It’s that beautifully chilly time of year where you can’t go anywhere without a jacket. Winter, love it or hate it there are some superb winter themed levels that have been created over the years. These levels are so cold they make you reach for the heating switch and make a cup of cocoa.
Gathered from all generations of consoles here are what I believe to be the best winter levels available today. These can be iconic levels that have stood the test of time or new additions to the winter wonderland catalog that will surely be around for years to come. There may be some cold feet, but I promise there is no need for concern. So without further ado let’s begin.
Hoth – Star Wars: Battlefront
Still fresh in our minds. This year EA Dice manged to recreate the universe of Star Wars in glorious HD. Regardless what you think of the actual game itself, it’s impossible to admire how the planet look. None is more mesmerizing than Hoth. The snow drenched world is a marvel to behold throwing in a battle against AT-AT Walkers rockets this encounter to a whole new level.
Cool Cool Mountain – Super Mario 64
Ice slides, Penguin racing and red coin collecting. What’s not to like? It’s rare to find a level that excesses so much fun. Cool Cool Mountain was one of the top stand-out levels from Mario’s first 3D outing. Nearly twenty years later the level still shines just as much.
Mountaineering – Uncharted 2: Among Thieves
Uncharted is known for it’s Hollywood-esque show pieces, yet Nathan Drake’s scouring of an icy mountain in Nepal is magnificent to say the least. Fondly remembered by fans of the series this “mountaineering” expedition brought something new to the series changing what the word exploration means. Horror elements were all of a sudden critical to this stage as tension rises the more you climb. The arctic chill is a new presence never fully being realised until now. This all leading up to the impact of a moving shadow and the reveal of an ancient beast ready to tear Drake limb from limb…Tenzin the Sherpa is pretty awesome too.
Freezeflame Galaxy – Super Mario Galaxy
So yes this could be considered slightly cheating, but you cannot deny how beautifully tranquil this galaxy is. The combination of ice and fire creates something that had not been seen before. Skating round the molten core, Leaping through the air lets Mario twirl acrobatically showing his graceful side. One of the most stunning galaxies in the game and one of the most unexpected.
Freezeaky Peak – Banjo-Kazooie
Christmas trees with singing lights, A fifty foot snowman, present greedy cubs and an absent father all make up this one of a kind level. Rare delivered a 3D outing still fondly remembered today, so there is no shock that Freezeaky Peak makes this list and there should be no doubt that it will continue to appear on lists like this for decades to come.
Mario Kart: Double Dash – Sherbet Land
What can I say, Nintendo do Winter best. Straight out of Mario Kart: Double Dash we have the the fantastically frozen Sherbet Land. Encountering Shy Guys skating on a frozen lake peppered with potholes before driving down an igloo tunnel makes this course one of the most re-playable. Oh and how could I forget the catchy soundtrack that mimics exactly what the track represents. No wonder it was revitalized for the Wii version.
So there you have six wonderful winter levels to get your teeth into over the holiday season. What winter levels do you think are great? Leave us a comment below to tell us why. Anyway you better get inside before you catch a chill.
With the recent release of Uncharted: The Nathan Drake Collection and the approaching fourth entry, what better time then to bring together the finest moments from Naughty Dogs biggest franchise. From 2007 to 2011 we were treated to some outrageously outstanding set pieces that puts the series in a league of its own. Following in the foot steps of Marco Polo, Lawrence of Arabia and Sir Francis Drake, Nathan’s adventures are both extraordinary and surreal.
After all this is done and dusted though, what are the main points that really stick with you. The parts that you love to revisit time after time. Here I try to diagnose the five strongest moments that define the Uncharted series. Warning spoilers for the entirety of the series:
Train-Wrecked (Uncharted 2: Among Thieves)
If you know the series you will have seen this one coming. So fun you experience it twice. Debatably one of the greatest video game opening levels see’s Drake covered in his own blood hanging for dear life to a wrecked train off the side of a mountain. You ponder how have things got this bad? What has he done to get into this situation? The next essential hours are spent building up to this astronomical cliff-hanger.
