PlayStation 4 incoming. Excite!
Fantastic News: Steven Spielberg and Tom Hanks are to collaborate once again to produce a third WWII TV miniseries, following Band of Brothers in 2001 and The Pacific in 2010.
HBO has confirmed that cinema veterans Spielberg and Hanks are joining forces to create their third World War II epic, following Band of Brothers and The Pacific, though this time based on Donald L. Miller’s “Masters of the Air”.
"The untitled miniseries will explore the aerial wars through the eyes of enlisted men of the Eighth Air Force — known as the men of the Mighty Eighth." - The Hollywood Reporter
Hopefully, you’ll recognise that photo above. If you do, you’ll know it’s a shot of the cast of the critically acclaimed Band of Brothers. And you’ll know it was utterly amazing. Please, if you haven’t had the chance to see it: do. It was shown in 2001, so you’ve already had twelve years to catch up with the rest of us.
Once you’ve finished watching all ten one-hour parts, move straight on to The Pacific. A companion piece to Band of Brothers, although set in the (you guessed it) Pacific Theater of Operations as opposed to the European Theater of Operations. It’s very, very good too.
I’m sure I’m speaking for the majority of those that have seen both: this news is very, very exciting.
Source: The Hollywood Reporter
Gas Powered Games, the developer behind popular strategy franchises Supreme Commander and Dungeon Siege, are betting it all on their Kickstarter effort for Wildman: An “Evolutionary” Action RPG.
Really, they are betting it all. Their CEO, Chris Taylor, has openly stated that over 40 people will lose their jobs, and he will likely lose the company he founded back in 1998 should they not get successfully funded in time.
Do the right thing, and support their cause. Even if you aren’t interested by the game, make a pledge - small or large - to help prevent redundancy. These guys are worth it!
Fallout 3: Mothership Zeta DLC review
Here we are at last. The end of the road for Fallout 3. Mothership Zeta is the fifth and final addition to the already enormous game-world that is on offer, and is definitely the most unique. For starters, Zeta is focused on alien abduction, and since the entire content package is set in an extra-terrestrial space ship — you will have seen absolutely none of the scenery beforehand.
In a nutshell, Zeta sounds very simple. Get abducted by aliens. Escape the aliens. And that is pretty much it. Thankfully, Bethesda has included some very interesting scenarios. More on that later. As is the trend with Fallout 3 DLC, once you have downloaded Mothership Zeta, you will gain access to three new main quests. All set on the Mothership, you will be spending 95% of the time inside the ship, with the other 5% being spent performing an inspiring (although lacklustre) space walk on the exterior.
Zeta is fairly linear, with only one path to each objective, but you can backtrack or explore the surrounding areas to a certain degree. While inside the Mothership, it will become apparent very quickly that the décor stays pretty much the same from room to room, with the exception of the occasional alteration between a silvery blue to a brown-y yellow. While the colours might not change much, Bethesda have done a good job designing the interior of the Mothership, it without a doubt has a distinct “out of this world” feel to it.
There are several things that I don’t like about Zeta, and I am going to address those before I come to its good points. First and foremost, I don’t think it would have been possible for Bethesda to create a more disconnected, plot-absent DLC, even if they had tried.
There is virtually no storyline whatsoever, and the few hints of a ‘general scheme of things’ that you come across leave gaping plot-holes everywhere — hardly anything makes sense. I get the feeling that Bethesda opted to finish Fallout 3 with a bang, as opposed to tying up all the loose ends. The next little thing that aggravates me is the, quite frankly pathetic, attempt at space. Don’t let the above screenshot fool you, the world appears well polished, but that’s about it. View the stars through any window and you will immediately notice how it shares a resemblance to a bedroom wall with space wallpaper, they have absolutely no depth to them at all.
When you are informed of the space-walk you are required to do, you will be left feeling disappointed at the end. It couldn’t feel less immersive; it’s like walking across the hall in a space themed science museum. Problem number three, the entire Mothership is terribly confusing. Now, I have a pretty decent sense of direction, but I can genuinely imagine someone being lost for, literally, hours. The entire adventure is through one long maze, which is disorientating at best. However, all is not lost! Do not be completely put off from Mothership Zeta until you have read what is so good about it, which is what I am getting to now. To start, while the view of space may not be the best in the world, it is certainly different. It is different enough from the rest of Fallout 3 to still have that “Wow” factor.
