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LEGO:The Hobbit Diablo III: Reaper of Souls Child of Light Mercenary Kings and more...

Blocky Burglar

LEGO:The Hobbit reviewed

The Other Side

A New Field 8Frag incoming...

Wolfenstein:The New Order rewtires history...

Hack the World! Fight the establishment in Watch_Dogs

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I S S U E 4 3 / Vo l . 4 May 2014

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New View

How the internet is changing marketing

What to do when viruses strike

Fighting Infection

R evi ews i ncl udi ng Cr uci a l , Asus, Log i te c h , M S I a n d m o r e . . .

Sky Power New African internet solutions?

Print Your Life New technology revolutionises printing...

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Simplicity in information!

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Inside 6 From the Editor

8 Breath of Life Fighting the establishment in Watch_Dogs

14 Previews Twelve upcoming titles

32 Rewriting History Wolfenstein moves forward in time...

38 The Soapbox Is Big Brother watching?

40 A New Field 8Frag brings a new way to play online

46 Reviews Eight games inspected

66 Hardware Stuff you need

THIS MONTH’S COVER Watch_Dogs is finally about to arrive... See our feature on page 8.

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80 Ramjet’s Rantality Just shut up!

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Previews

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EA Sports UFC

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Dying Light

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Evolve

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Sacred 3

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WildStar

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PS Vita Pets

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Risen 3

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Enemy Front

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Endless Legend

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Stronghold: Crusader 2

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Farming World

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How to Train Your Dragon 2

GAMECCA Vol. 5 Issue 59 May 2014

Editor: Walt Pretorius walt@1337-media.com Writers: Alex Scanlon Charlie Fripp Lein Baart Nthato Morakabi Rob Edwards Suvesh Arumugam Walt Pretorius Letters: letters@gameccamag.com Competition Entries: competitions@gameccamag.com

Reviews

Newsletter Subscriptions: www.gameccamag.com

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LEGO: The Hobbit

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Diablo III: Reaper of Souls

Design & Photography: 1337 Media cc

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Final Fantasy XIV Online: A Realm Reborn

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Child of Light

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2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil

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Don Bradman Cricket 14

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Final Fantasy X / X-2 HD Remaster

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Mercenary Kings

Marketing Contact: Katia Taliadoros katia@1337-media.com

Taking fun seriously! All rights reserved. No content may be reproduced, copied or transmitted without the express permission of the publishers. Opinions expressed are not necessarily those of the editors and publishers. All Trademarks and Registered Trademarks are the sole property of the respective owners.

GAMECCA is published by 1337 MEDIA

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Copyright Š 1337 Media CC 2009 - 2014

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So It Goes... by Walt Pretorius

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From the Editor

t was with quite a lump in my throat that I read the last issue of the South African edition of PC Format this month. Aside from my historical relationship with the publication, there is (in South Africa, at least) an odd camaraderie between publications. Even when we’re supposed to be competitors, there is a bond of friendship within this small industry that ties everyone together. And so, seeing PCF close its doors after almost two decades of publication was tough. The video game journalism business in South Africa, at this time, is in a state of change. There are some people leaving, some new people joining, and a number of people moving around. It seems to happen every once in a while, and one cannot help but wonder if readers are aware of the sometimes complex movements that take place behind the scenes. I sometimes get the feeling that everyone (gamers, at

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least) think there could be nothing better, or easier, than putting together a gaming magazine or website. It is a lot of work, sure, but how can it not be a blast? Well, like every other industry, this one has its rewards and pitfalls. While it seems that many game journalists can afford to have an almost cavalier approach to what they do, one needs to keep in mind that the more serious journos – the ones who do this for a living, and not just for fun – have to navigate a number of obstacles in order to become successful. It’s not all fun and games, even though it may appear to be. The closing down of a prominent publication like PCF shows, once again, that this is business. I am sounding like I am feeling sorry for myself. That couldn’t be further from the truth; this is an exciting and exhilarating industry, and – after all – it’s all about having fun. And the Gamecca Crew

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and I have a lot of fun putting this mag together every month. Take this month, for example… Watch_Dogs and Wolfenstein: The New Order will both be arriving, as well as some other exciting titles. And we’ll get to play them while we tell everyone else that we’re working. Yes, in truth, it will be work… but there are far worse jobs out there. Right, enough of me getting all philosophical – let’s get to the fun stuff. As I mentioned before, Watch_Dogs and Wolfenstein: The New Order will both be available during the course of may, and we have a feature looking at both titles in this issue. We also have an interview with the guys behind 8Frag, an exciting new platform for multiplayer gaming. And then, of course, we have lots of reviews and preview to help you make those allimportant gaming buying decisions. All that and more in this issue… so let’s get cracking! g


Feature

breath 8

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h of life

The soul of technology

by Lein Baart

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aming, perhaps more than any other fictional medium, has the potential to utterly destroy the comfort zones of those that choose to engage in its particular delights. As the years progress and the industry moves from infancy to maturity, more and more we are starting to see

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games, such as Bioshock Infinite and Spec Ops: The Line, that challenge our perceptions and beliefs, ripping apart the notion that the world we live in can be painted in binary shades of morality. This wouldn’t be possible without the prospect of interaction that gaming brings, as its mere existence moves us from spectator to agent of change, with the consequences being ours to deal with. With the growth of gaming technology over the years and the subsequent explosion of the possibilities it entails, the virtual worlds we are thrown into are becoming increasingly vivid, and where once the characters around us were mere cardboard cut-outs pasted in to mask the lifelessness of algorithms, we are now confronted with the illusion of reality where our actions have very noticeable repercussions. It can all be ignored of course, but for those that seek to enmesh themselves in the world of the game they are playing, Watch Dogs seems to be a title that will suck you into its very soul. Watch Dogs has been on the gaming radar for quite some time now, with its first unveiling all the way back at E3 2012 (seemingly an age in the game industry). It caught the attention of the public immediately, both through an amazing visual display as well as the novel implementation of hacking as a core mechanic, which appeared to open up near limitless opportunities for interaction with the world around the player. Ubisoft Montreal, the primary developer behind the game, chose to keep its cards close to its chest however, though as the time neared for Watch Dogs’ 2013 Christmas release speculation began to ramp up as gamers waited with baited breath for what would surely be one of the early showcase games of the next-gen consoles. It wasn’t to be. Just a month before its planned release, Ubisoft made the dismaying announcement that Watch Dogs’ launch would be pushed back to the publisher’s next fiscal year. Almost immediately rumours of the dreaded developmental hell that has laid low so many anticipated titles in the past sprung up, though the truth was far more mundane. As senior producer Dominic Guay put it, “Everybody was playing the game and seeing the same things, and so those discussions were all coming down to the same conclusion.” Simply put, Watch Dogs needed more polish. With a game that had already received such significant hype from all corners of the gaming community, the pressure to release a title worthy of its expectations was immense, and according to Guay, Ubisoft Montreal would not be content until they could deliver “exactly what we promised gamers.” The primary concern was that Watch Dogs was simply too repetitive, a fact that only became apparent when the title came together. As lead designer Danny Belanger states, “In a big production at the end of the project, everything merges. There are some things you don’t know.” The last six months then have been spent making a myriad of tweaks to the games design. Everything from AI to animations to backstory received attention; all with the goal of truly bringing the world of Watch Dogs to life. It was an intriguing world to begin with however, despite the relatively sparse details Ubisoft Montreal has let slip. Gamers will take up the mantle of Aiden Pearce, a highly

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skilled hacker living in a somewhat futuristic version of Chicago where everything and everyone is connected constantly through a supercomputer known as CtOS (Central Operating System). What few plot details have emerged have shown a lead character hell bent on revenge for the murder of his niece, an act triggered by his own dubious exploits in the past. While the premise might sound a tad cliché, the developers have promised a narrative that will seek to explore the grey areas of morality, with a cast of characters not defined by stereotypical good and evil tropes. Of course, the setting itself will do much to push this along. The relevance of themes such as information control and the modern digitised lifestyle are obvious, though according to Belanger Watch Dogs is “more of a spotlight than a commentary”, with the idea being to ask questions while letting “the player decide what to think in the end.” The impact of this musing would be lost though without perhaps one of the most revolutionary advances seen in gaming to date, namely the infusion of personalities into completely random NPC’s. Using the power of Aiden’s primary hacking tool, a smart-phone, players will have the ability to gain a glimpse into the life of everyone they meet. Watch Dogs will draw on a massive database to create a staggering amount of unique personalities on the fly, meaning that every encounter is fraught with both possibilities and moral conundrums. It’s a system that that truly aims to bring the world of the game to life, and if it succeeds it could enable an unheard of level of immersion. That’s not the only ace Watch Dogs has up its sleeve however, as technically this looks to be a game that is set to amaze. Using the specifically developed Disrupt engine from its first reveal this was a title that dazzled visually, and it should make great use of the latest gaming hardware available. The other big draw is the use of hacking to control the city Aiden will find himself traversing, with virtually every single conceivable connected device, from bridges to barricades to traffic lights, becoming a tool to be utilised by the player at whim. Being a third-person action adventure, Ubisoft Montreal looks to be making good use of its past experience developing series such as Splinter Cell, Assassin’s Creed and Far Cry, and a host of familiar mechanics will be making a welcome return. Players will have the opportunity to customise the growth of Aiden through light RPG elements, unlocking new abilities as the game progresses, while crafting, mini-games and driveable vehicles will also be available, providing yet another level of engagement. True to Ubisoft form Aiden will be no slouch on foot either, though he will lack the acrobatic talents of the Assassins. There are few things that will give a publisher more sleepless nights than the launch of a new IP. More than one title that seemed destined for greatness has ended up as a forgotten side-note in the scrapheap of gaming history, and it is never possible to judge with absolute certainty how the release of a new idea into the market will go. That said, Watch Dogs looks to be a truly amazing game, a title that has the potential to transform the approach developers take to creating the world a game is to be set in. It’s a lofty ambition, but one that appears to have every chance of succeeding. It’s taken its time in getting here, but Watch Dogs should not be a title that any gamer wants to miss this year. g gamecca59

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Previews Highlights 16 EA Sports UFC Under new management 18 Dying Light Beware of the dark 20 Evolve The evolution of multiplayer 25 Sacred 3 900 years later... 25 Risen 3 A new role

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3 2014 is happening next month, and with that massive show will come tons of new announcements for games coming this year, and over the next few. It is, once again, something to look forward to. In the meanwhile, we already know of a massive amount of titles heading our way this year. In the following section we look at a dozen of them... g

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©2014 Ubisoft Entertainment. All Rights Reserved. Watch Dogs, Ubisoft and the Ubisoft logo are trademarks of Ubisoft Entertainment in the U.S. and/or other countries. ”2”, “PlayStation” and “PS3” are trademarks or registered trademarks of Sony Computer Entertainment Inc. “Ó is a trademark of the same company. Trademarks are property of their respective owners. Nintendo, Wii and WiiU are trademarks of Nintendo.

