Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Collector's Editions: which ones to snog/marry/kill in the run up to Christmas

We are about to enter the annual GLUT of games, with big releases almost every week from now until Christmas, and in order to maximise the cash they get from our tiny (but manly) purses many games also come in a variety of flashy and expensive flavous. SO which ones should you look to pick up and which ones should you avoid like the plague?

I'll run you through the games, the editions, and which ones are worth your time. SPOILER: It's not many of them.

Disney Infinity 3.0 – Special Edition (PS3 & PS4 only) – £94.00/£99.00
Including a bunch of extra characters from the original trilogy (namely Luke, Leia and Boba Fett) plus a bunch of other gubbins such as some playsets for the game, this one seems vastly overpriced as it is adding almost the cost of the game itself on top of the vanilla starter pack. The fact that the 2.0 Special Edition set which included much more than this one, can now be had for less than half what it was going for initially means you’d be better off waiting for a price drop.
Verdict: DON'T BUY. Wait for a price drop or get the starter set.

Gears of War Ultimate Edition + All Gears titles – Xbox One - £24.00
Less of a special edition and more of a decent offer, but if you purchase the game for a “limited time” around launch (quite how long that time will be has not been said) then you can also get Gears 1-3 plus Judgment as backwards compatible titles for the Xbox One too. Obviously you’d need space to download them, but as you can pick up Gears Ultimate for about £23 in some places this is a pretty great deal for four whole games, and Gears 1 for 360 so you can stack achievements.
Verdict: BUY. Not a limited edition per se, but the fact you get four free games if you pick it up close to launch is a steal, especially at £23.

Onechanabra Z2 Chaos + Artbook – PS4 – £31.00

Only available through the NISA store this is the latest game with an artbook, though it costs a couple of pounds more and the game series hardly has a reputation for quality. So maybe hold off on this one unless you simply have money to burn.
Verdict: DON'T BUY. One for hardcore fans only as the game is terrible.

One Piece Pirate Warriors 3 Doflamingo Edition – PS3/PS4 - £57.00

It’s the rather obscure game (unless you’re a fan of the show) along with a fairly nice statue to boot. Only for fans really but the price is not too bad, but there are still statue editions of the previous games bouncing around at hefty discounts. So if you can wait, then that is your best option really.
Verdict: DON'T BUY. For fans only, and very likely to drop in price after a month or two.

Until Dawn Steelbook Edition – PS4 – £49.99
It’s literally the game in a nice steelbook case, and it costs about £10 more than you can just buy the game anywhere else. Not really worth the money as GAME tend to overstock their limited editions (with very few exceptions) so expect to be able to pick this up much cheaper down the line. (EDIT: You can also get this for £44.95 at Gameseek.co.uk - but it's still not worth it).
Verdict: DON'T BUY. Grossly overpriced for just a steelbook.

Mad Max: Ripper Special Edition – PS4/Xbox One - £44.99

You get a steelbook that looks pretty nice, some DLC to upgrade your car and a unique numbered poster. On the flipside this costs you about £7-8 more than you can just get the vanilla game at other stores (maybe more) so again it is only worth it if you’re a steelbook collector as this will probably get reduced in the lead up to Xmas once a glut of other games come out. Which is exactly what happened with the Mordor steelbook last year.
Verdict: DON'T BUY. Not a bad deal, but the extras aren't great enough to justify the added cost.

Metal Gear Solid: The Phantom Pain Collectors Edition – PS4/Xbox One - £99.99
Paying one hundred pounds for a game is serious money, and this set includes a bunch of extras that fans may well enjoy. It has a 24cm replica of Snake’s bionic arm, which may go down as one of the weirdest add-ons in history, it looks nice enough but is likely just going to gather dust. You also get a steelbook, making of blu-ray, some DLC and a printed game map. This set is pretty much sold out so you may be out of luck – though you can snag the Day One edition for like £50 less, and it comes with most of the DLC.
Verdict: BUY. A quirky set for a cult game, and will likely hold its value. Already sold out though, so keep an eye out for cancellations.

