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Monday, 10 September 2012

World of Warcraft the killer that destroyed a genre.

Ask any self respecting gamer what they think the most succesful multiplayer game in the world is .. Without a shadow of a doubt they will all give you the same answer, World of Warcaft.

Blizzard Entertainments behemoth franchise Warcraft, undoubtedly the king of RTS gaming in the ninties evolved into what we know today as the single most immersive gaming experience one can have. World of Warcraft broke into the MMO scene in 2004 as a rival to already developed massively mutliplayer online games such as Ultima Online, Everquest and even Runescape all games that boasted a huge cult following.

Leading up to its release Blizzard Entertainment managed to build a huge hype for its marquee title using a whole host of clever promises, promises such as WoW having many aspects that gamers had yearned for in previous titles as well as making World of Warcraft incredibly accessible to newcomers to the genre.

In November of 2004 the games release saw the game sell over a million copies within days of it being on the shelves all thanks to Blizzards excellent business model and  of course exciting new content being churned out by reguarly in expansions such as the upcoming Mists of Pandaria and regualar patches. Since day one more and more people have flocked to Azeroth to take on epic quests, battles and enjoy the experience with their friends. World of Warcrafts peak playerbase is roughly around 12 million people which is more than the population of Scotland and Wales put together ...

As highlighted not only above but in a past game review on this very site i have pointed out how absolutely amazing World of Warcraft is, especially for a new player (Everyone yearns for that feeling of stepping into a new game for the first time with World of Warcraft!) but with the good must come the bad.

Thanks to the immense popularity of World of Warcraft other Massively multiplayer games that have been released have been absolutely crushed by Blizzards prize pig. A handful of games that have been fairly popular have seen themselves taking many of the key aspects and attributes from World of Warcraft themselves, although this has only seen them eventually get shot down for being a 'Yet another World of Warcraft clone'.

An excellent example of this is Lord of the Rings online, an MMORPG that should have had video game nerds around the world collectively suffering huge asthma attacks upon the announcement of the project and on release date, although of course that was not to be ... After only a fairly short time since release due to its lack of subscribers the game was turned into a FTP model. (Although it shoud be noted that the game did have a high ammount of popularity in the very early days, like most MMOs although of course soon after it faltered).

Age of Conan, another popular franchise that should of been a huge success once again, crushed.. The game boasted exciting features as did World of Warcraft when it was first released, although after a short two years AOC saw itself to being relegated to a Free to play model in the hope of ganing more subscribers, as well this blow Age of Conan's xbox 360 port was cancelled.

The latest competitor in the MMORPG market to take on World of Warcraft was highly anticipated Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic a game that did infact beat WoW in some senses when it became the fastest growing MMO in history.. Although in recent months SW:TOR has seen a decline in interest due to its supposedly poor endgame content.
Other titles that have been sent to the MMO graveyard in some way thanks to WoW (As well as of course their own flaws) are as follows ... Dungeons and Dragons online, Everquest II, Rift and a ton more that arent even popular enough to mention.

It seems that every MMORPG released now is going to be compared to World of Warcraft, and of course with all the new and immersive content being released it's near impossible for anyone without a huge budget and some of the best creative talent the industry has to offer.

The only way to avoid the harsh judgement and comparison it seems is to cater to a more niche audience, for example EVE online, Second Life, Minecraft, Guild Wars and of course League of Legends (not that you can class all of these titles as MMORPGs but still..) boasts large playerbases which remain unaffected by whatever it is WoW seems to be doing.

All in all the future of MMOs look bleak to me .. Once in a blue moon an exciting new title is promised, we wait and wait only to be eventually dissapointed as 'It isnt as good a World of Warcraft.' perhaps one day gamers will find their haven outside of Azeroth, perhaps its Blizzards mysterious Project Titan, perhaps it will be something else.

The Hobbit (2012) - Official Trailer

As some might know, i'm updating my blog so that not only am i writing reviews i'm going to write feature articles on allsorts as you know, reviews can get a bit tedious.. I'll be starting with something i've wanted to write about in a long time. How Blizzard Entertainment's MMORPG World of Warcrafts popularity has led to the demise of the MMO genre perhaps killing it for good.

In the meanwhile though i came across a trialer that i've seen before but i had to share on here because oh my god! its The Hobbit and it's going to out in cinemas in only a few months time .. I don't know about you but i can't wait for this!

Thursday, 23 August 2012

The Avengers (2012) - Josh Whedon

In all honesty despite being a huge nerd nothing about The Avengers perticuarly excited me when the film was originally announced. Superheroes just don't cut it for me, yeah i enjoyed Captain America and Thor to an extent, but who didnt? They all follow a similar plot with the same old cliches.

