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Indie Dependent

Written by Mike Holmes on the 1st of February 2013 at 17:27

For me, and many others out there, gaming isn't just about triple-A blockbuster experiences. In the wake of a few industry shifts, including the rise of mobile titles via iOS, and the popular spread of indie games thanks to digital stores like Steam, we're seeing ever increasing amounts of games released on the market.

Titles of all different shapes and sizes are being launched across a plethora of different platforms, and it's a shift we can't ignore. There's so many great games coming to the multitude of formats already on the market.

Hell, there's even an explosion of formats hitting the scene at the moment, with Android powered devices like Ouya, Gamestick, Project Shield and Razer Edge all making waves in recents weeks. Couple that with a strong existing community on PC (plus Mac and Linux) who have long been celebrating all things independent, and an increased effort from the major platforms to tap into the same market, and we're talking about a seriously exciting time for fans of new and unusual gaming experiences.

Whilst we at Gamereactor are still committed to covering the biggest releases coming to the biggest platforms, first and foremost we're gamers, and as such we're not going to ignore the continued expansion of the indie scene. But to do a good job, and to make sure that the best games don't slip through the net, we're going to need your help.

The following thread is a link to the Gamereactor forum, where we're hoping you'll let us know if you find a game worth talking about. For our part we'll try and keep on top of great new games as and when they appear, but the back catalogue of quality titles is extensive, so if you've stumbled upon a rare treat, share it here.

There's so many great games out there, and sadly not enough hours in the day to give them all the attention that they deserve. We're going to try and keep you abreast of important developments and essential titles, but that goes both ways. With your help we can make Gamereactor a goto place for finding out about interesting indie titles. They're part of the landscape now, and together we can make sure that the view is as beautiful as it can possibly be.

A Happy Complaint

Written by Mike Holmes on the 18th of January 2013 at 17:51

After a disastrous Christmas, where illness persuaded me to close my eyes and try and sleep for a couple of weeks, I'm finally getting back into the swing of things. Gaming is back on the agenda (now I can look at a screen without feeling like my eyes are about to explode out the back of my skull), and there's a list of things that need getting through.

I was able to play a bit of both Assassin's Creed III and Dishonored, and I spent a bit more time playing Halo 4 (though perhaps not as much as I originally expected I would). Ideally I'd like to have completed all three of them by now, but two still remain unfinished and the new games keep piling up.

The backlog of games is entirely self inflicted. Like many people I took advantage of the THQ fire sale, and picked up a huge collection of games in the Steam sale. That means I've got Darksiders II and Saints Row: The Third to get through, and that's just for starters. And that's not including the indie games I just picked up in the latest Indie Royale bundle, they need some attention at some point.

In short, there's lots to be playing, and not enough hours in the day to do to finish them all. I'll have to prioritise. There's so many incredible games out there, making sure you give them all the time they deserve can be tricky, especially when life can be so frantic.

It's a happy complaint. When you consider all of the cracking games coming up in 2013, and think about all the brilliant games from last year that still need a little love, it's clear to see that I've got a very busy year ahead. I can't wait.

Late Night

Written by Mike Holmes on the 6th of November 2012 at 15:56

There's not many things that can drag me from the warmth of my house late on a cold, November evening. Halo is one thing that can.

I collected my copy of the Limited Edition from a local store that had opened at midnight (it turns out, just for me). In the town where I live there were no less than three shops with open doors in preparation for the launch of Halo 4 and the return of John 117. My store was empty, but the other two sported huge queues. It was a prominent reminder for me - if it was needed - that there's still plenty of life left in Microsoft's talisman.

It wasn't just the queue that illustrated the point, the excited chatter of assembled peers also did the same trick. Disparate lives converging for an hour, each with a common goal. A snapshot of the people we play with and against, next time seen behind a Spartan's helmet and lining us up in their sights.

There are similar midnight launches for many games nowadays, but none of the others hold the same appeal for me. Certainly not enough to inspire me to venture out late at night. But we each have our own tastes. Variety is, as they say, the spice of life.

Luckily, with no queue to hold me up, I was home and playing Halo 4 within minutes of its release. On my way home I walked past GAME, seeing a store full of people laughing and talking, excited about the experiences they were about to share. I almost wanted to go on in and talk with some of the familiar faces within. But I didn't. I had more important things to be doing.

Goodbye life. Hello Halo.