The Mothership is intriguing, and a host of new characters and enemies freshen the experience. There are several new additions to the ordinance family, and while they may not look very attractive they certainly look cool when you see your character fire them in V.A.T.S. There are also a host of collectibles and hidden unique variants to stumble across. The difficulty holds up well, with some enemies being a real irritation and stimpak demolisher - even on normal.
Once you’ve completed all 3 quests, you get to use the Command centre as a house if you wish, and can revisit specific parts of the ship that have not been blocked off. You can always come back via a homing beacon, but there is little incentive as the collectibles are, oddly, inaccessible - so you have to start again if you missed any. Sadly, since the Mothership is so linear and confusing, the likelihood of you desperately wanting to experience it again is fairly low - but I need to stress that it is certainly no less interesting than, say, Operation Anchorage. The only motive that comes to mind for wishing to return to the Mothership is the entirely unique setting and enemies the you encounter, as it does liven the game up no end if you’ve been stuck in the same old shack in Megaton since you reached a high level.
Mothership Zeta is an enjoyable excursion into the untouched realms of outer-space, Fallout 3 style. Even with the lack of a plot, the awful look of the universe, and the confusing layout, it has enough redeeming features to make it worth playing. I can’t personally give a quote on how many levels you can get while playing, as I completed it at level 30 — however I presume that it would be similar to the other 4 DLCs, so I’m guessing about 5-6 levels on normal difficulty. You are now officially spoilt for choice.
Review originally written August 2009
Fallout 3: Point Lookout DLC review
Point Lookout is the fourth expansion pack for the critically acclaimed Fallout 3. It is set on a mysterious island, separated from the Capitol Wasteland, which consists primarily of swamps and marshland, but also contains several populated settlements.
After installing the content, you will receive a radio transmission upon entering the game (as is now the norm), which entices you to visit a recently arrived ship. You will discover a small amount of information concerning Point Lookout, and then you have the opportunity to venture into the new area yourself. You may initiate this content at any time once you have downloaded it, similar to Operation Anchorage and The Pitt. In terms of linearity, Point Lookout is the least offending out of all the expansion packages. Unlike Operation Anchorage, you can perform any quest whenever you like. Unlike the Pitt, there is an actual purpose to explore your surroundings, as there are a total of 5 optional side quests to stumble upon.
Point Lookout has a lot more in common with the original Fallout 3 than any other content pack as a matter of fact, which makes the experience feel all the more connected to the game you are probably pretty familiar with. The main reason for this is the return of landmarks that you can discover - an element which was completely excluded in Operation Anchorage and The Pitt, and only 1 in Broken Steel. These landmarks are scattered around Point Lookout, and you are completely free to locate them from the very beginning of the content. You are also free to leave Point Lookout, and then return as you please.
There are several new enemies, alongside re-skinned versions of certain enemies that you will recognise. The new foes that have been added are certainly different. They are somewhat peculiar, and, quite honestly, they were not was I was expecting at all. To give you a brief introduction; you will meet several humanoid enemies, armed with conventional weapons (including the new ones included in Point Lookout), but it is their appearance that will undoubtedly shock you. They are all noticeably disfigured and have the stereotypical “Say Billy Bob, we gots one o’ dem’ vault boys, yeehaw!” red-neck voice overs.
This certainly came across as odd, yet strangely amusing for such a serious setting. In addition, the roster of mutated enemies that now populate the bestiary are, and this is no exaggeration, simply <em>ghastly</em>. When caught up close in V.A.T.S., they will almost force you to recoil in horror. The re-skinned enemies you will run in to are a rather standard selection of mirelurks and raiders.
There is enough content in Point Lookout to help you gain the usual 5-8 levels if you have just started the game, or can assist you in getting to level 30 if you have Broken Steel and are struggling to find enough to do to gain experience. In addition, there are quite a few new weapons, not just re-skins, and apparel. My favourite of the latter being the Pint Sized Slasher mask, previously only available during the main quest for a limited time. The standard 3 quests are there, but they don’t really have a very interesting back story. Also, they are very easy to complete. I played for about 3.5 hours (including exploration) and finished them, and that was on the Very Hard difficulty. Then again, I was a level 30 character, so the duration may be different for lower levels.
