Category Archives: 13336

Elite: Dangerous

When I was a boy, my first introduction to computers was, like many people of my generation in the UK, on the BBC Micro. It was an excellent microcomputer that was perfect for use in schools because it was incredibly robust, very fast to boot and therefore to restart if you needed to, and simple to start programming in BBC BASIC. It was also home to Elite, which was not only one of the first game with 3D graphics, but also one of the first games with a massive open universe that you could explore and experience in a number of different ways.

I loved it and spent many hours trading goods between planetary systems and fighting off space pirates; trying to maximise profits while not doing anything too likely to draw attention from the galactic police.

Initially I could only play on computers at school, and later on a friend’s BBC Master (thanks Peter!), until my family bought its first computer, an Acorn Archimedes A3000. I’d persuaded my parents to buy it after being blown away by Lander, another David Braben product, bundled as a tech-demo on the “Archie”. Lander, was a cut down version of Zarch, with I also loved, but most of my time on that computer was spent with the fantastic faithful conversion of the original Elite game, with the graphics enhanced by solid 3D models and colour. I was more than happy to race to fit Beam Lasers to all sides of my Cobra Mk III all over again.

Many years later I spent time researching more modern ports of Elite and I even played a bit on emulators and enjoyed Elite: The New Kind for a while, although at the time I was quite into mobile gaming and really wanted to play on my commute on my phone.

Now David Braben and his company Frontier Developments are working on a new sequel, Elite: Dangerous. E:D has its roots firmly in the original game, but adds exciting new elements and online multiplayer. It also looks gorgeous on the renders and prototype videos they’ve released.

The development of Elite: Dangerous is being funded on Kickstarter and is the first project that I’ve ever wanted to, even been thrilled to, support. This is a great way to get involved with the development of the game, receiving regular updates about the progress, take part in testing or even influencing the direction depending on how much you’d like to invest. On a very basic economic level, you can fund the development via Kickstarter and very likely get a copy of the finished game at less than the eventual RRP.

As I write this, there are 15 days left to reach the funding target on Kickstarter and about 2/3 of the amount has been pledged. I would like to encourage everyone to check out Elite: Dangerous on Kickstarter and support this fantastic game, especially if you ever enjoyed moonlighting as Commander Jameson.

My Post-E3 Game Shopping List

Around this time each year, after I’ve had a bit of a chance to digest the announcements from E3, watch all the trailers and play all the demos, I like to check out the release calendar and work out how much money I need to set aside to satisfy my need to play the latest and greatest video games, even though I haven’t got enough time to do any of them justice.

First up, let me just say that if you’re excited to hear my recommendations for PS3 and Wii games, I’m sorry, but as much as I think Gran Tourismo 5 looks fantastic, I’m not about to buy a PS3 to play it and I’m seriously considering trading in the Wii despite the fact that I’d love to play Epic Mickey. I’m just too heavily invested in the Xbox 360 to worry about the other two platforms at this point, and I like the controller and online service better too.

So, I have two lists. One containing games to buy, and the other containing games to rent. When I say rent, it’s not just a couple of evenings from Blockbuster – I use LOVEFiLM and it’s not uncommon for me to keep hold of a rented game for a few months (it’s still a lot cheaper than buying!). It’s entirely possible that I’ll move things between these lists ahead of their release and I may not buy them as soon as they come out anyway. That said, here are the lists…

To Buy

Crackdown 2

This was originally on my rental list until I downloaded the demo from Xbox Live and it reminded me just how much I enjoyed playing the original Crackdown – then it moved right to the top of my most wanted list (which is nice because it’s also the first release out of all of these titles). The whole crime fighting agent with super powers thing just does it for me, and now they’ve added zombies! I love the challenge of collecting all of the agility orbs and trying to max out all the abilities. It has a good sense of humour too.

One thing that I like about this, which is common in Xbox Live Arcade titles, but I can’t recall seeing it in a full retail game, is that the demo allows you to earn achievements and gamerscore, which will be added to your Xbox Live account when you play the full game later. This video from Sanctuary4gamers shows those demo achievements (you could argue that it contains spoilers and content that is NSFW, so don’t play it if you don’t like those sorts of things, but I think it gives a good impression of the game)…

Test Drive Unlimited 2

I really enjoyed the first Test Drive Unlimited game, which introduced the term Massively Open Online Racing (M.O.O.R.) – a fairly good way to describe the way you could drive round a whole Hawaiian island, and flash your lights at an random online player you came across in order to challenge them to a race. This time they’ve added another island, Ibiza, which looks amazing. I’m hoping to get beta access to this one.

Call of Duty: Black Ops

Call of Duty 2 was the game that originally sold most of my former Playstation 2 owning friends on the Xbox 360 and Xbox Live, and today Modern Warfare 2 is the most played game in the house (not by me – I prefer Battlefield: Bad Company 2 myself, but that’s beside the point). I know this is by Treyarch and not Infinity Ward, but I think they really started to get it right with World at War, so I’m going to go with them on this one. And besides, check this out…

NBA 2K11

I usually pick up both of the big NBA titles, but the 2K Sports version is usually the one that I play the longest. NBA 2K10’s My Player mode was great fun (although my save game file got corrupted and I lost a lot of player development time) and I can’t wait to see how they’ve improved it in the new version. Plus “His Airness” is on the cover (although that’s not to take anything away from Kevin Durrant on the cover of EA’s game – he deserved that after the season he’s just played for the Thunder).

