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What We’re Playing – February 3rd

The weekend is upon us and it’s time to play some videogames. Here are a few games we’ve been playing away from the office this week. What’s on your agenda?

LA Noire (Rockstar Pass DLC)

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Having watched my first episode of Mad Men and witnessed Aaron Staton steal every scene he was in, I was inspired to take another look at Staton’s videogame acting debut LA Noire.

I had completed the game on two separate occasions and, confident that my wallet could sustain the blow, made my way to the PlayStation Store and purchased the Rockstar Pass for £8, granting me access to four new cases, the equivalent of an entire new desk, and several fancy new suits and weapons.

The four cases I received were “A Slip of the Tongue” (Traffic desk), “The Naked City” (Vice desk), “Nicholson Electroplating” (Arson Desk) and “Reefer Madness” (Vice desk). None of them contain any relevance to the running background story in LA Noire so their absence from the main game is understandable but each are as complex and as entertaining as any on offer in the original game.

“Nicholson Electroplating” stands out in particular. Having just visited Jack Kelso in hospital, Phelps and partner Biggs see a huge explosion of nuclear proportions in the distance. Having driven to the source of the explosion the player will find themselves in one of the most dramatic scenes in the entire game, wandering through a wasteland of fire, smoke and rubble. LA Noire wasn’t averse to putting players in dramatic situations but making your way through the rubble in search of clues, finding airplane parts and dead bodies as you do, is an almost harrowing experience. It is a shame that “Nicholson Electroplating” didn’t make the final game as, whilst it has no relevance to the game’s main story arc, it is a genuinely emotional case to play through.

The other cases are entertaining in their own right and it is nice to see some of your old partners appear. “Reefer Madness” is somewhat underwhelming given the genuine mystery of the other cases involved but it doesn’t detract from what is a superb batch of DLC cases from Rockstar. Anything that lets me watch Aaron Staton’s smug “I just busted this case” face one more time is worth £8 in my book.

Ashley Wilkinson

Fallout: New Vegas

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In terms of the setting’s value, the washed out wasteland of New Vegas is such a welcome improvement to the plainness of the harsh Nevada sand dunes and the heavy glow of depravity and greed emanating from modern day Las Vegas. That’s how the best videogame settings ought to work, after all, urging the player onward and creating those sufficient parallels, without doing the lazy thing and designing things exactly how they are. There’d be about as much value in that as exploring the real thing (see cancelled project This is Vegas).

It’s the same feeling I got in playing last year’s Deus Ex: Human Revolution – Detroit is the most miserable city I’ve been to and I’m never going back but the videogame translation stood out as some kind of lovely and inviting utopia in comparison, albeit one smeared with an ugly kind of jaundiced filter.

It feels a bit wasteful wading into the shallow end of New Vegas and promptly turning around to come ashore. There’s a vast ocean of life in New Vegas, a world brimming with things I’d love to see but will never have the proper time to experience. It’s a voyage requiring such a commitment in both time and energy; the kind I can seldom justify giving to any single videogame anymore.

Calvin Kemph

Portal 2

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You know you’re doing well at work when your boss lends you one of 2011’s best sellers.

Portal 2 is indeed a step up from its predecessor, but still stays true to its foundational focus on puzzle solving without the need to maim and kill. Aside from thinking with portals, I’ve become romanced into thinking with gels, lasers, bridges of light and ethereal tunnels – what was it that Bill Nye used to say?

As of this moment I find myself breezing through just about everything that the game chucks in my direction…that was until I arrived at my current spot. But am I gonna go on GameFAQs and YouTube with my tail between my legs? F$% no. Like with the previous Portal I’m all about figuring things out for myself. Better intelligence demands it, science demands, and all the fire-starting lemons demand it as well.

Stew Chyou

Soul Calibur II

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Just before the release of the next chapter in Namco’s sword swirling franchise I decided to dig out the second iteration just to re-familiarise myself with characters and controls. Sadly, I only managed to remind myself of one thing – I’m really bad at fighting games.

My first foray was with Body Blows on the Amiga, a Street Fighter knock-off with awful characters and overly simplistic controls. Next came Tekken, in which I favoured the giant fighting bear with the neckerchief… the less said about that the better. Eventually I landed on Soul Calibur II and found my feet with the palindromic Kilik and his wonderful stick. I liked the four axis movement and I liked the bright graphics. I loved the Weapon Master mode as it added a whole new dimension to what I thought was rather limiting gameplay. Was I any better at fighting games after playing… no, no I wasn’t.

Even with the cheapest character in the game I was unable to master the game on anything other than the regular difficulty setting. When I played with a friend even the uninitiated (and drunk) could hand me a liberal drubbing. Perhaps I lack the killer instinct needed to deliver the finishing blow, perhaps I wasn’t patient enough to memorize the entire move list; whatever the reason, my skills have not developed with age and I still remain terrible at an entire genre of videogames.

Richard Murphy

The author of this fine article

is the Deputy Editor at Thunderbolt, having joined in December 2010. Get in touch on Twitter @shaneryantb.

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