Five Great TV Dramas To Watch This Summer

Here Emma D picks five of her favourite TV Dramas that she recommends you check out

Bittersweet Mondays: Weekly Webcomic

Confab presents the brand new Bittersweet Comics debut with the first of a weekly web-comic series.

Game Review: Serious Sam: The Second Encounter HD

Sam returns in a remake of the 2002 classic sequel, how does it stand up?

The Sexism of Horror Video Games

The history of sexism in video games is almost as old as games themselves, Emma D discusses the underlying sexism of the horror genre

Film Review: The Amazing Spider-Man

Spidey's latest outing hits the cinemas, does this reboot make a name for itself or is it just another cheap Hollywood cash-in?

Volunteer: A Career for the Unemployed

With high rates of unemployment across the globe, Charlotte explains why now is a great time for the jobless to volunteer!

Overrated: The Legend of Zelda Skyward Sword

Claimed by many critics as 'The Best Zelda Ever!'. Long time Zelda fan Emma D argues why it didn't live up to the hype.

Saturday, 30 June 2012

Game Review: Serious Sam HD TFE

Serious Sam HD Review


Developer: Croteam
Publisher: Devolver Digital & CDV Software Entertainment 
Platforms: Steam (reviewed) & Xbox 360
Genre: FPS
Release Date: 24 November 2009
Price: £6.99


In today's market it is fairly unusual to find a first person shooter which doesn't try to overload the player with a "meaningful" story line, a more realistic experience or numerous customization options for practically anything the player can think of. "Serious Sam HD: The First Encounter" is an exception which takes the player back to a time where the rule was "shoot everything you see, no exceptions" and although this doesn't take much thought it provides a fun and oddly refreshing experience. "The First Encounter" is set in Egypt with the plot revolving around collecting elements in order to travel back in time, a truly flawless storyline! Though the game may be lacking in the narrative department it makes up for it with the intense, non-stop gameplay which requires the player to stay focused if they want to stay alive.




Staying alive provides a challenge with the game launching wave after wave of enemy forces at every turn. Enemies consist of horse-like skeleton creatures, soldiers with saw blades for heads, giant walking robotic brains with laser cannons, scorpions with machine guns and headless kamikaze soldiers, who comically scream as they charge towards you, and this is only naming a few.

Sam is however well equipped to take on the variety of ludicrous enemies with an equally varied arsenal including shotguns, machine guns, lasers, canons and rocket launchers. Though there is about sixteen weapons in the game I found myself sticking to about four, with the others becoming more and more redundant as the game progressed. A lack of ammunition wasn't a problem for me however I can see it causing issues on the harder difficulties in the game.

The game, however simple it may be, is most definitely not easy. The continuous bombardment from every direction requires quick reflexes so the player doesn't get overloaded by enemies who can deal fairly large chunks of damage at a time. Trying to deal with enemies as soon as they spawn is the best plan of attack however they spawn so frequently that the player can often be overrun. On a couple of occasions I found myself being literally thrown around by countless charging bull type enemies leading to my inevitable death.




"The First Encounter" seems to have a fairly even difficulty curve by which I mean it starts by sending multiple enemies at you and ends by throwing everything including the kitchen sink. However this onslaught or enemies can be tackles in a group of up to 16 players in co-operative play and although I didn't get to try this feature due to no-one being online, I can imagine it being amazingly good fun.

The game takes most elements back to root level with health and armour packs dotted around each level as opposed to health regeneration found in most fps games today. Level layouts are largely liner with any tasks simply requiring the player to push buttons or find a key in order to progress. The fast paced "shoot on sight" gameplay takes centre stage however it does run the risk or feeling largely repetitive. Impatient gamers shouldn't be put of by this though as the game is one that you can simply dive in and out of at will.

By the midway stage in the game the player will have seen practically ever enemy the game has to offer which does get boring, creating the feeling that you're merely fighting clones. Waves of enemies can become tiring when locked in a room or arena to do battle with the same enemy for minutes on end. However this is a HD remake much can be forgiven.

