Battlefield, dull? You’re just not playing the right bits…

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I haven’t been one of the lucky few who have got their hands on an almost complete version of Battlefield 3 but have read a number of posts from those who have over the weekend. So how’s it looking as a usurper to the Call of Duty thrown? Well opinions will always be divided on which is the better game but B3 to me has lost foothold in their climb to the top by having what a lot of people are calling a dull single player campaign.

But how can this be when the multiplayer looks and plays so very promising? As did the gameplay videos EA have touted in various trade shows and conferences this year. Kotaku asked executive producer Patrick Bach the same thing and was told

“To be honest, a big part of what single-player in Battlefield is is a tutorial for multiplayer, quickly adding “It’s not a training mission, it’s not a shooting range—it’s an emotional roller-coaster at the same time as it shows you all the bits and pieces of the game. It’s a great introduction for the multiplayer. Because when you go into multiplayer for the first time, it’s very dry, it’s very ‘Here I am, with my gun, what do I do?’ While single-player brings you more on a journey.”

The Call of Duty franchise is equally guilty of this and despite the added narrative and Easter eggs in Black Ops, it felt the most like a free-flowing shooting gallery. However, according to the previews, so does Battlefield 3 only it sounds as if there’s even less personality to it. But does that even matter? The vast majority of gamers who will buy either of thins year’s big military shooters won’t touch the single player component and dive head first into multiplayer. They don’t need or want a tutorial for online play and will most probably find both games to be the most fun they’ve had since the previous title so a weak campaign isn’t really a big deal. Plus Battlefield has always been a multiplayer-focused game and it was the Bad Company series that introduced a grand storyline to follow. Personally I fall into the minority with shooters as I tend not to play a lot online preferring to fight on my own. So a good campaign is more important to me and it sounds as if, once again, I’m going to be a little disappointed.

That’s fine, these games aren’t made for me, they’re made for the millions of competitive multiplayer fans charging across Xbox Live, PSN and PCs every day. I had hoped that the direction which EA appeared to be taking the series in was to be an all-encompassing FPS, combining a Bad Company campaign with traditional Battlefield online battles but the latest buzz from The Guardian paper is that Bad Company may make a comeback after all. I also hoped that all the trash talking from Jeff Brown towards Activision would actually mean something and EA would release a game superior to Modern Warfare 3 in every way. I get the impression that in reality we’ll be getting something that fall short in all the same ways Call of Duty does.

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The force is weak with this one

UPDATE: Because of all the noise Kotaku made when reporting the pulling of Star Wars Arcade: Falcon Gunner, LucasArts has allowed the game to stay on the App Store. For now. There may not be any kind of timescale for when the game has to come off but you can be sure that one day it will so if you’re at al interested, you may want to pick it up sooner rather than later. The cynic in me is saying the move is nothing more than a publicity stunt aimed at obtaining those last few purchases while the situation is still fresh in our minds. The rest of me thinks it’s LucasArts doing something cool for someone else.

In November last year, I reported about an iPhone game that uses the Star Wars license in a new and interesting way by incorporating an Augmented Reality feature. Star Wars Arcade: Falcon Gunner put you in the seat of the Millennium Falcon’s gun turrets, filling the screen with TIE fighters as you twist and turn to shoot them all down. I bought it, I played it. It’s cool though my compass kept crapping out on me obscuring the view for some reason but still, SWA:FG is a fun and innovative little shooter. Or it least it will be remembered that way because come March 31st, the game will be yanked from the App Store, possibly for good (via Kotaku).

The reason isn’t sinister or anything to do with Apple themselves but an unfortunate loss of licensing. THQ Wireless who had held the right to distribute Vertigore’s Falcon Gunner which uses the intellectual property of LucasArts. But THQ have lost those rights meaning the distribution of games using it has to stop. In the world where that distribution is digital, Falcon Gunner will simply disappear. If you already own it like I do, fear not, nothing is going to happen to your copy or at least that’s the general consensus, it just won’t be able to be downloaded ever again.

