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.

Apple, in ten years time, all this will be yours…

Phil Harrison helped the launch of the original PlayStation all those years ago and was on board right up until the early days of the PS3 where he once famously said rumble for controllers was ‘so last-gen’. But poor Harrison was merely playing the PR game and only said that because Sony was in the middle of a legal battle and not his true feelings. Now he’s no longer at Sony but an advisory for a cloud-based delivery network, Harrison’s thoughts aren’t murky with legalities but clear and most recently, rather divisive.

In an interview by Edge magazine a couple of weeks ago Harrison spoke about future of gaming and how, in ten years time, Apple will eventually become the games industry. Why? Because of the “proliferation of devices,” he said. “You’ve got iPhones, iPads, iPods, which are all part of the same ecosystem; the speed at which Apple sold 15 million iPads is phenomenal. And the number one activity on an iPad, according to some reports, is games, and I think that will only continue.” He went on to praise the App Store for how well it’s integrated and how easy it is to buy things. One click and you have content straight to the device. Harrison called it elegant and continuously refined but as an owner of Apple products, I’m not sure elegancy is a word I’d use.

But it’s the talk of Apple becoming the industry because of the size of its market which is really interesting. With that logic surely the Wii is currently the console industry, Primark is the epitome of fashion and Call of Duty: Black Ops is the best game ever made. Sheer volume doesn’t directly equate to an absolution of an industry. Yes, it means those markets are currently healthy but I would propose the notion that it shows Apple are capable of making a powerful entertainment device which gaming is a by-product. Apple’s approach to gaming, best seen in their press conferences, isn’t one that fills me with confidence of an overall take over of the video games industry. They talk about it but with the mediocre response to Game Centre, the praise and boasting, what little there is, centres around the tech driving it not the experience itself.

Other companies have done well to capitalise on the success of iPhones and iPads  but there is still a huge separation between the majority of games you find on those systems and the ones seen on traditional consoles. Often they try and emulate each other with varying results. One major issue, which is pointed out time and time again, is the lack of a physical controller, mainly the analog stick. Look how important it was for Sony to include a second stick on the PSVita and how awkward it can be for virtual versions to run on touchscreens. To become not just a leader but an industry itself, you’d have to better what came before and that goes for all aspects, not just sell lots of your device.

Mobile developers and publishers can be handsomely rewarded for their games but the 59p model does come with a few restrictions. Lets say the average gamer buys three titles a year and spends £120 doing so. Compare this to a purely mobile gamer who buys 59p games. They have to buy 203 of them in order to match the average gamer’s spend. And while there maybe well over 203 budget titles hitting the App store each month, that shows another problem with this market, it’s almost too big for its own good. Perusing a bloated store with games of drastically varying quality can only take up so much of anyone’s time before it becomes laborious. There would have to be some major changes in how the App Store works over the next ten years for it to be the ultimate place to shop. In that time who knows, Sony and Nintendo could perfect their digital distribution methods. We’ve already seen a huge improvement from Nintendo with the eShop on 3DS.

There’s no denying the popularity of Apple products. Selling 15 million iPads in nine months is superb but Microsoft are shifting a ridiculous number of Kinects with around 10 million of them already in homes worldwide. Is that too a contender for games industry? There’s no doubt Apple have been eating away at the traditional gaming space and the 59p experience has changed the habits of spending but I don’t know if ten years is enough for it to go from where it is now to ruling the entire industry, supporting the kinds of games found on todays consoles and PCs. I do like Phil Harrison, I think he’s a great personality and was a valuable asset to Sony but have to agree to disagree with him on this one.

Sony looks to the future

November’s sales figure for the US were released last night and the Xbox 360 came out on top for the sixth consecutive month, besting the Wii and PS3. Whereas Nintendo’s platform was only around 100,000 units out, the PS3 was less than half selling a comfortable but still concerning 530,000 systems despite being America’s busiest retail period. Responding to the numbers, Sony reminded us how their hardware sales were up 112% month-over-month and that three PS3 games were sitting happily in the top 10 all-software charts for November; Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood, Call of Duty: Black Ops and Gran Turismo 5. Two of those are multiplatform titles so the fact that the PS3 versions are in the top 10 is even better for Sony. It shows their system is just as competitive with third party titles as it is with first party.

