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I've been playing a lot of Destiny in the last few days. So much so that I reckon it's bordering on an addiction. It's a game that I've been waiting for since Halo: Reach, specifically following the release of Halo 4, when it became clear that, for me, 343 didn't quite hit the same high notes as Bungie had in Halos past.
Well, the wait is over, and Destiny is here. I'm having a great time; I'm still playing through the campaign content, I'm hitting The Crucible every night, and there's still so much more for me to see. Yeah, I'll concede that as a work of fiction, it takes itself i mite too seriously at times, but I'm thoroughly enjoying my time in the universe that's been created by Bungie.
What's very interesting is the fact that the old Halo crew has since been scattered by the generational divide. Two of us are playing on PlayStation 4, the other two are still on Xbox 360. Both us PS4 players picked up X1 versions of the game, and we're awaiting our crew making the upgrade, at which point we'll jump across and start playing with them on Xbox One, with everyone starting a new character.
What's funniest about the whole thing is the catalyst that's going to bring us together: Halo: The Master Chief Collection, which releases in November. It seems like 343 still has a part to play after all...
Was there even a winner? There was a competition on stage during Tuesday's conferences, that's for sure, even if it's hard to call it either way. The famous rivalry between the two companies was there for all to see, and it certainly was a spectacle.
For a start you had Microsoft giving Sony a bloody nose with the announcement of the exclusivity deal for Rise of the Tomb Raider. Sony might not have really cared at the end of the day, it's just one IP and it's only a timed deal that will one day, sooner or later, expire into our collective memories. However, there's plenty of gamers out there who love Lara and will miss her on PlayStation, and for them this week has been particularly painful.
There's been a lot of hate, with some even suggesting that it's unfair that MS are denying gamers the chance to play a previously multi-platform title, but I don't see that, all I see is a canny business decision by Spencer and his team. And, let's not forget that Sony pulled EXACTLY the same trick back in the day when they snapped up exclusivity over the same IP, effectively putting Sega and Nintendo on the back foot in the console wars of 90s. It's no different. It's just business.
On the other side of the great console divide there's Sony, who are being rightly praised for their forward-thinking attitude. The PlayStation brand is thriving, they've got what looks like an unassailable lead coming up to the one year anniversary of both new-gen consoles, and the future for PS4 looks assured. This Gamescom they focused on innovation and new horizons, most notably for me with the Share Play feature that they confirmed is coming later this year, and the slew of new announcements.
The praise currently being lavished on Sony must be a bitter pill for Microsoft to swallow. After all, it's this kind of future planning that they tried to announce the Xbox One with last year. Except then, gamers didn't want to hear it, and their plans for tomorrow (now today) were dismissed by a startling majority of gamers. Their mistake then, it would seem, wasn't thinking ahead, but rather talking about it too soon. It turns out that gamers didn't want the future given to them as complete package, but rather delivered in easy to swallow bites. Simply put, we weren't ready.
Microsoft dropped the ball when they announced Xbox One, and they're still paying for a series of catastrophically misjudged decisions. Sony, on the other hand, hardly deviated from the course set with PlayStation 3, and are only now introducing the kind of innovations that Microsoft were promising from the start but have since had to backtrack from following those early days of disaster. That manifested itself in this week's Gamescom, where one side is still busy scrambling to get leverage and claw themselves back from a disadvantageous position, and the other was able to look ahead from a position of strength and assuredness.
And that brings me back to my original question: who won Gamescom? Having written all that, I think I've made up my mind. Microsoft certainly landed the heaviest blow, but Sony had much more to offer. Perhaps Sony did come out on top after all, even if it didn't feel like that straight after watching the press conferences.
But even if Sony were the winners, the seeds of any victory were planted months and months ago, not in the days that preceded this year's event. That said, it's been an interesting week whichever way you look at it. We hope you enjoyed our coverage of the show, and if you agree or disagree with my assessment, feel free to say so in the comments section below.
I'm going to complain a little bit about Watch Dogs. Don't get me wrong, I like the game; I think it's a well-built open world action title, with an interesting premise and some nice features. However, tonally, it doesn't sit right with me.
Aiden Pearce should be a scalpel, but instead he feels like a sledgehammer. Too often, instead of sneaking in and sneaking out, leaving a trail of unconscious enemies in my digital wake, I'm left taking out a stream of guards with lethal force.
Early on I went looking for non-lethal weapon options via the gun store (pepper spray, a taser, something/anything like that), and I couldn't find them anywhere. Maybe they're lurking, waiting to be discovered later on in the game, but I haven't seen them so far.
Other than viciously beating people with the extendable baton, the only choice you have from range is to mercilessly gun people down. For me this sits at odds with the rest of the game, and I'd really have appreciated the chance to tackle the game via non-lethal means, instead of leaving a trail of corpses behind me as I play.
Watch Dogs doesn't need to be a violent game, at least, it doesn't need to be as violent. For me personally, this experience would be better if there was a choice on how I could interact with my enemies. As it stands I feel the brutal kill-em-all approach offered by the current status quo makes for a more thuggish experience, when I'd has preferred a more nuanced, subtle approach to combat.
