A date to book into your diaries if you are a gamer; next week!
Are you as excited as I am about some of the latest games to be announced this month at E3? Just a Consumer Electronics Show surprised us with a load of cool gadgets and even higher definition televisions, Electronic Entertainment Expo is set to show off a horde of new games, including two of my favourite game series Metal Gear Solid 5 and the new Super Smash Bros game. On top of that, we will see the first photos of the new PS4 console that Sony have kept quiet for a while.
On the subject, Super Smash Bros is a game that has been grabbing my attention since the release of Brawl because although the previous iteration was a good game, I still feel that there was room for improvement, so from that day onwards I have constantly speculated as to what characters may appear in the next game.
There are plenty of other games to be announced though, so do not worry if you are not a fan of either of my two most anticipated games.
Today Microsoft released the long anticipated information related to the Xbox 720. It started off with the announcement that the new generation would be revolutionary. Until now, everyone referred to the next generation of Xbox console and their 8th generation games console as the 720, but it's proper market name was released to us today, with the name Xbox One. The name is good, modern and it's not surprising they have gone for a simple name like One.
The console looked like a giant Kinect bar at first, but after closer observation, I noticed that what I was looking at was actually the new Kinect bar and the console together.
Now for the more interesting bit, the specifications. The One runs on an 8 core CPU (by AMD, so it is x86-64), has 8GB of RAM, 500GB hard drive and features a Blu-Ray disk drive as well as USB 3.0. In terms of whether or not it is a PC or not is now getting difficult to distinguish. One thing that it now adds is an HDMI in connection which can be used to connect a set top box or cable box as a passthrough to the TV. This allows you to say to the Xbox One that you want to watch television and it will display the input from the HDMI in connection.
Xbox Live is compatible with old gamer tags, but the console itself (probably due to the fact that it is an x86-64 architecture) cannot play any Xbox 360 games or original Xbox games. The console runs on three operating systems including an Xbox kernel and a Windows kernel. Whether or not this is nice or not I've yet to decide (I'm not too fond of the whole Windows 8 interface). It also has a third operating system which is designed to link both of the operating systems together.
The controller is very similar to the Xbox 360 controller but now have a nicer design and by the looks of things, better analogue sticks.
The console also has backing from our good friends at EA (who made the absolutely gobsmackingly bad Command and Conquer 4 and destroyed a great series of games and who won the award of Worst Company in America) with new sports games and much more coming to it.
Overall, I was impressed with the design of the console, the specification (it is good that along with Sony they have gone for the x86 architecture like the PC, finally) and I liked the general presentation. However, I overall dislike the Xbox One for some very important reasons. Firstly, the console is another console which is bringing the end to console gaming. It focuses so much on Kinect now which makes it harder to see how the gaming market can ever go back to the classic ways of the Nintendo 64 or PS2. Interaction with the user is the core of the experience, not just immersion in the classics like Halo or Bond games. I also dislike the whole concept of using your voice all the time, or using Smart Glass which to me is a pointless idea.
I will not be buying an Xbox One, because I was not much of Xbox 360 fan; most of games sat on a shelf (bar Halo games) and cannot justify spending that much money. I'm more of a fan of my PC and Wii U because I like Nintendo games (I have always been a Nintendo gamer). I also feel that the gap between the PC and the games console has just about been bridged; as both the Xbox One and PS4 consoles are just PCs that simply cannot be upgraded. And finally, I have all these consoles I have accumulated over the years and I do not want any more.
If you ask me, just go and buy a good PC, it will last longer, can be upgraded and will cost less in the long run when you come to replace parts (and will not have issues such as the RRoD).
I thought I'd better clear all of this up. Apparently, 38% of Steam users dislike it. I am also not a huge fan of Steam and here's why:
I have a desktop PC which runs Windows 7, and if you know Windows you will know how you have to reformat your system every 6 months to retain its performance, otherwise, you will end up with loads and loads of things slowing it down (although I have currently had my PC like this for 1 year and 3 months). So what happens with Steam? You cannot just reinstall Steam and point it to the game executable (as of yet anyway). So Steam will never know that they are there without a lot of work.
My other major reason is because I hate third-party companies coming in and running the place. Look at how the App Store and Play Stores run their respective operating systems. Surely we do not want PC gaming to end up that way.
Steam is also full of problems. For a start, it takes up approximately a whole 50MB of RAM, but when I start chatting to others my RAM usage goes from about 50MB up to a whole 1GB. Now considering that is running in the background, that is a whole lot of RAM. That is totally unnecessary. Sure the amount of RAM in your PC is going up year by year but it does not justify wasting RAM. This test was performed on a MacBook Pro with a Core i5 and 4GB of RAM and a custom Core i7 system. The RAM difference between the Mac OS X version of Steam is about 800MB. I'd like it if you could run your games without needing to open the Steam client everytime.
