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Mod Spotlight – All of them

Mod Spotlight – All of them

Every few weeks I’ll come across a mod that sparks my interest. Whether it’s for a game I’m currently playing or something I haven’t booted up in several years, it doesn’t matter – within minutes of stumbling across something fascinating, I’ll have downloaded it and be playing the game with as much excitement as the day I first bought it.

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Have Video Games Become Too Violent?

Have Video Games Become Too Violent?

Video games have been connected with a string of bad press over the years due to violent content and the supposed effects this could have on the people playing such games. Games have been banned, police statements have been made and bloody torsos have been sold as ‘collector’s edition’. There is no doubt that violence is fairly prevalent in video games and the video game culture. The real question is have these games become too violent?

At the risk of sounding like an old codger (I’m 25) I’m going to recall part of my childhood experience with video games for you now. You see, when I was a youngster video games were primarily a pre-adolescent activity. I grew up with an original Game Boy playing the likes of Donkey Kong and Super Mario Land, a hobby passed onto me by my dad who was of the generation of kids that hung around the arcades every evening playing Pong and Space Invaders. The video game industry has long since passed the days of Space Invaders at the arcades and now caters for the more mature gamer amongst others.

That’s not to say that the Pac-Man games of our parents generation don’t exist today, they have just become a lot more intelligent. Kids are now entertained by augmented reality and motion control and gadgets like the iPad and smart phones have largely replicated the style of gameplay the arcades used to provide. This in turn means that in most cases, adults who still wish to play video games need a ramped up experience in order to keep them entertained. If you were to take a look at the data for all time video game sales for the PS3 (provided here) you can see that games with high levels of violence feature heavily. God of War III, GTA IV, Killzone 2, Red Dead Redemption, Resident Evil 5 and numerous Call of Duty games all feature and are all 18 rated games.

So it’s clear that the video game industry caters largely for the older gamer, but in my opinion adding an age restriction to a game does very little in terms of discouraging younger gamers from playing. I don’t want to turn this into a debate about age restrictions and if parents should or shouldn’t be buying games for their children, so instead look at it this way. Games are often compared to films in terms of cinematic experience and story telling ability. Great games are noted as being enjoyed for generations, just as great films are. So would films on general release to the public, be allowed to show the same level of violence that we find in games today? I’m talking about the detailed knife takedowns in Battlefield 3, the torture scenes featured in more than one Call of Duty game and the brutal decapitations in Dead Space 3.

Tomb Raider has never been violence free, but the latest release has shown a serious increase in graphic death scenes.
Tomb Raider has never been violence free, but the latest release has shown an increase in graphic death scenes.

A good example of a game that has matured with the times is Tomb Raider. Now Tomb Raider has always featured a certain level of violence, but it’s thanks to the recent reboot, rated 18 that the level of graphic violence has been pushed to the next stage. I’ve read a few arguments from loyal fans questioning why that level of violence was ever deemed necessary in the first place. Other younger gamers are disappointed that they are no longer able to buy a game that, at least in my eyes, was seen as a fairly family friendly game. Other titles such as Skyrim, a game that has won numerous awards, offer perks that will increase the level of violence as you improve your character.

Not every game is heading in the direction of increased violence however. Games like Borderlands 2 and Gears of War: Judgement have menu options that cut the level of violence and profanity making them more available to younger players. An idea for developers to consider would be that more games could have options like this, but making them permanent implications. This way two versions of the same game could be released with different ratings allowing access for gamers of varying ages. I’m not saying content should be cut, just simple menu options like those mentioned above.

Skyrim's skill tree offers a perk that will increase the chance of decapitating your enemy upon their death.
Skyrim’s skill tree offers a perk that will increase the chance of decapitating your enemy upon death.

There are various reasons as to why popular games are becoming more violent. Part of the rise could be down to the popularity of first person shooters such as the Call of Duty series. These shooters (of which more than just CoD are included) generally don’t hold back on the violent scenes and are aimed at all out action and adrenaline. An example of this in Call of Duty would be a torture scene during the first Black Ops game now famously known as the glass punch. Other games may in turn try to emulate the popular gameplay structure of these games, eventually turning such scenes into the norm.