The Avengers however, miraculously changed my perception on superhero movies totally. This movie was ass kickingly awesome! Perhaps on their own these superheroes didnt quite set Hollywood alight, but together they did something special.

The Avengers is a sequel that follows the events of the previous Marvel Universe movies after Loki (Tom Hiddleston) (From Thor)finds his way back to Earth and steals the Tesseract – an alien source of pure energy – and threatens to enslave the human race with the help of his extraterrestrial army.

It is here that Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) pulls together the worlds most talented band of superheroes in order to stop earth from anihilation and slavery. Those Six protagonists – Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr), Dr Bruce Banner aka Hulk (Mark Ruffalo), Thor (Chris Hemsworth), Captain America (Chris Evans), Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner), and Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) are thrown together much to their distaste at times.

Despite such a vast array of talent on our screen at once, each superhero is given adequate screen time in which we get time to not only enjoy some intense action scenes but also learn the backstories of each member of the avengers iniative as well as a little bit about their personal grievances for example Dr Bruce Banners fear of his power or Captain Americas struggles to adept to the twenty first century.

The film also ventures into a fair bit of comedy along the way, both spoken and visual which really added to the overall product, i found myself in hysterics as well as ooing and aahing at some of the awesome fight scenes. Infact i'd go as far to say that the comedy in the film really made The Avengers the hit is was.

I walked into the Avengers a non believer i left a beliver. Josh Whedon deserves all the praise and then some for his excellent work on selling a franchise that had no interest to me in such a spectacular way.

If you've been hiding under a rock for the last few summer and havent yet seen this film i highly reccommend you do so!

Overall grade: A+

Friday, 18 May 2012

The Dictator (2012) - Larry Charles

Like any of Sacha Baron Cohens movies hype has been built for months using smart advertising and even smarter publicity stunts which had left me and everyone else itching to get into the cinema as soon as possible to sit through eighty three minutes of guilty belly laughs.

The story follows Dictator General Aladeen (Baron Cohen)'Beloved Oppressor' of North African country Wadiya in his struggle to take back his seat as evil dictator of his beloved country following a plot to assasinate him on a trip to New York to address the United Nations. Like both his previous films the plot follows an outlandish foreigner being thrown onto American Soil.

The jokes are in bad taste, and some of the references are absolutely shocking, but of course we all knew what we were in for as soon as we paid to see the movie, and i cannot complain one bit. As soon as the movie opened with 'In loving memory of Kim Jong Il' how could i not be hooked already.

Unlike the last two Cohen movies, Borat and Bruno The Dictator is an ordinary (If you can call it that) conventionaly structured fictional comedy which strangely, unlike the predecessors The Dictator has more of a Romcom element to it whereas the other two where filled with 'Candid Camera' style scenes which unfortunately this film has none of, which ultimately led me to finding this film less enjoyable than the previous.

Saying that the movie was an enjoyable one with not a little bit predictable. If perhaps Cohen and Charles had kept to the same type of live action situation gags we saw before this film might have been the best of the bunch. All in all though, defiantly worth a watch or two.

Overall Grade: B-

Wednesday, 16 May 2012

The Hunger Games (2012) - Gary Ross

Touted as 'The next twilight' to the delight of thousands, and the dismay of millions The Hunger Games is the first film released deriving from a series of book adaptations written by Suzzane Collins aimed at Teens and young adults. Set in a post apocalyptic United States split into twelve districts made to live in terrible conditions to maintain civil order as the price to pay for mass revolts against the government.

Each year the government holds the famed and feared gladitoral event 'The Hunger Games' where two randomly selected 12-18 year-olds from each district are selected to take part in a fight to the death with members of the other districts until all but those from one single district remain, all televised for the millions to watch.(Somewhat of a high-octane I'm a celebrity get me out of here!).

The film is centered on District 12's Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence) a young lady who was not picked to take part in the annual games, but instead volunteered herself in the place of her younger sister who almost surely would not have lasted a day. Katniss is joined by male counterpart Peeta Mellark (Josh Hutchinson).

With the two youngsters selected, they are thrown into somewhat insanity as they are put under the guidance of Haymitch Abernathy (Woody Harrelson) a former winner turned uninterested alcoholic (Don't worry he grows on you as does all of Harrelsons characters) and a host of others who groom, preen and train the youngsters so that they are at their very best ready to be paraded in front of thousands of the excenteric, rich and famous in the Capitol city before they are put into the games so that the rich can throw countless ammounts of money into the games.