The second quest was very memorable, as it included some very unique special effects, and was on the whole very successfully pulled off. The main flaw with the quest line though was that there is no complex karma choice at the end, nor is there a decent reward. It just seems to end, which is a shame. Point Lookout is the most approachable downloadable content yet, as it is entirely free roam, and with all the locations and side quests to uncover there is no chance of you becoming bored of it quickly. Also, the ability to leave and return whenever you like makes you feel less inclined to do everything in one sitting, so you will find yourself coming back for more.
Quite simply, if you are looking for only one content package for Fallout 3, Point Lookout is going to give you the most bang for your buck. The weapons are good, and the scenery is graphically on par with the Capitol Wasteland. While Broken Steel was good because it removed the ending and raised the level cap, Point Lookout is good because of the actual content it brings. You will want to, and will enjoy playing it.
Review originally written July 2009
Fallout 3: Broken Steel DLC review
Broken Steel is the third downloadable content package made available for Fallout 3; by far the most significant - and mandatory to all Fallout 3 enthusiasts. Broken Steel removes the storyline’s ending (something that has infuriated many players ever since release) which allows you to continue purging the Wasteland of its various monstrosities. And, Bethesda has really put the cherry on your newly iced cake, by raising the level cap to 30 for you. The long and short is that the original storyline has had its ending modified. Once all the game’s content has been finished, you further the war against The Enclave alongside your Brotherhood of Steel counterparts.
Broken Steel is following in the footsteps of Operation Anchorage and The Pitt by giving you the opportunity to complete 3 new quests that have been sloppily and less than subtly merged into the story. That being said, Broken Steel feels a lot more in tune with the original Fallout 3. What I mean by this is that while Operation Anchorage and The Pitt were very loosely connected to your character, Broken Steel flows more fluidly and feels a lot less detached from the world of Fallout 3 you have become accustomed to. This time, instead of a completely isolated, disconnected new area to explore; you are given two completely isolated, disconnected areas. However, they both contain the Capitol Wasteland’s scenery, so in fact you will most likely not notice when you venture in to recently added content.
The quests are quite unique as you get to be slap-bang in the middle of some very large set pieces, which you are usually the cause of. You also get your hands on at certain points the almighty Tesla Cannon, which takes the shape of a space-age Fatman but replaces the All 3 quests are very linear, but immersive nonetheless. Bethesda has introduced a steep learning curve in them however; as they seem to have assumed that when you begin to play Broken Steel you will already have in your possession the most powerful weaponry and armour available in the game.
If, however, you are not a whirlwind of death, expect to find Broken Steel’s new quests a lot more challenging than those found in Operation Anchorage or The Pitt. Also worth noting is that at the very end there is an interesting final choice to make. It’s nowhere near as complex or morally challenging as The Pitt, but a good addition nonetheless. As previously mentioned, the level cap has been raised to 30. Unfortunately, these new levels are accompanied by some very pointlessly game-breaking perks, which just highlight Bethesda’s lack of imagination - or perhaps the developers were beyond caring, and just decided to throw a dart at a wall of post-it notes with perks scribbled on and hope for the best.
Bethesda now seemingly holds the opinion that Fallout 3 players no longer care about the uniqueness of their character that they have spent so many hours adjusting and fine tuning, which is a complete shame. For instance, you are thrown perks that instantly set your Karma to a certain level, raise skills and make finding weapons schematics a pointless exercise. Worst of all is a perk that increases all your S.P.E.C.I.A.L. abilities to no lower than 9 (out of a possible 10). This abomination of a perk completely obliterates Fallout’s original reason to include a level cap in the first place - which was to prevent everyone inevitably turning out to be exactly the same as each other.
On the bright side, the new enemies are a big plus, as they introduce more variety and some will turn out to be tougher than you imagined. Be careful not to underestimate anything or anyone, no matter how much you currently dominate the Capitol Wasteland! Luckily, Broken Steel has quite a bit of replay value. The quests are well planned, and the set pieces are spectacular. You will thoroughly enjoy playing through it again, and since you can then wander around the Wasteland doing what you please afterwards with no restrictions, in a way this content brings replay-ability to Fallout 3 on a grand scale.