Another reason could be that the video game industry simple wasn’t able to fully realise its artistic visions in the past. The whole industry has advanced so incredibly in the past 10-15 years that super detailed games with huge environments are expected for most AAA releases now. Violence has always been commonplace in video games, but if games like Carmageddon (which was widely criticised upon release) were being made with today’s graphics would there be as much of an uproar?

While I myself am not adverse to a little bit of video game violence as long as it’s in context, It’s clear to see that as a whole the levels of blood and gore contained in popular games and the culture surrounding them has increased and some people might not like it. With next-gen consoles just around the corner the potential for this to increase even further is definitely there, but as it stands I don’t personally see it being too bad, aside from a rare few occasions (such as Hitman Absolution’s Facebook app).

Do you think video game violence has become too extreme, or is it all just fun and games? If you have any views on video game violence feel free to leave a comment below and I will do my best to reply to you.

Skyrim: Dragonborn – The Verdict

Skyrim: Dragonborn – The Verdict

There are few problems in life that cannot be solved by a great deal of running away. It’s a lesson I learnt long ago playing Oblivion – whilst many of my friends battled their way through hell’s minions, I’d sprint through the daedric realm at a dead run, dash up the demonic towers and grab the crystal in some bizarre tribute to memories of watching the Crystal Maze as a child. It’s apparently applicable to most demonic realms, as Dragonborn was quick to reveal to me.

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Our Week In Games – Week 27

Our Week In Games – Week 27

This week has been yet another in a long line that I’ve not actually had a massive amount of time to play games. I’ve been patch testing for a Scottish indie developer called Retro Army, work has been very busy and everyone seems to be having birthdays or engagement parties that need attending. I have managed some game time with Dead Space 3 with a review coming soon, but apart from that nothing. Thankfully Sunday is a different story for me with no work and no social activities. Sunday is a day for rest, relaxation, recuperation and of course, Sunday is a day for The Reticule. So without further ado I’ll hand you over to the team for Our Week In Games, enjoy.


Last time I talked about playing Deus Ex. And I’ll open by saying it’s because I intuitively knew that System Shock 2 was going to be made available on GOG shortly afterwards.

That’s a complete lie. It was pure coincidence. Hell of a coincidence though, I bet I could’ve made that work! You’d be completely taken in.

Deus Ex is often described as being SS2’s spiritual successor, and playing the latter immediately after the former hammers home the likenesses. But if you’re not familiar with SS2, it very much fits in to the science-fiction horror mould rather than the later game’s cyberpunk conspiracy. Both games have action elements and RPG mechanics, but DX’s JC Denton never feels as trapped and lonely and the reason for this, bear with me, might have something to do with how System Shock 2 is really goddamn creepy and has you exploring a corpse-strewn spaceship rather than a city full of distinctly not-dead people.

Atmosphere and ambience get thrown around a lot, vague ways of insisting that a game instils particular emotions, and while SS2’s graphics are dated (and it was never good-looking to begin with, let’s face it: maybe we should all give those hi-def user modifications a look) the gameplay, the sounds and dialogue, and of course the escalation of weird shit in the narrative contribute to a survival horror that’s… aged much better than I expected. Yeah, I’m convinced nostalgia plays a part, but I’m fairly confident that anyone trying out SS2 for the first time is going to appreciate not just its legacy, but the fact that it’s still a solid game in and of itself. And by solid I’ll reiterate that I mean creepy.

But I still can’t quite decide if the rapid weapon degeneration is a clever way of increasing tension and desperation or if it’s just annoying. Maybe it’s a bit of both.


skyrim sovngarde

People of Skyrim, I have a confession to make.

You hail me as your saviour, the slayer of the great Dragon Alduin and killer of the already fairly-dead Miraak. Indeed, I am all those things, and more.

Well, kind of. I was there at least to see it happen. But to call me responsible for it would be kind of a lie.

Ok, let me explain.

I found this spell, you see. It allows me to summon a great champion from the etherial realm of Sovngarde, that great hall in the sky where all the awesome people go once they shuffle off their mortal coil. You’d love it – it’s got endless mead on offer and now there’s no longer an immortal dragon outside eating the souls of the newly dead, it’s a great place to retire to.

The thing about this spell is, well, it summons the best. The greatest heroes that Skyrim has ever seen, dragged back to the land of the living to temporarily stand alongside me in battle. Only they don’t, you see. They have a tendency to, how do I put this, go a bit heroic.