Second-Story Work (Uncharted 3: Drake’s Deception)
Who would have thought playing as Drake when he was a mere teenager could be so much fun? Fleeing on foot from a number of mysterious agents, Drake’s escapades see him leaping over rooftops. In great movie style the chase is fast and unforgiving. You need a perfect run to make sure your not caught. Jumping from building to building before a detour through a residents flat in the shadow of Mexican Vihuela strings compliment the level perfectly. All leading up to the final stance of Drake having to make a choice whether or not he actually shoots one of Marlowe’s agents. Thankfully its a choice he never has to make with a timely save from Sully
The Yeti Shadow (Uncharted 2: Among Thieves)
Somewhere in Nepal you scour icy cliffs following a villager for some unknown reason to yourself. The snowy perches are a stunning sight to behold as they shimmer in the light. From nowhere the camera zooms outs ever so calmly. The shadows suddenly start to move thus revealing pale white eyes and snarling teeth. The dark figure disappears leaving me in disarray. What the hell was that? Every next step, you take lightly.
Supernatural Twist (Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune)
The original supernatural twist is a moment I will never forget. After spending hours upon hours searching for El Dorado you discover that that the treasure is cursed. Transforming humans into mutated beings with super speed and strength, you realise for the first time that Drake might be out of his depths. Fighting alongside rival Eddy you begin an all out onslaught on the dozens of enemies coming your way. Tension mounts as Elena scrambles to find some way of helping you escape. Shooting the last of the beasts Eddy smugly taunts their dead corpses off the side of a ledge before suddenly being grabbed and pulled to his death. Now your all on your own to defend. Overlooked too much for my liking, Drakes Fortune has tremendous moments like this that are unappreciated too often.
Plane Crash (Uncharted 3: Drake’s Deception)
Like the train-wreck its impossible to leave this sequence out. Serving as the antepenultimate After becoming a stowaway you are suddenly caught by enemies which results with a fist fight on the open ramp of the plane. Very similar to the final showdown in Air Force One except here Nate ends up hanging onto loose cargo off the edge. Gun fight ensues whilst you scramble back up to safety. Things then go from bad to worse as an engine fire rapidly destroys the airplane before sucking everyone (including Drake) out into the air. Falling out of the sky you somehow manage to grab hold of a crate before pulling the safety cord to release the parachute. As improbable as it is, the level is still incredible.
So there you have five unbelievable Uncharted moments that have made the series a phenomenon. Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End is fast approaching with expectations high lets hope they will bring us some more surreal moments. What moments stand out for you? Leave us a comment below to tell us why.
Naughty Dog have come a long way from their days of sporting a Bandicoot of as their Mascot. Today they are one of the most popular gaming studios in the world. Not only this but are considered among many as PlayStation’s Flagship Developers and their flagship series is the Indiana Jones esque series Uncharted.
Having played through the epic adventure of Nathan Drake in Uncharted 2: Amongst Thieves. I have always wanted to visit the original before eventually moving onto the third entry. Now with Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End on the horizon I feel I have no time to get into the series. I like 20 million others are lucky enough to own a Playstation 4 console. Now that I have this, I only seem to want previous released titles updated to the most current graphics. So you can imagine my delight when the Uncharted Collection was announced.
Video Games that perform like movies are becoming more and more common. The action-adventure, third person shooter that is now synonymous with the Uncharted may not have been one of the first to attempt this but it is certainly one of the first to perfect it. Having the chance to own the complete trilogy on the newest generation of console in preparation for the newest release is simply great. It’s Sony listening to its fans. Uncharted: The Nathan Drake Collection is ideal for anyone trying to break into the series.
Generally for anybody lagging from the delayed release of the fourth entry (Due for release around the first or second quarter of 2016) this is a great way to revisit the gigantic adventure Nathan takes on before possibly taking on his last. The HD collection has been promised that it will be available in a gorgeous 1080p resolution with 60 frames per second which according to Sony, “makes a huge difference”. One thing to not forget is that this bundle only contains Drake’s solo efforts so unfortunately Multiplayer is exempt. I however don’t think this is a necessity as the main draw is obviously the story. That said the multiplayer is quite underrated yet as long as it returns in A Thief’s End i’m more than happy.
The price is worthy of appraisal too. Most video games released today are around the £40-£50 mark so I was honestly expecting the trilogy to cost about £60. To my delight the price was revealed at £54.99 (Amazon.co.uk) and at the time of writing this has dropped down to £46.85, basically the same as one game. I realise this is a re-release but there’s no doubt that you are getting bang for your buck especially if you are yet to touch the franchise.