The visuals in the game are impressive, especially when you look back to the original, which has not aged well, it shows what a good job the developers have done. Everything now looks bright, crisp and colourful which is exactly what you want from a HD remake.

 
Serious Sam The First Encounter (2001)
Serious Sam HD: The First Encounter (2009)

As with the co-operative play, I was unable to play the deathmatch mode due to lack of online users so I can't really comment on it. I imagine it would be very like unreal tournament or quake online and if the opportunity arises I'll definitely give it a go.

As a newcomer to the series I would recommend "Serious Sam HD: The First Encounter". The old-school gameplay provides a solid adrenaline fuelled experience and though it is very simplistic and short in comparison to modern fps games it definitely holds its own. If you are looking for relentless action or simply just want to shoot things until they explode "Serious Sam" will deliver.


- Tom Seed

Friday, 29 June 2012

Game Feature: Automatic or Cinematic?

Now showing on a games console near you:

As the technology behind games grows increasingly more powerful, developers have been able to produce increasingly more complex game features. They have been able to reach goals that were unimaginable fifteen, ten and even five years ago. Better technology and sky-rocketing budgets have allowed developers to strive to blur the line between films and games, to create a more cinematic experience for the player. Games like Bethesda’s Skyrim, which allows Dragons to appear in random encounters for the player to fight, CD Projekt RED’s The Witcher 2, which contains a multi-layered, mature story with deep political and racial themes, and Naughty Dog’s Uncharted series, which features set pieces worthy of a summer blockbuster, have all effectively transcended “games”. They have become experiences that would not feel out of place in your local cinema. But, as successful as these games are in what they aimed to achieve, other developers have taken different routes.

Now this, is cinematic!

    The difference between games and films is clear and well-defined. In a film, you are merely the observer to the story being told on screen. You have no say in what happens, no chance to defend the life of a damsel in distress, and no method of failure. In games, you are a participant. You control the protagonist and, although most games do not feature a branching narrative, you feel like your involvement has an effect on the progression of the story. In essence, the fact that you have control is one of the purest definitions of what is a “game”. But in an effort to become more cinematic, the player’s control is being increasingly removed.

    A perfect example of this would be the single player campaign of DICE’s Battlefield 3. It is a corridor shooter in the truest sense of the term. Players are funnelled down tight paths eliminating targets as they progress to the next quick time event. There is very little control here. The player’s path is surrounded by kill zones, areas where the screen is filled with static and orders to return to the mission are barked through your speakers. You are given ten seconds to return to your pre-determined path, or you face a game over screen. These paths are sometimes so small that even venturing down a small alleyway in search of a collectible is met with your squad threatening to “stick a boot up your ass”. Any meaningful action that happens in the game, happens via a cutscene or a quick time event where the player has no control over their actions. Even more absurdly, destruction is limited to a point where the only real destruction happens in a scripted event. In an engine like Frostbite 2, this is silly. With this engine, we can create our own cinematic moments, we shouldn’t be limited to one specific building that DICE has decided must come down. Some of the funnest moments in the Battlefield series is using the environment’s destructibility to your advantage, and Battlefield 3 limits this almost entirely. I apologise if this has come across as rather ranty, but I found these to be glaring problems with the campaign.

Beautiful? Yes. Are you in control? No.

Developers have to realise that games are not movies. Limiting our control of a situation, taking away that vital connection to what we are playing is not going to make games more enjoyable. We don’t want to watch the action, we want to be in it. Give us back control.


