Thursday 25 February 2010

Thoughts on the upcoming Command and Conquer 4: Tiberium Twilight

Without actually flat out saying so it seems that the Borg of the gaming industry has decided to get rid of all that fusty micro managing and base building. Essentially removing all the strategy from this Real Time Strategy title.

The whole system of building a base and managing units has been scrapped in favour of a one-size-fits-all vehicle that does everything and is virtually indestructible. Don't worry if you're thick and accidentally get blown up, it magically re-spawns at any point on the map you like instantly killing every enemy around! There are a lot of videos on the EA website talking about the new Tiberium harvesting mechanic. Previously, there were vast fields of the stuff, covering the map being both a danger to your troops and the enemies whilst simultaneously encouraging you to build your bases right next to it so to soak it up more quickly. It seems this was a little too strategic for the current generation of gamers so now it's all been reduced to a nice gentlemanly game of capture the flag.

As for the story, well let's just say that it flies in the face of everything that's been established by the franchise so far. To recap, by the end of C&C3 the earth is basically to put it bluntly, screwed. I mean, really screwed. Over 90% of it's surface is infected by Tiberium, an alien mineral that it is quickly established to be more difficult to remove then Saturday night's kebab grease from your favorite shirt. Some places even have crystals so large they form glaciers bigger then cities that even going within a hundred miles of would cause serious harm to if if not properly protected. Like I said, doomed.

In C&C4 on the other hand, set a mere fifteen years later, the whole planet has been given a through spring clean and all that pesky tiberium is now a managed resource. let's think for a moment here, how does the whole earth go from being so destroyed that GDI is seriously considering getting out the hell out of dodge and living on the moon, to being completely hunkey-dorrey with baby deer skipping merrily through glens and fields of butter cups? Tiberium is now a little floating snot glob that looks like the designers had some left over graphics from the Sims that can be picked up simply by brushing past it. No more vast, dangerous fields of the stuff giving the game a much needed sense of danger.

The whole thing seems dumbed down. The original, while great fun to play, did have underlying adult themes of genocide (Tiberium being seeded by an alien race), Terrorism (NOD being essentially a terrorist group, albeit a very charismatic and wealthy one) and questions of class (People living in "yellow zones" having weird mutated kids while GD live in their perfect blue zones). Compared to the previous titles, this seems to have been dumbed down to a level for people who found Halo a little bit difficult to follow.

I remember playing the first C&C with my dad when I was a kid and I really feel like this games going to the guts out of the fanbase and for what? So the game can be ported to console or so it's easier? What happened to hard but enjoyable experiences? To propper planning and long term stratergy? Is this all we can look forwards to now in games, homogonisation where every game feels roughly the same as every other to reach the largest target audience whilst sacrificing what made it great to start with?

I hope not, but this franchise looks lost already. All will be revealed when Command and Conquer 4: Tiberium Twilight launches mid March.

Jason Karlson

CeX, Hull, UK

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Wednesday 24 February 2010


When Google released Buzz to the tens of millions of Gmail users out there in the world, I was away from an actual computer for a few days (blasphemous, I know). My phone usually does a pretty good job as a laptop replacement while I'm away from my desktop but this time a full browser was the only way I would be able to check out what the ruckus was about.

When I finally got back to my 'puter, it seemed like the whole world had jumped on the new social media vehicle. Setting it up was easy enough, I was instantly being followed and following all my gmail contacts in conjunction with being connected to several other friendly sites. At first glance it looked like a Twitter client for Gmail. I figured my Twitter feed would instantly populate my Buzz feed and that would be that. I would get an email when people would comment via Buzz (which got annoying real fast) and I would be able to see if there were new posts in the sidebar of my Gmail.

That's pretty much where I lost interest.

Google Buzz is L A M E. They gave up on Wave, decided to strip it down to a stream of comments then latch it on to your Gmail. I understand that they're trying to leech onto this whole Twitter/Facebook juggernaut, but did they actually think this through? I would suspect that if you're going to jump in to the social media pool, you would take the time to learn how to swim.

Google Buzz is just too little too late. Buzz brings absolutely nothing new to the table. In fact, it's a regression to where Facebook and Twitter first started (as a concept). The interface is clunky and boring and there is really no way to expand your follower base beyond your gmail contacts. The whole purpose behind social media is to be social. Google missed the mark completely. Why would I bother posting something to Buzz if I can already actively chat with my Gmail contacts?

Now Google wants to be an ISP? Sounds good if you're looking to have beta internet for a few years.
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Saturday 20 February 2010

Design for CeX and win CeX vouchers

We're you offering an awesome opportunity for you to contribute to the of design our new in store posters.