I didn’t kill Miraak, not really. I hit him a few times, don’t get me wrong, but most of the time it was when his back was turned, embroiled in epic battle with the ancient ghost of the real hero of Skyrim. He’s the real saviour, the ghost who stood toe to toe with the most powerful Dragonborn in existence. He fought for you, for all of you, despite knowing the agony of death. He’s the one you should all be hailing, only you can’t, because he’s already dead.

And do you know what, I didn’t even get his name.


What Does ‘Next-Gen’ Gaming Mean To You?

What Does ‘Next-Gen’ Gaming Mean To You?

‘Next-Gen’ is a term that’s being thrown around quite loosely at the moment. We already know details about the Wii U, but what about Sony and Microsoft, third-party accessories and PC’s that seem to advance in spec every day. Everything from next-gen consoles, to next-gen graphics and next-gen gaming accessories are hot topics of discussion and speculation right now. But forget hype, advertisement and what developers are saying. What does next-gen really mean to the gamers of this generation? What advancements and improvements would they like to see in the next instalment of consoles and PC’s to hit the market? These are the very questions I asked myself, my friends and the writers and followers of The Reticule. In the following paragraphs you will find all the opinions of this generation of gamers and their hopes and dreams of what the ‘next-gen’ will hold.

PC’s Mostly Always Have It Better – Bring Modding To Consoles

As a mostly console gamer I look to my PC gaming friends and sometimes I wonder why I do it to myself. There are a number of things that I just wish I had access to that aren’t available on consoles. Being able to upgrade parts of my gaming platform almost at will, cheaper games, better graphics, more precise controls and a more open platform are just some of the benefits. For me the biggest one has to be the ability to mod games. One of my favourite games of the past while has been Skyrim. I’ve gladly sunk over a hundred hours into this game and while I have access to added content via paid DLC, it’s not anywhere near the scale of content available to PC gamers. One look on the Steam Workshop shows there are thousands of free user made mods such as ThirteenOranges brilliant series of quest lines and in-game items. This trend of user-created content is very popular and is certainly not limited to Skyrim or indeed to Steam.

Below is an example of just some of the content that console gamers are missing out on.

What I would love to see in the next generation of gaming is a way to bring that creativity and freedom to consoles. With the current generation of consoles increasingly heading in the direction of being multimedia focused, surely it would be possible to set up an application that could securely download mods over the internet. People would of course encounter restrictions such as download limits and the fact that the mods would probably need to be developed on a PC first anyway. It seems as if it would be easy enough to implement but whether Microsoft and Sony would be willing to allow access to an area where they could potentially stop making as much profit is a totally different question. I believe in times to come that PC gamers will be making even further leaps ahead of their console brethren and that sooner or later something will have to be done to allow consoles to continue, at least in their current form. Quite frankly Sony and Microsoft would be mod not to allow it to happen…

Virtual Reality – Because Stabbing Someone Online Just Doesn’t Feel Real Enough

Martin and Stephen over on Facebook both agree that virtual reality headsets are the way forward for the next generation. While in its relative infancy in terms of the video gaming industry, virtual reality is not a new concept and has been dreamed about in films and books for many years. Back in 1994 the Forte VFX-1 virtual headset was released on the market for £400. Sadly it seemed to be before its time and never reached its full potential, lacking the availability of reasonably priced hardware able to run the headset. Flash forward to 2012 and VR gaming is back with a bang. The most popular example of this is the Kickstarter funded Oculus Rift developed entirely for use with video games and due for release next year. The Oculus Rift promises “to raise gaming to the next level” and offers 110° vision for total immersion in your gameplay. Developers from companies like Epic Games and Valve have been so impressed when testing the Oculus Rift that they instantly backed its development.

While the Oculus Rift may be the most popular example of things to come, it’s not the only VR headset in development. Sony have been developing their own headset for use with films and gaming. While this headset offers a 3D virtual experience it also replicates 5.1 surround sound using headphones built onto the headset. When released, Sony’s headset will be compatible with current Blue-Ray players and can even hook up for use with the PS3.

However, the most interesting headset I’ve laid eyes on so far has to be Sensics ‘Smart Goggles’. This VR headset allows for 360° head tracking and all in full 3D. So when using this headset the illusion of looking at a large screen in front of your eyes would be completely erased. It’s also powered by Android allowing for full compatibility with not just consoles and PC’s, but smart phones and tablets too. The headset will also have use as a standalone, using augmented reality to change the world around you.

