Charles Siboto Video Games Articles & Reviews Portfolio May 2015

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  • Charles Siboto Video Game Articles & Reviews


    About Charles Siboto Charles Siboto is a delightful, albeit mischievous, young man of 27. When he's not standing perfectly

    still in the hope that people will leave him alone, he's reading something to do with horses and/or

    spaceships or blogging (goodbuddies inc. and The Jot Book) about that sort of thing. Call cell +27

    (0)84 891 1726, email or connect on Facebook


    26 May 2013-10-11

    Xbox One Reveal A Summary

    After Tuesday nights reveal of the Xbox One (no one wanted an Xbox 720 anyway) at Microsofts

    conference, held at their headquarters in the city of Redmond in Washington, its safe to say that the

    next generation of consoles is pretty much a current generation premise now. Some speculations

    can be set aside and new speculations can be made regarding the final versions of the PlayStation 4

    and the Xbox One. The Nintendo WiiU has been out for a while and doing okayish in terms of both

    sales and availability of games and theres the news that EA is ditching the platform to take into

    consideration. Even though we still dont know what the PlayStation 4 looks like (even after

    Tuesdays attempt to steal Microsofts shine by showing us a video of a close up of the system that

    actually shows us nothing) we have a fairly good idea of what its capable of. Microsofts reveal of its

    mean machine gave us a good idea of what their battle tactics are entering the fray.

    The first thing you want to know is whats under the hood of the Xbox One and how it looks in terms

    of raw power. The console sports an 8-core x86 AMD CPU, a GPU roughly equal to AMDs Radeon

    7790, 8GB of DDR3 RAM (shared between the CPU and GPU), 32MB of SRAM on the graphics die and

    200GB of memory bandwidth. The console also comes with a Blu-ray drive, 500GB hard drive,

    802.11n WiFi, HDMI in and out, Gigabit Ethernet and USB 3.0 ports. At a quick glance its more or

    less what the PlayStation 4 is offering and this is not a bad thing as such. Ive heard many gamers say

    that they dont just want a new powerhouse console but rather something different from Microsoft

    in terms of ingenuity. Microsoft has listened and promised that Kinect will feature in clever ways in

    terms of creating new gaming experiences. Cleary Microsoft is trying to capture the casual gamer

    market with its aproach. As much as we hardcore gamers always whine we have to admit that the

    casual market is where the money comes from to make gaming the huge phenomenon it is today.

    The reveal showed that the Xbox One is looking to be more than just a gaming console, it wants to

    be the one solution to all your media needs with features like Instant Switch and Snap Mode, which

    allow seamless shifting between media like games, movies, music and even services like Skype using

    voice commands. Nifty, but whether it will actually be useful remains to be seen. The idea is to do

    away with the clutter in the living room space. The console also looks the multimedia device part

    and looks like something youd find as part of an entertainment system instead of a gaming device.

    Personally the new look has grown on me after a few days of taking it in. The Kinekt camera also

    receives an upgrade and can pick up even slight gestures like facial twitches and slight changes to

    your skin pigment.

  • Gamers neednt fret though, the list of games isnt all that skimpy, what with Call of Duty: Ghost

    taking a spotlight (with added killing of dogs). Forza Motorsport 5 also looks very pretty. EA Sports

    anounced a new gaming engine theyre calling Sports Ignite. Fans of sports titles like the FIFA series

    can drool at more realistic and natural gameplay. Remedy, the guys behind the brilliant Alan Wake,

    announced a new IP, Quantum Break, which looks like its a TV show with gaming elements and

    looks to blur the lines between the two media. Alan Wake played like a Stephen King book and that

    was great so this could be the next big thing. Quantum Break looks like it will be the title to compete

    with the PlayStation 4 exclusive, Beyond: Two Souls. Well have to wait for more news as time goes.

    In fact, we pretty much have to wait for more news on all the games that were announced. E3 will

    obviously the bigger platform for everyone to put their best foot forward next month. You cant

    have a new Xbox without Halo making an appearance, even if its not a game. It was announced that

    legendary director, Steven Spielbergs producing a live-action Halo TV show along with 343 Studios,

    which will be an Xbox Live exclusive. Microsofts taking multimedia very seriously as you can see.