Why this particularly sucks is how it highlights one of the problems to a future where games are sold only via digital distribution like some industry insiders believe will happen. With a physical disc, you’re more likely to find a copy kicking around in various locations if production halts or you could even borrow it from a mate. It’s a lot harder if not impossible to do the same when the process is purely digital.

Lima Sky doodles on Kinect

Normally, publishers instruct development teams to awkwardly port console games to mobile devices but Lima Sky have turned that idea on its head with their announcement that Doodle Jump is to soon become an XBLA Kinect game. On the second birthday of the often-copied seldom-bettered platformer, over 10 million downloads has made Doodle Jump a very hot property with more improvements coming to the iPhone versions soon like a multiplayer mode. How it’ll work exactly is still under wraps but the hope is that two players will be able to go head-to-head on one playing field, potentially knocking one another out of the picture. A numbered life system would probably have to be implemented too because imagine the rage if your pal kicks you out in the first few seconds?

Lima Sky are also at work on an iPad version for those who prefer a more two-handed approach to their doodle jumping. Video games are just the start too with toys and comics coming later this year. Lord knows what the comic will be about but I quite fancy getting my hands on a cuddly Doodle the Doodler, the game’s aptly named protagonist. But it’s the Kinect port that is the most interesting for me, a new owner of Microsoft’s motion device. Will it be controlled via hand movements or a shifting of the whole body? The former wouldn’t be as much fun as the latter so that’s my guess. Another point of interest will be the price. Currently, Doodle Jump is only 59p on both Apple and Android marketplaces but the cost will no doubt rise when it comes to XBLA. Just how much is dependant on the time and effort put into porting the game but you can bet there’ll be a few disgruntled gamers if it goes too far beyond the 400 MS Point mark.

It’s funny how a medium which has been said to be in decline, or dying if you will, is the next port of call for the games which are said to be killing it. Perhaps the popularity of mobile gaming is just part of the continuous broadening of the market rather than anything to do with one platform replacing another. Either way, Doodle Jump headed for XBLA Kinect could be something that all types of player will appreciate.

Help Japan with Street Fighter IV

To help victims of the tragedies befalling Japan at the moment, Capcom have promised (via Andriasang) to donate 100 million yen to relief funds out of their own pocket. How generous eh? Now we can do our bit too but picking up Street Fighter IV for the iPhone which, for one week, has been discounted to only 59p from its usual three quid mark. Every penny of that will go towards the relief fund and as well as being a jolly good samaritan, you’ll be getting one hell of a game too. I gave it full marks in my review for the fantastic gameplay, interesting art style and the inclusion of a satisfying virtual d-pad and buttons – something of a rarity in touchscreen titles.

So don’t hold back, buy Street Fight IV and help those in need. If you have it already, gift it to a mate, it’s only 59p!

Review: Full House Poker (XBLA)

In the interest of full disclosure, when I first started playing Full House Poker on XBLA, I had no idea how to actually play the often replicated card game. It was something I had always wanted to do but simply never got round to it. So when the code arrived I was a tad apprehensive as to how exactly I would review the game. Luckily my best friend loves Poker so together we took on the best of what this downloadable game had to throw at us and along the way, I got to learn the art of gambling with a pack of virtual playing cards. And now, I’m hooked. Read on to see my full review.

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Impressions: A World of Keflings

Since I’m currently battling the flu, my gaming time has been significantly hampered due to copious amounts of coughing and general grogginess. So rather than a review, I thought I’d share my impressions of a rather delightful XBLA game whose ease of use and charming gameplay provided some therapy. A World of Keflings is the sequel to NinjaBee’s 2008 A Kingdom for Keflings though the fundamentals haven’t changed all that much, which is a very good thing indeed.

