is worth it, though Persona 4 Golden is that game for a lot of people, and I'm almost inclined to agree with that sentiment. However, the amount of games out for the thing right now is pretty sparse, with not a whole lot announced for the future, it seems. The PSN store has a large back catalogue of PSOne and PSP games that are downloadable and playable on the system, but recommending a system solely for old games from a previous system isn't exactly a ringing endorsement. I wanted my Vita mostly for Persona 4, with a passing interest in some other titles. It's an awesome Persona/Final Fantasy machine, but its not that great of a games machine at the moment. Unless you are desperately wanting one, I'd recommend holding out for a price-drop and/or some more signification game releases.

It's that time of year, the time where everyone gets all reflective and reminisces about their favourite games of the year just past. So I figured I might as well do the same, seeing as there's been nothing posted here in a good two months. These games are listed in no particular order, and the only qualification to being on this list is that they were released in 2012 and that I enjoyed them.

Mass Effect 3

The conclusion of this epic trilogy, and perhaps the greatest new IP this generation, was somewhat of a let-down for a lot of people. Say what you want about the ending, but the entire rest of the game is just the type of rollercoaster thrill-ride of emotions you expect from a Mass Effect game, with the highs being as high as they've ever been in the series. The fact BioWare went back and fixed (and in some cases, straight up retconned) a bunch of stuff with DLC is a little...ehh... but the core game at release was still a fantastic experience through and through. The multiplayer was also surprisingly well made, and something I ended up playing for a surprisingly long time.

Borderlands 2

If you've read my previous posts, you'll already know how I feel about Borderlands 2. I could never get into the first game, but something about it's sequel just clicked with me. The gunplay is tight, the storytelling got to where it needed to be and the silly (and polarising) humour was a breath of fresh air for me amidst all the super-serious games that clog up the marketplace. I don't see myself going back to the game very much in the future, but the 80 or so hours I spent on Pandora was some of the most enjoyable time I've spent this year.

Spec Ops: The Line

I don't think anyone expected Spec Ops to be the game it turned out to be. A generic modern-military, third-person shooter, with generic boxart and even a generic name. However, when it turned out to pretty much be the video game equivalent of Apocalypse Now, people were suddenly paying a lot more attention. Never has a game made you question why you're shooting all these dudes, and make you feel terrible about it, quite like Specs Ops does. With some of the most masterfully crafted character progression I've ever experienced in a video game, Spec Ops: The Line is a game that everybody should experience. You might wanna play it on easy, though.

Primordia

A classic point-and-click adventure by Wormwood Studios, published by Wadjet Eye Games, a small indie publisher known for... classic point-and-click adventures. Adventure games have has somewhat of a resurgence in recent years, in large part thanks to Wadjet Eye, and Primordia is one of their best offerings. Following the story of Horatio Nullbuild, version5, on his quest to get back his ship's stolen power core, which, this being a video game, obviously turns into something much, much larger. The game has a great plot, with multiple endings, some fantastic, fully-voiced dialogue, and puzzles that are actually completely logical, yet still challenging enough to make you feel smart when you get that one step closer to what you need to be doing. Oh, and it stars Logan Cunningham, best known as the narrator in Bastion.

Hotline Miami

I don't know what I can say about Hotline Miami that countless others haven't already said, and said better than I can. The game oozes style. The gameplay is tight, quick, challenging and satisfying. Oh, and it has quite possibly the best soundtrack of any game this year.

Call of Duty: Black Ops II

It's still early yet, but Black Ops II is probably my favourite Call of Duty since MW2. The gunplay is as tight as always, the pick 10 system is a nice, fresh take on the create a class system that allows for some more esoteric loadouts than past games have allowed. Whether or not I still enjoy the game in six months from now remains to be seen, but for now, the game is good, in my book.

Halo 4

I was originally planning on writing a full review of Halo 4 on here, but never got around to it. The game is great. Great. While the campaign does have it's fair share of flaws (mostly down to a distinct lack of in-game contextualisation of key plot points), it's easily one of my favourite Halo campaigns. As someone who values story and character in my games, it's nice to see Master Chief as an actual person now, rather than a blank slate for the player to project onto. On the multiplayer side, the game is still Halo, but with a few things borrowed from some other games you might know. Customisable loadouts, killcams, etc are there, and they work surprisingly well with the Halo formula. Again, there are flaws, but overall, Halo 4 is a fantastic offering from 343 Industries.