PS3™/PS4™ Exclusive Edition includes 60 minutes of exclusive gameplay

MAY 27TH 2014


EA Sports UFC

Stop, Drop and Roll A kick to the face is all in a day’s work

by Charlie Fripp

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videogames under its belt. Electronic Arts is no stranger to developing fighting games, but their first MMA title left much to be desired. So with that in mind, the developer opted for a spiritual reboot of their franchise, and developed EA Sports UFC – with the UFC referring to the Ultimate Fighting Championship brand. It will also be the first UFC game since THQ sold the license to Electronic Arts. Not much can actually be said about a MMA or UFC title, as the ultimate goal is bloody clear – knock your opponent out, or suffer a brutal loss through punches, kicks and submissions. It is of course a bit more technical than that, but the overall goal is still the same. In terms of playable characters, the title will feature

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ne of the most successful franchises in the world is wrestling – throughout the decades the fake-fighting and theatrics have opened doors to so many other contact sports, franchises and genres. Together with wrestling comes a health gaming market as well, as wrestling titles have been spawned since the dawn of videogames themselves. One of the off-shoots from wrestling is a relatively new fighting style, called Mixed Martial Arts. While it has been around for a very long time, it is only in the last decade or so that people really started to take notice of the no-holds-barred techniques and styles the fighters employ. It’s bloody, it’s brutal, and it has a number of

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a host of real-world fighters in all their likeness glory. “Every single licensed fighter in the game has been created from high resolution 3D head and body scans to deliver revolutionary character likeness and authenticity. New facial animation technology delivers more expression, emotion and will communicate greater sense of awareness and intelligence in the Octagon,” EA states about the title. While fighters like Cain Velasquez, Jon Jones and Chris Weidman are all present, EA has a special surprise up their sleeve as well – world-renowned Kung-Fu master Bruce Lee has also been made available as a playable character. Users who pre-order their copy will have Lee unlocked, while others will have to claim the

belt and beat career mode to unlock the martial arts legend. The title also features prominent female MMA fighters such as Ronda Rousey, Cat Zingano and Miesha Tate. To ramp up the realism, EA has also incorporated a new full-body deformation system. “The system moves and displaces the fighter’s flesh in real time. For the first time, the strength of every submission and power of every strike will truly make an impression,” EA explained. There is no doubt that EA Sports UFC will be one of the most well-received MMA titles of the year, and with all the new system changes and additions, it is sure to be a winner for every MMA and UFC sports fan. g

AT A GLANCE: Sports

With new systems and mechanics, it should be a great title Developer: Publisher: Distributer:

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EA Canada EA Sports Electronic Arts

Jun 2014

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Dying Light

Fear of the Dark They come out at night…

by Walt Pretorius

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back? Sure, they always put up a fight in their quest to turn the player’s cranial contents into a sippy-snack, but let’s suppose, for a moment, that they become less of a horde of mindless, shambling automatons and more of a pack of smart, aggressive predators. Well, hell, that would be terrifying. And that is pretty much what you will be able to expect from Dying Light, a new survival horror game on the way from Warner Bros and developers Techland. Techland, of course, were the team that developed the flawed yet fantastic Dead Island series, so they have their experience with open-worlds filled with zombies. To be fair, they aren’t exactly calling the bad guys

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ombies are – let’s face it – cool. They’re a flavour of the month that has lasted for years now, and everyone seems to be keen to cash in on the apparent fascination that we have with reanimated corpses hungry for grey matter. So it’s hardly surprising that we see a lot of games that feature zombies. Aside from the obvious survival horror fare, we have even seen them crop up in addons for popular shooters like Borderlands and Call of Duty, not to mention the classics like Left 4 Dead and Dead Island, which used them as a main theme. Zombies are awesome (as long as they aren’t real) and everyone loved beating them up. But what happens when the zombies start beating

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zombies. They’re using the term “infected” but, well, even if they are a little bit like zombies, then they’re zombies, right? And here’s the kicker – during the day, they become a lot more docile, but at night they become predatory hunters that want nothing more than to turn the player into an unhappy meal. The concept is not massively original (it smacks of I am Legend) but it is pretty fresh for video gaming. And in addition to borrowing conceptually from Will Smith movies, Dying Light will also be taking a few pages from (unsurprisingly) Dead Island. This includes the modification of weapons and a choice between four different playable characters. With the Dead Island series seemingly closed up (if

you finished Riptide you’ll know what I mean) it could well be that Dying Light is something of a spiritual successor to that particular zombie-bashing title. But it also appears to be a step up. Dying Light will make use of Techland’s new Chrome Engine 6, and they’re promising great visuals and game dynamics as a result. In addition, it will be the developers first step towards the new consoles, with the game being available on Xbox One and PS4 as well as Xbox 360 and PS3. Although Dead Island had a few issues, it was still an enjoyable series to play… and if Techland manage to pull of what they’re promising, Dying Light will be the perfect title to pick up the reigns of free-roaming, freerunning zombie-bashing from it. g

AT A GLANCE: Survival horror

Dying Light appears to be a spiritual successor to Dead Island, with developers Techland making some big promises for this new survival horror IP. Developer: Publisher: Distributer:

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Techland Warner Bros Ster Kinekor

TBC 2014

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Evolve

The Evolution of Multiplayer You get to play as an alien beast...against four humans!

by Nthato Morakabi

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to an alien creature, dead. They know what has killed it and immediately they take up to defensive positions. With a noise, one of the humans lets off a rattle of plasma bullets into the foliage, the others follow suit only to find a small creature as the cause...but from behind them a mammoth of a creature rises – this is the evolution of 4v1 multiplayer action; alien beast vs humans! Evolve is all about the Multiplayer, breaking away from the trends to bring four hunters versus one playercontrolled monster in the depths of an alien infested jungle where it’s not just the monsters trying to kill you. From the creators of Left 4Dead, Evolve brings similar gameplay elements as the zombie title with four player

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he aircraft hovers above ground on a distant planet, four soldiers stand at the ready on the aircraft’s dock, its doors open to reveal overgrowth and an expansion of flora. The soldiers leap down towards the jungle, their hoverpacks bringing them down to the earth safely, but they draw their weapons and stand at the ready - this is no children’s gig; the planet Shear is a fierce place. The predator lurks in the shadows, watching the humans tread across its territory. It keeps moving along, waiting, watching, ready. The forest is thick, dark and filled with the unknown; the warriors know this and tread carefully across the forest floor, guns at the ready. Their trek brings them

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co-op action. As the hunters, it will be the players’ duty to take down the enemy monster as one of four roles: Trapper, Support, Assault and Medic. The hunter’s objectives will be to take down the killer by any means necessary, making use of industrial shelter scattered along the dense jungle, upgrading various weapons and power ups and using abilities specific to each class. The player who will be the monster will work to wipe out the hunter team by using various abilities, including the ability to evolve in game to a stronger more powerful creature through hunting smaller creatures. A secondary objective can also be accomplished by taking down the human base and power plant. As of yet no other

monster classes have been revealed save for one referred to as Goliath. Online leader boards will be the main goal for players as they work their way up the ranks to become the best predator to walk the online jungles. Levelling up will also unlock various upgrades, skins and perks that can be used to climb the leader boards. With a host of other online multiplayer only titles coming out soon, the four versus one gameplay aspect of Evolve should bring a new twist and much needed variety to the online world. The fact that players can be the single predator against four others means that there is more to this than just quick scopes and grenades; this is war in its evolved state. g

AT A GLANCE: First Person Shooter

This action packed title is all about aliens versus humans in an adrenaline pumping 4v1 online multiplayer battle royale. No Story, just action! Developer: Publisher: Distributer:

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Turtle Rock Studios 2K Games Megarom

Q3 2014

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Sacred 3

900 Years Later And a new developer at the helm

by Lein Baart

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Once again we’re returning to the world of Ancaria, though apparently 900 years after the events of the second game. The world has forgotten about the Seraphim and the role they play in keeping the peace, and the Ashen Empire has since risen with Lord Zane at its head. The story will pit you as one of a group of heroes opposing the Ashen Empire, as Lord Zane seeks to claim an artefact called the Heart of Ancaria from the Seraphim by opening portals to the underworld, flooding the land with demons. Sacred 3 is not going to deviate too far from the gameplay of the franchise, still consisting of your standard hack and slash fare, coupled together with combat arts, Sacred’s version of special abilities. The

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acred, as a series, has never quite reached its potential. It’s always had most of the right boxes ticked, essentially being a Diablo clone with its own unique high fantasy setting, coupled with a decent RPG system that created some interesting moments. The trouble is, despite everything just said, it always felt a bit half-arsed, as if the developers had forgotten when the deadlines were, or (more likely) fallen asleep after reading the plot summary. Ascaron Entertainment, developers of the first two games, have closed shop since Sacred 2: Fallen Angel, but with the rights picked up by Deep Silver, and with a new developer at the helm, the Sacred series is far from dead.

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classes from the second game are gone, and though Deep Silver and Keen Games are holding their cards very close to their chests, the two classes that have been announced are the Ancarian Lancer and the Safiri Warrior. There’s a strong emphasis on multiplayer and cooperative gameplay, with combat arts from different classes that can be chained together to increase both damage and score. Despite Deep Silver’s insistence that Sacred 3 will not be a MMORPG the game will feature 4 player co-op permanently, and even should you decide to take the game on in single-player, Sacred 3 will provide 3 A.I. controlled party members. Deep Silver seems to have taken the criticisms from the second game to heart, and are making efforts to

release Sacred 3 with as few of the flaws that haunted the franchise as possible. With regards to the bugs and glitches that plagued the previous title, Martin Wein, PR manager at Deep Silver, has stated that quality assurance will be a big part of the process. Likewise, the screenshots are showing a vibrant and fantastically crisp world, a stark contrast to the somewhat bland graphics of Sacred 2. It’s too early to tell whether Sacred 3 is going to be the game everybody is hoping it will be, but the signs are all positive. With a strong focus on action packed, cooperative gaming backed up with gorgeous visuals, Sacred 3 might just be a worthy contender to the hack and slash throne. g

AT A GLANCE: Hack and Slash RPG

There’s a lot to look forward to with Sacred 3, provided all the bugs are ironed out before its release Developer: Publisher: Distributer:

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Keen Games Deep Silver Apex Interactive

Q3 2013

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WildStar

Sci-fi Wild West It’s a standoff of galactic proportions

by Charlie Fripp

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AT A GLANCE: Genre:

MMO RPG

It incorporates many different things, which could make it enjoyable Developer: Publisher: Distributer:

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Carbine Studios NCSOFT Megarom

ETA

Jun 2014

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alk about massively multiplayer online roleplaying games, and the first (or probably the most prominent) titles that come to mind are World of Warcraft or Freelancer. To say that the genre is massive would be a bit of an understatement. So with that in mind, Carbine Studios developed WildStar – a fantasy/science fiction MMO RPG that takes place on the fictional planet Nexus. With cute, cartoonish graphics, players will be able to play as a number of classes in two different factions – which they can create themselves. The world in which WildStar takes place is an open, persistent world environment, meaning that they will be able to travel wherever and whenever they please, with the environment changing around them. In terms of plot, the planet was once inhabited by a hyper-advanced race of aliens known as The Eldan. Although they vanished many years ago, The Dominion and The Exiles are at each other’s throats for the mysterious resources of the world. The title incorporates many interesting elements, such as a sky plot. Each character will own a sky plot, which will act as their housing. The sky plot is fully customizable in terms of areas and decoration, and can be accessed by anyone who has the owner’s permission. WildStar aims to turn the MMO RPG genre on its head, and it might just have the solution for it. For combat, it uses a manual targeting system, and as players aim up to their enemies, they will do the same. If players don’t dodge in time, they will be vaporized. Characters will also be able to level up from 1 to 50, and gameplay mainly consists of quests, dungeons, and player versus player combat. g

PC X360 X0 PS3 PS4 Wii U PSV 3DS AND iOS


PS Vita Pets

Ninten…uh Playstation Dogs Going beyond a pet simulation, this is a pet Game.

by Nthato Morakabi

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AT A GLANCE: Adventure

Take care of your own personal talking pet dog, and enjoy fun virtual adventures with it that go beyond a pet simulation. Developer: Publisher: Distributer:

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XDEV SCEE Ster-Kinekor

Q3 2014

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tepping into the realm of talking dogs and animal friends is this upcoming title that is very similar to Nintendo’s Nintendogs title, but moving away from the simulation aspect of the Nintendo title, and more towards a game orientated version. The focus of this title is on building fun gameplay, lovable characters and great adventures with the dogs themselves, utilizing the PS Vita’s touch functionality to interact with the adorable pooches. Players will have the option to choose from four unique dogs, each with their own personalities and traits that set them apart. Once selected, players can name, train, nurture and play with their dogs in order to gain skills for future use. Together, players and their dogs will be able to go beyond the confines of their homes to explore Castlewood Island in order to discover the long lost legend of a king and his dog. Players will have the option of dressing up their pets with a host of costumes, clothing and accessories that also play into the pet’s personality. Various mini-games improve your pet’s abilities, including digging, pulling, jumping and crawling, all of which can be used when exploring Castlewood Island to discover many hidden treasures and secrets. Castlewood Island looks to have multiple locations for exploration such as woods, caves, mines and graveyards and eventually the legendary castle itself, situated in the centre of the island. Each location will have puzzles to solve, leading towards the unravelling of the legend of Castlewood Island. Although bearing resemblance to Nintendogs, this PSV title looks to take a bolder, more exploration based gameplay approach that sets it apart from its rival console. g


Risen 3

Return of the Familiar Young hero, old adventure

by Lein Baart

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AT A GLANCE: Genre:

Action RPG

Long-time fans of the studio will want to keep their eyes on this game, though at the moment there is very little to go on Developer: Publisher: Distributer:

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Piranha Bytes Deep Silver Apex Interactive

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Aug 2014

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iranha Bytes is a developer known for crafting RPG’s that tend to differ from the norm. Ever since the first Gothic game debuted on PC’s in 2001, the studio has forged a reputation for titles that tend to be hellishly difficult, yet nevertheless retain an indescribable charm that is entirely unique. The Risen series, Piranha Byte’s second franchise, hasn’t deviated from the formula, and with a third game only recently announced, fans should once again be preparing to sample the delights the studio has to offer. With only a 26 second CGI trailer and a blurb on the website to go on, the German developers aren’t exactly being forthcoming with regards to their latest creation. What is known is that it appears that Piranha Bytes will be ditching the naval escapades of the previous instalment in favour of returning to their roots in, as they put it, “a new, classic RPG”. As such expect the traditional high fantasy setting of previous games, though Risen 3 will undoubtedly continue the overarching story of the franchise, which has seen the slumbering Titans awake to wreak havoc on the world of man. Surprisingly however, it seems the Nameless Hero of the last two games has been ditched in favour of a “young warrior” that has been “deprived of his soul.” To reclaim it he must journey the island of Taranis in order to enlist the help of the Mages, who have been banned since the events of the first game. The blurb also hints that Risen 3 will be open-world, a staple feature of the developer, and as always players will have the option of choosing between multiple factions in order to advance the narrative. g

PC X360 X0 PS3 PS4 Wii U PSV 3DS AND iOS


Enemy Front

Alternate Options Plan your way through WWII

by Charlie Fripp

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AT A GLANCE: First Person Shooter

Doing things differently; the title could be interesting Developer: Publisher: Distributer:

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City Interactive Bandai Namco Games Apex Interactive

Jun 2014

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Preview

orld War II-themed games have been done many times over in the last couple of decades. From historically accurate to alternate history to sci-fi version have all been developed at some point or another. But City Interactive promises something different with their own WWII shooter Enemy Front. The developer claims that the title “is the first truly modern WW2 FPS, featuring stunning visuals, open-ended levels and a richly interactive combat experience.” Giving the player full freedom to own their playing style, the title allows gamers to assume the roles of sniper, stealth or sabotage in order to reach their goal – there is no set way to approach a situation, and whatever works for the player in the game, goes. This also creates a high level of replayability, as gamers can try different combinations to find their own playing style. The developer also boasts that users will be able to make use of a full arsenal of WWII weaponry across all categories of hand-guns, SMGs, assault rifles, sniper rifles, as well as signature Resistance weapons. Not much in terms of a plot has been made known yet, but gamers will assume the role of American war correspondent Robert Hawkins, who gets caught up in the battle between various Resistance groups and the enemy across Europe. While details are sparse, the title takes place through flashbacks and will include real historical events, some of it highlighting Nazi atrocities on the continent. Enemy Front will also revisit estranged theatres of war, such as Norway and Poland. While there is little historical mention of it, one of the largest concentration camps was located in Poland. City Interactive also states that the Single-Player Campaign stretches across 10 hours of gameplay, while the Multiplayer portion will provide gamers with 12-player online gameplay. g


Endless Legend

Expand, Exploit & Exterminate Building an empire and becoming a legend.

by Nthato Morakabi

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AT A GLANCE: Genre:

Turn-Based Strategy

The planet Auriga is a dying planet and it is up to players to lead, strive, conquer and survive the almost uninhabitable planet. Developer: Publisher: Distributer:

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Amplitude Studios Amplitude Studios Steam

ETA

TBC 2014

Platforms

Preview

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s the surface of Auriga is revealed to the eyes of prisoners, descendants of a people who had crash landed on the planet ages ago, hope is restored to them and they begin to populate the world. As their lives begin to pan out, it becomes evident that life on the planet is harsh due to the extremely long and unpleasant seasons. Soon the reality of their difficulty is revealed – the planet is dying. It is now up to the leader to help his people survive on the planet before it becomes completely uninhabitable. Players step into the role of a leader for one of the eight civilizations that are alive on the planet Auriga. Each civilization has its own unique style of play as well as storyline, tying in to the overarching tale of people surviving on a dying planet. It is their duty to conquer, build and strengthen their people and villages to be a prosperous civilization. A series of gameplay elements seamlessly integrated into one another will see players experience the various aspects of being a leader. Diplomacy, trade and war will be at the player’s disposal as well as the collection of strategic resources, such as dust and luxuries, which will help further the civilization. Dynamic, simultaneous turn-based battle systems will see armies go up against one another, as players look to use unit equipment, abilities and the terrain around them to overcome their enemies. It will also be possible to zoom out of battle in order to regulate other areas of the empire, to ensure that civilization is prosperous in all aspects. Endless Legend is the sequel to Dungeon of Endless and prequel to Endless Space. g

PC X360 X0 PS3 PS4 Wii U PSV 3DS AND iOS


Stronghold: Crusader 2

Build it Strong! Crafting impenetrable fortresses

by Lein Baart

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AT A GLANCE: Real-time Strategy

Given the franchise’s history, fans can be forgiven for being sceptical about this release, though it seems that Firefly are finally getting their act together Developer: Publisher: Distributer:

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Firefly Studios Firefly Studios TBC

Q2 2014

Platforms

Genre:

ETA

PC X360 X0 PS3 PS4 Wii U PSV 3DS AND iOS

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Preview

he Stronghold series has always been something of a niche franchise, offering a distinctive blend of real-time strategy and city building that sent players the world over into fits of micromanagement delight when the original game first hit the shelves in 2001. It’s been a rocky road for developer Firefly Studios since then however, as except for Stronghold: Crusader (launched in 2002), each subsequent Stronghold release has been met with a progressively worse reception which culminated in the disastrous 2011 release of Stronghold 3. It seems that since then Firefly have gone back to the drawing board though, and are now ready to try and recapture what made the original release so great with the long anticipated sequel, Stronghold: Crusader 2. For those that have never played a Stronghold game, the premise is rather simple: you are a lord in charge of building a castle from the ground up. It’s always easier said than done however, as balancing the needs of the peasants and economy against the need to defend your land provided hours of riveting gameplay. At least for the first two titles. Firefly seemed obsessed with recreating this mix, and hopefully have learnt from their past mistakes. At the very least it looks like they’ve listened to their fans, and Crusader 2 will ship with a skirmish mode, along with 2 historical campaigns that will allow you to play as either Crusader or Arab. The core gameplay should be much the same as Crusader 2’s predecessor, though several new units including a healer have been added. The game will also feature a full 3D engine that will allow for realistic physics, so tearing down an opponent’s wall should be more satisfying than ever before. g


Farming World

Dirty Hands Those cows won’t milk themselves

by Charlie Fripp

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AT A GLANCE: Genre:

Simulation

Taking its cue from Farmville, this one should be equally good. Developer: Publisher: Distributer:

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Excalibur Publishing Excalibur Publishing Apex Interactive

ETA

May 2014

Platforms

Preview

E

ver since Farmville took Facebook by storm a couple of years ago, it is safe to say that most people would be more open to the idea of playing a stand-alone farming title. A number of farming simulators have been released in the past but developer Excalibur Publishing is trying to resurrect the good old days of Farmville. Taking on a familiar look and feel, Farming World features a 3D top-down view of the countryside, with users having to manage crops and livestock. With a good number of seeds to choose from, users can plant virtually any produce they want. But they also need to keep an eye on the progress as well as manage other aspects of farming. “In order to maintain your farm you’ll need to construct a selection of buildings, of which you will have over 40 to construct including; greenhouses, bakeries, butchers and more. You’ll also be able to purchase animals from the traditional chickens and cows to the more unconventional domestic turkeys and ostriches,” the developer states. As the farm grows, users will have to connect the lands with road networks for vehicles to use, and in order to expand the operation, additional land will need to be purchased. There will be over 30 different types of seeds to plant, and over 40 buildings to operate from. Users will be able to sell their produce and livestock to earn some money, but more capital can be gained from taking on contracts, and detailed weather reports will allow users to plan the correct time for planting and harvesting. If any simulator or strategy fans have an interest in farming and agriculture, Farming World could be worth checking out. g

PC X360 X0 PS3 PS4 Wii U PSV 3DS AND iOS


How to Train Your Dragon 2

Dragons, Dragons Everywhere Soaring action-packed Dragon experience for young gamers

by Nthato Morakabi

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AT A GLANCE: Action-Adventure

Take to the skies with your favourite on screen characters for high flying adventures and awesome dragons from the Viking Isle of Berk. Developer: Publisher: Distributer:

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Torus Games Little Orbit TBC

Q3 2014

Platforms

Genre:

ETA

PC X360 X0 PS3 PS4 Wii U PSV 3DS AND iOS

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Preview

ased on the animated action adventure film of the same name, How to Train Your Dragon 2 the video game puts players at the reigns of amazing dragons. The Viking Isle of Berk will be home to players as well as the many famous on screen characters that film goers will be sure to recognize. To be the best dragon rider is an adventure waiting to happen, and players will find themselves in the middle of this epic journey. A selection of dragons and riders will be available for players to use, entering the dragon flight school to rise above the ranks. Thanks to Little Orbit, who have agreed to work with DreamWorks Animation in order to make a video game version of How to Train Your Dragon 2, the animated film can now be experienced in the comfort of the home. The veteran developer of many licensed titles, Torus Games, looks to bring the amazing action packed world of Dragons to life by masterfully reworking the film for a video game adaptation, bringing the beautiful Isle of Berk to life. From the bright blue skies and jagged hills roaring with dragons, to the crystal blue waters filled with Viking ships, the world opens up to gamers. Players will be able to improve their dragon flying abilities through invigorating training exercises and test their skills through the tournament events. A series of challenging mini games will also be available for play, ensuring that players experience the dragon world thoroughly. This title is set to be released at the same time as its film version and will be available on multiple platforms. g


Rewriting Feature

And possibly maki

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by Lein Baart

g History

ing some again‌

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was played as a top-down perspective title, but the graphics were presented in a side-scroller style. And despite the fact that it was released when computer games were pretty much in their infancy, Castle Wolfenstein brought some very “advanced” ideas to the table. For example, after imbibing alcohol (which could be found, among other collectible items, in the game’s maze-like levels) the player’s aim would be compromised for a short time. In addition, apart from outer walls and stair-cases, Castle Wolfenstein’s levels were fully destructible, and running into walls would cause the player’s character to be stunned. These things may seem run of the mill to us today, but

Feature

hen one speaks of classic first-person shooters, all thoughts lead to where the trend began – id Software’s remarkable Wolfenstein 3D. But while this title may have launched arguably the most popular of video game genres, it was not the originator of the Wolfenstein series. That particular honour goes back even further than the 1992 release of Wolfenstein 3D. 11 years further, to be exact. The mind behind the original game, called Castle Wolfenstein, was Silas Warner, working for Muse Software. Released in 1981, the game charged the player with escaping from a Nazi stronghold. It

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back when the machine of choice was the Apple II, they were pretty revolutionary. And they caused quite a stir. So much so, in fact, that the game not only enjoyed a sequel, but it would be recreated 11 years later in its most familiar incarnation – and that particular game (Wolfenstein 3D) changed the face of the video game market forever. 1992 saw the release of Wolfenstein 3D, and it presented players with an idea that was never seen before: a first-person viewpoint in a 3D world (even though there were no such things as 3D processing and graphics cards armed with GPUs at the time).

