Welcome to The TPS Report, home to video game blogs, mix sets and even the odd piece o' 3D art.

Broke arse student, freelance games reviewer and rambling obsessive that I am, I currently seek work in mags and web sites throughout the world. If you're in a position to make that happen - and like what you see around here - let me know. I've published work with the likes of IGN and Gaming Steve.

-Matt/Diggler

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Preview Time! Games to Look Out For in 2011
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2010's Games of Shame
6/1/2011 22:47

My Fave Games of 2010!
6/1/2011 20:12

StarCraft II Review - Dig Loveth the RTS!?
7/11/2010 12:48

10 Must-Have iPhone Games
2/6/2010 18:09

A Little Hotlink to An Article I Stuck Up On GiantBomb
21/4/2010 15:01

Aliens Vs Predator is Here! Woo! Oh, Hang On...
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iPhone Games!
6/3/2010 20:40

WTF? Dig's Getting Hitched!
18/2/2010 23:39

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If interested in discussing writing opportunities for on or offline gaming publications - either UK based or abroad - please contact me via E-Mail. Sparkling CV available on request

 

 

Mercenaries - The First Must-Have Game of 2005
Posted by Diggler - 17/1/2005 13:31

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Vehicles play a large part, but thankfully the on-foot action handles brilliantly too
What's Mercenaries you ask? It's a third person shooter from Pandemic and LucasArts. It's on PS2 and Xbox, it's hardly been hyped at all, and best of all, it rocks. Hard.

The plot is simple - so much so that it's near non-existent. As the title might have tipped off the world-wary ones among you, you play a merc, sent in to North Korea on a job to detain an evil doer by the name of General Song. To do that you have to take on smaller missions first, gathering leads and clues along the way in order to track down the location of your prime bounty. In practice this involves chucking the player into a living, breathing epic warzone and letting them at it however they want. Rather than unconnected linear levels as you'd expect in a third person shooter, it's setup more like the cities in the GTA games though, with you free to travel around wherever you please, nabbing whatever vehicles you want along the way.

You have three characters to pick from, each with minor advantages such as improved speed or stealth, but ultimately your style of play is dictated more by you the player, rather than which character you choose.

Grand Theft AK-47

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If you can see it, you can drive it. Just wait 'til you see some of the jacking animations
I kinda prefer this to the GTA games in a way. I think the free-roaming gameworld design works surprisingly well in a warzone with all the vehicles, factions and varied landscapes, and it's a lot more interesting than mundane city roads and buildings. To me it doesn't really feel solely like a GTA rip-off though, but more an amalgamation of many other titles too. In fact I had major Halo flashbacks the first time I jumped on board a jeep with three squad mates, while one fired the top mounted machine gun at passing enemies. It also follows Halo's more realistic 2-weapons-only approach, with the ability to pick up and swap in guns with anything you come across in the field.

On top of that you get Spider-Man 2's extensive mini-games and challenges scattered around the city too - each one unconnected to the main story, but providing a nice extra means of income and fun. These challenges include stuff like racing from one part of the city to another, to escorting a TV camera crew to a nearby battle in one piece. You can use the cash you earn from these missions to supplement your weapons with expensive artillery strikes and ammo drops in the heat of battle. Very cool.

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The explosions and particle effects will impress even the most cynical
But then it'll often feel like the Battlefield series any time I hop into a chopper and start bombarding tanks with missiles from the sky. You chuck all these different gaming influences and concepts together and you get a stunningly entertaining title that holds together remarkably well.

I guess it's ultimately whatever type of game you want it to be in a way - you simply tailor your play style to the type of genre you enjoy. You can sneak around and disguise yourself like you would in a stealth game, snipe your bounties from a distance like in Hitman, or charge into the fray like Rambo. The term "sandbox" is so often lobbied around with games these days, but it's really an appropriate phrase for Mercenaries more than any other - the tools and the world are at your disposal, you just need to decide how to utilise them in best achieving your goals. It's the first real open-ended war game I've ever played in that regard.

Leonard Smalls

As you start completing missions for key players throughout the war-ravaged city, they'll start passing on intel to you regarding the location of high profile enemy bad guys. Using this intel you can track down these more highly paid bounties and either assassinate them, or bring them in alive, and it flavours the game with a fantastic mini-detective angle. As you read through e-mails and study maps for possible locations, then find the quickest and less conspicuous means of subduing your target, you really get that underlying feeling of being a bad arse bounty hunter in a fully living environment.