On the plus side for Steam, it does offer excellent pricing, one market place for all PC games and exclusives that are brilliant.
That is why I dislike Steam.
One of my absolute favourite games in my lifetime (possibly second or third) is Age of Empires II. I have always liked strategy games and Age of Empires II is no exception to this. In fact, Age of Empires II was the first game that I had asked for, all the other games (Warcraft Orcs and Humans, Goldeneye and F1 Racing for the Nintendo 64 to name a few) were all bought for me without me having any say at all. I had the original game, The Rise of Rome, on my father's CTX Via Cyrix laptop and I occasionally played it whilst we were going away. I had been playing the trial of the game for a few months with my good friend Nick. We had our first multiplayer LAN game several weeks after owning it and that was the selling point of the game to me.
I got Age of Empires II just before my 9th birthday and it had a big cardboard box. The excitement was running through me and I could't wait to play it. I took it straight to my other really good friend Calum's house.
We played for hours and hours and I fell straight in love with it as I had expected. I went home and continued to play it.
I played it right up until about 2007, and then Windows Vista came out. Windows Vista caused a problem with LAN play as it doesn't support some of the protocols that Age of Empires II required. I tried and tried but I didn't get it to work properly - occasionally kicking me out and stopping me from playing.
I resorted to playing a game which although was beautiful and fun, lacked on the some of the LAN features in the previous. Age of Empires III was one of the best games I had played in a long time; however, it did have one serious drawback. When you create a map or scenario in Age of Empires III there is a huge problem when trying to play it over LAN as you could not choose one of your own maps without having to do many different programming extras. To me this seemed like a lot of work for nothing.
So in 2009 I remember signing some petition to have a remake of Age of Empires II for Windows 7 just as they did for Starcraft (you can download it from Battle.net or purchase the Best Seller version). Well to everyone's surprise they did release it again. On the 9th of April 2013 it is to be released (I already own it because I preordered) to Steam, where everyone can download the game. Right now my father, who has also downloaded it, is blasting the enemy with his Teutonic Cannon Galleons in the background whilst I am typing this and my brother was playing a game with me earlier. They all loved Age of Empires II as much as I did. Nick and Calum have also already purchased it. It seems as popular, if not more popular than it was before.
So now to the beefy bit...What I thought/think of Age of Empires II HD. Firstly, the game is nearly perfect in my personal opinion because it is a pure remake. That's unique in its own respect because there are so many games that are remade but with improved graphics and all the rest and it just doesn't seem to work as well as a pure remake. My original score for the game is 100, but instead of adding points I will deduct for the bad features in this case. Here are the bad points:
- No LAN play - I liked the idea of inviting friends to my house to share my local area network.
- Map size - there is no difference for the map size. The maximum size of a map is still 'Giant' and cannot be any larger than this. This seems a shame considering on a 1080p display like my own it feels like you get about an eighth of the map on the screen at once.
- The trigger editor is still the same and has not had any added triggers to help make the map editing more flexible.
- It has achievements - I dislike achievement based games. They make gaming too competitive and although I used to be a competitive gamer, I gave up on that and play games for leisure (as you'll see from a list of different games where I really play them once in a full moon).
- You cannot change the resolution - absolute nightmare if you do want to have a 1080p monitor but run the game in say 1280 x 720 progressive which I do. To solve this, run Windows in 1280 by 720.
- A few new confusing icons - the top left Food icon is the most prominent example. I get confused with Food and Gold and if it were not for the fact that I know the order of the resources (Wood, Food, Gold and then Stone), I would keep making the mistake that I made initially with thinking that the Food icon was meant to be Gold.
- Still as buggy as with the previous version - one of my favourite bugs is walking down cliffs which previously had trees on them. This can be done in the Map Editor by simply placing trees and then placing cliffs under them. As soon as the tree is chopped down units can walk up and down the cliff as they please. The Map Editor also sometimes hides the cursor and does not reshow it, which is really annoying.
- The biggest disappointment is that you can still only control 40 at once. This looks incredibly odd on the new resolution as on my 1080p display you use the first row and half of the second row and that's all that is used when you could have another 2 or 3 rows worth of units. An odd choice there.
However the new features that have been added to the game do make it worthwhile:
- New water effects (pictured previously) - the water is nicer than it was before, but was it needed?
- Maximum population is now 500 - an increase of 300 villagers or Longbowmen!
- Internet capabilities again - play with a random selected person or with friends
- Much higher resolution - much more on the screen
And some of the most important reasons for me to purchase it are as follows:
- Support for old maps (although they are still maximally limited as before)
- A pure remake is what I wanted, but it may not be what others wanted
As this game is still one of my favourite games of all time remade, I cannot really give it less than 9 out of 10. So if it were out of 100, I would end up giving it about 85/100.