By today’s standards, naturally, the game is clunky and almost backwards, but 22 years ago it was all the rage. That wouldn’t last, as id Software managed to eclipse their own creation with series like Doom, and later Quake. It took nine years for a proper sequel to emerge for the original game, in the form of Return to Castle Wolfenstein. In truth, though, this was less of a follow-up and more of a reboot, bringing the original title to machines that were truly 3D capable, like the PlayStation 2 and original Xbox (as well as computers available at the time). The 2001 release was met with enthusiasm, and resulted in a further release two years

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PS3 and Xbox 360 platforms to full advantage. Although it was titled like a reboot – simply called Wolfenstein - the game served as a sequel to Return to Castle Wolfenstein, and saw the franchise’s hero, B J Blazkowicz, once again take on Nazi foes that were more than just a bunch of gun-toting bad guys… Wolfenstein’s undeniable Sci-fi feel set it apart from other World War 2 shooters in a big way. This month yet another Wolfenstein title will be released, but this time the concept of alternate history will be taken much further. Wolfenstein: The New Order poses the question: what if the Nazi’s had prevailed in the Second World War. The player, once

Feature

later, in the form of the online multiplayer Wolfenstein: Enemy Territory. This title was a PC only release, and supported a relatively strong modding community. The next six years would be quiet ones for a franchise that had a lot going for it. The alternate history made the game very appealing but, as with many other titles, the strong presence of World War 2 shooters (with games like the original Call of Duty games and Medal of Honor) detracted from it somewhat. And then, in 2009, the franchise made a reappearance, this time using the power of the

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again taking on the role of Blazkowicz, will now find themselves in a 1960s setting, and will be faced with a host of new foes to do battle against. After suffering amnesia and spending 14 years in an asylum, the hero escapes to find a horrific new world around him. It wouldn’t be the first time that we have seen this kind of supposition; the 1992 novel Fatherland by Robert Harris posed a similar idea. However, Harris’ novel was devoid of science-fiction elements, so no true further correlation (other than the Nazi’s having won WWII and ruling the world with an iron fist) can really be drawn. It does make for an interesting premise, however,

and provides the franchise with a lot of possibilities for moving forward – after all, a World War 2 shooter can only have one real outcome, and has limited scope, unless alternate realities are explored. Love it or hate it, this franchise has earned its right in the halls of classic gaming, purely for the impact that the earliest games had on our beloved pastime. Whether it will stand the test of time, now that it has competition of a whole new level to deal with, remains to be seen. But one thing is for certain – with interesting ideas, challenging enemies and an intriguing plot and premise, Wolfenstein: The New Order should – at the very least – be exciting. g

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Big Data or Big Brother? The Soapbox

by Suvesh Arumugam

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y recent trip to Austin for the South by SouthWest (SXSW) conference is already starting to fade in my memory, but one message that keeps popping up in my mind is the role that big data is playing in the web-drive world of the future. It’s kind of like when you are thinking of buying a particularly new model of car. Then suddenly everywhere you look it seems like everyone is talking about or driving that new car, which either convinces you that you’re on the right track, or that it’s a monumentally bad idea. I was lucky enough to get into a workshop with the architects behind Playstation Network, who were giving an insight into the growing role of big data in gaming and running their worldwide network. One might visualize a major international digital player like Sony having

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been run by team of AI driven cyborgs, but it might shock you to believe that everything was run on massive spreadsheets until just a few years ago. But Sony has invested in the latest Big Data systems to collate, cleanse and visualize every piece of data from all over the world. What kind of data? I’m glad you asked. EVERY kind of data. On an individual level it would be connection times, payment and purchase trends and details, what kinds of games you prefer, what games you play longer than others, your connection speed and latency, how often your connection drops or your latency spikes and you get kicked off the closest server. And that just from your Playstation! From a whole network of players they can look at the popularity of single player vs multiplayer, which games are more

popular by region, which online maps are attracting the most players, which regions are experiencing the most latency and on which ISPs. And if you’ve done that thing that posts your game scores to your Facebook page, that can be tied in with social media data around their brand, titles and players. And once they have established baseline behavior, they have complex algorithms that detect which players went from TFNG ranking to Expert Killer just a little too quickly. Jokes aside, the presentation did even hint at the eventual use of artificial intelligence to manage ever-growing networks of players and clients – considering how pop-ads track you by your online behavior, it’s not difficult to believe. Should you be scared? I’d say no. If you think that whether you play games or live a solitary internet-free shadow life, or whether you’re a selfie

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addict with a penchant for Candy Crush, everyone has a digital footprint that lists them somewhere in one form or another. The realities, laws and ethics of how this data can be used and re-used are still very much an open debate, but being part of it is not really a choice one can make. The best-case scenario is that companies will use this data responsibly and to our benefit. According to Sony, they use the info to make games better, to engage ISPs to optimize gaming performance, to find better ways to improve the things that work, and fix the things that don’t. And by all accounts that would seem to be what’s happening. What is clear though is that the days of internet anonymity are over, and whether you’re using your real name as your handle, or you’re just HeadShotWarrior72 – somebody is always watching. g


A New

Interview

And a more level one, at tha

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There is, in the view of many, a large disparity between the way online gaming is implemented and the desires of those who make use of these platforms. Forum boards and news sites often level complaints at the apparent disconnection between the people who make the games, and the people who play them, leading to numerous issues with services. This, combined with accusations of mismanagement towards both platform providers and official gaming bodies, makes online gaming – whether competitive or otherwise – something of a hit and

miss affair at times. Entering into this market is 8Frag, a team of people who see things differently. Being a third party provider, 8Frag wants to revolutionise online gaming, bridging gaps between competitive and casual play and rewarding players in ways unlike anything we have ever seen before. We had the opportunity to chat with David Eini, Managing Director of 8Frag, about what the service will provide and what users can expect.

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GM. So what is 8Frag exactly? DE. 8Frag is a team of passionate people who have come together to develop a new standard within online gaming arenas. The core focus is building a platform which bridges the gap between casual and competitive gaming on a global level. GM. What prompted the creation of the 8Frag platform? DE. Being an avid gamer myself, as well as an active member in a variety of league based gaming platforms, I found that there was something missing in the way that players interact and play online games currently. Combined with the stand point that many corporations’ take of “profit-overpeople” and limiting innovation by way of not allowing employee interaction in decision making is what prompted me to take the reins myself in providing a platform that satisfies the need in the market.

Interview

GM. What are some of the benefits that users will derive from using 8Frag? DE. Ultimately, 8Frag focusses on bridging the barrier between casual and

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competitive gaming by developing a platform where every player has an equal opportunity to benefit from the rewards that our system offers. GM. What gaming platforms will 8Frag support? DE. Our primary focus is on the PC market but we do have future plans to open this system up to console platforms. We’ll definitely be taking into consideration new technology and community feedback when deciding where to branch out next. GM. Which games will be available for play using 8Frag? DE. Upon launch, we will be providing Team Fortress 2 as well as Counter Strike Global Offensive. Future games include DOTA 2 as well as providing support for up and coming games yet to be released GM. What kind of research went into developing the 8Frag system? DE. Extensive research was put into a variety of topics that relate to the success of this system. While the list of items is far beyond the scope of this discussion I can tell you that

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we have foremost researched, brainstormed and innovated upon ideas to address the needs of gamers, stressing on creating an environment that is fun and easy to use. In the future we look forward to expanding and improving on the system even more with feedback from the community. GM. What can you tell us about 8Frag’s ranking system and fair-play mechanics? DE. We spent many months working on this system as it is a very important feature of this project. In the end we developed a complex algorithm that is based on existing sound economic principles. How this effects our users is that, simply put, it ensures that each player is challenged by opponents of the same skill level. GM. What kinds of game modes can users expect? DE. There are two primary game modes on our system currently and they are “Point for Kill” & “Tournament Match”. A “Point for Kill” match will consist of a player being rewarded a point for every kill they make and losing a point


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for every death. Our “Tournament Match” will see players grouped together in a lobby to participate in a single round where rewards will be given to the best performers of that specific round. As the list of games that we offer grows, so will the modes that we offer for each game.

the community. Instant chat, in-game communications as well as various other social media interactions are all included within the 8Frag website.

GM. Can you tell us about player rewards for using 8Frag? DE. Our reward system is based on an AfroPoint which is at a 1-1 ratio with the Euro. This point system is Master Card accredited and allows users with a certain balance of points to be eligible to receive a Master Card. The player’s balance of points can then be exchanged at any time at an accredited Master Card facility.

GM. What does the future hold for 8Frag? DE. We will be waiting on community feedback after our launch period before deciding on a specific direction to follow but our initial focus will be on the development of our own games that will tie in to our system. One of our future projects in the pipeline will help facilitate both international and local indie game developers as well as providing a platform for content creators. And there you have it – a unique service for those that want to not only gain rewards from playing online, but who also want their needs and desires met by service providers. 8Frag will be going live soon – subscribe to their newsletter at www.8frag.com for more details. g

Interview

GM. What kind of social interaction will be available to users? DE. Our website will consist of a News page which will be kept up to date with a variety of game and game related articles. There will also be a leader board where players can compare their stats against other player’s within

GM. Will 8Frag be available internationally? DE. It will be available to every gamer on planet earth!

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Reviews Highlights 48 LEGO: The Hobbit Rebuilding a classic 52 Diablo 3: Reaper of Souls Prepare for Death’s arrival... 54 Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn Now on PS4! 56 Child of Light A work of art...