    The Xbox One reveal was very similar to Sonys conference in February in terms of revealing just

    enough to whet our appetites for whats to come and to make more of our own speculations. At

    least we know what the console looks like though and thats a point to Microsoft. The PlayStation 4s

    still leading in terms of the number of launch titles we know about but that could change at E3. See

    you guys there.


    15 April 2013

    Review: Bioshock Inifinite a masterpiece

    A new BioShock title is something that makes gamers stop and think back to the first game in the

    series in 2007. The game added a thread of magic to the first-person shooter genre that had not

    been there before. Its with fondness and a little shiver down the spine that we remember being in

    Jacks shoes exploring Rapture, Andrew Ryans dystopian underwater city. Rapture was the sort of

    place gamers had never visited before because the technology didnt allow it up to that point in

    time. Rapture was gorgeous in its ugliness. Rapture was a utopian dream turned into a nightmare.

    BioShock was great to look at and fun to play but it also made gamers think about human progress,

    hubris, elitism and morality. BioShock is the Atlas Shrugged and 1984 of gaming. Ken Levine and his

    team at Irrational Games are back with a third instalment in the series and this time were taken to

    Columbia, a city in the sky. BioShock Infinite is here and it writes one of the great chapters in


    Gone is the claustrophobic underwater dystopia that was Rapture. No more are the crazy Splicers

    that were out to kill you. Forget all about plasmids, ADAM, EVE, Big Daddies and Little Sisters.

    BioShock Infinite places gamers in the shoes of Booker DeWitt, a former private investigator whos

    been hired to rescue a girl. Everything concerning the girl and why she needs to be rescued is very

    hush-hush. Her name is Elizabeth and she is trapped in a tower in Columbia, where she is protected

    or held captive (one cant be too sure) by a giant mechanical bird referred to as Songbird. Elizabeth

    and Songbirds relationship is reminiscent of that of the Little Sisters with the Big Daddies in

    BioShock its complicated. Unlike Rapture Booker finds Columbia at its peak and only beginning to

    crumble. Its a dream city starting to turn into a nightmare. Columbia is a super American 1912 city

    with fanatic ideals in the form of white supremacy and religious extremism. Columbia is old America

    and such a dream cannot endure. Booker arrives at the city at a time of change and, of course, plays

    a part in those events. The resistance faction, the Vox Populi is active in fighting for liberation and

    equality. The storyline is very mysterious and the player cannot take anything at face value. What is

    the brand on Bookers hand that sets him apart as an antichrist figure? These are the sort of

    questions that make up BioShock Infinites story. Most things arent as they seem. Much like Andrew

    Ryans dream of a city populated by only the worlds most gifted individuals Columbia is Father

    Comstocks dream of a pure America with pure American ideals. Father Comstock is Columbias

    over-zealous leader and his misguided ideals are what bring the city to its soaring heights and what

    causes its fall from grace, as it were. BioShock Infinites plot deals with the uncomfortable themes of

    racism, ideals of supremacy and religious extremism. Irrational Games handles these themes deftly

    and in many instances you find yourself outraged at how cruel human beings are and at other

    instances you are saddened. BioShock tells a story that matters to players and lingers in your mind.

    This game proves that video games can be a platform to tell great stories.

  • Powered by a modified Unreal Engine 3, the games visuals are beautiful and leave gamers in awe.

    Columbias old America aesthetic is infused with steampunk elements and that blend works well.

    Being a city in the sky and an open playing space your surroundings make you feel like youre really

    flying but also add an element of fear, like you might fall at any moment. The games graphics look

    their best on a powerful PC but the Xbox 360s no slouch and you can see the painstaking attention

    to detail that went into crafting BioShock Infinite. The game is a visual feast. Im not one to pay any

    special attention to a games soundtrack but BioShock Infinites score accompanies and

    complements its light and dark moments perfectly. The last time a score made me feel this way in a

    game was in the Halo series. All these elements come together and create an atmosphere you wont

    forget any time soon.