Danganronpa Ultra Despair Girls Limited Editon – PS Vita - £59.99
Another set limited to the NISA online store, and these do tend to sell out over time so bear that in mind. Still the series is a fairly niche one and the set comes with an artbook, soundtrack, collectors pin and, bizarrely, tie and tie clip plus an eyepatch. So if you want to dress up as a tie wearing and eyepatch swaggering bear from the box – now you can. These sets do have a bit of a cult following, but the game may not have much resale value beyond that.
Verdict: BUY. Not a bad price for what you get and these games tend to hold their value amongst similar collectors, but only purchase if you're a fan.

Super Mario Maker + Amiibo + Pin Badge Set – Wii U - £46.99
There are two versions of this game, one with just the game and artbook and the other with that plus an Amiibo. Pre-order from GAME though and you also get a 30th Anniversary Pin Badge set for no extra cost. Nintendo game tend to be highly collectible and limited editions often sell out, so this might be a solid purchase. However, you can get the vanilla set (with Amiibo) for just under £30 elsewhere – so it’s up to you whether the Amiibo and pins are worth an extra £16. You can also order this through the Nintendo store for a bit more, but you get an exclusive t-shirt rather than the pin set.
Verdict: BUY. The pin set is probably worth the extra couple of £ (over buying this at other sites) and Nintendo games notoriously hold their value down the years.

Destiny: The Taken King – Xbox One/PS4 - £79.99
So you get the full Destiny game and all the expansions, plus a steelbook, a copy of Treasure Island holding a Strange Coin (what?!), some pictures, patches and lithographs and a host of the DLC (mainly skins and the like). However, if you already bought Destiny last year, and maybe the Collectors Edition as well, then this seems like a massive waste of money as you are essentially rebuying content you already own plus a few physical items.  For newcomers this set is ideal, for everyone else they should just buy the Taken King add on for half the price or wait for a decent price drop.
Verdict: BUY/DON'T BUY. Great set for anyone new to Destiny, completely pointless for anyone else.

Forza Motorsport 6 Limited Edition – Xbox One - £52.99
It’s a copy of the game with a limited t-shirt. That’s it. For an extra £13 more this is vastly overpriced as the clothes are never that great quality so you may as well just get the vanilla game unless you are desperate to hide your naked form and have no other clothing retailers to turn to.
Verdict: DON'T BUY. A rip off considering you just get a flimsy t-shirt.

Pro Evolution Soccer 2016 20th Anniversary Edition – PS4 - £54.99

This is a weird one. A 20th Anniversary Edition that is ONLY available for the PS4, which is a bizarre decision really. Mercifully it seems this set is a bit overpriced anyway. As you can get a Day One version of the game (with a bunch of handy DLC) for only £32.99 elsewhere (namely at Zavvi) so what are you getting for an extra £20+? Not a lot. You get a steelbook, plus 1,000 myClub coins, Neymar in your myClub team permanently and more GP currency to spend. So if you’re into myClub then this may help, but the extra cost means it is not worth it.
Verdict: DON'T BUY. Just get the Day One edition instead.

FIFA 16 Deluxe Edition + Steelbook + Ball – PS4/Xbox One - £67.99
FIFA comes in various flavours this year and at various price points. The only real difference is the DLC you get as the vanilla set comes with none, the next one comes with some Gold FUT packs and the highest tier comes with 40 Gold packs (spread over 20 weeks though), Lionel Messi for 5 games and some added DLC celebrations and kit. At GAME all preorders also get a steelbook and actuall ball, but you’re paying a few quid more on top for both. In truth paying £60+ for FIFA is ludicrous, as it will be out of date in a year. However, if you DO spend money on FUT then this could actually save you a few quid in the long run so bear that in mind.
Verdict: BUY/DON'T BUY. Only pick up the pricier versions if you'll play FUT for 20 weeks to get the content, as then you'll save money. Vanilla version if not.

Skylanders Superchargers Dark Edition - ALL - £79.99-£84.99
Don’t bother. Seriously, you can get the Supercharger Starter set on any system from Zavvi for £39.99 so why would you pay an extra £40+ just the same figures but in their dark variants, plus one extra character and the Kaos trophy. You wouldn’t.
Verdict: DON'T BUY. Vastly overpriced compared to the starter set and one for Skylanders diehard collectors only as the figures will be unique to this set.

NBA 2K16 Michael Jordan Edition – Xbox One/PS4 - £64.99
WOW, £30 more than the standard game. So what do you get? Not a lot really, you get an exclusive poster and wall decal (plus a hat if you pre-order at GAME) and a bunch of DLC in the form of Jordan branded gear, and currency and cards for the MyTeam mode. Oh, and you get the game a few days earlier than the standard edition for some reason. For the massive price hike it just isn’t worth it – simple as that.
Verdict: DON'T BUY. Even the greatest basketball player of all time can't make this seem like value for money.