- Paul Brown

Thursday, 28 June 2012

Game News: GametoAid Raise Money for Charity By Playing Games


A group of students in Adelaide, Australia will host and stream a live Zelda video-game marathon raising money for Child’s Play charity. Hosted on their site, GametoAid, the stream will feature two teams playing through six titles from Nintendo's The Legend of Zelda series, to raise money for Childs Play
"Child's Play seeks to improve the lives of children in hospitals around the world through the kindness and generosity of the video game industry and the power of play. It's an honour to be supporting such a great gaming-related cause, and I hope that together with your help we can make a difference to a bunch of childrens' lives."
The marathon is scheduled to start on Thursday the 28th of June at these following times:

Time Zone - Marathon Start
BST- 09:30AM
PST- 04:30AM
EST-01:30AM 
A-EST-18:30PM




"The Zelda Timeline Marathon will be broadcast live online, where thousands of viewers will tune in to watch and donate. Over a duration of over 72 hours, several players will take shifts to complete a selection of Zelda games ranging from Ocarina of Time to Skyward Sword. The team will interact with viewers of the marathon through a chat box, and hope to leverage social media services such as Twitter and Facebook to spread the word about the charity drive." 




Unlike some other marathons GameToAid aim to have as much interaction and communication with their audience as possible. One of the group aims to always on available to chat in order to take requests for challenges, hand out prizes, run multiple contests and looking at any submitted fan art.

The Zelda titles they will be playing through are as follows:

Skyward Sword
Ocarina of Time 
A Link to the Past 
Majora's Mask 
Link's Awakening 
The Wind Waker

GameToAid have been fundraising since December 2010, which is when they had their first ever marathon (Game Over School). Since then they have been playing through some great games and some not-so-great games.


"The student-run group GameToAid has raised over $26,000 for various charities in the past 18 months, and have had a total of 4.3 million viewers. “Itʼs a great way to bring gamers together to give back to the community," said Toby Zerner, event coordinator, 'and to use video games for a good cause.'"


So why not take a look at the stream and perhaps donate anything you can?
Also feel free to comment below as to which is your favourite Zelda game!


GameToAid Links
- Michael Johnson (Slurmnator)
Author's note: 'I'll be on chat moderating as always so feel free to come say hello.'

Wednesday, 27 June 2012

Tech News: Google announces Nexus 7 Tablet

Google's new Nexus 7 Tablet 





Earlier today, Google revealed their first official 7" tablet, the Nexus 7, at their Google I/O conference.


The tablet, made by Asus, will the first device to debut with the upcoming Android 4.1 release 'Jellybean'. Google will be launching two very affordable models come Mid-July.


Model - UK/US Price
8GB £159  $199
16GB £199 $249


Google's speedy tablet is set to run on a powerful 1.3Ghz Tegra 3 Quadcore processor, 1GB of RAM, a crisp 7" 1280x800 HD resolution screen (216 ppi) and will come in 8GB and 16GB storage models. Unfortunately for high capacity enthusiasts there will be no physical expandable memory slots.


The full list of specs can be found: Here




As well as fighting for a share of Apple's current share in the tablet market, this new powerful yet affordable tablet is set to challenge Amazon's Kindle Fire which is currently the best selling Android Tablet in the US. Amazon have yet to release their 7" Kindle Fire tablet outside of North America which means Google could be the first to tap into the 'affordable premium tablets' market in the UK.


- Ben Carron

Monday, 25 June 2012

News: Facebook adds 'Local Friend Finder' service.

Facebook Local Friend Finder 

Social network giant, Facebook, have quietly introduced a new friend finding service for Facebook mobile. 


Simply dubbed 'Friendshake' the new service allows Facebook users to 'find friends nearby' using their smartphone's internet and GPS connections. 


(image from TCtechcrunch.com)

With this new service making it easier than ever before to find new acquaintances at festivals, concerts and other public events, now is the perfect time for facebook users to check over their accounts privacy settings.

- Ben Carron

Saturday, 23 June 2012

Game News: Nintendo eShop Anniversary Sale

Nintendo celebrates eShop's first birthday with discounted titles
Nintendo announced during the recent Nintendo Direct that a special anniversary/summer sale taking effect over the next fortnight in Europe and Japan to celebrate the Nintendo eShop's first anniversary.