Your Avatar is plays the role of the usual disembodied hand found other god/city-building games and stands tall against the mini people known as Keflings in a world consisting of three different environments. You job is to help these small folk build a kingdom to be proud of with a castle finishing off its glory. To do this, you physically pick up the Keflings and place them on objects or materials in order to train them for specific tasks. For example, plop a Kefling onto a wooded area and the become lumberjacks, chopping down trees and transporting them to a main workshop where you can then use the wood to make additional objects. These objects can be pieced together using blueprints and eventually become houses or other such needed buildings. And that’s basically it. Simple, addictive and a far cry from the scrupulous micromanagement of a more hardcore city building game. Which is what really shines about A World of Keflings. You get sucked into the thinking of ‘just one more’ when building your towns and play times can last longer than originally intended. Before I knew it, I’d helped my Keflings turn a barren land with one or two settlements into a bustling hub of activity.

The differences from the first game, as I mentioned earlier are minor but duly welcomed. For a start you get helper Keflings that collect items you’ve constructed in the workshops and bring them to you. They can even finish off buildings for you as long as all the elements are sitting in the construction queue in the workshop. Such help speeds up the blossoming of a mini empire considerably as does the ability to now move buildings after they’ve been made, rather than having to destroy them and rebuild in a different location. You don’t need to play the first game in order to enjoy the second because of its intuitive gameplay. Walking a Kefling over the where you want it to be and work may add a few more steps in what could have been a point and click command but the charm it possess would have been lost. Just as it would if a crippling conflict or destructive natural disaster were to befall the kingdom. In this game, peace takes centre stage. No one dies, your buildings aren’t at risk from calamity and everyone seems happy. The only dealings I’ve had so far with a pest was to shoo away a dragon who merely sat on top of a building. And that was done by a simple press of the d-pad.

So from what I’ve played, A World of Keflings is a game aimed at family entertainment. It’s very easy to pick up and doesn’t pester you with countless tasks or indeed the necessity to worry about waring neighbours or conflict. And because of all that, I’m really enjoying it. I can build and explore without the need to invade or protect. Harmonious yes but not for everyone’s taste. If you prefer the call to arms then this may not be for you but I’d still recommend at least trying it, you may be pleasantly surprised and find A World of Keflings the ying to your otherwise military-focused yang. I’m definitely sticking with it, not just because it’s a soothing and relaxing game but because I feel duty bound to serve my king and build him the best castle he’s ever seen!

Mortal webisodes

Before the rebooted Mortal Kombat was announced in June last year, a video surfaced that caused all manner of jubilations among the gaming community. The video was called Mortal Kombat Rebirth and stared Jax, played by Michael Jai White, interviewing a chap named Scorpion with the help of his partner, Sonja Blade aka Jeri Ryan. So the conclusion was jumped to that it was some form of viral, slipped out before either a new game or film announcement but in actual fact, it was no more than a concept video by director Kevin Tancharoen. He wanted to make a modernised MK movie with the dirty semi-realism found in its games so put together a promo for Warner Bros. to mull over since they hold the rights to the franchise.

Now a new game is on the way and scheduled to hit store in April, it appears Warner have taken Tancharoen up on his offer and a 10-part webisode series is in the works, focusing on Jax as he goes about his crime fighting duties. According to early reports (via Bloody Disgusting), Liu Kang, Scorpion, Sub Zero, Shang Tsung, Shao Kahn, Durak, Kabal, Kitana and Mileena will be joining Jax in some way or another but oddly no Sonja Blade. Odder still is the concentration in Jax who may come off pretty cool in Tancharoen’s vid, but I wouldn’t consider him a hugely popular character. Maybe that’s exactly what’s needed for a storyline to be more than a series of fanciful vagabonds. Both Scorpion and Sub Zero are somewhat poster boys for the franchise but they’ve hogged the spotlight for long enough that their respective stories are well known to some degree. And cop dramas are wildly popular so adding some supernatural qualities with a supporting cast like this one would potentially gain more interest from those unfamiliar with the game.

There’s no date as to when the webisodes are coming but filming begins next month in Vancouver and it would make sense for them to coincide with Mortal Kombat‘s April release or at least very close to that. Here’s hoping!