Uncharted: The Nathan Drake Collection Special Edition – PS4 - £64.99

It goes from bad to worse. You can get the vanilla game for £25 (or more) less than this and the only difference is the fact you don’t get a steelbook, artbook and some stickers? Yeah, stick with the cheaper version as this is a rip off. (EDIT: You can also get this for £49.95 at Gameseek.co.uk - but it's still not worth it, though at least the price is realistic).
Verdict: DON'T BUY. A huge price hike for very little extra, no thanks.

Disgaea 4: Alliance of Vengeance – PS4 - £69.99

Already Sold Out via the NISA store, though they sometimes get some back in stock closer to launch due to returns and cancellations. Another cult series and a set that is likely to be fairly sought after – comes with an artbook, soundtrack, poster and two mini figures (including the much loved Prinny). So keep an eye out for this if you are a huge fan. Smaller fans can get the game with an artbook from Amazon for about £30 less, so the saving is worth it.
Verdict: BUY. Disgaea sets are very collectible and sell well second hand, so they are worth picking up but this one is already sold out.

Rainbow Six Siege Limited Edition – PS4/Xbox One - £49.99

Comes with a steelbook and some DLC, for a hefty £10+ more than the standard version of the game. No thanks. As this is Ubisoft there are also other editions too, including the Art of Siege version that comes in a slipcase with an artbook. There is also a Tactical Elite edition via the Ubisoft store that comes with the Season Pass as well, though costs a hefty £74.99. In truth you are better off just getting the standard version as none of the collectible stuff is that great.
Verdict: DON'T BUY. Three different special editions but none of them are worth it.

Tales of Zestiria Collectors Edition – PS3/PS4 - £89.99+

Not too sure what is happening with this one. It was certainly announced by Bandai Namco, but has been Sold Out on Shopto since then and the listing on GAME has mysteriously vanished. It would be a shame if this never turned up as the Tales sets or hugely collectible and offer pretty good value for money in general – plus they are actually limited. This one would have come with a steelbook, four mini-figures, hardback artbook, cloth art scroll, anime DVD, CD soundtrack AND some character DLC. A good haul – if it ever sees the light of day – though maybe a touch expensive for non-fans of the series.
Verdict: BUY. Hugely popular and highly collectible, if it ever comes out.

Assassins Creed Syndicate: VARIOUS – ALL - £VARIOUS
There are no less than FIVE different versions of this game, so check the link above to see what you get with each. The top two tiers come with a statue, plus a hip flask with the Ubisoft exclusive variant, along with a bunch of other stuff (artbook, soundtrack, DLC missions etc). If you go all out on the Big Ben edition (£114.99) then you also get the season pass included – but after the balls up with the season pass for Unity last year it might be worthwhile being a touch more conservative. In truth the statues in these sets are amongst some of the better quality ones and the extra features are decent but not mind blowing. The Charing Cross edition (at GAME) is certain to be overstocked and drop in price eventually,
Verdict: DON'T BUY. After the issues with Unity I'd take a wait and see approach this year, though the quality of the sets is often good - so fans can go ahead.

Halo 5 Guardians Collectors Edition – Xbox One - £199.99
A ridiculous price, as the only extra over the Limited Edition (£79.99) is the statue – so you are paying effectively £120 for that alone. Also included are a steelbook, some character files, a small Guardian model and some DLC. The quality of Halo stuff is generally high but it’s telling that this still hasn’t come close to selling out yet despite being on offer for an age. The other downside is the fact you don’t even get a game disc, only a digital download, so you would have to request a disc (which you can do) at the cost of not being able to play the game you paid £200 for on day one. Stupid.
Verdict: DON'T BUY. I'm a HUGE Halo fan and have all the others but the price on this is absurd.

Project Zero: Maiden of Black Water Limited Edition – Wii U - £49.99
Already sold out on the official Nintendo store, so maybe snap this up while you can as the limited Wii U stuff does tend to vanish and never come back into stock. The game itself is a cult favourite and the set has a steelbook, poster, lithographs and art book. It looks pretty nice and the price is only about £10 more than the game so is reasonable value for money.
Verdict: BUY. A cult game, only on Nintendo and selling out fast. A wise investment.