To wrap up, Broken Steel is worth every penny. The most valuable additions are clearly the raised level cap and removal of the ending, showing that this content has been primarily designed to dramatically extend Fallout 3’s life expectancy. It’s just a shame that content with such promise (and for the most part, it delivered) felt like it was served alongside a below-the-belt punch thanks to a few very poor design choices.
Review originally written May 2009
Fallout 3: The Pitt DLC review
The Pitt is the second downloadable content package for Fallout 3. Based in Pittsburgh (hence, the Pitt), and is the oh-so-welcoming residence of a faction of industrialised slaver traders. Once downloaded - similar to Operation Anchorage - you will receive a new radio signal which will guide you to the location where you initiate the new quest line. You are quickly introduced to The Pitt, and have to ultimately decide the fate of all the inhabitants, slave and slaver alike.
Thankfully, The Pitt does not follow in the footsteps of Operation Anchorage as it is still firmly rooted in RPG territory that is on par with the rest of Fallout 3. There are numerous decisions that you must make, and the final choice being most notable.
There are no defined ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ acts to perform; the whole morality spectrum has suddenly turned very grey as opposed to a clear black or white. Your conscience is put under attack as you suddenly find yourself thinking “If this were real, what would I do?” - something that seldom occurs in Fallout 3, and most other RPGs for that matter. The Pitt heavily contrasts Operation Anchorage in one main way. While Operation Anchorage was a bright, clear and overall mightily impressive content package from a visual perspective, The Pitt is a dark, polluted and foreboding area to be in. Bethesda has chosen to heavily emphasize its unattractive, bottom-of-the-barrel appearance. That said, it is very atmospheric and very effectively conveys the sense that you are in the middle of an industrial superpower, with the huge clouds of smog appearing from the top of large chimneys. While you are in The Pitt, there is - I suppose - an element of freedom. I say this because although you can technically explore to your heart’s content (within the boundaries of the town) there is no real motive or reward for doing so.
The one exception to this is when you initiate the optional quest to find Steel Ingots in the scrapyard. There are 100 of these to collect, and you get increasingly powerful rewards for finding 10 at a time and handing them in the the relevant NPC. You can go about looking in and around every corner, though if you really can’t be bothered to mope round anally examining every possible place that one may be hiding, the only things that you sacrifice are some (admittedly nice) rewards and an achievement / trophy.
The 3 primary quests that The Pitt puts you through are very well balanced, and consist of an equal mixture of intense gunfights, diplomatic conversations and moral choices. At one point you will feel as though all is lost, and the next you will feel in complete control. It feels structured and cohesive, which is content such as The Pitt should feel like. The final reward for completing The Pitt is the Ammo Press. This allows you to put scrap metal or any form of bullet into the Press, and then choose which type of bullet you want that transformed into. For example, if you have plenty of spare 10mm ammunition, why not put in 200 rounds, and receive some of the rarer .44 ammunition in return? A valuable feature.
Rewards from the Steel Ingot quest aside, the equipment you acquire is spectacular to look at and can prove useful against some foes - especially players who specialise in melee combat, but will prove pretty much useless to all other play styles. The weapon I am talking about is, of course, the Auto Axe. It is an industrialised, automated circular saw that reaches approximately the same distance as a sword or nail-board. However, you do not swing this weapon; this is the beauty of it. You simply get the saw spinning at high speed, and then either run into enemies or let them run into you. This, well, can lead to some very messy encounters.
The Pitt has a fair amount of replay-abilty potential, mainly because there are 2 very different endings. In addition, coming back to the Steel Ingots, there’s that monumental task to be busying yourself with (and as a nice touch, you can return when you please to The Pitt once you have completed it - you aren’t kicked out never to return again in Operation Anchorage’s vain). This is what makes it better than Operation Anchorage - you will look forward to venturing into The Pitt again.
This is a step in the right direction for Fallout 3 DLC, as it is loyal to the Fallout RPG tradition and includes some great equipment, an interesting storyline and a complex moral choice. If you take a liking to the new scenery, you will enjoy this content much more. As with Operation Anchorage, expect to gain 5-6 levels on normal below level 12, and for a first play through it will take you approximately 3-4 hours to finish. Another enjoyable edition to an everlasting game.