But the company chose not to directly comment on their less than impressive numbers and instead credited Move as a “blockbuster success” which “undoubtedly helped to pave the way for [Sony] as [they] head into 2011.” Patrick Seybold, senior director of corporate communications at SCEA, then went on to name four huge PS3 only franchises (via Industry Gamers) that are heading our way next year and their ability to “solidify our place in the living room.” By ‘our’ he means Sony but since the franchises are of particularly high quality, many gamers will be reluctant to leave their living rooms. The newly announced Uncharted 3: Drake’s Deception, LittleBigPlanet 2, Twisted Metal and Killzone 3 are all scheduled for a 2011 release and as of now, Sony are looking to have the more robust exclusive titles for the year ahead of us.

That’s not to say Microsoft don’t have a few secrets up their sleeves. This weekend’s Spike VGAs will surely out a couple of zingers like the much-rumoured Mass Effect project from BioWare. Given the history of the series, MS could bag themselves an exclusivity deal on that. Forza 4 has been promised for 2011 as is the Star Wars Kinect game. And Gears of War 3 was famously moved back until Autumn next year in order to fill a gaming hole for MS in that particularly affluent period. In that respect, both HD platforms are still very close in the ‘battle of the consoles’ and their efforts in winning are only help entertain us with games. Carry on lads!

How do you kill a giant? Be better than it.

John Riccitiello has a dream. Not one as lofty or famous as the dreams of other leaders but one that’s just as difficult to achieve. He, the boss of EA, believes that Activision’s Call of Duty franchise can be toppled from being the public’s number one FPS. His plan (via Kotaku) is simple: “Make a better game. And make a better game again.” Last year, Modern Warfare 2 broke all kinds of entertainment records and this year, Black Ops strode past those numbers with ease. Before any review was even read, Activision already had gamers queuing at midnight. So their brand is a seemingly infallible one but rather than battle it head on, Riccitiello would prefer his game – whatever it will be – to receive a higher Metacritic score. “If I had to pick the story I’d like to play out next year is we ship a 90[%] and they ship an 85[%].” He clearly considers the internet’s review hub as an acute indicator of a game’s quality. Riccitiello added: “What I’ve witnessed a couple of times in the games industry is the way you unseat a market leader is you make a better game a couple of times in a row. “ EA have indeed tried their best to do just that with Battlefield Bad Company 2 and Medal of Honor. The problem they had was how both games borrowed a couple of elements from Call of Duty (more so with Medal of Honor) and when your main focus is on toppling the competition, you don’t tend to have a 90% quality game.

Choosing to ignore Medal of Honor‘s combined score, Riccitiello cites Black Ops and Battlefield Bad Company 2‘s Metacritic average as a noteworthy comparison. He said he thought it was “interesting” that they both received 88%. But when BBC2 was reviewed by 75 critics and Blops had 84, the results aren’t exactly scientific. Still, Riccitiello thinks that DICE who developed the Battlefield games (and MoH‘s multiplayer) are the studio who can put an end to Activision’s rule: “We knew we were building on [the] Unreal [graphics technology] for Medal of Honor which wasn’t our foot-forward tact. We knew that going in. Our next game [Battlefield 3] is being built on the second generation of Frostbite which I think is at least in my opinion is a class act for FPS. I think we’re going to lift the game pretty dramatically in the first-person shooter category.” I hope so and was talking to a friend about this today, how FPSs are in need of something new.