For North American 3DS owners, the downloadable Gameboy classic, Super Mario Land will be on sale for the discounted price of $2.99 from June 6th-24th 



Between June 22nd and June 28th the following titles will be reduced by 20%:

Pullblox - £4.30 

Zen Pinball 3D - £3.60 

Let's Golf 3D - £4.30 

Super Mario Land - £2.90 

The Legend of Zelda: Link's Awakening DX - £4.30 

In the week that follows, June 28th to July 5th, these games will be discounted:

Dillon's Rolling Western 
Freakyforms 
Fun! Fun! Minigolf TOUCH! 
Mighty Switch Force! 
Super Mario Land 2








- Vernon Schieck





Get a free giffgaff Sim

Game News: Nintendo 3DS XL Announced

Nintendo announces new jumbo 3DS revision


Nintendo has announced a new 3DS hardware revision at its latest Nintendo Direct broadcast.
Simply named the Nintendo 3DS XL (or Nintendo 3DS LL in Japan), the system revision shares similarities to the Nintendo DSi XL/LL that was released in 2010.




The Nintendo 3DS XL comes in three colours. In Europe it will be Blue, Red and Silver while Japanese gamers can get White, Red and Black and Silver and Black. It features an increase in screen size to 90% larger than the original Nintendo 3DS' screen and features a longer battery life. Ranging from 3.5 to 6.5 hours for Nintendo 3DS software and 6 to 10 hours for Nintendo DS software, depending on the brightness of the system, 3D usage and other features.

The pixel density of the 3DS XL works out to be less of a significant decrease in ppi than the DSiXL was due to the 3DS' higher resolution screen meaning 3DS titles shouldn't suffer too much graphically from the jump in size.


Original 3DS: 132.15ppi
3DS XL: 95.59ppi
----------
Original DS: 106.67ppi
DS Lite: 102.56ppi
DSi: 98: 46ppi
DSi XL: 76.19ppi

Source: [en.wikipedia.org] & [pixeldensitycalculator.com]

The Nintendo 3DS XL will release simultaneously in Europe, for around £179.99, and in Japan on July 28th, and finally in North America on August 19th for $199.99


- Vernon Schieck

Monday, 4 June 2012

Nintendo Direct Pre E3 2012 Hardware Round Up


Once again gamers are calling in sick days, stocking up on snacks as they prepare for the years biggest gaming expo, where Microsoft, Sony and Nintendo hold conferences which are set to run over the next couple of days, as well as conferences being held by three of the largest publishers: Ubisoft, Konami and EA. 

Nintendo have a lot to prove this year as they build up to the release of their next generation console the Nintendo Wii U which is set to hit retail in the 2012 Holiday period. Nintendo appear to have a plethora of information and announcements for this years E3 as they have ran a Pre E3 direct presentation to reveal new information about some of the Wii U's new hardware and software features.

 Hardware:

Wii U Tablet Controller: 

Wii U Tablet Controller named Wii U Gamepad
Wii U Gamepad changed slightly from prototype seen in E3 2011
 - Slider pads changed to Analogue Sticks 
 - NFC Chip on bottom left corner of Gamepad
 - Start & Select Buttons Moved to below the face buttons on right hand side
 - Gamepad longer and more comfortable to hold

Wii U Pro Controller announced:


This new, yet incredibly familiar looking controller, aimed at the 'hardcore' audience is intended for longer play sessions than using the Wii U's Game pad. Despite looking an awful lot like their rivals current generation controller, it could potentially be one of the best controllers out there featuring what appear to be good analogue triggers and that which the Xbox 360 controller lacked: a decent d-pad.


- Ben Carron


Sunday, 3 June 2012

Tech Review: iPad - One of the finest Tablets that nobody needs




Another year, another iThingy by Apple. Not a laptop, not a phone, but instead a new, ever-so-slightly-modified version of the iPad 2. A beautifully crafted 7-10” slab of technology with a touchscreen for primary input and wireless technologies for communication and data transfer. Sure they look pretty neat and certainly feel cool and intuitive to use but do we really need them?