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e have eight games on review for you this month, and we’re looking at some really big new titles on the horizon. With games like Watch_Dogs and Wolfenstein: The New Order arriving in May (not to mention names like Murdered: Soul Supect in June, as well as E3) things are about to get a lot more exciting… g

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LEGO: The Hobbit

An Incomplete Journey Two-thirds of the movie trilogy gets the LEGO treatment.

by Walt Pretorius

T

retailer’s shelf. But there is another element to LEGO games that keeps things pretty fresh; they evolve. If you were to put one of the original titles – let’s say LEGO Star Wars – next to LEGO The Hobbit, you will see many changes, and most of them for the better. That’s one thing that keeps this already huge franchise evergreen – the fact that the developers are willing and able to implement effective new ideas in the games. And the changes are happening more regularly now. Back in the day, only certain titles (like the first LEGO Harry Potter) brought out changes, but now almost every new game adds something new to the mix. LEGO The Hobbit adds a few, in fact, as well as borrowing something from LEGO The Movie Videogame (and all the LEGO titles that came before). But we’ll get to that. Let’s start, rather, at the beginning…

Review

he variety of subject matter in the LEGO stable is ever-increasing. Hang on, let’s rephrase that; the franchises that the LEGO franchise is based on are ever-increasing. It seems that these days there is nary a big budget sci-fi or fantasy film (particularly from Warner Bros) that doesn’t get a LEGO makeover. And even if there isn’t a direct movie tie-in (like LEGO Marvel Super Heroes) the movie influence is still more than visible in the way the characters are created and portrayed. This is not necessarily a bad thing, though, because the LEGO games tend to be much better than other titles based on movies. That, combined with the recognisability of both the LEGO property and the familiarity in game dynamics established over a wide number of titles means that you pretty much know what you’re getting when you take a LEGO title off of a

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LEGO The Hobbit is based on the films by Peter Jackson. I say based on the films, because they follow the extended story line that Jackson has crafted for his Hobbit movies (why make one when you can cash in on three, no matter what the source material, right?). The game covers the first two films and, as such, ends as abruptly as you might expect. Whether there will be a LEGO The Hobbit 2 to cover the third movie remains to be seen. Along with this abrupt ending comes the fact that the game assumes you have seen the movies. In all likelihood everyone playing the game will be doing so because they have seen the films, and enjoyed them, but anyone tackling the title without first seeing the movies will find rather large holes in the plot that the developers seem to have assumed the player will be able to fill in effortlessly. That might be a bit problematic for

some players, particularly considering that the game’s roughly 16 hour main story line likes to jump back and forth in time, filling in the history behind events as well as presenting the more familiar tale told in the movies. The title likes to present the player with a variety of scenarios. In some, a larger complement of characters will be available, while others will restrict the player to a maximum of two. These really vary according to the requirements of the level, and characters that are playable at certain times generally need to be there for a reason. And that ties in to something that Traveller’s Tales have done very well for this game; special abilities. The dwarves that form the main part of the player’s troupe all have different abilities that will be called on to get through levels. While some abilities are shared, others are restricted to one character only. It works well –

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a tool. The game will intelligently switch to the needed tool as a character approaches a particular hotspot, but if necessary the player can also switch the equipped item of the currently selected character. Another part of this inventory system is the gathering of raw materials. There is a pretty wide variety of stuff to collect, and these are consumed during crafting. Yes, crafting, another new element to the game. It’s not as free as it could be, though, so don’t expect RPG-esque upgrading of equipment, and the like. It’s more of an excuse for mini-games, really. Speaking of which, the game has a wide variety of mini-games, which help add variety to what would otherwise be a somewhat merciless button-mashing experience. Most of them are based on some kind of timed button input system, and they tend to be quite

Review

particularly in co-op gaming – but can also lead to some fumbling, thanks to the fact that the dwarves all look very similar. And their names aren’t that different either. Co-operation between the characters, even in a single player game, has also been ramped up. Not only will the player need to cleverly use the different characters co-operatively to achieve certain goals, but a “buddyup” system has been introduced, in which two dwarves team up to take on tougher enemies and obstacles. It works pretty well, except that, at times (particularly in the heat of some of the pitched battles the game throws at the player), the controls for teaming up can get a little fidgety. Another big new element that LEGO The Hobbit introduces is the idea of an inventory. Most dwarves will, for example, carry two weapons, or a weapon and

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forgiving. Whether it’s juggling plates in Bilbo’s kitchen or mining for precious gems (which, of course, are needed for certain crafting tasks) there is a fair bit of variety in LEGO The Hobbit. One mini-game returnee from LEGO The Movie Videogame is finding the missing pieces during massive constructions. These are a bit more complex this time around, and the pieces are sometimes less obvious to spot (because they may be presented at different angles from the main image) but it still adds to the fun. Additionally, most of these super-builds also require resources to kick them off, but there is really no shortage of these in the game. Another welcome addition is extra events – sort of side quests that are unlocked as the game progresses. This adds quite significantly, not only to the play time,

but also to the open-world aspect of the title. Using a camp-fire checkpoint system, the player can travel back and complete these extra tasks at pretty much any time, adding to the enjoyment of the title. Although it does have an issue or two – particularly in the disjointed way it presents the storyline – LEGO The Hobbit is a fun, lively and sometimes challenging experience that the whole family can enjoy. It features a slightly more muted palette than other LEGO games, but the world is still beautifully realised and integrated into the building block universe. And so, when all is said and done, this is an excellent addition to the franchise, with the right levels of evolution and familiarity balancing each other out very well. If you enjoyed previous LEGO titles, it borders on a “must play” status… just watch the movies first, OK? g

AT A GLANCE: Adventure

Reviewed on:

It has a few quirks, but for the most part this is as enjoyable as any other LEGO title... even though the end is a bit abrupt.

Developer: Publisher: Distributer:

Traveller’s Tales Warner Bros Ster Kinekor

Parental Advisory

7+ gamecca59

Violence Language Sex Drug Use Prejudice

Accessibility Hard-Core Medium Casual

PS4 Platforms

Genre:

PC X360 X0 PS3 PS4 Wii U PSV 3DS AND iOS

Score

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Diablo III: Reaper of Souls

A New Threat …and lots of reward.

by Walt Pretorius

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that was good and makes it great. The first new addition that RoS brings to the table is a new character class, in the form of the Crusader. These modified Zakarum Paladins are the shield-bearing power-houses that the Barbarian wanted to be, but never quite came close to. Imbued with the power of light, these holy warriors are battlefield tanks, while still providing support when used in groups. It’s a great combination, and the short-to-medium range Crusader adds a great new choice when it comes to character creation. In addition to the new character class, the expansion also ups the level cap to 70. That means all those old characters that you maxed out once again become viable, with new adventures to challenge them. These new quests come in two flavours, but we’ll get to that later. Also, higher levels mean more skills, as well as an additional

Review

xpansions can be a mixed bag, but if there is one company that seems to get them right, it’s Blizzard. When Diablo III first launched it was a great experience, but it missed a few marks that fans of the franchise really wanted to see… However, over the time that it has been running, several patches managed to sort out a few of the issues that people were having with it. And now, with the release of the first expansion, Reaper of Souls, Blizzard have created a whole new feel to the game that breathes some fresh air into the experience, and turns the whole affair into something more like what we would have liked to have seen from the initial release. Combined with the dropping of the Auction House, the Paragon system and the recent Loot 2.0 patch, the content added by Reaper of Souls takes an experience

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passive skill slot – which really can make a big difference. There’s a new crafter as well, in the form of the Mystic. For a price, the Mystic will alter the look of equipment, so that players can build something of a “personal style”. In addition, she will change the abilities of equipment… it’s a gamble, because each change has a variety of things that may happen. But it is a limited gamble, and generally yields good results. In terms of quests, RoS adds a lengthy fifth act, which starts off in the drab and depressing street of Westmarch (which, stylistically, look more like what we’d expect from a Diablo game than anything in the original release). This act is entertaining enough, and provides extra plot and setting information – but the real winner in terms of things to do is the new Adventure Mode. This allows the player access to any of the game’s waypoints (yes, you need

to complete Act V to unlock it) and spawns randomly generated dungeons and areas at each one. In addition, there are marked quests at random points, which allow the player to earn the right to enter Nephalem Rifts for even greater challenge and reward. And there are rewards aplenty, particularly in Adventure mode. Aside from the fact that it pretty much makes the game perpetual – there is now always something to do – it also gets pretty generous with treasure and items (thanks, in part, to Loot 2.0). It also offers a lot of intense action, particularly within the chaotic Nephalem Rifts. So there is no doubt that RoS has improved the Diablo III experience greatly. It allows for non-stop adventuring, adds significantly to the tale, introduces an excellent new character class and allows further equipment modification. If you’re a Diablo III fan, what more could you ask for? g

AT A GLANCE: Action adventure

Reaper of Souls (combined with recent patches) turns Diablo III into the game we wanted when it first launched.

Developer: Publisher: Distributer:

Blizzard Activision Blizzard Megarom

Parental Advisory

16+ gamecca59

Violence Language Sex Drug Use Prejudice

Accessibility Hard-Core Medium Casual

Reviewed on:

PC Platforms

Genre:

PC X360 X0 PS3 PS4 Wii U PSV 3DS AND iOS

Score

92 53


Final Fantasy XIV Online: A Realm Reborn

A Whole New World Well, no, not really…

by Walt Pretorius

W

The challenge, then, is for this particular release to live up to its PC counterpart. The good news is that it does, quite beautifully, in fact. And it manages to set itself up, in some ways at least, as being a definitive MMO for the PS4. This pay-to-play Final Fantasy game presents the player with a new world and a new mythology (as is often the case with this increasingly disjointed franchise) and pretty much sets them loose to wreak havoc (or not) as they see fit. There is a lot of freedom here, and a hell of a lot of customisation. Even the character classes, after a certain level, can be hybridised with a sub-class, or secondary class. This makes for a wide variety of character choices, considering that the game offers eight different character classes. That’s a lot of combinations.

Review

e have seen more than a few games slowly make their way onto next generation platforms – well, ok, the PS4 for us South Africans, who still have somewhere around five months to wait for the Xbox One. Many of them have been titles released just slightly before the release of these newer consoles; games like Tomb Raider, for example, already have a definitive PS4 edition, and The Last of Us has one on the way. But this particular title – Final Fantasy XIV Online: A Realm Reborn – is one that didn’t land just before the PS4 did. In fact, the PC version of this game is almost a year old, and has already had some rather big tweaks applied to it. The original FFXIV is even older. Sure, a year is not a very long time, but a lot can happen to a game in twelve months in terms of patching and tweaking.

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But how does Final Fantasy’s traditionally more pedantic combat system (even after they tweaked it and sped it up) translate to an MMO world, where things tend to be a lot faster? Well, by speeding up again. It’s a lot quicker to fight in this game than in other FF titles, but the trick comes down to timing. The player will, with some practice, learn to read and take advantage of the ebb and flow of combat in this game, and will find it to be a really rather fun experience… even those who aren’t crazy about Final Fantasy should find it enjoyable. That brings us to controls. It is really rather remarkable how much customisation Square Enix have built into this aspect of this sprawling title. The player can tweak pretty much anything, and the Dualshock 4 controller becomes the perfect complement to their experience. Even the touch pad is implemented

well, with the player having the ability to use it as a mouse pointer when needed. This adds up to making this particular game a great example of how modern consoles are as viable as PCs for MMO gaming. Sadly, this particular title suffers from the same bloated, convoluted plot that all Final Fantasy games are infected with. Sure, it keeps the player guessing, but it can be a bit confusing, too – you need to keep careful track of things here, and the way that the player fits into the world – as a sort-of “chosen one most important individual” type – doesn’t really work well in the context of an MMO (where everyone else is that same kind of character, really). But that’s a small issue in this vast game, which offers the player absolutely tons to do in a varied, interesting and rich fantasy world. g

AT A GLANCE: Genre:

MMORPG

Reviewed on:

Developer: Publisher: Distributer:

Developer Publisher Distributer

Parental Advisory

16+ gamecca59

Violence Language Sex Drug Use Prejudice

PS4 Platforms

It’s massive, it offers the player absolute tons to do, and it’s a great fit on the PS4.