Review originally written April 2009
Fallout 3: Operation Anchorage DLC review
Alaska has been invaded by Chinese communists. It is the year 2077, 200 years before the events of the main game. Your mission? To liberate Anchorage, one of the more highly contested locations in the Fallout 3 universe. This new quest chain is initiated immediately after you have downloaded the content, and once you have arrived at the destination that the newly acquired radio signal led you to, you are greeted by a small contingent of Brotherhood Outcasts. You are quickly informed of the situation, and what lies ahead. It turns out that you are required to enter a simulation, and fight your way through virtual enemies for you to complete your various tasks.
Operation Anchorage is fairly straightforward. It is a lot more “Call of Duty” (In other words, more focus on fast-paced action) than standard Fallout 3. You may now be asking if Operation Anchorage is Call of Duty but with the Fallout 3 role-playing aspect as well. Yes is the simple answer. Whether the content lives up to either game’s standards is another question entirely. From a visual perspective, Operation Anchorage is stunning. The snow and water effects really do the content justice, especially as the rest of Fallout 3 is so barren. This massively contrasting landscape is a satisfying relief for all Fallout 3 players, as in a way it brings more life into the game. Unfortunately though, once you have left the simulation, you can’t re-enter - making it a once-per-playthrough piece of content.
Unfortunately, the game play is a lot less gratifying, as 2 of the 3 quests that are included in this content package are extremely linear. The third quest has slightly less restriction, although nonetheless most players will end up with the same ending (a high enough speech skill grants a different ending). For the first time in Fallout 3, you can control a small strike team which obey your orders to the letter. You can choose any mixture of infantry and mechanical squad members, such as a Soldier - armed with a machine gun, a Sniper - armed with… a sniper rifle, a Grenadier - armed with a 10mm pistol and explosives, a Mr Gutsy robot and even a Sentry Bot (armed with equipment that their standard Fallout 3 counterparts own).
You are allowed to allocate a total of 5 ‘points’ as you purchase your strike team via a computer terminal (remember, this is a simulation), with Soldiers being rated at 1 point and sentry bots at 4. As you progress through the quest-line, you unlock new weaponry and apparel, most notably the Gauss Rifle and the Chinese Stealth Armour.
The Gauss Rifle is by far the most powerful sniper rifle in Fallout 3, and is surprisingly quickly obtained. Its ammunition is Micro Fusion Cells, and even though Operation Anchorage is littered with health and ammo replenishment kits (glowing red so they are highly visible) it seems that Micro Fusion Cells are too valuable to have an unlimited amount of, so keep your trigger-finger in check - try not to get too addicted to the knock back effect! The Chinese Stealth Armour is also extremely powerful. When you crouch, you get a chameleon effect automatically on you, and if you have a high sneak skill and have a stealthy play style, this is an invaluable addition to your repertoire.
Regarding replay-ability, Operation Anchorage is of very limited value. There are few ways to complete the quests in different ways, and there are just ten intel items to find (if you discover all ten, you unlock a new perk). That’s pretty much it on the collectible front. Unless you believe you will enjoy the scenery and refreshing style of play, you will not look forward to playing through this a second time.
Most players invest in the content for the equipment alone, and if you are struggling to get along in the Fallout 3 universe, or need to gain a few more levels (expect to gain about 5-6 levels playing on normal difficulty, and up to 10 on very hard - if starting from level 1) then this is for you. It is a welcome change of pace, whether this is for the better is up to you. Personally, I welcomed it, however if you are in love with the role-playing elements of the game you may dislike the way Operation Anchorage seems to discard them.
Review originally written February 2009
Fallout 3 review
Welcome to a post-apocalyptic Washington D.C. wasteland, on the east coast of the United States of America. It is the year 2277; 200 years after the bombs fell. For you, life begins in Vault 101, one of the many designated ‘safe zones’ that were constructed solely to prevent extinction of the human race.
You will spend roughly the first 30 minutes of the game learning the very basics of the game’s control layout, and designing your character’s appearance in a surprisingly detailed character creation section - allowing the customisation of hair styles/colour, race, features, facial hair and the like - and as you are gently broken into the game you will ultimately have to make the decision to turn into either The White Light of the Wasteland, or The Scourge of Humanity (as the game so elegantly phrases it).
