Archive for the ‘ Epic ’ Category

Red Dead Redemption – Review

Every now and then, a game comes along which truly outshines the competition.
Red Dead Redemption is such a game.
Developed by Rockstar games (the team behind the dizzyingly successful Grand Theft Auto series), RDR places the player into the shoes of John Marston, a grizzled ex-bandit in the lawless land of the Wild West, trying to clear his name and prevent the killing of his family by the hands of the newly formed federal government (as you do.)
Set in 1911 in the fictional U.S. state of New Austin, during the decline of the American Old West, Marston is forced by the government to round up his former partners in crime, and let me tell you, it’s a hell of a lot of fun doing it.
I must say before I go on, that the story in this game is the true star, but I don’t want to spoil it for you all by talking about it too much. Brilliantly paced and expertly crafted, I was hooked from the beginning, and found myself really caring about the characters, much as I would do whilst sitting through any Hollywood blockbuster.
Now for the game play. Rockstar have stayed true to the open-world sandbox style that has earned them so much praise for the GTA series, and it fits in perfectly with the scope and scale of the game.
You will be tasked with completing various missions for the many colourful characters you will meet on your travels. Being the Wild West, most of these missions obviously involve shoot-outs and horse-back duels. These are great, and are the games bread and butter.
But the developers have made sure that the experience does not repeat itself, and have spliced in a few different mission types to keep the experience fresh for the player, such as horse-breaking and racing. And with a completion time of up to 40 hours, this is necessary to keep the player coming back.
One feature which sets RDR apart from other third person action-adventure titles is “Dead-eye”. This is Marston’s version of The Matrix’s” bullet time”, allowing him to slow time down, target numerous enemies, and fill them with lead quicker than they can say YEE-HA!!! This helps to keep the game play fresh and exciting, allowing you to feel like a true gunslinger.

DRAW!!! - John Marston using "dead-eye" to kill his enemies

Visually, the game is absolutely stunning, and the scale is beyond epic. All this is yours in what’s easily Rockstar’s most generous open world game yet.  Environments and characters are richly detailed, and you can tell straight away that crafting this world was a labour of love for the developing team, and the fact that they have created it completely from scratch with no reference points, is truly a testament to their creativity and dedication to authenticity. Just as Liberty City came out as the star of Grand Theft Auto IV it’s the expanse of the Wild West that shines brightest here.
I cannot recommend this game highly enough, it is a true masterpiece, and to be honest I would expect nothing less from a developer with such a pedigree as Rockstar has.
Truly the West at its wildest and brutal best. 5/5

The future of gaming……..

Two weeks ago at GDC, Unreal debuted their new update to their Unreal 3 graphics engine, giving us a glimpse into the future of gaming as we know it.

The trailer for the update, entitled simply “Samaritan” as  showcased the potential for Unreal Engine 3 and DirectX 11.

So what does this update mean? Epic released pictures and videos illustrating the potential of the engine, and displaying it’s already impressive capabilities.

“Image-based reflections that allow surfaces of any shape to reflect an approximate version of scenes, with varying glossiness across surfaces, anisotropic HDR highlights and anti-aliasing.”

Reflections are hard to pull of in games. They require a lot of complex algorithims and equations to get right, and if they’re not done properly, the end result can look sloppy and unconvincing. Epic’s solution to these problems is to take a simplified version of the scene around a reflected image, like your character reflected in the surface of  water, and add all of the different effects that you would want to see on top of it. The picture below illustrates what they mean.

[courtesy of IGN]

The graphics look amazing, and I think it’s safe to say that they are the most realistic I have ever seen. Epic went on describing the new technology and its applications, continuing with “subsurface scattering” (SSS).

“Subsurface scattering (SSS) that simulates the light that scatters inside semi-translucent materials (this makes character skin come alive).”

This will mean that the skin of, say, a character in a game, will behave like skin does in the real world. Light isn’t simply reflected off of it; some of it is absorbed as well and eventually reflected back. Think of the difference between the plastic skin of a doll and your own, and that is what Epic are pertaining to.

“Anti-aliased masked materials that super sample the edges of masked and alpha-tested materials (this makes hair more look realistic than ever before).”
Put simply, aliasing is the appearance of jagged edges in game graphics. Hair up close, for exampl, often looks like a lot of horizontal jagged lines joined together, as if someone had created it in Paint on a PC. Epic claim that this will be a thing of the past.
This will mean far more realistic looking characters and environments, something that can decide if a game is a roaring success, or if it is destined for the bargain bin.
The update was released on March 9th, and anyone can download it from
For now, here is the Samaritan trailer, showcased at this year’s GDC. Enjoy.