Category Archives: Ten Reasons I Own…

My setup

Ten reasons I own: A Gaming PC

Rounding off this set of posts for the time being, I thought I’d look my gaming PC. Obviously there are many benefits of a PC in terms of media and productivity, but I’m going to just look at gaming, after all I could get the other functions from a basic laptop for a fraction of the cost.

My setup

I’d also like to briefly address the heinous term “PC Master Race”. The implications of “Master Race” alone should be enough to make most people feel uncomfortable, but even taking it as a ‘light-hearted’ joke, it still stinks of the elitism that annoys the hell out of me in any ‘fandom’. PC gaming is rarely as straightforward as many would have you believe, and for everyone who preaches the wonders of Steam and how everything just works, there is someone else stuck in driver/windows/intermittent fault hell. I love gaming on my PC, but entirely understand anyone who prefers to just stick to consoles.

Anyway, on with the list.

        1. Real Time Strategy (RTS)
          A genre that remains painful to play on a controller, the real home for these is the PC. These games entirely capture the childhood enjoyment of playing toy soldiers. There are so many great series; Warcraft, Starcraft, Command & Conquer, Age of Empires, Empire Earth, Dawn of War. All favourites, despite my complete failure to be any good at them.

          I’m also going to throw general strategy games in here, games I do enjoy but don’t play often, they only really feel ‘right’ in a PC environment.  Things like Settlers, Civilization, City Building sims etc.

        2. Blizzard
          The developer probably responsible for most of my play time overall and filled with a genius approach to promoting their own other games from within each title. Although they dabble with console releases, they always feel best to me on the PC. Diablo 3 is awesome on the modern consoles for couch co-op, but if I’m going to play online with friends, I still turn to the PC.

          Blizzard do an outstanding job of making me want to play all their games, all the time. Even the month I spent playing Hearthstone started because I just wanted to get 3 wins to unlock a mount in a different game. Heroes of the Storm & Hearthstone both managed to convince me to play genres I otherwise had no interest in. Starcraft 2 and Diablo 3 get regular play from me and even though I’m well out of World of Warcraft, I still go back for a few weeks for each expansion. I’ve just put down my pre-order for Overwatch, and yes I’ll be playing the PC version.

        3. First Person Shooter (FPS)
          My one time favourite genre, these days I have more of a love/hate relationship with it. As much as I love the Halo games and I’ve had a lot of fun with Destiny, whenever I sit at my desk to play a FPS online, it feels like coming home. Keyboard and Mouse controls being best for FPS is almost a cliché at this point, I’m sure there are plenty of skilled players who have never used anything other than a twin stick control pad. My love pretty much peaked with Quake 3 Arena, I dabble with whatever else my friends are playing, but I still go back to Quake Live for the Deathmatch fix.
        4. Shmups, emulators & rotating monitors
          Thanks to some great steam ports, I can play a lot of the best shmups on my PC. Although there are some great console ones still exclusive to modern consoles, the PC still has an overall edge. A rotating monitor arm gives me access to TATE mode to play vertical shmups like Raiden as they are intended, and coupled with my arcade stick I get a solid experience that could only really be improved by building a full Arcade Cabinet. Add to this the abundance of emulators (accepting the morally grey area of sourcing ROMs) and you get the ability to play the greatest shmups from arcade and console history, easily justifying PC ownership for a shmup fan.

          Pew pew

        5. Controller options
          For many games the Keyboard & Mouse can be considered almost perfect, particularly the previously mentioned RTS and FPS genres. For those other games there is a seemingly never ending amount of choice. Personally I keep a USB Xbox 360 Control pad and Arcade Stick around for the majority of appropriate titles. I am considering adding a flight stick soon and getting involved in Elite Dangerous and replaying some classic Descent and Tie Fighter.