I'm not going to go into any detail about the games itself as not to spoil anything for anyone yet to see the film, but all i can say is it's everything i hoped and more as their is a little bit for everyone, thrilling action, romance and a little bit of comedy thrown in here and there. The Hunger Games is one of the must see films of the summer without a doubt.

Just a final note, to those of you who really enjoyed the film, look up Battle Royale online and watch it! It's a Japanese film made in 2000 which pretty much follows the exact same plot as The Hunger Games, just one thousand times more brutal and gory.

Overall Grade: A+

Monday, 26 March 2012

Gypsy [Theatre]

Captivating, hilarious and raunchy would be three words to best describe Paul Kerryson's absolutely magnificent revival of one of Broadway’s most celebrated yet underrated musicals, Gypsy.

The Broadway classic follows the story of a pushy mother Rose (Affectionately named Momma Rose) living on the breadline travelling from city to city across 1930's America with her two daughters Louise and June desperately searching for fame and fortune on the vaudeville theatre circuit with the hope that her daughters act can bring the kind of fortune Rose so desperately craved for herself as a child.

Following a whole host of unsuccessful, lacklustre bookings in theatres across the states the star of Momma Rose's act, Louise and the adopted sons of the family decide after so many years of failure they must cut all ties to find fame and fortune as it does not lie in the hands of overambitious loud mouthed Momma Rose.

Distraught with what seems to be the end of her dream and the loss of her daughter Rose decides to turn to the ugly duckling of the family, Louise who in the past has showed little promise. Following a mix up in bookings Momma Rose and Louise find themselves booked in a Burlesque house where Rose finds herself pushing her daughter Louise into the industry beginning the career of Gypsy Rose Lee.

Renowned actress Caroline O'Connor (Playing Momma Rose) was undoubtedly the star of the show despite not being the audiences main focus throughout the production, it is my genuine opinion that I have not heard such a powerful vocal performance on stage before I saw Caroline O'Connor sing the closing song of the show 'Rose's turn' it was no surprise to me when the audience were off their feet in standing ovation for the first time of the production following a musical number.

Credit of course must go to Victoria Hamilton-Barrit playing the role of Louise/Gypsy Rose Lee as she did a wonderful job of portraying the transformation from the clumsy child constantly in the shadows of her sister to absolutely stunning burlesque dancer.

It really is difficult not go through each cast member individually and give them the credit they deserve for a wholly excellent performance throughout. The show offers a little bit of everything for anyone who views it, excellent comedic segments, excellent musical numbers and impressive dancing. Gypsy well and truly deserves to be taken to the West End sooner rather than later.

Thursday, 1 March 2012

Community [Television Series]

Currently on an unfortunate mid-season hiatus American comedy Community is a show that despite getting off to what i beleive was a bad start in its first series is a brilliant Sitcom that has taken a place in my essential television viewing that i could barely go a week without missing.

It is made in such a fashion that it takes inspiration from overused, tiresome and plot cliché's so recognisably obvious that it makes you want to pull your hair out ... But oh no, Community absolutely hits the nail on the head with this and have produced an absolutely excellent show that leeches of pop culture like theres no tomorrow which of cause we the audience lap up.

Community is a show about an ethnically, gender and race diverse study group that find themselves involved in all the tired cliches Greendale community college puts them in from Halloween zombies to Christmas and Glee clubs there is no end to the over the top situations the group find themselves in. The best thing about Community though is, i genuinly beleive if you look hard enough you'll find a bit of yourself in one of the members of the study group, allbeit the Kind hearted good mother of the group Shriley, sometimes self centered and loverman Jeff Winger or the wise-assed dick Pierce (Played by the brilliant Chevy Chase).

Community is well and truely such an easy going show that you can pick it up from any episode and just sit back and find yourself enthralled within minutes. Although it has its bad moments at times the show has thousand more good. I really reccomend anyone looking for a lighthearted Sitcom to sit down and give Community a chance. I'm only keeping this review short so i'll i guess this is all wrapped up!

Overall grade: A-

World of Warcraft series [Game Review]

I'd like to think of myself as huge a secret nerd, i suppose writing this review is like coming out of the nerd closet as i keep my online gaming to myself ... I have a sneaking suspicion that this might just be my longest review yet as i'm going to cover all the expansions so far and maybe even a little look into the latest. So prepare yourself for a long winded slightly opinionated crack of the whip at Blizzards World of Warcraft series.