The Prize

• £250 of CeX vouchers to spend how you like (or local equivalent in $, € etc).
• If the winning design is good enough your posters could appear on the walls and counters of our stores worldwide and we’ll give you a credit on the poster if you like it.

The Brief

All you need to do is design one original poster, ideally in portrait aspect ratio. The poster needs to communicate the range CeX buys from customers and exchanges. The product categories CeX buys are

• Phones
• Laptops
• Gaming
• DVDs & Blu-rays
• Cameras (digital)
• iPods
• Laptops
• Plasma & LCD
• Music CDs

We’re looking for originality ideas, not pixel perfect executions. Children’s painting’s also very welcome.

All entries must be received by closing date of Mon 22 March 2010 (via post or email).

How to enter and rules

This is open to anyone in the world except, those in the CeX Marketing Department (sorry guys:). Entries cannot be returned and all entries become property of CeX. CeX's decision is final.

Entries can be submitted by email to (either electronic designs or photos of hand drawn entries etc) to

posted to
Design Competition
CeX Support Centre
The Old Brewery
132a St Albans Road
WD24 4AE
United Kingdom

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Thursday 18 February 2010

Review | Dante's Inferno

EA's Dante's Inferno is a new hack n' slash epic from the makers of the scary atmospheric Dead Space and the surprisingly brilliant and hilarious Simpsons game.
 Dante's Inferno's story is loosely based on the epic poem 'The Divine Comedy' by Dante Alighieri, I use the term loosely because I can't remember reading about a 50 foot, purple, big breasted, human/beast that shoots un-baptised babies from her tongue-like nipples (that's probably the weirdest thing I've ever said). 

The graphics are impressive; the level design is twisted, gothic and utterly breathtaking, although you wont have time to appreciate with the hell-spawn attacking you left right and centre. Speaking of which, hell's minions are a sight to behold, with the likes of monsters with scythes sprouting from their abdomen. There is also the horrible sight of Cerberus is something that may not be for those with a weak stomach. 

The protagonist Dante is a man not to be messed with, for starters the man has an extensive tapestry sewn into his torso. Also when confronted by Death instead of repenting for his sins Dante fights Death an slices him in two with his own scythe! Above all Dante's Inferno is an amazing game, visually it is beautiful (never thought I'd say hell looks beautiful) game play wise its fluid, fast and challenging. The music is a deep orchestra with hymn like lyrics, that give the game an added level of depth to the action and story. 

As much as I loved Dante's Inferno, I was a little disappointed. With most hyped up releases, especially with the barrage of hack n' slash genre games that have been released in this short decade, I was slightly hoping that playing Dante's Inferno would be like the nine circles of hell itself; torture beyond belief. What I played, fortunately, was a well executed, very fluid, challenging, Bayonetta rivalling, hell of a game (if you'll excuse the pun). The game is not for one with a faint heart or one who is easily offended by: nudity, violence, religious context and repulsive monsters. If your not easily offended then you must play this game! 

Leigh Crawford
CeX Sunderland, UK
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Monday 15 February 2010

Review | Sonic 4

The announcement of Sonic 4 has been received, for the most part, with sheer joy from fans of the original games that have endured the 3D Sonic games over the past decade. Granted, Sonic’s first true foray into the world of 3D, Sonic Adventure, was actually rather good with a lot of neat ideas but the series has seriusly lost its way over the years. Now, finally, Sega is building a Sonic for his biggest (or should that be oldest, Ed) fans.

For years much of the gaming world, especially in the West, has demanded that all games are 3D. Yet 2D platform games have seen a recent renaissance with Braid, Splosion Man, and a Boy and His Blob proving that there is still a market for this style of gaming. The gimmick-ridden New Super Mario Bros. doesn’t count, although I know many would disagree.

Sonic 4 is billed as pure Sonic with no latch-on ‘friends’ attached, the old graphical styles and tunes will be returning, and we can look forward to the usual end of zone battles with good ol’ Dr. Robotnik. The Wii and PS3 versions will apparently feature ‘motion’ related moves, not too sure how that will pan out and sounds like it could be a weak attempt at shoehorning in motion control into the game so I think the Xbox 360 version may well be the best one to go with here.

Here's a reminder of Sonic's chequered history.

Carl Houghton
CeX Portsmouth, UK
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Tuesday 9 February 2010

Review | DJ Hero

DJ Hero is the latest instalment in the ‘Hero’ series coming after the extremely popular Guitar Hero series. Countless gamers have got on their knees and shredded the solo to ‘rock you like a hurricane’ or is that just me? These games may just look like a ‘tatty bit of plastic’ or a ‘cheap imitation of the real thing’ but they work so well. If you’re looking to become a world class DJ then this game will most probably get you nowhere but if you’re looking for fun and the greatest music rhythm game to date then this is for you. The game comes in two versions; regular or renegade edition. The advantages of purchasing the renegade edition come in a double disc CD of unreleased Jay-Z and Eminem tracks, a cool carry case and a better looking/feeling peripheral.