        6. Multiplayer
          While Xbox Live and PSN both do the matchmaking, parties and voice chat stuff perfectly well, it still feels to me like the PC has the edge. There is a lot to be said for the simplicity of the console options, but the choice and flexibility of systems on PC suits me better, whether using group Skype calls, or other platforms such as Curse or Ventrilo. There is also much better support for setting up private servers, and customising them appropriately.
        7. In-home streaming & Steamlink
          Relatively new to me, but since connecting a second PC in the lounge I’ve found Steam in-home streaming to be excellent.  Those games suited to a big screen and the sofa with a controller, i.e. platformers are a natural fit. The steam link hardware makes this an option for people without a second PC with a low cost of entry.
        8. Cost of games & persistent libraries
          Steam’s sales and sites selling bundles of games for a ‘pay-what-you-want’ system have led to a really low cost for PC games, making it very inexpensive to build up a (frankly ridiculous) library. It’s also important to note that unlike the console generation cycle, these games remain accessible with each upgrade. Although there is often some tinkering to get older games to run on each new version of windows, your library stays with you. Steps are sometimes taken via the console manufacturers to attempt to address this, at least for one generation, i.e. Xbox One backwards compatibility having limited support for Xbox 360 games. However it is more common for them to just make you re-buy the same game again, isn’t it Nintendo?

        9. Modding community
          Another well know advantage, is the availability of user created mods and patches for games. This is widespread and a huge bonus in so many areas. Entire genres have come out of mods for other games, Tower Defence and MOBA’s such as DOTA have their origins in user mods (for Warcraft 3 I believe…)

          Often mods are released for older games to take advantage of developments in hardware, with entire new engines added. Games like Doom, Quake, S.T.A.L.K.E.R and so many others benefit from this kind of thing. The closest parallel for consoles is generally the ‘HD Remaster’ which in many cases is still good, but disappointingly tends to involve re-buying the game again.

        10. Performance
          I have to put this in really, but yes, mid to high-end PC hardware is capable of outperforming consoles, and frequently has the best version of cross-platform releases where they take advantage of that hardware. Although it is important to note that this isn’t always the case, I’m looking at you Arkham Knight, and every big release currently on the Windows 10 store. Things like Killer Instinct, Quantum Break & Gears of War are all suffering issues, most seem to have been introduced by the distribution model though, and are good versions when you can get them working!

 

Ten reasons I own: An Xbox One

Following my PlayStation 4 post, it’s time to balance the scales.  Keeping to the same format as previous, this is ten aspects of the Xbox One that make it worth owning to me, not just a list of exclusive games.  I have no interest in Kinect, and the initial mandatory bundling of that hardware was a big part of me writing off the Xbox One to begin with.  I always maintained I’d reconsider once they cut it from the console though, and I am glad I did.

As per my conclusion on the PlayStation 4 post, I do find it hard to recommend the Xbox One over a PS4 unless you’re REALLY big on the exclusives, but now was definitely the right time for me to add one and own both.