World of Warcraft is the worlds most popular online game with over 10 million subscribers across the globe, although i'm sure the majority of you reading this knew that already! The game is developer Blizzard's fourth game in a series set in the fantasy universe known as Azeroth, a setting that takes heavy inspiration from dungeons and dragons. The difference with this installment of the Warcraft series is that Blizzard has taken a vastly different approach from the DOTA style games they're used to churning out and instead on November 23rd 2004 (The 10th anniversary of Warcraft: Orcs & Humans) the groundbreaking MMORPG was released.

I can honestly say without a shadow of a doubt, sitting down to play World of Warcraft for the very first time is possibly one of the best gaming experiences any gamer can have. You begin with creating your very own in game character, which is one of the hardest choices in the game in my opinion with so many races and classes to pick from you find yourself creating every possible combination you can until you find something that suits your style of play, for example if you like to get into the thick of the action pick a warrior, if you like to keep out of the way and help everyone else roll a priest! The choices presented are well and truely overwhelming for a new player.

The aim of the game can vary depending on what kind of gamer you are (See the similarities here when it comes to how you can play the game?) depending on what realm you pick. Some of the realms cater to role-playing fans that prefer to play in character the whole time, while other realms are made for player-versus-player action. Or if you really want you can just play an ordinary realm. Although since the latest expansion came out it doesnt matter which realm you pick as a lot of the activitys in the game are cross-realm.

The games major accolade is that after countless hours spent playing you just don't want to stop unlike most other games, if you've done enough questing for the day you can go explore one of the various beautifully made zones in Azeroth, team up with your friends to take on a dangerous dungeon for epic loot or if you're in a destructive mood take part in some war games and take on your rival faction in a battleground. The possibilitys are endless.

World of Warcraft provides a constant stream of variety for the player, the combat system isfast, inter-changeable and action-packed! battles that are fun and intense, whether you're fighting alone or in a group. Blizzard well and truely hit gaming gold when they made World of Warcraft.

Of course though with every good game comes updates and over the past eight years three expansions have been released with a third on its way in the not so distant future. The first expansion of the series was World of Warcraft: The burning crusade. This expansion saw the unveiling of a whole new zone Outland which is far far away from Azeroth through a portal, these lands are inhabited with demons last seen in Blizzards Warcraft III. As well as the new zone and antagonists the expansion saw the level cap raised from 60 to 70 and the introduction of Blood elves (Horde) and Draenei (Alliance). Overall i found the questlines and new zone in the Burning Crusade fairly fairly enjoyable but the new races just didn't do it for me.

The second expansion released was World of Warcraft: The Wrath of the Lich King. The highly anticipated expansion was released in November 2008 and at the time was the fastest selling game of all time shifting over 2.8 million copies in 24 hours. New to this expansion saw another new zone uncovered, Northrend a continent for higher level players to explore and conquer with areas such as Grizzly Hills and the Howling Fjord being touted by many as the best zones ever created by Blizzard in WoW. Aside from this Wrath of the Lich King also introduced the Hero class Death Knight, an evil class that can played as by any race in the game. Death Knights start at Level 55 and are a mixture of a few different classes rolled into one. Once again the level cap was raised by ten to 80. Personally for i found this expansion underwhelming in terms of content other than the new zone.

The mother of all expansions came early last year, World of Warcraft: Cataclysm, one that i myself being a veteran of the game and many other found on one hand absolutely amazing and on the other devastating, as what all Warcraft nerds grew to love was destroyed. In Catalysm an evil dragon aspect, Deathwing the Destroyer has made his way through an elemental plane of Deepholme which has caused the world to fall into a state of cataclysm changing the landscape forever. Along with these changes came a whole handful of new zones for higher level players including an Indiana Jones egypt style zone Uldum and an Underwater zone Vashj'ir, the elemental plane Deepholme, Mount Hyjal & The Twilight Highlands. This expansion also saw two new races, Worgen (Alliance) and Goblins (Horde) who i cannot say i personally like (Although i'm not a fan of any new race) and my opinion is that perhaps they'd both be better served as neutral races. Whilst i absolutely loved the new content that came with Catalysm it has ruined my memorys of Azeroth and i can only look back at my early days of playing and wish for that back.

I'm not going to go onto the latest expansion as quite frankly i think this review has run its course, but when it is released i'll be more than sure to give my opinion. All in all i can safely say World of Warcraft is without a doubt the greatest MMO ever created and its going to take a hell of a lot for it to be knocked from the top spot in online gaming no matter how hard developers are trying. Saying that though i do beleive its glory days have passed and that Blizzard are going to have to pull something big out of the bag in the next five years to stop them steadily losing even more subscribers than they already have.

Overall Grade: A+