Sony are no doubt winning the console race. Decisions like this are only going to contribute to their lead. Never before has there been more Xbox owners that have swapped sides to Playstation. All of these players have never had chance to experience Uncharted and until this was announced were unable to (unless they bought a Playstation 3 as well). So to give these new Playstation owners the chance to play through the entirety of their biggest franchise just in time for the release of the latest title is a really smart move. Genius too. It may seem obvious to some to create this trilogy but what you need to take into consideration is that there are always obvious choices for a company. Most of these obvious choices never come to fruition so when they do I think they need applauding. In terms of pleasing the fans and a business decision this hits the nail right on the head.
I have my pre-order. Do you have yours? What’s your view on the Uncharted: The Nathan Drake Collection?
There are times when a writer chooses not to enter the realms of commenting on the video game industry, but I guess it is those subjects they feel ever so strongly about that give them the strength to send it out into the shady abyss of the internet world. After, and let’s be honest, an overall pretty disappointing year in gaming for 2014, I feel there is no better time than the present to highlight the inspirational and positive attitude that particular studios such as ‘Naughty Dog‘ possess when creating their games and to not only say these things, but also deliver them time and time again.
Don’t get me wrong, this article isn’t out there to slate the many developers/publishers that have gone ahead with devious marketing schemes such as day one DLC packages and in-game micro-transactions (not pointing any fingers, but then again, I don’t have to). I simply want to express what I as a consumer have observed over the years and highlight a standard that filled me with so much faith in the future of the industry and made me see that light at the end of the tunnel. It felt great to see this in comparison to the sheer laziness of the ‘that will do‘ attitude many companies have taken on board when releasing what is sometimes considered a mediocre sequel or overall unfinished product for what is expected.
Game Informer interviewed game director Bruce Straley and creative director Neil Druckmann of Naughty Dog last month regarding a comparison to making their multi-award winning IP The Last Of Us and moving on from that to the highly anticipated Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End.
In regards to the motivation and drive for creating Uncharted 4, an interesting comment from game director Bruce Straley states:
When you have that feeling inside that makes you feel like, ‘I wanna play that’, that’s it. Just try to hang onto that, what was it that resonated with you? And then have faith that there’s other gamers out there that are going to want to do the same thing. Sometimes that feeling is driven by the fact that you haven’t played it in another game. It’s not like I’m trying to say, ‘what isn’t in other games that we can put in or create that’s different’. It’s as simple as, ‘Oh that sounds cool, I’ve never done that before.
This statement as a whole sums up the overall attitude that all creators in the gaming industry should go forward with, I mean really, it should be on a plaque somewhere, because not only does it illustrate his passion as a game developer, but it shows that his mind set is focused on creating new and innovate concepts that have never been done before.
After saying this he refers back to the famous Uncharted 2: Among Thieves ‘Train Sequence’ where the programmers accomplished a sequence in which a train travels through an environment as opposed to a giving the illusion of this through repeated background elements. Bruce continues to discuss that when the programmers told him they could achieve this, he says, “Oh my God, they said they could do it, and my little gamer heart swelled up and was like, ‘I wanna play that game.”
The real moment that I love throughout this interview and is the inspiration for me writing this right now is when they are questioned if Uncharted 2 is the blueprint for moving ahead with Uncharted 4, to which they both respond, “no.”
Bruce answers with,
We’re constantly questioning how to do this better. We want to create an experience that resonates with the player. We’re trying to create amazingly rich characters and an adventure that these characters can go on with pressure applied and all these things have to make sense and really click with the controller in your hand. I want to feel engaged and I don’t want to just play the same games that I’ve always played before.” He then says, “We as players, we wanna play a game that is the ultimate Uncharted that we think this thing can be, it has so much potential.
Creative director Neil Druckmann then adds to this,
That would have been the blueprint for Uncharted 2. If we were to make Uncharted 2 now it would be a different game because we’ve changed, we’ve learned so much, we’ve evolved as developers and now this is the Uncharted we feel we wanna make and the culmination of everything we’ve learned on Uncharted and The Last Of Us.