It sits at odds with the overall tone, and the wanton slaughter inflicted by Pearce removes any moral high ground he occupies in the wake of the events that set up the story.
Of course violence is commonplace and, at least in the sphere of gaming, often necessary (those bad guys aren't going to kill themselves after all). But that doesn't mean that every game like this has to have such a keen focus on death and destruction. Watch Dogs billed itself as a smarter offering with a focus on tech and systemic sandbox moments, but by limiting our options and giving us little choice other than to kill enemies when our stealth goes wrong, it has cheapened the experience, for me at least.
Aiden Pearce is on a mission for revenge, and is described as "The Vigilante" throughout the game, but to me he just felt like a cold-blooded killer, uninterested in the collateral damage of his actions, and as a result, I'm much less interested on going on his journey with him.
I own too many games. Far too many. While I'm sure, with a concerted effort, that I could at the very least try them all, there's many more than I could ever hope to actually complete. Recent stats suggest that 40% of games purchased on Steam don't ever get played, and that's a statistic that I can relate to. Hell, I'm probably one of those on the other side of that percentile.
I've always been a collector. Perhaps not quite a hoarder, but I've always had large collections of, well, pretty much everything I've ever been interested in. Over the years, as more and more grey hairs have appeared on my head, my attraction to large collections has dissipated somewhat. My DVD collection has been broken up and dispersed, my music collection is digital now, save for a giant wallet full of old discs that acts as backup. There's been other collections over the years, fallen by the wayside. I don't pay any of them any attention now, but I do have a ridiculous collection of games that continues to grow while others fade away.
Most of these games are digital. My Steam account is over-flowing with titles, old and new, triple A and indie. There's literally all kinds of game that I like (and some, many, that I don't). Why have I got so many games? Why do I keep buying games when I've already got more than I'll ever play?
First, some of them are work. Indies and review code, things to try, even simply because it's important to sample their delights, to know what they're all about. The rest, well, there's several reasons. One is Steam sales, the regular flash sales and the huge discounts offered on Valve's shopfront. These events are appearing with increasing regularity, and I'm as guilty as the next person of buying up games that I'd never buy at full price, just because they're cheap. It's a bad habit.
Second there's bundles. At first I was quite enamoured with the collections put up for sale by Humble. Since these bundles became an industry mainstay we've had other, similar collections posted by other sites. There's always a bundle or two on somewhere. They've gone from being an occasional treat to a constant presence. You can always spend a couple of quid and gorge on a selection of indie titles. I've done plenty of this, and I think it's fair to say that now I'm full.
It was this early attraction to bundles that has left me with plenty of eyesores on my Steam account, games I'll never, ever play. Religious games, shitty platformers, bad adventure games, turgid shooters. There's a good chunk of my gaming collection that I'm tied to for life, total rubbish that I'm going to have to scroll through forever when I'm looking through my lengthy list of games. There's no-one to blame for this but me and my... well, for want of a better word, greed.
The same could also be said for my digital console collection, although perhaps to a much lesser extent. I've got a plethora of digital games on XBL and PSN, most of which I've played, but there's not many that I've dedicated the time to that I should have. There's less sales in the console space (though that's changing), although it's fair to say I've downloaded plenty of titles via PS Plus, again, games I'm very unlikely to finish.
I haven't even mentioned my disc-based collection. Still sitting proud on the shelf by my desk. It's shrunk over the years. Where possible I've traded in games for credit so I could re-buy them on Steam, effectively transfering the license from console to PC. Like my CDs, I've been trying to go digital as much as possible. There's still plenty of disc-based games here though, and again, I've yet to complete a chunk of them, with many still sitting on my to-do-list.
It's a matter of time management that's holding me back in some respects. I've got a kids, a house that's falling down, I even like to occasionally dabble with having a social life. But still, I've bought too many games. I've succumbed to the temptation of too many sales, I've snapped up too many bundles. Games have become so cheap and so accessible, their value has diminished so much thanks to current market trends, that I've bought too many. I've had more than my fair share. And I know that I'm not alone.
There's still hope for me, looking forward. After a while, bundles become less appetising (I know they did for me), and I still go out and buy the games that I'm really looking forward to, putting into practice the old reasonings and falling back on old buying habits (that's stellar, I'll buy it full price - not sure about that one, I'll wait for it to be a bit cheaper). I spend just as much money on games as I have in the past, and that's not going to change. But now, thanks to an overweight game collection, I'm looking to thin out the amount of games that I purchase, and to more carefully target the games that I want to spend my precious time and hard-earned money on.
But I'll always have those games that I bought but didn't need, and I'll wear them like digital stretch marks, a sign of a time when I bought more than I should have, more than I could play. I doubt I'm the only one who snapped up more than was required, just because I could. In fact, I know I'm not the only one. If we're not careful, if we don't start consuming what we need instead of buy cheap games just because, we're going to turn Steam into the App store. It's a transition that's already happening. I'd prefer that not to happen, so I reckon I'll change the way I buy games from here on in. I wonder if there's anyone else who feels the same way?