Medal of Honor

While I’ve had fun with the Call of Duty and Battlefield games over recent years, back in the day I played a crap-ton of Medal of Honor: Allied Assault, so I was glad to see EA bring the series back this year and bang up to date with an Afghan setting. Looks ace.

Kinect for Xbox 360

Not a game, but Microsoft’s new motion tracking camera and voice control system is on my list to buy. Depending on the titles that are available when it launches in November I may wait until after Christmas, but I know at least one person in the house who is keen to play Harmonx’s Dance Central, so that may be on this list too. I’ll be keeping an eye on the reviews of Kinect Adventures and Sports and the others.

To Rent

Gears of War 3 – I want to play through the story mode, but I doubt I’ll do much with the multiplayer.

Fallout: New Vegas – Need to see more details on this, but it looks pretty sweet. I’ll try it out with a rental first.

Tiger Woods PGA Tour 11 – Who doesn’t love a nice relaxing game of golf? Annual updates to Tiger don’t really justify a purchase for me since I play it very casually.

Toy Story 3 – I just love me some Toy Story, so I’ll rent this for a play through.

Star Wars: The Force Unleashed II – The first Force Unleashed was a pretty good approximation to what I’d want from a Jedi game. The sequel looks good. Don’t think there’s any multiplayer though and that’s one of my main requirements for a purchase.

Dead Rising 2 – The original was a lot of fun, but in my mind this is competing with Crackdown 2 and Crackdown wins.

Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood – I found the first AC to be far too repetitive, but AC2 was awesome (and so big that I’m still playing it). This may be a long-term rental, or a pre-owned purchase.

Max Payne 3 – I wish I could have the original Max Payne over again with updated graphics. Can’t have that, so this will be played through.

Homefront – Near-future USA has been invaded by North Korea. Fight them off. Sounds like fun. Too much competition in this genre though.

NBA Elite 11 – A reboot for the NBA Live series with a brand new control scheme. Got to give it a shot really, haven’t I?

Next Year

I’m just going to say one thing about 2011 game releases:

Portal 2

First Impressions: Battlefield: Bad Company 2

I mentioned in my post about Battlefield 1943 last year that I have a long and happy association with the Battlefield series, although I managed to miss out on the first Bad Company game because of various other things in my life. That didn’t stop me being very excited to try out the multiplayer demo of Bad Company 2 when it hit Xbox Live a little while ago, and for the duration that it was running it stopped me playing Modern Warfare 2.

My experience with the demo was enough for me to recommend it on this site, but now that the full game is out and I’ve had a chance to play it a bit, I thought it was time that I backed up that recommendation with an early review.

At release, it seems that EA were having some problems with the servers that were supporting multiplayer games on the Xbox 360 (they seem more stable now), so I started out playing the offline campaign. What you get with the single player is basically a very good first person shooter. The story and characters give it a bit more personality than comparable titles. However the thing that really sets it apart from the competition is the destructable environments. Where other games may give you the option to go to the left or right of a structure, BFBC2 lets you blast a hole straight through the middle.

The first time I reached a challenging point in the game (i.e. I died a few times before I progressed), I’d tried to attack the enemy twice be going around the front of a building. After two failures, I tried to go round the back and again failed. On my fourth attempt, I entered the building and climbed up to the attic, intending to snipe at the enemy, except I found that the single window didn’t give me a view in the right direction. Rather than head back downstairs, I just popped a suitable hole in the roof with a grenade and took out the targets with my rifle. It was a satisfying incident.

The multiplayer really is a different game to the single player campaign. That’s not a bad thing – it just means that you’re getting two great games for the price of one. BFBC2 online features the same ranking mechanic as Modern Warfare 2. You unlock new and more powerful weapons and kit as you rank up. It is fair to say that unless you are just good at this kind of game, you can’t just jump in and expect to rank up in your first match. The difficulty curve is quite steep to begin with.

One thing that I would suggest to people who are struggling to rack up any kills to begin with is this: if you spot the enemy and point them out to the rest of your team, you can get points for an assist. On the Xbox 360, this is done by pressing the Back button on your controller when an opposing soldier or vehicle is in your sights. When you’ve done that, a little indicator will appear above them, and they’ll appear on the mini-map for your team mates. An assist isn’t nearly as good as a kill, points-wise, but it does help towards your total, and may help you to feel like you’re helping the team a bit and not being a total noob.

In the multiplayer again, the destructable environment makes a huge difference to the gameplay. You’ll find that multiple playthroughs on the same map can be unique experiences as tanks and explosives flatten buildings and change the available cover. The additional use of vehicles and UAV drones also add spice to the mix, and for me make this game more enjoyable than Modern Warfare 2. There’s nothing quite as impressive as a bunch of people jumping in a helicopter and working together to take on the opposing forces. [A quick note to the people who excitedly jump into a helicopter, lose control of it when transitioning into forward motion and crash into the first building – if you let go of the controls, they auto-hover – try to make use of that knowledge and not waste the aircraft.]

That’s about all I’ve got to say for now. I haven’t had a huge amount of time to play the game just yet, partly because I’m still very much into my Assassin’s Creed 2 addiction (that’s a fantastic game too, by the way – I thought the first one was too repetitive, as much as I wanted to love it, but the sequel is fantastic!), plus I have a lot of other pulls on my time. BFBC2 isn’t totally perfect, but then what is? If you weren’t sure whether you could justify the investment over just carrying on playing Modern Warfare 2, I think I’ve made my position clear. 🙂