The way Druckmann highlights the concept of them as developers, evolving and developing themselves from their past experiences really spoke out to me and made me really appreciate how lucky I am as a gamer to have someone like this behind the creation of the games I know and love. When a new game is created, I want somebody behind it who is striving to top whatever it was that they previously made, but throughout 2014 I felt disappointed and let down with most of the releases. There was no spark, nothing that made me feel like I was playing the most innovative game that defined the future of video games or even just a game that spoke out to me on a personal level. I think the closest thing that came even close to that in terms of the next generation’s visual capabilities was ‘Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes‘ and that was only a prologue.
Sometimes it isn’t always down to the developers though, I understand that there are the pressures and time constraints that publishers or marketing departments maybe don’t consider. They might not look at the heart and soul of a game or its improvements and would rather cash in when a popular IP is at its highest peak, focusing on what it will turn over if they release it at a specific advantageous time in the year. This leaves those developer’s who have a vision and drive to better themselves from their previous work with no real time to radically improve their game from past developing experiences which ultimately, slows down the overall process for the future of discovering that true meaning and potential of ‘next generation gaming’.
Another Game Informer interview with one of Naughty Dog’s lead designers, Ricky Cambier, demonstrated something that felt very captivating and genuine. There is a moment where Cambier really illustrates his enthusiasm when describing what it felt like to sit in the audience and hear people’s reactions to Uncharted 4 at the ‘Playstation Experience Gameplay Reveal‘ (2014). To me it almost felt as though the developers gain their motivation from that and also feed off of their own desire as gamers to produce something that they themselves want to play in order to produce a remarkable final product that they are satisfied with right up to completion.
My point is, you could have the most talented game developer in the world and produce something that is visually and mechanically appealing but without that time and inner flame, your product may lack any real spirit; without the mindset to approach the production process from a consumer’s point of view and the ability to look at what you are making and ask yourself, ‘How can I truly better that from last time and make something that I really want to play?’
Games that have got into the habit of annual release windows may not realise it at the time, but they are slowly losing that excitement from consumers they once had. To some extent they work to the advantage of both the consumers and companies, more entertaining games for us, and more money for the companies. Unfortunately those titles run the risk of becoming bland overtime with no real improvement or contrasting definition from its predecessor, Ubisoft’s Assassin’s Creed series and Activision’s Call of Duty are just a few examples of this. I just don’t think that games that are on an annual release window give the developer’s enough time to vastly expand on their product. Even games that aren’t are slowly getting into the habit of it and the results have a lot to show for it. Take Ubisoft’s Far Cry 4 for example. In the past there has been a four year gap between the releases of previous Far Cry titles and they all have enormous improvements to show for it.
• Far Cry (2004)
• Far Cry 2 (2008)
• Far Cry 3 (2012)
• Far Cry 4 (2014 )
Far Cry 4 was released just two years after Far Cry 3 and it just doesn’t leave us with much to say about it. Don’t get me wrong, it is by all means a fantastic game and probably one of 2014’s best but it shares so many similarities with Far Cry 3 that we as the player, are left far from ‘blown away’ and because of that, I have still yet to complete it myself. It didn’t give us enough time to ‘miss it’ as a franchise. I’m not ruling Naughty Dog out completely, as there were times when I felt Uncharted 3: Drake’s Deception shared a few of these similar elements that I have just mentioned. However, when I play a Naughty Dog game, I feel like I am playing a complete product. A product that feels new, that feels like a fresh experience and that isn’t dangling DLC season passes like a carrot in front of my face on the menu before I’ve even started the game and that is what separates them from recent affairs.
Developers need time. The demands of the consumer should not pressure the desires of the developer. The people buying the games are still going to be there waiting for you one or two years later and in that time they sat fidgeting and waiting, a studio can deliver them something that is ten times better than it was two years ago. If the time is still constrained that shouldn’t give developers and excuse to make anything close to the endless copy/pastes we’ve seen over the last few years. We as consumers enjoy expressing our own excitement because we are genuinely very excited to play up and coming blockbuster triple A games, but the term ‘cannot wait‘ should never be taken too literally.
It is that attitude and little touch of passion and drive to go that extra mile that makes such an impacting difference. That is what separates a franchise that stands the test of time to those that shoot themselves in the foot far too early in the race to survive the long run.