Accessibility Hard-Core Medium Casual

PC X360 X0 PS3 PS4 Wii U PSV 3DS AND iOS

Score

86 55


Child of Light

The Ethereal World This one is all about artistry…

by Walt Pretorius

S

a beautifully artistic style that is both haunting and alluring) and throwing in cheesy rhyming-couplet speech for all characters. The story is simple enough. A young princess falls ill in the real world and, through her illness, enters the fantasy realm of Lemuria. Here she must return the sun, moon and stars (which have been stolen by the game’s villain) to the sky, as well as try restore her father in the real world, who is getting sicker with worry by the day. The game dynamic is simple and fun. Even if the combat system seems a little complicated at first, using Aurora (that’s the princess) and her various helpers in combat becomes a joy before too long. Combat can get pretty strategic, too; the player can only have two party members in combat at a time, so choosing fighters with the right abilities for a given situation is pretty

Review

ometimes a game comes along that tries to elevate the whole idea of games to a new level, or at least drag it – kicking and screaming, mostly – in a new direction. Child of Light is such a game. It is a fairy tale that provides the player with a unique world and a touching story, but it does so in a way that may make some gamers (those that prefer headshots to substance) want to shy away from it. Child of Light takes many elements from many influences and mashes them together in a game that is endearing, entertaining, challenging and beautiful to behold. It borrows some ideas from JRPG games, like turn based combat, while using 2D-platformer style game dynamics for exploration. It then combines those with a distinctly Westernised art form (shying away from glitzy 3D animated graphics towards

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important. A third character, Aurora’s faithful spirit companion Igniculus, also helps in combat with healing and other buffs. Igniculus is also playable and can be controlled with the right analog stick, or by another player in a limited co-op fashion. Child of Light does fall short in some ways. It offers fifteen hours of play, which is fairly good, but the end does seem a little abrupt. Add to that the whole rhyming couplet idea (which can, I am sad to say, get on your nerves pretty quickly) and it develops a few problems that some people won’t like. Others may not like the art style but, truthfully, Child of Light really is a beautiful game. It looks as though it has been lifted gently from the pages of a beloved story-book, and the UbiArt engine does a great job in keeping it visually

stunning. While it certainly won’t be everyone’s cup of tea, Child of Light is a game that can be charming and more than a little endearing. It presents the player with quite a lot to do, including platform exploration and puzzling, as well as more than a little combat. The characters level up frequently, too, adding an RPG element in the form of upgradable skills. Initial levels are pretty simple, but as the game progresses it develops a wonderful complexity that is challenging as well as highly entertaining (except for the damned rhyming). Most of all, Child of Light is a breath of fresh air in an industry that seems far too focussed on headshots and explosions. It is a unique game, thanks to its almost ethereal presentation, and it is fairly inoffensive fun for the whole family. g

AT A GLANCE: Genre:

Adventure RPG

Developer: Publisher: Distributer:

Ubisoft Ubisoft Megarom

Parental Advisory

7+ gamecca59

Violence Language Sex Drug Use Prejudice

X360 Platforms

Child of Light’s unique looks and inoffensive nature make it a joy for the whole family.

Reviewed on:

Accessibility Hard-Core Medium Casual

PC X360 X0 PS3 PS4 Wii U PSV 3DS AND iOS

Score

84 57


2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil

Sun, Shade and Football The Beautiful Game comes to Brazil

by Charlie Fripp

E

title a while back. A lot of the same technology has been employed to deliver this one, so gamers can look forward to action that they are already familiar with. But no good game would be worth its salt if it was just a carbon-copy of a previous title, and EA did at least incorporate some changes. The most notable differences are that players now have greater control when it comes to dribbling, the passing accuracy has been increased and there has been a number of small changes in the firsttouch mechanics. In all, it aims to make the action on the pitch as smooth as possible. Even with the changes in the mechanics, the biggest draw card for a game of this nature is in the game play modes. It wouldn’t be a World Cup game if teams couldn’t at least compete for the most coveted cup. In Road to the FIFA World Cup, players take their

Review

very four years, the Beautiful Games kicks into world Cup mode, and while fans only see a fraction of the hard work that goes into it, teams often train and compete many months in advance in order to progress as far in the tournament as possible. And because Electronic Arts is arguably the king when it comes to football video games, it was no surprise to learn that this year would be no different – with the launch of the video game simulation of the 2014 FIFA World Cup in Brazil. While the official tournament is only kicking off on 21 June, EA decided to release the accompanying video game a good two months before the teams line up for the biggest trophy on the football calendar. In terms of the actual game play mechanics, not much has changed since EA’s release of the official FIFA 14

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chosen team on a whirl-wind ride through the actual qualification stages which started as far back as 2011. It is the first time in the history of World Cup video games that the entire qualification series is playable – a feature that only included the UEFA and CONMEBOL groups in the 2010 version. The Captain Your Country mode is probably the mode in which players will find the most benefit – but be forewarned, it’s incredibly long. Just as with the Road to the FIFA World Cup, players aim to take their team through the friendlies, B-side internationals, the qualifications and World Cup. But instead of players controlling the entire team, as with Road to the FIFA World Cup, gamers only control an individual player on their side, or their own character which they created and inserted into the team. It’s World Cup

football on a much more personal level, as the ultimate goal of the gamer would be to be selected as the national captain that goes on to win the World Cup. The title also features a number of other modes, which all in one way or another end up with the player competing in the World Cup finals – be it against computer-controlled AI, or online multiplayer opponents. As a football title, 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil does its job rather well, and fans of the tournament won’t be disappointed – but it also can become laborious rather quickly. As a World Cup title, EA opted to again include small aspects which make the game a lot more believable and actually feel like a World Cup companion – like cheering fans, cutting to outside broadcasts in fan parks, and different commentary streams. g

AT A GLANCE: Genre:

Sports

Reviewed on:

Developer: Publisher: Distributer:

EA Canada Electronic Arts EA South Africa

Parental Advisory

3+ gamecca59

Violence Language Sex Drug Use Prejudice

X360 Platforms

It’s a great companion to the Beautiful Game’s tournament

Accessibility Hard-Core Medium Casual

PC X360 X0 PS3 PS4 Wii U PSV 3DS AND iOS

Score

82 59


Don Bradman Cricket 14

With Bat and Ball Cricket goes for another spin

by Charlie Fripp

C

themselves to be used in the Career mode. But with the player creator – which can be shared with the online community – users are able to download full squads with the correct names and likeness of almost all the teams in the game. In Career Mode, players will start their cricketing journey as a 16-year-old player in a Country side. They will be able to select their preference in position (bowler, batsman or all-rounder), and select which County they would like to play for. From there, gamers will play through 20 seasons, culminating in the player captaining his own national side. Tournament Mode and Casual should be selfexplanatory, where players can play or create a tournament for themselves to play in. In Casual Mode, users will be able to set up a single game in all the

Review

ricket is an incredibly tough sport to develop into a video game title, and is almost on par with rugby in that respect. There are so many aspects and actions that need to be accounted for, and if developers aren’t careful, it could all go horribly pearshaped. Don Bradman Cricket 14 is the latest title that is taking on the sport, and while it does get some aspects of it right, it is lacking in some of the fundamentals of the game. It is clear that developer Big Ant spent a good deal of their time on the menu and the back-end of the title, and this is really where it shines. The title is only licensed to make use of the names and likeness of Australian players, so users are able to create their own squad members and teams – and even a character for

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varieties, such as Five Day, One-Day International, T20 and the likes. The mechanics of the title is where things start to go a bit weird. At the start of any game, the two captains will toss for who elects to bat or bowl first. As a warning for potential players: do not enter the title without going through the tutorial first, which is hidden in the Practice, and then Field Practice menu. Bowling and field work are the easier of the two to master, but it still takes some practice to get through. Depending on the type of bowler, the control system will vary, but for the purpose of this explanation, we’ll explain how the fast bowler works. Before making a run-up, players need to select the type of ball they want to bowl and where it will be at normal pace, fast ball or a slower ball. During the run up, the left

analogue stick is pressed in the direction of the delivery type, after which two bars will start to fill two gauges (jump input and release). Once the needles are in the sweet spot, the corresponding analogue sticks need to be moved to execute the bowl. It can get extremely confusing, even at the lower difficulty levels. Fielding can luckily be automated so that fellow players do their own fielding, instead of the player having to control everyone on the team. Batting makes use of a similar system, where the right analogue is used for direction, left stick for front- or back foot selection, and triggers for aggressive or defensive shots. But the most difficult thing about the batting is getting the timing right, which can be tough. While the title isn’t brilliant, it is probably the better (not the best) cricket game that gamers have seen in a while. g

AT A GLANCE: Genre:

Sports

Reviewed on:

Developer: Publisher: Distributer:

Developer Publisher Distributer

Parental Advisory

3+ gamecca59

Violence Language Sex Drug Use Prejudice

PS3 Platforms

While not great, it does provide a good foundation

Accessibility Hard-Core Medium Casual

PC X360 X0 PS3 PS4 Wii U PSV 3DS AND iOS

Score

72 61


Final Fantasy X / X-2 HD Remaster

Modern Classic

Dek line goes here dec line goes here dec line goes here Dek line by Lein Baart

F

of introspection and relevance seldom seen in any genre (despite some whacky moments), touching on themes such as racism and adherence to blind faith while still offering a beautifully told narrative. The gameplay is equally magnificent, utilising a turnbased system that manages to mix action and strategy in a satisfying blend. Party members can be swopped out at will during battle, allowing players to pick the most effective combination for the situation at hand, while the various actions are quick and fluid, meaning that everything except boss battles are generally over in a short time. The HD release retains the sphere grid levelling system of the original version, which can be confusing to newcomers but ultimately allows a novel way to tailor each member’s skills to your preference. Throw in a wealth of mini-games, including the excellent blitzball tournaments, and Final

Review

inal Fantasy X was a game that aimed to change a franchise. Its 2001 release on the PS2 transformed what had been staple Final Fantasy mechanics, resulting in a game that was both strikingly familiar and yet wholly different from its predecessors, and its influence can still be seen in the series today. That doesn’t always mean a game will stand the test of time however, as what was revolutionary then, often looks unrefined now. Fans clinging desperately to their nostalgia can breathe easy though, as Final Fantasy X is still as brilliant as it ever was. For those that have never played the game, X tells the story of Tidus, a man out of time who finds himself trapped in the fantastical world of Spira. It’s a tale that bears all the hallmarks of an epic, with Tidus joining the party of the summoner Yuna to try and rid the world of the gargantuan and immortal fiend Sin, yet manages a level

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Fantasy X will keep you entertained for countless hours. The highlight of the HD remaster was also going to be the audio and graphical updates though. The reworked soundtrack is brilliant, highlighting the exhilaration and emotion of the plot with slight alterations to the original score. It’s the visuals however that offer a mixed bag. While the environments, enemies and most of the main characters have all seen stunning facelifts (despite straying into the uncanny valley through awkward animations, facial expressions and lip synching), the other characters that populate the world of Spira remain the blocky, low-res textured human imitations they were in the original release. Granted, they’re HD blocks now, but the juxtaposition between modern and old-school character models can be unsettling until you become accustomed to it. Final Fantasy X-2, the first sequel in the series’ history,

was and remains a very different beast to its precursor. Featuring a plot decidedly more light-hearted and whimsical, X-2 also re-implemented Final Fantasy’s characteristic Active Time Battle system, making for frantic and absorbing combat. The main change for the sequel though was the introduction of the dressphere system, which while narratively dubious, allowed players to switch roles for any party member on the fly, an essential mechanic given that X-2 only has a party of three. Ultimately, and despite the questionable graphical revision, Final Fantasy X / X-2 HD remaster offers a superb restoration of a much loved game. Coupled with a host of extra content, including additional boss battles, an animated video and a roguelike mini-game (to name but a few), and this release should delight newcomers and fans of the original alike. g

AT A GLANCE: Action RPG

Reviewed on:

Final Fantasy X is still a superb game, and the HD release only highlights this, though the sequel may not be to everyone’s taste.