    As lofty as BioShock Infinites ideals are playing the game is outright fun. Its a first-person shooter

    and as such its all about guns and it has these in abundance: pistols, shotguns, machine guns and

    the rest of the usual artillery. What really makes combat fun though is the usage of vigors, which are

    very much like BioShocks plasmids. Vigors allow you to throw bolts of electricity at enemies, use fire

    to set them alight, attack them with super speed, unleash crows upon them or turn enemies against

    each other. Coupled with your guns and a melee weapon you pick up early on in the game vigors

    make for fun and creative combat situations. You can loot enemy corpses for money to purchase

    upgrades for your weapons and salts (which power vigors). These upgrades make your life easier

    against enemies like the mechanical George Washingtons who, much like BioShocks Big Daddies,

    are the heavies in the game. Armed with chainguns these foes arent to be sneered at and I must say

    that the George Washington motif is unnerving. Once you free Elizabeth she accompanies you as a

    friendly A.I. She has the ability to create tears in space-time, which allows her to materialise

    weapons such as turrets in a fight or health kits and salts to help you stay alive. Elizabeth is a

    wonderful companion and you cant help but like her. Then theres the Skyline railway system that

    connects all of Columbia, which you can latch onto using your melee weapon as a hook. This allows

    you to travel around the city easily but also makes combat interesting. You can rain death upon

    enemies from the Skyline and jump in and out of fights.

    BioShock Infinite is a great game all-round and its well worth your time. Theres no multiplayer

    campaign but the astounding ending will have you playing this game again. This is a AAA title and

    you can get your grubby paws on it for roughly R600.00. If you have more money jingling in your

    pockets and you dont know what to do with it get hold of the Songbird Collectors Edition for

    around R1600.00 (check availability), which comes with awesome goodies to warm your gaming


    If you enjoyed the first BioShock title this game is for you and if youre human this game is for you.

    The only faults I can find with it are some bugs that tarnish the gameplay slightly but other than that

    BioShock Infinite is a masterpiece.

  • BioShock Infinite is pie in the gaming sky and it tastes really good. Grab a slice.


    12 March 2013

    Review: Tomb Raider a human story

    The new Tomb Raider has landed and its made a big splash in the process. Lara Croft has been

    rebooted and given a new origins story but its always a hit or miss affair when you take a well-

    known and beloved character like Lara Croft and remake her; fans are not too forgiving if you get a

    reboot wrong.

    The fact that the last Tomb Raider games have been rather lacking in lustre adds more pressure to

    the expectation from a new game in the franchise. In this case its good that were in a period where

    fans will give a franchise another chance to reboot if its been mucking up a little its a clean slate

    of sorts really. With Rhianna Pratchett, writer of Mirrors Edge, having penned the story and showing

    us a different side of Lara, youre in for a ride.

    Gone is the plastic, large-breasted Lara Croft of yesteryear and in is an honest attempt at building a

    human being who evolves from someone young, appropriately attractive (and appropriately

    dressed), somewhat naive and very vulnerable, into a hero. This is what this origins story is, a look at

    how Lara Croft became as tough as adamantium claws what she has to live through to reach that

    point. Rhianna Pratchett points out that her Lara is a real woman and this rings true. Throughout the

    game the player learns what it takes to be a graduate, fresh out of university and to find yourself

    shipwrecked on an island occupied by cultists who arent very welcoming. Laras journey from wide-

    eyed graduate to kick-ass survivor i s a brutal one that would leave most people traumatised if they

    were to manage to survive at all. Its also a beautiful experience that speaks to the player about the

    resilience of the human spirit.

    The visuals and game mechanics are powered by a modified Crystal Engine and both are stunning.