  1. Rare Replay
    Easily the best value and greatest presented Retro Compilation ever, this is an absolute gem and the tipping point for me to suck it up and buy the console. So many great games on here, and available brand new for less than the price of just one of the included N64 games on ebay… It is cool that the Xbox 360 and Xbox Live Arcade titles retained my progress from the first time round, but I would have liked an excuse to replay Nuts & Bolts.
  2. Halo: Master Chief Collection
    A close runner up to Rare Replay in terms of value, this initially passed me by due to reports of broken multiplayer. It contains Halo games 1 – 4, and a free update added Halo ODST.  The games have received graphical work since their original releases, most notable in Halo 2.  I’m very much enjoying replaying the campaigns, and the multiplayer issues seem to be resolved.  I’ve played quite a bit online, and I really like how the multiplayer mode spans all the games, with a vote each round of which to play next.
  3. Gears of War: Ultimate Edition
    I got this bundled with my console, and although I am a fan of the series, I had played Gears of War 1, 2 and 3 through several times in co-op and didn’t think I’d bother again. It looks amazing though, and I found myself co-opping the campaign with a new buddy (shoutout to @SuperGoataku) and thanks to Microsoft providing free Backwards Compatible downloads of the original Gears of War 1, 2, 3 and Judgement, we are now half way through a Judgement campaign and setting up to play a bit of GoW 3 Horde to pass the time while we await number 4.
  4. Forza Horizon 2
    My purchase of this was largely fuelled by the difficulty issues I had been experiencing with Driveclub, documented in my PS4 post. Horizon is a much more forgiving series, but thanks to the physics and handling models perfected in Forza, it is still very satisfying to play.  The theme of a racing festival does grate a bit, but the driving makes up for it and I find it perfect for half hour sessions before work.
  5. EA Access
    As a proper casual sports gamer, the EA Access vault is something I’ve been wanting for years. I like the idea of sports games a lot more than the reality, and long ago learned that it wasn’t worth me paying £40 every year for a set of new names in FIFA.  This way I get to play the previous releases as much as I like.  It’s just a shame it isn’t available on PS4 where my Madden playing friends are.  It doesn’t hurt that I managed to snag 12 months of EA Access for £10 either.
  6. Backwards Compatibility
    After trading my Xbox 360 for a graphics card sometime back, I had come to terms with losing my digital library of games. Admittedly it is still early days to see how many of my games I’ll regain the use of, but it has already started well.  Ikaruga and R-Type Dimensions were very pleasant surprises!  I now look forward to the monthly updates as more support is added.  Extending it to all future Xbox 360 games included in the ‘Games with Gold’ is also a stroke of genius.  (Still doesn’t quite match the value I personally get from PS+ though, while owning PS3, PS4 and a Vita…)
  7. Halo & Forza Series
    Although I’ve touched upon these higher in the list, both have new entries that were factors in my buying the console. Halo V and Forza 6 are both appealing to me, and it’s a testament to the fun I’m having with the machine that I haven’t got around to buying either yet!  As it happens I think the Halo itch is being scratched by both Destiny and the Master Chief Collection.  I’ll likely grab Forza 6 when I finish Horizon 2 or Driveclub.  Halo and Forza were the big exclusives to me when I had the 360, and although I didn’t feel like I was missing much by the Forza 5 release, I am pleased they seem to have found their feet on the new generation.
  8. Killer Instinct
    I’m not much of a fan of f2p payment models, and ignored this from launch when I saw how it was being distributed. However, I came across the Season 1 pack on a disc for £5 and decided to give it a go.  It is a really good fighting game, and worth hooking up the cronusmax plus and arcade stick for.  I’m still not sold on the DLC model, but did grab season 2 over Christmas when it dropped into the sale, £8 felt like a good price and now I’m happy to have all fighters released so far.  I expect I’ll hold out for a sale on Season 3 as well once it’s out.
  9. Destiny: The Taken King
    As I touched upon in my Driveclub section on the PS4 post, Destiny’s Taken King expansion was a pretty major turning point for the game. Widely considered to have addressed many of the game’s original issues, the more I heard about it the more I really wanted to get involved.  After hearing several people mark Destiny as their GOTY for 2015 (Specifically The Taken King) I decided I’d make the leap.  Fortunately the Taken King Legendary Edition contains the original game and all DLC to date, and can be had cheaply.  The biggest problem I had was choosing which platform to get it for.  In the end I sided with the Xbox One as I seem to have a few more active Destiny players amongst my Xbox friends.  I haven’t ruled out buying another copy for the PS4 though…
  10. Windows 10
    I have mentioned before, but I maintain a decent gaming PC, and am a happy early adopter of Windows 10. The Xbox One app was really straightforward to configure for in-home streaming, and I have found it incredibly useful for when my flatmate wants the TV in the lounge and I’ve agreed to play Gears of War online…  I really like how well it works with my PC setup, a wired Xbox 360 controller and PC headset and I’m good to go.  Obviously I could just plug my Xbox One controller in, but it is nice to not have to carry that back and forth.

One negative point I thought I’d share, relates to the original design of the Xbox One controller bundled with my console.  Original versions of the pad didn’t have a mini-jack for connecting standard headsets.  My PS4 controller has one, and I spent 99p on a short cable that took the twin mini-jacks from my PC headset and let me use it on there.  There are three options if you want to do this on the original Xbox One pad:

  • A clip on adapter for £17.99 UK
  • The Chatpad mini clip on keyboard, as this also adds the port for £29.99 UK
  • A replacement / second controller as new revisions of it have the port added circa £35 UK

So far so Microsoft… I went with the Chatpad, arguably I’ll want a second controller at some point anyway, but the Chatpad is pretty nice to use and it also has buttons for saving screenshots and videoclips, much less intrusive than the standard ‘double press the home button’ technique or indeed the delights of hearing cries of “Xbox record that!” from my Nephew over live…

Ten reasons I own: A PlayStation 4

I still see a lot of people unsure about the leap into the new(ish) generation, and still more arguments over which is best.  Given that I now own a gaming PC, PlayStation 4 and Xbox One, I thought I’d review the reasoning behind the purchases, and also what I get out of them on-going. I also decided that if I couldn’t come up with 10 for each system, I might as well get rid!  This isn’t a list of exclusive games, although those are obviously a factor.