Developer: Publisher: Distributer:

Square Enix Square Enix Megarom

Parental Advisory

12+ gamecca59

Violence Language Sex Drug Use Prejudice

Accessibility Hard-Core Medium Casual

PS3 Platforms

Genre:

PC X360 X0 PS3 PS4 Wii U PSV 3DS AND iOS

Score

88 63


Mercenary Kings

To Battle …with as few bits as possible!

by Walt Pretorius

I

simple pistols, but as the game progresses, those can be upgraded. This is one of the joys of Mercenary Kings. Guns can be modified to be pretty much anything that the player wants, from high fire rate shotguns to auto-fire rockets and anything in-between, thanks to a system that allows the player to not only build custom gun parts, but also combine them in numerous ways. Equipment upgrades are made possible through using resources found during the game’s 100 missions. Armour and knives can also be upgraded, and special kinds of ammo can be made. Additionally, the player can equip bionic upgrades that can change the course of the game – if they have the materials and money to build them. Money and resources, as mentioned before, are earned by completing missions… and sadly, this is one of the areas that turns Mercenary Kings into a chore. The numerous missions will often take place on the same maps, using

Review

ndie game developers are having a field day with all the support they are getting these days. And one of those support platforms is PSN, which gladly “stocks” their titles and even promotes them by giving them away to PlayStation Plus members. This means that their work gets noticed, and their games get played. One such title is Mercenary Kings, a sprawling and surprisingly complex homage to the golden age of platform-style arcade-shooters. Think things like Metal Slug or Contra, and you’re more or less on the right wavelength. Mercenary Kings puts the player in the role of one of the titular warriors, brought back from the dead and given cybernetic abilities. They are sent to the island of Mandragora to combat CLAW, an evil organisation lead by a crazy, bearded mastermind. The players start out with

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similar environments over and over again. That’s all fine and well, but the missions themselves aren’t particularly varied, and it instils the game with a feeling of grinding. Even more frustrating is that every mission is timed; while this doesn’t often become a problem, sometimes the player will get lost in the sprawling levels, looking for an elusive final goal or item to complete the mission. It can get quite painful, and there is no way to quit a mission… leaving the frustrated rage-quitter to either exit the game entirely, or run around until the mission timer runs out. The play dynamic has good and bad points. It is reminiscent of the great arcade platform shooters, both in looks and dynamics. The player will use platforms and things like elevators and zip-lines to move around levels, and will pretty much need to shoot everything that moves. The controls are extremely simple, which is great. But the

player can only shoot in four directions (even though the valuable diagonal shooting that the player character cannot do is available to certain enemies). Additionally, switching between equipment can be a clunky procedure; quickly switching to a grenade or health pack isn’t an option, and can often lead to frustration and cheap deaths. Still, Mercenary Kings is not without its charms. It is full of the overblown bravado and high-grade cheese that made the classics from ‘80s arcade gaming so lovable, and its surface homage to those games belies a depth that is surprising. As it stands, Mercenary Kings is a great, quick-hit time killer. It takes a well-loved, classic genre and breathes new life into it really rather respectfully, and provides the player with a fun experience that is deeper than just killing bad guys. But it also leads to a lot of frustration. g

AT A GLANCE: Platform Shooter

Although often frustrating, Mercenary Kings is a great homage to classic platform arcade shooters.

Developer: Publisher: Distributer:

Tribute Games PSN PSN

Parental Advisory

16+ gamecca59

Violence Language Sex Drug Use Prejudice

Accessibility Hard-Core Medium Casual

Reviewed on:

PS4 Platforms

Genre:

PC X360 X0 PS3 PS4 Wii U PSV 3DS AND iOS

Score

73 65


Crystal

M Review

Asus Essence STX II 7.1 Sound Card

M

ost of us are completely satisfied when it comes to the on-board sound that our PC motherboards provide. But there are folks out there – true enthusiasts who appreciate the importance of impressive sound – that know that an extra component in the form of a sound card can make huge amounts of difference. It might take up another PCI slot on your motherboard, but adding a great sound card to your system will never hurt. Asus have an excellent option in the form of the Essence STX II 7.1 sound card. This board makes use of great components and excellent technology to squeeze that extra bit of sound performance out of your PC’s audio. This is done through a number of systems. First of all, the board (much like a graphics card) requires a power connection, to ensure clean power to the card directly from the PSU. Then, by employing numerous ideas, like high fidelity LDO (low drop-out) regulators for smooth power, topnotch digital to analogue conversion and high-grade MUSES op-amps for awesome clarity, the Essence STX II 7.1 delivers exactly what it promises: crystal clear audio. The card also comes equipped with a high-grade headphone amplifier on-board, and sports an S/ PDIF output, as well as stereo RCA and 6.35mm jack and mic ports (and comes with 3.5mm jack adapters for both). But, I hear you ask, what about the 7.1 surround sound? Well, Asus boxed very clever in that regard. Because not everyone is going to want 7.1 surround sound, that component of the board is taken care of by a daughter-board that slots into the main Essence STX II unit. This adds six more RCA ports for all that surround sound goodness, but it will consume the place of another PCI slot at the back of your machine, literally sitting above the standard ports (which means that you still have easy access to those, too, if you employ the daughter-board). And for even further customisation, it comes with an op-amp swap kit, which is comprised of three additional op-amps and the tools required to swap them out. When used with its additional software, the Essence STX II delivers truly excellent audio. The headphone amp boosts audio across all ranges beautifully, and the 7.1 option is really superb. The question must be asked, though: is it a necessity? The answer to that comes from your own personal requirements. Sure, on-board sound – particularly on higher-end motherboards with dedicated sound chips – can be great, but adding a component like this truly elevates audio quality to new levels. So if you’re happy to settle for on-board sound, you won’t need one. But if you are after audio that is not just good, but absolutely great, then this component is something you really should have.g

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Going beyond the norm...

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by Alex Scanlon

Summary

Tech Specs:

If you demand more from your audio than onboard sound delivers, the Essence STX II 7.1 sound card is a fantastic option.

M a nufa c turer Distributer: O nline:

gamecca59

Awesome audio Versatile

Stereo output 7.1 output Headphone amplifier Jack adaptors Swappable op-amps

A sus A sus www.a sus.c om

Pros • • • •

• • • • •

Cons • • • •

Takes up a bit of space

Score

96 67


B

Considered All

Review

MSI Twin Frozr GeForce GTX 750 Ti Gaming Graphics Card

B

ack in the day – and this wasn’t all that long ago – overclocking PC components was something that seemed to be akin to mad science. There were smoking chemicals and expensive experiments galore, and ideas like watercooling had many enthusiasts pulling faces in dismay. Times certainly have changed, with overclocking being something of a norm these days. There are very few products – particularly graphics cards – that do not come standard with some kind of overclocking ability and protection built in. While there may be users out there who still balk at the idea of potential damage and shortened lifespans, the truth is that overclocking just gets easier and simpler with almost each passing day. MSI’s OC Genie software is a standard with every higher end graphics card, like this GeForce GTX 750 Ti. This company’s Gaming series of components is all about squeezing as much performance out of a PC as possible, and they provide the user with every tool to do so. But in this case, OC Genie has evolved into a Gaming App, which allows the user to switch between Silent, Gaming and Overclock modes easily, as well as tweak settings as they go. This means that the higher noise levels of high performance can be combatted when they’re not gaming (on those rare occasions) while – at the other end of the scale – the card can really be pushed to its limits in a relatively safe and extremely controlled way. As is the norm with MSI products, this ability is – in part, at least – due to high grade components and clever design. For example, this card uses Military Class 4 components. These components, which include Hi-c CAPs and Solid CAPs, not only stand up to the rigorous conditions that a heavy gaming session can put a graphics card through, but also tend towards less vibration (so less noise) and generally improved stability. Additionally, systems like MSI’s Twin Frozr IV system means that cooling of the card is much more effective, leading to better performance with less risk. Sure, with a GTX 750 GPU at its core, it’s a step away from being top of the line, but the processor still delivers the goods in a great way. And the 2GB of VRAM that supports it helps to delivery smooth frames through even the toughest conditions and most demanding gaming sessions. The performance and stability of this card certainly do not disappoint, and while it may not be the ultimate, top of the line in terms of GPU, it comes very, very close – enough so that you will need software to tell you the difference, in all honesty. Yet again, a great graphics card from MSI. g

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A

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a


n

io t i d

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an

by Rob Edwards

Summary

Tech Specs:

• • • • •

It might not have the ultimate NVidia GPU, but this card will still leave you squealing with glee.

M a nufa c turer Distributer: O nline:

HP HP www.hp.c om

Pros

• •

gamecca59

GeForce GTX 750 GPU 2GB VRAM Twin Frozr IV technology Military class 4 components Gaming App

Great performer Awesome software

Cons

Not top of the line – but who cares?

Score

88 69


Crucial Ballistix Sport 8GB DDR3 RAM Kits

by Rob Edwards

Racing y

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t ts

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d

e

c an

an

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m

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Review

lit i b

reat RAM, as we have said before, is essential for truly top notch PC performance. And the Ballistix by Crucial range of RAM products is shaping up to be rather good. Last month we took a look at some notebook RAM, but this month we have an 8GB kit of Ballistix Sport DDR3 on test. Although the Sport products are at the bottom of the Ballistix range (below Tactical and Elite) these RAM units still deliver an exceptional level of performance, showing better speeds and less latency than some other brands. Additionally, they are equipped with large, vented heat sinks to help keep things cool under pressure. If you’re looking to build a PC that truly performs at its best, every component (including RAM) needs to be carefully considered; those who want great quality RAM will certainly be pleased with this particular product. g

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Summary

Tech Specs:

Even if it is the bottom of the Ballistix pile, this RAM does the trick very nicely.

M a nufa c turer Distributer: O nline:

gamecca59

Fast Great heat sinks

2x 4GB DDR3 – 1866 Heat sink

Cruc ia l Sy ntec h www.sy ntec h.c o.za

Pros

• •

• • •

Cons

Not the cheapest RAM around

Score

88 70


An i mpr ov

op la

y

Razer Naga Expert MMO Gaming Mouse (2014 Edition)

ed wa yt

M

M O

by Rob Edwards

s

M

Summary

Tech Specs:

It’s an updated Naga mouse, and it brings with it a few improved ideas...

M a nufa c turer Distributer: O nline:

gamecca59

Great sensitivity Good button placement

19 programmable buttons 8400 dpi 4G laser 1000Hz ultrapolling Green backlight Synapse 2.0 enabled 2.1m braided cable

Ra zer Corex www.c orex.xo.za

Pros • • • • •

• • • • • • •

Cons • • • • •

Not ambidextrous

Score

84 71

Review

MO gamers all love their complicated mouse devices. Having more buttons is always a better option for MMO gaming, because it means more macros for smoother play. Razer are well aware of this… but sometimes they haven’t got the button placement quite right. The result is a product like this; a revamped version of a mouse we have seen before. But the Naga 2014 Edition also has a few tweaks (other than button placement) that make it something of an improvement over older Naga models. With a total of 19 sensibly placed and fully programmable buttons, the latest Naga should provide for all of an MMO gamer’s needs. 12 of those are positioned near the thumb for right handed players (lefties are out of luck). It also features an 8400 dpi 4G laser, so it is sensitive enough for the toughest tasks. In all, it’s a great mouse from Razer… as usual.. g


MSI Z87M Gaming Motherboard Review

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Gaming

But great for other stuff, too!