    Lara gets grimier and more bloodied as she makes her way through the breath-yanking island,

    surviving. The island is alive with vibrant fauna and flora and the weather conditions are wonderfully

    temperamental. The atmosphere is rich and heavy throughout. The island is a character in itself and

    exploring it is fun and scary all at once. The dangers are real but once in a while Lara makes it to the

    top of a ledge and the view is spectacular. Tomb Raiders resounding theme is survival and Lara has

    to learn to do whatever it takes to survive and to save her comrades. She hunts and kills deer on the

    island and defends herself against wolves. This is one of the strong points of the game, the fact that

    it doesnt try to recreate the action-adventure genre. It takes elements from Uncharted, Arkham

    Asylum and other games and blends them seamlessly to tell its unique story. The control scheme is a

    reiteration of what youre familiar with and works comfortably well on the controller whether youre

    shimmying across a ledge, sneaking up on a bad guy or find yourself in a gunfight.

  • The bow and its arrows is the stand-out weapon. Its versatility is great, but getting a kill lead to a

    degree of satisfaction Im sure some people will consider sinful. The grimy and rather violent

    takedowns prove to be a lot of fun once you get into the swing of things. Tomb Raider is not a

    celebration of violence but rather the player continuously embraces the independence and pride

    Lara feels at being able to defend her life in a very hostile environment. The bow also makes for

    great stealth kills and it can be upgraded as you progress through the game for better usage in all

    out fire fights. Other weapons are also upgradeable as you proceed through the island and salvage

    wreckage to add onto them. Fire fights get intense and its fun to try different ways of approaching

    enemies and other tough situations. The enemy AI is smart, although Tomb Raider doesnt do

    anything new in this regard.

    The island provides a great deal of exploring options in between shooting the bad guys. Lara Croft is

    an archaeologist, after all, and exploring is very rewarding; finding all sorts of nooks and crannies

    filled with cool items and information regarding the history of the island and the cultists occupying

    it. The island is steeped in history and just walking around it leaves the player with a sense of

    wonder at what stories, broken statues and abandoned bunkers could tell. The very ground and air

    seem to be a memory of great and terrible things that happened there. Although Lara has to survive

    and progress through the storyline, curiosity always results in some interesting non-linear play as the

    island begs to be explored in great detail. The islands history is beautifully crafted and is hauntingly

    beautiful and ugly. This aspect of the game is what the Tomb Raider series is about and is the best

    aspect of Laras first outing as an archaeologist.

    Theres a multiplayer option tagged onto the single-player experience but it does nothing to set itself

    apart from other MP games. The multiplayer option does give you something to do when friends

    pop over or youre looking for extra value for your money through some prolonged play. Its the sort

    of add-on that you wouldnt mind investing a few forgettable hours in purely because after the 12 or

    so hours it takes you to complete the main campaign youll want to stick around a little longer. It

    does, sadly, feel like an afterthought after playing through the campaign.

    At its heart Tomb Raider is a human story told particularly well using video gaming as a platform. The

    game mechanics and controls are solid but what really carries the game is the story (even when it

    fumbles), great voice acting and amazing setting. The folks at Crystal Dynamics have outdone

    themselves. I give it heartfelt thumbs up; its one of the best games to be released in a while.


    25 February 2012

    Storytelling across platforms

    One of the truly great things about stories is that there are many ways to tell them and share them

    with each other. Stories are in our DNA as a species. We tell beautiful stories and we tell ugly stories.

    Just look at the stories in the last few weeks' news: ugly stories like the outrageous instances of rape

    and murder of women in our society and beautiful stories of women standing together to try to

    repair our broken society in the political arena; the disheartening story of a sports hero who became

    a villain. I recently finished rereading Final Crisis (2009) by Grant Morrison, one of the truly great

    grand-scale comic books I've had the pleasure to experience. In it, one of the race of celestial beings

    monitoring the multiverse notes that her race has become contaminated by interacting with the

    beings that they oversee: "We all now have names and stories; there are heroes and villains, secrets

    and lovers." To be human is to tell stories. I'd go as far as to say that being sentient is to tell stories.

    There have been a lot of cool goings on across all my favourite storytelling media and this has led me

    to thinking about how we tell each other stories and how we tell them across different platforms. A

    very cool thing happened at this year's D.I.C.E (Design, Innovate, Communicate, Entertain) Summit.