  1. RESOGUN
    I’m a pretty big fan of Housemarque, particularly where their shmups are concerned.  Both Super Stardust HD and Super Stardust Delta were influential factors in why I invested in the PS3 and Vita respectively. I was excited about this from the early trailers and felt a draw to the PS4.  I played it for the first time when staying with friends for a long weekend and I realised it was something special.  I managed to resist buying the console for a while longer, and when the port to Vita was announced I thought I’d be safe for some time to come.  I hammered it on Vita when it turned up, but it wasn’t long after that I was handing over my monies for a PS4 to get the ‘proper’ 60fps experience.  It’s great and near enough justifies the purchase all on its own.http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XNIsKC1YDYo
  2. Driveclub
    In what could be considered to be one of the greatest post launch turnarounds ever, this has recently become one of my favourite racers. (Notable mentions here for Destiny – The Taken King and Diablo – The Reaper of Souls as other great turnarounds…)  It was widely acknowledged that Driveclub at launch was a mess.  Server issues, the perpetually postponed ‘free’ PS+ version, you name it.By the time I got my PS4 though, things had improved.  When I got home with my console, I hooked it up online, set it downloading all the free PS+ games I’d acquired over the previous year, and purchased the Playstation Plus Full Game Upgrade (the free version wasn’t yet out, but this was on offer at £19.99 and seemed worth a punt) I also grabbed the RESOGUN season pass, since I still felt bad that I’d gained the game for free through Plus.  I loved Driveclub from the off, and it went some way to scratching the Forza itch I’d had since getting rid of my 360.  The developers continued to impress with regular free content and improvement patches, and the game matured.  It is very difficult though, and I found my progress coming to a halt in the ‘Tour’ modes.  Regardless, this didn’t stop me purchasing the Season Pass when a PSN sale saw it drop to £10.  So much content, it was obviously great value.Since then patches have addressed the difficulty, a ‘silver medal’ mode saw me returning to the Tour (the skill deficit is obviously my issue, I note plenty of my friends were progressing just fine on gold).  The addition of Bikes towards the end of last year was huge, and bizarrely I seem to be doing much better at that than I did in the cars.  It should be a system seller, and I still think it’s the best looking racing game I’ve ever played.  Even my flatmate finds himself watching me play and admiring the visuals.  I’m not so keen on his habit of telling me which crashes I’d walk away from, and which ones would see me dead on the spot.  I won’t be buying a motorcycle any time soon, regardless of any recommendations from my attorney…