The return of Master Chief

Written by Mike Holmes on the 18th of October 2012 at 14:40

November 6 is drawing ever closer, and I can't bloody wait to get my hands on Halo 4. I have some questions you see, and the answers are now just around the corner.

I've always loved Halo. Since back in the old days when four of us were huddled over a crappy 12 inch screen, blasting the shit out of each other in Boarding Action and Hang ‘Em High. I played a fair bit of Halo 2, but it was the multiplayer in Halo 3 that really took my addiction to the next level.

I played the single player campaign a lot. With friends and without. But it was multiplayer maps like Narrows, Guardian, Construct and Valhalla that sealed my affection for Master Chief and co. I joined the online community late, and faced a stiff learning curve, playing as I was against others who had been at it for considerably longer than me.

I'm not one to shirk challenge, and so started the process of involving myself in the game and learning its finer points. I learned that sticky grenades are by far my favourite way of insta-killing someone (even better if you can land it on their helmet), and I learnt that preempting an attack and rolling a grenade before one-shotting your enemy as they round a corner can be unbelievably effective.

I got good at reading enemy movements, and mastered the art of firing my rockets into my opponents path. I learned how to drive the Warthog like a bat out of hell. Basically I developed a load of skills that I would go on to use in every subsequent shooter I would ever play. Halo 3 made me a better gamer.

Halo: Reach was the perfect setting for me. I started at the very beginning, playing against casual players and newcomers, and with my hard-earned skill set it turned out that I was actually pretty decent. As Halo 4 nears, I find myself reflecting on my Reach-based achievements: a healthy k/d spread, gazillions of medals, a respectable social rank and a gold arena ranking.

Given how comfortable I am with Reach, I thought I'd be more excited about the multiplayer modes coming in 4. But more than excitement, it's fear that I'm feeling. Many of the updates coming on November 6 are much needed, and should hopefully inject some much needed life into a franchise that could well have seen its brighter days pass by. But there is a danger that 343 makes too many changes based on the design decisions made by other popular shooters.

I play Halo because it feels like Halo. If I want to quickly kill someone and move on to the next exchange, I play COD. If I want to work in a closely knit team I play Future Soldier, or to a lesser extent, Battlefield 3. If I want to dance with my opponents, darting in and out of combat, relying on the additional health and shielding provided for me by Spartan armour, I play halo. My worry is that by rewarding us for kill-streaks, and by giving us killcams, and all the other trimmings associated with other popular FPSs, there's a chance that what makes Halo unique might become diluted.

At the end of the day, we'll have to wait and see just what 343 serves up for us next month. The signs are promising, that much is clear, but there's also an element of doubt that still persists. Let's hope that the new curators of Halo can hunt that doubt down and plant a sticky grenade in its face.

Bad Movie Night

Written by Mike Holmes on the 24th of August 2012 at 17:54

Sometimes you've got experience the worst before you can appreciate the best. This is the thinking behind Bad Movie Night, an evening where terribleness is both endured and celebrated in equal measure. Our masochistic mission is to watch the most awful cinema made by humankind, all the while reveling in the self-inflicted atrociousness.

The inaugural Bad Movie Night featured a trilogy of the most ridiculous movies I've ever seen. Of the three, the one that stood out for me was the 1994 movie adaptation of arcade fighter Double Dragon.

The filmed starred Scott Wolf (he's been in loads of cheesy American drama series) and Mark Dacascos (he would go on to play Mani in brilliant movie Brotherhood of the Wolf - watch it if you haven't seen it), and they squared off against Robert Patrick (of Terminator 2: Judgement Day fame) in a grim vision of the future.

There was an amulet with magical powers, a bad guy who could transfer his essence into shadow form and then take control of other people's bodies, a chase sequence involving trucks covered in "futuristic" tin foil, and some really ropey martial arts. In truth, I haven't got a frickin' clue what actually happened in the movie, there was plentiful supplies of sour mash whiskey on hand, but I absorbed enough to know that it was a worthy addition to the line-up for Bad Movie Night. In particular, the outfits that the two brothers sported during the film's climax need to be seen to be believed.

Watching Double Dragon made me think about other films based on video games, and of the many IPs that have made the switcharoo, which of those might qualify for inclusion in our monthly evening of dire cinema? Off the top of my head, Hitman springs to mind. That was a really, really shite movie. Doom was pretty stinky. Mortal Kombat was bad, bad, bad on a number of levels, and the Lara Croft films both left me cold. Are there any more that I'm missing? Ideas on a postcard please.

Bad Movie Night