Bloomin' Beautiful

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Graphics are infinitely improved thanks to smart arse special effects like this lens flare
I dig the graphics. They're not traditionally as beautiful as most, but it's got massive, wide expansive levels, stunning use of light blooming, and best of all is so razor sharp on the Xbox that it looks identical to a PC game, with no jaggies to be seen at all.

The engine seems to be a heavily upgraded version of the SW: Battlefront engine, Pandemic's previous title, but it's both running and looking a heck of a lot more impressive here. Animation is fine, with some wonderful takedowns on offer when you bitchslap your marks. The only area where the graphics fall short is in the less important "background" buildings, with their textures appearing more low-rez and blurry, but they aren't overly common, and you're rarely close enough to notice. Really this is an above average looking title that deserves additional credit for the sheer size of the world it renders while still looking beautiful. It must be said it puts San Andreas to shame in this department.

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Destroyable scenery plus complex physics equal good times for all...except this guy
Oh and did I mention the utterly spunkerific ability to destroy huge amounts of the scenery? Just wait until you see the mammoth explosions on this thing - they'll blow your fucking mind. Even more so thanks to the impressive physics on offer, which it's worth noting, have improved hugely since the demo. It's great to see an enemy set up a road block down the road, then ramming your van into it hard and witnessing boxes, ammo crates and indeed people go flying all over the place as a result. These kinda physics are what made HL2 so bad arse, and you similarly find them sprucing up Mercenaries' gameplay in a similar way.

All that stuff's great, but it's that underlying freedom which keeps you coming back for more. Take that road block for example; rather than my ram-raid approach you alternatively have the option of dismounting your vehicle before hand and sneaking off around the enemies on foot via the surrounding mountains if you so desire. At times like this, the game even has a little hint of Operation Flashpoint to it.

Billy No Mates

Negatives are few. AI is uneven. Voice acting is a little poor (if no worse than most). The plot's also rather simplistic and the characters one dimensional. The major downer though is the fact it's missing that co-op mode - playing through this epic, expansive game with a buddy would have made it an all-time great. Blazing around in vehicles together, providing covering fire, and having sniper buddies covering you from afar while you sneak into enemy encampments - well the mere thought of it all provides hours of solid masturbation material.

I guess we'll have to wait for a sequel for such things though, of which I have no doubts one will appear. As it stands, Mercenaries is just a damn good title, and a pleasing start to the year. It's not out on PC, and indeed isn't scheduled to be either, but to be honest it really doesn't need a port anyway - it plays near perfectly as it is. Reviews across the board seem to be unanimously positive for this bad boy, and if you need further proof check out the trailers on LucasArts' homepage.

And with that it seems Pandemic have risen up to the premier league of games developers and scored the first goal of the season. Which developer will be next to step up and face the challenge?

(Pictures courtesy of LucasArts)

Untitled Document

The Polynomial. Like playing a rave

Untitled Document

Game
Fallout 3

Enjoying a fully modded out re-visit. Wow

Film
The Road

Pretty much due to the above

Show
Breaking Bad

Already shaping up to be the best season yet

Tune
Explosions in the Sky

Easing the pain of living in a post-Friday Night Lights world

Untitled Document

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Mockumentary series on the life of a pro gamer. Episode five is possibly the funniest thing on the internet

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Giant Bomb
Speaking of Gamespot, the controversial "letting go" of editor Jeff Gerstmann resulted in him starting up this new venture with fellow former writers of the site. Great podcast in particular

1up.com
Discounting the audio and video shows mentioned earlier, 1up's main site is also worth a visit in its own right. Not only bustling with quality gaming articles and extensive developers' blogs, it also doubles up as a massive friends network, ideal for meeting fellow gamers and joining like-minded communities

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Steam
A contender to the X-Fire throne that has pretty much overtaken it straight out of the gate. Valve's Steam client contains friends lists, downloadable games, Live-style achievements and plenty more to sink your teeth into

MyGamerCard.net
Convert your Xbox Live gamercard into an image, for use on forums and web sites for free. That's mine further down

Ain't it Cool News
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Smodcast
Writer, director and actor Kevin Smith - he of Clerks fame - records a monthly podcast in which he and fellow pals discuss everything from trying to felate oneself, to the time his dog got covered in ejaculate. Riveting stuff

 

Matt Robinson, 2011

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