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yDb532yXJ7I

  3. Metro Redux
    The first of my cross-platform mentions, and controversially, a HD Remaster of a game that was hardly old to begin with.  However, it stands out as being one of my favourite gaming experiences of recent years, and quite possibly my favourite single player FPS since Quake.  It looks amazing on PS4, and it nails the atmosphere perfectly.  Playing it alone at night with the lights off was terrifying, and I’m not ashamed to say I did dream about those tunnels for a while after.I heartily recommend playing this, and it’s frequently on sale.  I played through the 2033 remake first, then read the original novel before tackling Last Light.  A superb experience, I’m confident I’ll go back and replay it on those harder difficulties, which is almost unheard of for me, since I rarely even finish games once, nevermind a replay.
  4. Rayman Legends
    The Rayman reboot that started with Origins was a huge return to form for the character, and a boost for platforming in general. I picked this up as something to play in co-op with my girlfriend, and it has been a huge success.  A big plus here for the PS4 version is that although I still only have one controller for the system, I can use my Vita to play.  This works really well, and we have been enjoying playing Lego Marvel Super Heroes in the same manner.
  5. Madden 15
    One of my circles of friends used to all live fairly close, and we had regular gaming days and meetups. As we’ve grown older we’ve moved far enough away that it’s no longer easy to just meet up at short notice, and adult lives mean we’re rarely all free on the same evening to game online.  We agreed to buy Madden when it was on offer, thinking we’d be able to play 4 player 2 v 2 online on those occasions we did manage it.  Given that I hadn’t played an NFL game properly since Joe Montana on the SEGA Master System, I wasn’t sure what to expect.
    Well it turned out EA had removed the ability to play 2 v 2 which was a bummer, and we resigned ourselves to playing 1 v 1.  Then we discovered Connected Franchise mode.  Obviously this is old hat to anyone familiar with the series and I expect sporting games in general, but it was pretty huge to us.  We are now half way through an NFL season, where we’re essentially playing asynchronous multiplayer, in much the same way as you might have played chess via email in the 90s.  When fixtures mean we have to play each other, the PS4 makes it really easy to stream the games to the other players so we can offer support / abuse in real time.
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wQyojYxtMNs
  6. Geometry Wars 3 & Jamestown+
    Shmups! Again these are not platform exclusives, but they are both excellent shmups.  They both benefit from being played on the big screen, and I’ve spent some time with each.  The PS4 shmup library is growing, with Darius Burst Chronicles being next on my list to acquire.  The PS4 is also platform of choice for these, as it has a friends list of active shmuppers, keeping those leaderboards populated!
  7. Rocket League
    A surprise contender for Game of the Year 2015, this completely came from nowhere. Free with PS+, I found myself buying cosmetic DLC just to throw a little money the developer’s way.  It’s an absolute blast, and a regular for when I can’t decide what to play, or for teaming up online with a couple of buddies and losing to randoms on ranked.  The ‘Snow Day’ playlist of an Ice Hockey mode was some of the best gaming I had over the holiday season.
  8. Battlefield 4
    Although military shooters all blurred into one for me sometime ago, that doesn’t mean I don’t like playing them. This was bundled with all the DLC for a sensible price, so a few of us agreed to buy it and play together.  We’ve had some solid Team Deathmatch experiences, and it also goes some of the way to recapturing the enjoyment I had from Warhawk on the PS3.I still drop into it, but I’d really like Warhawk 2 on the PS4, please. (No I don’t want to talk about Starhawk, go away).  Admittedly there are experiences on PC which should be comparable, but I always find PC FPS to be a bit more serious.  This is great for that chilled evening on the couch driving your buddies around in a tank.
  9. Crossbuy & PSPlus = Pix the Cat, Limbo, Velocity, Resogun again
    PS+ has been stella for me since launch. I adore my Vita, and thanks to Crossbuy there have been multiple games that I’ve enjoyed playing both on the go and on my big screen.  This list isn’t exhaustive, but they are highlights.  Pix the Cat stands out as being something that completely took me by surprise, but dominated my playtime for about a month.  I noticed recently that one of my friends beat me on one of the leaderboards too, so I’ll be back on it soon…
  10. SingStar, eventually
    Sometime early in the PS3 era, SingStar went from being a PS2 novelty I was vaguely aware of, to being at almost every social gathering I went to.  SingStar nights became regular occurrences, and through the wonders of alcohol, not at all horrific.  The game got more and more polished, my friends and I all spent a small fortune on downloading more songs, adding cameras and wireless microphones and a good time was had by all.

    The inevitable PS4 launch came, and although initially sounding promising, your mics will still work, you’ll be able to download your songs (providing they’re on the new store) it was a disaster.  There was new latency on the mics, hardly any songs were downloadable, and they’d stripped out most of the gameplay modes.  We wrote it off.Recently though, after months and months of silence, it received a pretty hefty patch.  The whole experience has been improved, 95% of my songs are available and new gameplay modes have been added as well as restoring the ones taken away.  It’s the game it should have been.  All I need to do is shell out for another camera, and the parties are back in business.  Just need to apologise to the neighbours in advance.

Obviously the reasons mentioned above are personal, and we all like different games and experiences.  I’m very happy with my PS4, and although I’m also pleased with the Xbox One and will be doing a follow up post for that, the PS4 would still be the system I’d recommend if you were only going to get one current system.  It does tend to get the best versions of cross-platform games, and although you could argue a gaming PC might do that better, there is always an Arkham Knight to remind you that it’s not all that simple…