The case is a sturdy and realistic representation of the cases DJ’s use to transport their gear from gig to gig. The peripheral itself is about the size of a single CD deck, around 8” long and 5” wide. The deck feels really smooth and well built. The deck has three colour-coded buttons that you use to press, scratch and mix during gameplay. The effects mixer clips onto the side of your deck and is compatible for right and left handed participants: this includes a sample dial, a ‘euphoria’ button, the mixer (that you use to flick from one track to the other) and your console buttons hidden conveniently in a disguised compartment.

The gameplay uses a similar mechanic to the Guitar Hero series. You have three colour coded areas in which icons fall into accordingly. You must, hit, scratch, twist and flick the buttons when the matching colours on screen collide (and no this is not a Bop It rip off). A very excited sounding Grand Master Flash will talk you through the opening tutorials. These include the scratching mechanic, the mixer and the euphoria button (DJ hero’s answer to star power) which are all fairly self explanatory and simple to use when you get the hang of it. There are 5 difficulties; Beginner, Easy, Medium, Hard and Expert. If you are a beginner don’t play as a beginner, this mode is slow and is harder to play than the medium mode. Almost everyone that plays this game will move straight to medium. Above medium the difficulty soars, giving the player a wide range of choices in how they want to play the game according to their skill. The game includes all the expected ‘hero’ features such as; changeable characters, decks, headphones and locations. Unlocking hero features is achieved using a currency of stars; you earn stars by completing songs with high scores earning a maximum of 5 stars per song. I was relieved find that you can’t be ridiculed and booed off stage anymore. Thank you Freestyle Games. Instead, if you achieve a bad score you simply won’t get enough stars to unlock some of the cool stuff the game has to offer. The only downside to this is that you don’t just play single songs but ‘set lists’ consisting of 2-5 songs, so if you gain a bad score you will have to start from the beginning of the set list.

Undoubtedly the star if the game is the music. With over 100 songs included on the disc provided there’s a great diversity with artists including Queen, Dizzee Rascal,DJ Shadow, Z-Trip, DJ AM, Cut Chemist, J.Period, Grandmaster Flash, DJ Jazzy Jeff, and Daft Punk all took part in making this memorable soundtrack. There are also exclusive ‘mashups’ will keep you busy for months to come.

DJ Hero didn't sell well in late 2009, but it's a hidden gem you need to experience. DJ Hero is available on Xbox 360, PS3 and Wii.

Ben Metcalfe
CeX Manchester Arndale
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Tuesday 2 February 2010

Review | God of War 2

With God of War 3 on PS3 due for release very soon, Lukao from CeX Rathbone Place, London explains why it’s you should grab a copy of God of War 2 now.

God of War 2 continues the adventures of Kratos and his battles against the monsters and creatures of ancient Greece. But can the sequel stand up to the reputation of the first?

God of War 2 features much the same mix of combat, platforming and problem solving as other similar action games (Devil May Cry, Rygar etc.), with puzzle moving away from the ‘get key A for door B’ format and towards a more ‘Indiana Jones’ ethic. The combo system is almost exactly the same as before, which some might find disappointing, but is still rewarding and satisfying. Concerned parents might want to take note that the overall theme running through this game is ‘Bloody Violence’. Kratos’ fighting style reflects this.

The presentation in this game completely blew me away. Not only are the character models detailed and well animated, but also the environments and backdrops are constantly breathtaking. I often found myself aghast at how the programmers managed to put so much detail and scope onto a system seen as obsolete by many. The sound, voice acting and music is also impressive, with big name actors and a full orchestra on board.

Some people complained that the first game lacked bosses and spectacular events. The makers of the game took that to heart and really piled it on for the sequel. If Kratos wasn’t fighting some huge boss beast, he was falling down a bottomless pit, crashing through some collapsing ruins or being stepped on by a colossus. I would’ve felt sorry for the guy if I wasn’t having so much fun. However, the game’s pacing does suffer as a result. ACTIONACTIONACTION puzzle ACTIONBOSSACTION becomes a little tiring after a while.

There is definitely a lot of replay value to be had, with various unlockables and hidden collectables to be found, and multiple levels of difficulty (the hardest being as impossible as the trails of Hercules himself). While the extras on offer aren’t as impressive as in the first game, the special edition that’s available comes with a spiffy ‘making of’ disc, which contains in depth interviews and articles about the game and its developers.

If you buy one last Playstation 2 game, make it God of War 2. God of War 2 was released on Playstation 2 in 2007.

CeX Rathbone Place, London
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