Tablets are not as functional as laptops and as yet  are not small or portable enough as your smartphone, so where exactly is the market for them? Yes, you can word process on them, but the whole experience feels clumsy and troublesome compared to the ease of typing on a laptop or desktop computer. Society seems to have reached a point where we’re making sleek gadgets that we just do not need. Yes you can draw sketches or read books on the high resolution touch-screen, but there are dedicated drawing tablets for that and e-readers with e-ink screens which do not strain your eyes after a few chapters. Hell, what’s wrong with just drawing on paper and reading a book? The niche that the iPad manages to fill is that of convenience for cool people who must have the new... everything. Smartphones offer the same convenience but wait - the iPad has a bigger screen and more power under the bonnet. Laptops are portable too but require a time consuming boot-up and a protective bag. The iPad will fit in most bags, satchels and rucksacks, and battery life lasts anywhere from six to ten hours, compared to a laptop’s paltry two to four hours. The iPad cannot replace a laptop for work-heavy users and in no way can it replace a mobile phone, it would look implausibly idiotic pulling an iPad out of your bag to take a call.
iPad & iPhoneMany tablet owners are doing just what smartphone owners do but with a few more inches of playspace. The new iPad’s major new feature is the amazingly high resolution screen (2048x1536 pixels) which is actually crisper and more detailed than any HDTV on the market. The 9.7” screen works wonders for drawing detailed sketches, reading larger volumes of text, and editing photos etc. If you have ever played Draw Something, the hugely popular pictionary-like game, you’ll know how tricky it is drawing on a smartphone’s tiny screen. Much like the iPhone 4’s retina screen, the iPad’s retina screen makes high resolution images and videos look more beautiful than ever. The new iPad is indistinguishable from its predecessor by design alone. It comes in at an acceptable weight of 652g (10g more for the 4G version) and at just 0.37 inches wide it fits incredibly well in the hands. Yes, you’ll notice you’re holding a weight, but the device is by no means like a lead brick.


The iPad 3 really comes into its own against other tablets when it comes to apps and software. A choice of over 200,000 dedicated apps and games means there is far more choice for casual users and tech geeks alike, and an abundance of higher quality apps than are available on competing tablets.


Gamers interested in picking up a tablet should note that In the last couple of years the gaming library on iPad has exploded with high quality releases, with graphics rivalling output on even the Xbox and Playstation 3. The iPad 3 is the definitive tablet to own if gaming is a big factor in helping you decide which tablet to purchase.


So the new iPad is an impressive piece of kit, but aside from 4G mobile internet technology, which isn’t even available in the UK until the end of 2012 or mid 2013, it doesn’t really do anything new that the iPad 2 can’t; it just does everything with a prettier screen and more processing power.


The extra £100 cost over the iPad 2’s price nets you a higher resolution screen, a better rear facing camera and a more powerful processor. It’s a worthy investment if you’re spending a few hundred quid on a device anyway and keeps you future proof. If you really like the extra detail that HDTV brought into our living rooms the new screen will not disappoint.


Should you buy it?

iPad 2 owners may want to give upgrading a miss as it’s not a huge jump in features or specifications, but if you’re in the market for a new (and unnecessary) tablet, have a few hundred quid to burn and don’t already own one, then the iPad 3 is an easy recommendation. Just don’t expect it to replace your laptop or compete with your phone for portability.



  • Manufacturer: Apple

  • Price: £429-£659
  • Released: 09/03/2012
  • Battery life: 8-10 Hours
  • Colours: Black/White
Pros:
  • Lightweight

  • Stunningly high resolution screen
  • 
Extensive battery life
  • 
Vast catalogue Software and Games
Cons:

  • Expensive
  • No groundbreaking new features over last model

  • Still can’t fully replace your laptop
  • 
Doesn’t play nicely with Android Phones
  • 
Poor quality front facing Camera
- Ben Carron

Twitter Delicious Facebook Digg Stumbleupon Favorites More
KingViral See my work in Kettle Mag