    Gabe Newell, the CEO and co-founder of powerhouse gaming studio Valve, sat down to discuss

    storytelling with well-known filmmaker JJ Abrams. In their keynote address they discussed the idea

    of making films based on Half-Life (1998) and Portal (2007). If you're a gamer you probably know

    that these titles are classics and have each redefined the gaming landscape on their release. If you

    aren't a gamer trust me when I tell you that these games are a big deal. Believe the hype.

    The idea of a movie based on a video game franchise is by no means new: it's just not been a very

    successful thus far. Films and video games seem to be like Aliens and Predators - they don't play

    together nicely. More films based on video games have tanked than not and vice versa. Sure,

    ventures like the Resident Evil (2002 to 2012) movies and The Chronicles of Riddick: Escape from

    Butcher Bay (2004) video game turned out all right, but there's a Far Cry (2008) movie directed by a

    very misguided Uwe Boll and too many terrible movie game adaptations for every success. Film and

    gaming are sibling media and if they get over their family squabbles they can make magic together.

    DVDs over books or video games

    Movies have been a very successful storytelling vehicle since their inception because of how

    accessible they are to everyone. After a hard day's work most people would rather curl up with a

    DVD than a book or a video game. This quality allows movies to complement the other storytelling

    media. Comic books and fantasy and sci-fi novels have increased in popularity because of the movie

    franchises based on them. Technology has reached an apex where it's able sincerely to translate

    fantasy worlds like Middle-Earth and Westeros onto screen. But even with the limited technology of

  • the late '70s George Lucas brought us Star Wars, which means that there really just is no excuse not

    to be able to translate good stories onto the big screen.

    Newell and Abrams touched on the difference in storytelling methods between the two media. Film

    is a more passive form of presenting a story, the viewer can buy into the characters' lives and even

    fall in love with them, but they are never participants. Conversely, gaming is a more interactive

    medium and the player is in charge of how the story plays out (pun always intended). Even in a

    tightly scripted game like Half-Life 2 (2004) you feel the pressure of it all being up to you to save the

    human race from the invading aliens, the Combine. Games like BioWare's Mass Effect (2007 to 2012)

    series take the interactive element further by adding serious consequences to your actions. I let a

    character die in the first game and it made life hard in the second game when his people weren't all

    that warm towards me and assisting with my mission. These are things to consider when telling

    stories across these media. Players used to hitting zombies over the head with a crowbar as Gordon

    Freeman may feel odd having to just watch him hit zombies over the head in a movie.

    Some semblance of a story required

    This is where the power of imaginative ways of storytelling comes into play. Movie audiences are

    more used to good plots than gamers. Action films and romantic comedies aside, most people

    require some semblance of a story in their movies. Gaming has been a shoot-'em-up affair for the

    most part - we only started getting good stories recently. This is the ideal time to combine the

    storytelling techniques of film and gaming. Film is at a point at which it allows filmmakers to tell

    stories that they weren't able to just a few years back. Life of Pi (2012) was thought to be unfilmable,

    but Ang Lee and his team made it happen and it's one of the most visually astonishing films of all


    Gaming is going next generation and there's a strong emphasis on imaginative ways of telling stories

    and presenting them to gamers. Nintendo is leading the charge with its Wii U already available and

    doing good things. Sony has officially announced the PlayStation 4 at its 20/21 February, 2013

    conference. It didn't reveal the actual console, only the hardware specs and the new controller. The

    ideas surrounding the console and the videos of the games are quite impressive, though, and have

    me excited about the future. We're awaiting news from Microsoft regarding the next iteration of the

    Xbox, but so far all the next-gen players (pun always intended) are focused on cross-platform

    sharing. This is why Gabe Newell and JJ Abrams' D.I.C.E address was so important and goes beyond

    just a Half-Life or Portal movie. Filmmakers and game developers need to share information and

    learn to understand one another's media to tell their stories across platforms successfully.


    16 March 2012

    The nerds are taking over

    Not that long ago, in a galaxy known as the Milky Way, on a planet called Earth, I read the words

    'Save a Non-Geek Today' in a PC Format 1 editor's note, and was amused by the seemingly far-

    fetched concept. Little did I know that those words foretold the revolution that is silently sweeping

    over the world and converting the masses into geeks without them realising it.