Valve, possibly as a direct result of their financial backing of the Oculus Rift, have also shown possible interest in developing their own VR headset. It was revealed in April that they had been conducting in-house R&D for “wearable computers”, but whether that means something other than a VR headset is anyone’s guess. With all the competition for Virtual Reality headsets it seems as if they are bound to feature heavily at some point in the lifetime of the next generation of gaming. My concern is that most gamers (yeah, I asked a few) including myself, don’t seem to be bothered about the current 3D technology available to them. Is VR just an advanced 3D, or is it the immersive push that’s really needed?

Below is a video of three members of the Totally Rad Show (aka, the annoying intro show) getting some hands on time with Sony’s 3D VR headset.

Bite-Sized gaming, PC Power and Multiplayer With Two Hundred People

While I was happy to receive a ton of feedback from everyone on their thoughts about next-gen, to be able to include every idea would turn this article into somewhat of a book. This section is a run down of some great ideas submitted from social media and the minds of our very own writers.

Our very own Jordan Harling, who happens to be writing his dissertation on a similar subject later this year, had a lot of input. Ranging from next-gen consoles to where real gaming innovation will come from, here’s what he had to say.

“AAA games will continue being derivative on all consoles and on the PC, few advances will be made but it’ll just be bigger, prettier and boomier. We’ll get one or two games that break the norm however, the major innovations will again come through the indie industry, which hopefully will be nurtured by major publishers. Something like the 20th Century Fox/Fox Searchlight thing would be grand, where the indie companies will be funded but retain creative control of the product. Until a major overhaul of publishing rights happens that won’t be a possibility though.

I believe that tablet and mobile games will slowly become more prominent but will mature into their own segment of the industry, ones that don’t try to compete with consoles and PC gaming. They’ll perfect the art of bite-size gaming and some reputable companies will start producing genuinely high-quality games exclusive to mobiles and tablets. Rayman: Jungle Run looks like an early example of this.”

Another of our great minds Nick Wheeler says, “With a continual improvement in broadband speeds, I’d love for consoles to mature into machines capable of running the two hundred plus player games I’m used to on the PC. Games like Battlefield 3 seem absurdly constrained on Xbox when compared to their PC counterparts. In short, I just want everyone to experience gaming at its finest, whether that be on PC or console. If that means transforming the console under your TV into just another PC, then so be it.”

Over on Tumblr, Doablog thinks that next-gen will be all about PC power advancing way above that of any console. With vastly upgraded graphics cards and CPU’s PC’s will again be the more impressive machine to play games on.

Xbox Exclusivity Ends, Dawnguard Unleashed On Steam

Xbox Exclusivity Ends, Dawnguard Unleashed On Steam

Today’s Steam deal for the ‘Elder Scrolls Collection‘ may at first seem like nothing special. Until you look a bit closer and notice the words Dawnguard in there. Bethesda, you sneaky snake you.

As if by magic the first DLC pack for The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim has now been released on PC, coinciding with Bethesda’s presence at this weekends QuakeCon.

Priced at £13.99, the equivalent value of the 1600 Microsoft Points paid by Xbox 360 owners, this DLC is certainly not cheap. If your not convinced about forking out for it, why not take a look at our review for a better idea of what’s included.

The Elder Scrolls V: Dawnguard – The Verdict

The Elder Scrolls V: Dawnguard – The Verdict

If there’s one thing I love about Skyrim it’s that it gives the sense of a deep and real, living and breathing world with meaningful consequences. There are various different stories to delve into, different paths to choose and even random chance encounters with a troll or necromancer that could potentially take you halfway across Skyrim on a quest for glory. Dawnguard is the first available DLC from producers Bethesda and adds to this world by deepening your characters story and environment even more.

Having sunk around 125 hours into my original Skyrim playthrough I thought I had more than had my fill of being dragonborn. But after an absence from the game of around three months, Dawnguard has reminded me of my love for the game and made me realise just how much I had actually been missing it. Certainly I had exhausted almost everything my original mage could do, but Dawnguard gives me a good excuse to start afresh with a new class and gives me the chance to do any quests I missed the first time around. Besides I wanted to try out that awesome looking new crossbow and become an evil vampire lord and my goodie two-shoes mage just didn’t seem like the kind of person to do this.

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