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here has been, in the last while, a massive move by PC component manufacturers towards creating products that are better suited for gaming. Sure, manufacturers have always been aware of the value of the PC gaming market (and the obsession that drives upgrading as regularly as possible) but these days they really are taking the bull by the horns. The products they produce aren’t lip-service, either; rather than just having all the right labels and key-phrases on the packaging, these components really do make a difference. It’s great to see that gaming is taken more and more seriously by those that essentially power our machines. Like MSI, for example. Their gaming range of components – mostly aimed at graphics cards and motherboards – has seen some fantastic products released, all with an eye at making the lives of gamers a bit better. One such product is the Z87M Gaming motherboard, which takes full advantage of the Intel Z87 Express chipset at its core to deliver a great gaming experience. Let’s be honest, though… it all comes down to added features. Motherboards, in principle, have been pegged for years. The days of one board outperforming another at a basic level are long gone. Rather, now, it’s the extra benefits that a board brings to the table that makes all the difference. And while things like Military Grade components and the like still sound very impressive, they’re now so common that they almost don’t enter into decision-making. They’re pretty much a given. So what makes this particular motherboard a good option for gamers who want to put together an Intel flavoured machine? Well, quite simply, it’s in those added features. Some are more impressive than others, of course, but the inclusion of ideas like triple-gold plated, high frequency ports specifically for gaming devices doesn’t hurt at all. Neither does the use of high grade components. What really impressed us here though were ideas like the Killer E2200 ethernet system. This is networking built specifically for gaming, which intelligently prioritises gaming traffic and cuts out latency and ping spikes. That’s pretty great for a competitive gamer who wants to maintain an edge. Another great feature is the ease with which this board can be overclocked, thanks to OC Genie 4 software. And intelligent implementation of SLI and Crossfire technology makes upscaling graphics with multiple GPUs pretty simple, too. With features like these, as well as sound support from Sound Blaster Cinema and a few others, the MSI Z87M Gaming motherboard manages to deliver beautifully on promises of power and efficiency. It’s stable, too, and good looking, thanks to MSI’s gaming brand aesthetics worked into its design. A gamer wanting great performance could do a lot worse than this very decent motherboard option. g

by Rob Edwards

Summary

Tech Specs:

As a gaming focussed product, this motherboard really delivers the goods.

M a nufa c turer Distributer: O nline:

gamecca59

Great performance Stable Special features

Intel Z87 Express Chipset Killer E2200 ethernet Sound Blaster Cinema chip Multi-GPU support 8 USB 3.0 ports 6 USB 2.0 ports

M SI Corex www.c orex.xo.za

Pros • • •

• • • • • • •

Cons

• •

Fiddly install

Score

90 73


Razer Kraken Forged Edition Elite Analog Music & Gaming Headphones

Naile

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azer have been a pretty much exclusive gaming brand since their inception many years ago. If something bore the Razer brand, you could be pretty sure it was meant for gaming and gamers. But there has been a shift evolving within the company, a move towards a more mainstream market that was evident in devices like the Ferox speakers. And now the shift is extremely evident, in a field that Razer has done very well in in the past, and is relatively simple to shift towards a broader audience in: headsets. Rather than going with a slower shift, Razer have introduced a number of headsets aimed at a broader market, including one that still bears a very strong gaming heritage – the Kraken Forged Edition. Using the reputation garnered as a great gaming headset, the Kraken Forged Edition enters into the market as a stylish music and gaming headset. It fills two roles that

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many people need a headset to, and sets itself up as a reliable multimedia device in doing so. The most notable difference is the Forged Edition’s looks. They have moved away from the stark blacks and greens that the brand is known for, rather presenting the user with a stylish black and brushed-metal look that is as at home in a night club as it is at a gaming desk. Even the traditionally green Razer logo is now finished in metal, adding a stylish element where previous headsets from the company could have been called garish (even though they were striking). But good looks are pretty much secondary to other aspects when it comes to personal audio solutions. Performance and comfort are, as they should be, king. Thankfully Razer knows that too, and they have produced a headset that is comfortable and produces good sound. The 40mm drivers that power the Kraken Forged

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Edition are very decent, and the audio quality is good, if not the best we have come across. The bass could be a touch fuller, but it is not absent to a great degree, either. Mid tones are great, but the audio mix does seem to tend towards highs that are a bit excessive. In the modern world, bass is all-important, and the Kraken Forged Edition may leave some music lovers wanting. Still, the overall sound quality is good, and the comfort levels of the fully foldable forged edition are great. Well-padded over-ear cups and headband provide a comfortable fit, although greater rotation (there is almost none) in the ear-cups would have been a sensible addition. As one of Razer’s first entrants into a broader market, the Kraken Forged Edition is not disappointing at all – but some design ideas and implementations could have been better. g

Summary

Tech Specs:

The Forged Edition is a decent headset, but Razer have missed one or two marks in its overall design.

M a nufa c turer Distributer: O nline:

gamecca59

Decent sound Very comfortable

40mm drivers Over ear cups Foldable Interchangeable cords Smartphone compatible

Ra zer Corex www.c orex.xo.za

Pros

• •

• • • • •

Cons • •

Bass could be higher No ear-cup rotation

Score

79 75


S S

Review

MSI A88XI AC Mini-ITX Motherboard

o you want to build a smaller computer? Well, that’s getting easier and easier, thanks to components like MSI’s A88XI AC motherboard. The days of Mini-ITX being a more niche, potentially less powerful product are pretty much done – products like this one prove that dynamite can, indeed, be squeezed into small packages. We have seen a number of Intel flavoured Mini-ITX boards recently, but this particular one marks our first look at an AMD board. And, just like the Intel powered boards, this is a superb backbone for any Mini-ITX system you’re planning to put together. Naturally, going Mini-ITX means that you may face some limitations not present in larger formfactor systems. But one thing you won’t come across is a lack of power or performance. The basis of this board is much like the larger form factor boards that use similar chipsets – the only real difference is that, due to its smaller size, you may not be able to plug as many components into it. In fact, as far as internal components go, a suitable graphics card is pretty much all you’re going to get in. That said, the board does offer everything you need built right in, including LAN and stereo sound. It also features a built-in Wi-Fi option, using a really fast 876Mbps connection. The board bristles with Military Class 4 components, which result in stable and quiet operation. The Military Class Essentials systems that MSI have built in also provide the user with protection against humidity, electromagnetic interference, high temperatures and electrostatic discharge. And it performs pretty well under strain, too, meaning that it can form the backbone of a Mini-ITX gaming system, too. Armed with four USB 3.0, six USB 2.0 and four SATA 6Gb/s ports, it is capable of pretty quick performance. Even the boot-up (provided your OS is nice and clean) is extremely quick, weighing in at about two seconds. And it comes with OC Genie 4 software, for those tweaks that will squeeze a little more performance out of an already rather nippy component. Fast Wi-Fi, fast booting and top rate components are all part of what makes this little motherboard such a wonderfully responsive device. Sure, it has limitations, but those are endemic to its form factor, rather than its manufacture and design. In truth, if you’re going to go with a small form factor, and you want an AMD processor at the heart of it all, the MSI A88XI AC motherboard is really an excellent option. It’s quick, stable and reliable, as one would expect from MSI, and if set up correctly (with proper cooling and so forth) it will provide a wide array of users with many years of sterling service. g

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Summary

Tech Specs:

If you’re after an AMD powered Mini-ITX system, this MSI board is a great way to go.

M a nufa c turer Distributer: O nline:

gamecca59

Great performer Very stable

AMD A88X chipset 1 PCI Express port 867Mbps Wi-Fi Military Class 4 components 4 USB 3.0 ports 6 USB 2.0 ports 4 SATA 6Gb/s ports

M SI Corex www.c orex.c o.za

Pros

• •

• • • • • • •

Cons

• •

Mini-ITX has some limitations

Score

89 77


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Crucial M500 240GB SSD

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by Rob Edwards

Really

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SD drives are slowly becoming more and more common, and make a great boot and OS drive for any PC system, adding speed and reliability to these crucial functions. But you knew that already. The problem with these drives is that they don’t seem to be getting bigger (in terms of data capacity) at any great speed. In fact, we haven’t seen a major increase since just after they started becoming mainstream products. That said, if you’re going to use one for boot, OS and a few essential programs, then a 240GB drive, like the M500 from Crucial, should offer more than enough space (provided you augment storage with either more SSDs or HDDs). This Crucial option is reliable and quick, and is built into a metal housing for even greater protection. It’s a decent option for those wanting to go the SSD route. g

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Summary

Tech Specs:

It’s a 240GB SSD, like many others we have seen. But it is a good one.

M a nufa c turer Distributer: O nline:

gamecca59

Quiet Fast Reliable

240GB 2.5 inch drive Hardware data encryption Adaptive thermal protection

Cruc ia l Sy ntec h www.sy ntec h.c o.za

Pros • • •

• • • •

Cons

We want bigger SSDs!

Score

80


Super Power Even at 760W

Seasonic Platinum 760W PSU

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Summary

Tech Specs:

Stable, reliable, quiet and generally awesome... just like any other Seasonic power supply.

M a nufa c turer Distributer: O nline:

gamecca59

Great stability Clean power Very quiet

760W Modular Gold high current terminals 3 speed fan

HP HP www.hp.c om

Pros • • •

• • • •

Cons

760W may not meet all your needs

Score

84 79

Review

60W may seem like a strange number for power output from a PSU, but if it’s the right amount, you shouldn’t worry about a small thing like that – this is a Seasonic PSU, and it comes with the great features and performance you would expect from this brand. The 760W modular PSU comes with everything you would expect from a Seasonic device, including multiple fan speeds (and an advanced, quieter fan), high quality components and gold high-current terminals. In short, everything that makes Seasonic a fantastic option for power supplies is right here. Getting a “smaller” power supply (we consider anything under 1000W as small) is a great idea if you need to conserve power or cash. And this option allows you to do both, without compromising on the quality that can also be found in their more powerful PSUs. The more we see from Seasonic, the more we love the brand.. g


The Hate Machine by Ramjet

Ramjet’s Rantality

The views expressed in this column are not necessarily those of 1337 Media or Gamecca Magazine.

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he video game industry is a vicious one. And none are more savage, more brutal and less appreciative than the gamers themselves. Getting into the video game industry is like an exercise in extreme masochism, because the vocal minority (and it is always, totally always, the minority that makes the most noise) are like a pack of rabid, self-entitled dogs, ready to tear the throat out of anyone that doesn’t meet their standards. And that, by the way, is everyone. Every game gets slammed, every game developer lambasted, every game published demonised, and every game journalist called things like “douchebag” for exercising their right to have an opinion

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that may differ slightly from the pack mentality that this particularly horrid bunch of people seem to share. And that mentality is: “nothing is ever good enough” combined with “I deserve the world to bow at my feet”. It’s like an infantile tyrant lopping off the heads of his followers because his Crayolas are the wrong colour. Selfimportant, brattish and pathetic. And so often they tend to be misinformed, which really sends a burr up my arse. It’s like this: hear a rumour, have an explosive, overblown reaction, formulate a skewed opinion and then stick to it like a ravenous tick. I can throw out tons of examples. Watch_Dogs being delayed is a good one. Sure, the game will be here this month, and it

will (hopefully) be great, but when the delay first happened, all hell broke loose. You would swear that society as we know it would crumble into unrecognisable anarchy because the game was delayed. The complaints were loud and numerous. But, on the other hand, if the game had been released as scheduled, and didn’t have the benefit of a few months of extra polish, guess what? Same reaction. There is simply no pleasing these people. Sometimes – as much as I love games and gaming – I wish the entire industry would down tools and send a message to these utter twits. I wish that it would just go away. Then, maybe, they would learn to appreciate how good we have it, and the level

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of effort that goes into each and every product, whether it is a console, a game, or an article. Like the petulant children they are, maybe they would learn by being denied that which they so loudly complain about. The really amusing thing – or should that be bemusing – is that, as loudly as they scream and shout and throw toddlerlevel tantrums, they still play the games they bitch about. They still eat them up (in secret) like they’re cocaine-laced candy. It’s like there is some kind of status attached to complaining, even when it’s not the way they really feel. Thank God not everyone is a self-proclaimed hardcore gamer. It’s a pity that some of them claim to be journalists, though... g



Gamecca Magazine May 2014