Fez

From the outside looking in, Fez looks like a rather typical, cutesy, indie puzzle-platformer. But there's a point that you reach when playing Fez. A point when you realise that Fez is so, SO much deeper than you ever could have imagined. When you realise than all this extraneous stuff in the background, the stuff you only thought was there to give the world a sense of character and style, was there for a reason. You have that realisation, and the rabbit hole is blown wide open. Playing this game at release and witnessing what could almost only be described as a Zeitgeist, watching the entire Internet scramble together to solve the mysteries locked so tight into this otherwise innocent looking game, was nothing short of incredible. Also, that soundtrack. Good God, that soundtrack.

Sleeping Dogs

Once known as True Crime: Hong Kong, before being picked up by Square Enix, Sleeping Dogs is a truly fantastic open-world crime game. The game has tight storytelling, a well acted set of characters, and hands-down the best meleé combat ever seen in this type of game. It's not a particularly innovative game, but everything it does, it does well. It's also an absolutely fantastic looking game, especially so if you play on PC.

The Walking Dead

I'm a little hesitant to put The Walking Dead on here, since I've only played the first three episodes, so I'm not sure how the story pans out. But even without playing the last two entries, it's abundantly clear that The Walking Dead is not only one of the best examples of storytelling in games this year, but one of the best examples of storytelling in games ever. The characters are completely relatable, and because of that, you get attached to them like no other. You care about them, and you regret every bad decision you make. I don't feel the need to sign its praises, as everyone and their dog who's into games has already done so, but this masterpiece by Telltale has to be experienced.

Honourable Mentions

Theatrhythm: Final Fantasy, Assassin's Creed III, Resonance, Dust: An Elysian Tail, Far Cry 3, FTL: Faster Than Light, Trials Evolution, Frog Fractions, Diablo III, Need For Speed: Most Wanted, Persona 4: Golden.

Okay, this post is probably gonna be a little bit shorter than previous posts, but I really wanted to get another one out there before the month was out. If I wasn't lazy, or if I was a little more pragmatic, this wouldn't be an issue, but what can you do?

So. Medal of Honor: Warfighter. Perhaps the most generic name you could possibly give to what, from the campaign side, appears to be the most generic, by-the-numbers shooter to come out recently. Unless of course the official Medal of Honor Twitter account is to be believed, as their retweets will tell you that this is the best game ever made, ever. Personally, I haven't touched the campaign, partially because I've not played through the previous game (which, is actually pretty decent, I've heard), but mostly because I have the game on PC and I'd rather not force myself through a generic linear shooter if I don't even get some good Gamerscore out of it. So I've only played multiplayer, and that's all I'm going to talk about.

It's alright. It's not great, but it's not offensively bad either. It's competent. It takes the tropes you'd expect from these types of shooters, but doesn't do anything new with them. It's so tragically obvious that this game is just here as filler because EA didn't have a Battlefield game to put out this year.

The multiplayer is set up similar to Battlefield, in that you have a number of different classes (or "Operators") to choose from when going into battle. However, where in Battlefield those classes have distinctive roles and playstyles, the only fundamental difference between them in this game is the type of gun you use. If you want to use an assault rifle, you pick the Assaulter, if you want to use an SMG, you pick the Spec Ops class, a sniper rifle, the Sniper, and so on. Each class is also locked to certain types of grenades and their killstreaks, but other than the Spec Ops' Signal Scan ability, which lets you very briefly see where enemies are through the map, none of the differences really make each class feel particularly different from the last. I would much rather they just remove this unnecessary extra step and just let me pick a gun and go. I just wanna shoot dudes.

Objective: Shoot that guy.

And shoot dudes is mostly what you do. There are a couple of objective games, like your capture-and-hold equivalent,  a mode similar to Battlefield's Rush, and so on. But that maps aren't particularly great and in some cases feel like they weren't even designed with objective games modes in mind, so I mostly just stick to team deathmatch.

There are a baffling number of customisation options for your gun, which is cool, I guess. As I mentioned, each Operator can only use one type of gun, and you unlock more guns for that class by unlocking other nationalities for that class. Yeah. Why you don't just unlock the gun is beyond me. You can customise each aspect of your gun, from the sight, barrel, stock, right down the the paint job, all done in a section rather perversely named "My Gun". Problem is, all the guns just feel sort of the same. Hell, two of the completely separate choices of gun for the Spec Ops class are just two MP7s. The same fucking gun. The only difference is that one has a weird circular sight on it, and the other has a more normal looking red dot sight. All these guns, with all these different options, all these Operators with all these nationalities, yet it all just blurs together into one big, generic mesh.

And that's pretty much all there is to it. It's just a completely by-the-numbers game, with zero personality and nothing to call its own. Here to fill two weeks before Halo 4 and Black Ops II drop. Two games which actually look pretty fucking good and that I'm really looking forward to. So expect some more positive posts about those games sometime in the future. Maybe.