Once you have left Vault 101, you are completely free to pursue whatever task you feel needs pursuing, so to speak. Being a sandbox game of huge proportions, there is the possibility that you could just choose to explore the map (which unfortunately features several invisible walls), uncover some of the unique 184 locations, more challenging enemies, improved ordinance and apparel at your own pace, and ignore the main quest-line until a later date.
Being set in a post-nuclear wasteland, the game has included radiation into certain choices to make the game more tactical. If you have lost health in a battle for example, do you drink and eat from an irradiated water and food source and deal with the radiation poisoning? - which, when the radiation level reaches a certain point your character dies - or do you risk not recovering and attempting to haul yourself back to the closest friendly encampment and heal there? There are also lock-picking and hacking mini-games, which reap greater rewards the more able your character is at each activity.
Being an 18 rated game, it comes packaged with a lot of adult content. There are numerous sex and drug references, and an abundance of gore in the likes of decapitations and dismemberment. The levelling system is complex - capped at level 20 until you download the third downloadable content package, Broken Steel, where it has been raised to level 30.
Once your character has gained adequate experience points, he will increase in level. When this happens you will be asked to increase different attributes to your liking, and finally to choose a ‘Perk’. These can range from exceptionally useful, to downright useless, with the majority lying somewhere in the middle, depending on your play style.
An example of a competent ‘Perk’ is Commando, where the character gains an accuracy increase with rifles (which most players will end up relying heavily upon throughout the game) while using the cinematic combat presentation V.A.T.S. This freeze-frame allows you in the heat of combat to pause the action, choose an enemy in range, and then use action points targeting different body parts.
Your chance to hit is displayed next to that body part, and for example once one of the legs has been damaged significantly, the enemy can no longer run or perform lunging attacks. Keep an eye open on your own characters health though, as this will most likely happen to you at some point during your adventure in the Capitol Wasteland as well.
There are, of course, marked side-quests which, unlike other games, are not at all generic. Each and every one has a unique sub-story entangled in the tasks, and is usually captivating to a point where you can lose track of time in the real world. You can play the game in 1st or 3rd person (and alter the camera height from a near-birds eye view right down to over the shoulder), and if at any time you find the game a little too tough or easy, you can change the difficulty in-game, a very valuable feature if you ask me.
You can also choose to spend your time searching for and completing free form quests which do not appear in your quest log. These quests can range from a task tediously simple, for instance talk to a certain character and choose the correct speech option to gain the reward, or something more intricate than that.
Your suspicion becomes aroused as Fallout 3 cunningly hints at you that there is more going on that meets the eye. An example of this is in the small settlement named Andale, which has a much darker theme present than you would expect. I will not ruin it any more for you, so I will leave you to go and discover the secret for yourself. This sort of quest does not last long, providing that you do indeed have half a brain, but they are scattered all over the Capitol Wasteland for you to discover all in your own time.
Collectibles come in the form of Bobbleheads and skill books, which when found, grant bonuses to whichever attribute they represent. These can become addictive to collect, and the same goes for the achievements / trophies that Fallout 3 contains. Only a handful are rewarded for playing the main narrative all the way to completion, the rest are awarded for finding and collecting items or finishing side-quests.
Coming back to the main-quest line, I feel that it is easily interesting enough to involve you from start to finish for at least one play-through, but for me the sheer scale of the game was what devoured my time. The moral choices, the everlasting search for better and stronger equipment, the small - though memorable - real world role-playing moments where I would make my character crouch down and slowly move across a stretch of the Capitol Wasteland doing my absolute best to re-enact the film I Am Legend.
The outstanding graphics and sound effects are also pushing the boundaries for what the current consoles can achieve, and it is all these things combined that truly makes the game engrossing. If you’re considering investing your money and your time into this game, remember that it is a role-playing-game with a hint of first or third person shooter. It is not a fast paced, frantic action game - though it can be in the larger set-pieces near end-game. Diplomatic skills are just as mandatory as being able to fire a nuclear warhead into someone’s face, just because you thought it would be amusing.
This is a game you really need to try before you buy. If it were up to me, I’d recommend it in a heartbeat as I absolutely adored every minute I spent playing it - though a close friend of mine that coughed up for the collectors edition ended up having a much less stellar experience; too bland he claimed. Personally, this is one of my favourite games of all time. So, if you are willing to put in the hours to upgrade your character and mould his personality, with limitless freedom, who knows what you can achieve?
Review originally written November 2008