EA performed pretty well this year with their shooters but as is the way with company bosses, Riccitiello wants more out of 2011 and again states DICE with the next Battlefield to be the ones that can deliver just that: “I have great expectations to do a lot better in 2011 than in 2010 on the strength of a couple of products like Bulletstorm and Crysis [2], but most importantly for us, Battlefield 3, which I feel incredibly good about.” He added : “Over time we can take the lead.” However, it’ll take both changes from Activision and EA to elicit a shift in dominance. The next Call of Duty game will have to be a sub-standard version of its former self and Battlefield 3 needs to best it in every way. That should sow the seeds of doubt in consumers’ minds and they may just start to believe their friend who always says how superior Battlefield is to CoD.  And of course EA are publishing the next game from Jason West and Vince Zampella, former key members of the Call of Duty series. All eyes will eagerly be on them to see if they can produce a golden egg for EA as they previously did for Activision.

LittleBigPlanet 2-D

Sony’s efforts in pushing 3D TVs onto consumers has been vigorous to say the least and with the Move peripheral, was pretty much the focus of their E3 press conference this year. But today, the company revealed that LittleBigPlanet 2, part of Sony’s core franchises will not be supporting it. Nope, the game will only be playable in two humble dimensions. Now this is very interesting and the exact wording from Mark Valledor was “no 3D this time around” as he responded to a question on the US PlayStation Blog (it’s in the comments). No further comment was made regarding why such an important IP wasn’t utilising Sony’s latest hardware gamble but developers Media Molecule may just not want to sacrifice processing power in order to appease early adopters or indeed Sony themselves. As seen in Call of Duty: Black Ops, running games in 3D significantly reduces performance lowering the 60 frames per second of Blops to something resembling 20. Graphics are also adversely effected with a cap of 720p and not a progressive scan more. So from a playability standpoint and since graphics are a pretty big deal for consumers, the decision not to go all 3D on us is seemingly a wise one. But from a marketing perspective and to maintaining confidence in a yet unproven technology, I’m surprised Sony didn’t insist on the inclusion of 3D. Hey, that’s an internal debate that I’m sure was as heated as it was long!

Ubisoft’s best selling franchise could become a yearly outing

Ubisoft must be feeling pretty chuffed right about now because their latest triple A game, Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood, became the publisher’s best selling franchise ever shifting over 1’m units in less than a week. And that’s just in Europe too. So far, the franchise is boasting around 20m in sales and won’t be slowing down anytime soon with yet another game set for 2011. EMEA chief of marketing and sales at Ubisoft, Geoffroy Sardin, spoke to MCV regarding Ubisoft ceo, Yves Guillemot’s cryptic comments of something around Assassin’s Creed will be coming next year saying, “Yes, Yves mentioned it last week in our financials – and more details will be forthcoming. But what I can say is that next year we will have another big Assassin’s Creed game.”

Assassin’s Creed III then? Perhaps though personally I think they’re in danger of subjecting gamers to a case of series fatigue by making Assassin’s Creed a yearly franchise. Some series do seem to be immune at the moment like Call of Duty but even Black Ops releasing a week before Brotherhood didn’t negatively effect its sales. So is Ubisoft’s sneak-em-up ready for a yearly release schedule? Many reviews critiqued the slightly convoluted story and repetitive combat and mission structure – which is becoming synonymous of the franchise – yet the game still was rewarded with an average of 9/10. Clearly reviewers and gamers are happy with the status quo but for how long, especially if we see it ever year? Lets not get too bogged down in that however and enjoy Brotherhood for all its joyful moments, which I’m told are quite a few.

Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood deals aplenty

If you fancy running over rooftops and leaping onto unsuspecting foes beneath with Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood then you may want to shop around because a few high-street retailers are offering some alluring money-saving deals. The game is getting incredibly good reviews with some considering it game of the year quality so any money off seems good to me! Here’s a list of the best deals:

ASDA
£4.99 when you trade in a selected game

Blockbuster
99p plus a free £10 gift voucher when trading in two selected games

HMV
£2.99 if you trade in Call of Duty: Black Ops. But whose going to really do that?

Sainsbury’s
£29.99 standard price. Possibly the best one of the bunch.

 

{Thanks Gamerzines}