    A short decade ago, people who spent hours playing video games, reading fantasy, science fiction

    and comic books were thought to be weird and had chairs thrown at them wherever they went by

    their peers. These people went under 'derogatory' labels such as nerd and geek and were generally

    frowned upon for their silliness and were told that they should grow up.

    What people don't know though, is that you can't keep a nerd down for long because they will go

    back to his secret lair (because we all have one of those) and hatch a plan, so cunning you could pin

    a tail on it and call it a weasel, to take over the world! Which is exactly what happened, the nerds

    took over a chunk of the Hollywood machine and with it a large portion of the world. The message

    being sent out to the masses is, 'Don't f*ck with us! We know how to build guns that shoot lasers.'

    There was a time

    There was a time when you had only a handful of television shows and movies to pick from if you

    had a craving for super heroes, space or medieval settings, especially if you were an adult and

    wanted something fantastic, yet mature. Television and movie studios were reluctant to touch such

    material because they feared that they couldn't sell it to a wide enough audience.

    Steven Erikson, Canadian writer of the Malazan Book of the Fallen series of fantasy novels, spent

    nearly a decade trying to sell his script for Gardens of the Moon and nobody wanted it because it

    was too ambitious! He'd walk out of studio meetings with his friend, and co-writer, Ian C Esslemont

    having heard words such as: 'Try something . . . simpler. Something like everything else out there.

    Something less . . . ambitious.'2 Studios didn't want to invest in material that audiences might find to

    be too complicated or weird, which makes sense to a large extent but in the process they were

    grossly underestimating the intellectual capacity and imagination of audiences. People wanted

    something that would challenge them, hence the success of ventures such as The Matrix. People

    wanted to go to the cinema and be sold a fantastic story that is intelligent enough to actually buy

    into. People wanted, as Erikson puts it, 'sophisticated shit'.

  • This is the space-age

    This, my furry friends, is where we are at, the space-age of television, cinema and literature in

    general. Admittedly it's a little annoying that the 'real' world is not the high-tech one envisioned by

    great minds like Isaac Asimov, in which the human race has conquered the stars. The nerds are in

    charge of a large slice of the Hollywood pie and, like the gay community, we (me not so much

    actually, which is an outright travesty!) have the buying power to sustain that hold. Since the release

    of movies like The Lord of the Rings, Watchmen, V for Vendetta, 300, Sin City and others beside sci-fi

    and fantasy have had a ubiquitous presence in the box-office.

    Last year was great in terms of quantity! Seeing releases like The Green Hornet, Priest, the fourth

    Pirates of the Caribbean, Thor, X-Men: First Class, Green Lantern, Transformers 3, The First Avenger:

    Captain America, Cowboys and Aliens and Conan the Barbarian! This year we have Ghost Rider: Spirit

    of Vengeance currently showing in cinemas and we are looking forward to titles like The Avengers,

    The Dark Knight Rises, The Amazing Spider-man, Men in Black 3, G.I. Joe: Retaliation and The Hobbit:

    An Unexpected Journey.

    Fantasy, it would seem, is especially big in the form of television series. This is not surprising,

    however, considering the length of the average high fantasy series of books. Shows like Legend of

    the Seeker are rather lacklustre compared to their source material but the release of gems like Game

    of Thrones shows that the genre can really do well on this platform.

    The masses love these movies and shows and don't even notice that they're buying into the worlds

    of the kids they made fun of in school. The nerds are taking over an important aspect of people's

    lives, their imaginations. Just take a look around you at the wide-eyed uninitiated masses captivated

    by dragons, lasers and men of steel on the silver screen or their LCDs and LEDs at home - slavish

    devotees of the wonder that is fantasy, sci-fi and comic books with the nerds at the head of the


    1September 2003 Edition, Intelligence Publishing 2 Steven Erikson. Gardens of the Moon (2007 Bantam Press, Great Britain), Author's Note, pp. xi - xvii.