Call of Duty: Black Ops 3 Juggernog Edition – Xbox One/PS4 - £179.99
Already sold out - so clearly the demand for owning your very own Juggernog mini-fridge was greater than anyone could have known. In fairness the set also came with a bunch of coasters in a tin, the season pass for the game, a steelbook, artcards and some other in game DLC. It’s still a hefty price so it will depend on the quality of the fridge I guess (a line I never suspected I would have to write). For those that missed out you can get the Hardened edition for substantially less (about £69.99) but you’ll miss out on the fridge (obviously), coasters and season pass. To be honest the Hardened edition doesn’t offer much over the standard game – so you’d be best just going vanilla and saving another £30.
Verdict: BUY/DON'T BUY. The Juggernog edition seems steep but the extras might be worth it, as the season pass and fridge alone will be decent (and funny). Sold out though, so DON'T buy the Hardened version to replace it as that is vastly overpriced for very little extra.

Fallout 4: Pip Boy Edition – PS4/Xbox One - £99.99
The current Holy Grail of collector’s editions as it sold out in a hot minute everywhere. Comes with a working Pip Boy (well, working when you put a touchscreen phone in there) as well as a Pip Boy guide, stand, steelbook, bobblehead and poster. It’s actually pretty pricey for what it is, but the lure of Fallout is strong and this set is likely to hold its value pretty damn well. For those that missed out on this version you can also get a Fallout Bundle from Amazon for £59.99 that comes with an exclusive soundtrack and hardback book, though that is adding £20+ to the cost of the game alone, so maybe wait for a price drop.
Verdict: BUY. Another that will hold its value and even possibly appreciate but its long gone and eBay prices are madness. The Amazon exclusive version is too expensive as a replacement as well.

Rise of the Tomb Raider Apex Predator Pack – Xbox One - £59.99
Just don’t. GAME seem to have a monopoly on certain special editions but their pricing structure is awful and they generally end up discounting them a few months later. This is a case in point as for £20 more than just the game you only get an, admittedly nice, steelbook and some in game DLC in the form of an outfit, gun and ability. No way is that worth the massive price hike. Steer clear.
Verdict: DON'T BUY. Shockingly high price for pretty much zero extras.

Just Cause 3 – PS4/Xbox One - £67.99
Another Collector’s edition that is far more expensive at GAME and via Square (both £79.99) but at this lower price is not too bad, especially as fans voted for the contents so can’t really complain. You get a replica grappling hook, artbook, map of the islands and some in game DLC – nothing mind blowing really and the grapple is not the best display item, so maybe you still want to hold off for a price drop as this is widely available so will likely plummet fairly rapidly.
Verdict: DON'T BUY. A great game and the grapple is unique, but this is available everywhere so will surely drop in price.


LEGO Dimensions - ALL - £90+


Not a limited edition at all, but one that will set you back even more money than most of the above would combined. Assuming you got all of the add-on packs available through Amazon (starter set, eight level packs and twenty three (23!) fun packs) then it would set you back roughly £655.54 to get it all. THAT IS INSANE. For the same price you could buy every LEGO game currently available and have access to far more characters and worlds - it's your choice. Buy your kids this and then weep as your wallet is bled dry over the coming months. Or buy it for yourself and try and justify the costs as you avoid catching the eye of your reflection in the mirror.

Verdict: DON'T BUY. Unless you want to take out a second mortgage, just play ANY other LEGO game instead.

Friday, August 14, 2015

Actually difficult achievements - I mean GENUINELY difficult. No really.........

Over the years I've seen a bunch of websites and magazines publish lists of what they deem "tough" achievements, and those lists are generally shit. They're shit because the people writing them feel obliged to only use mainstream games like Call of Duty or Gears of War, alternatively they use achievements that actually aren't even that difficult to accomplish.

Here's the thing. Getting Seriously on Gears of War is not difficult - you know why? Because even the worst Gears player can gradually spend hours of their life just chipping away at it. Even if they got one kill a day, they would get that achievement eventually so it doesn't require any real skill, just a time investment. Same is true of a bunch of grindy online tasks. Likewise getting Mile High Club on COD 4 is not hard either, hahahahahaha, if you think it is then I weep for you.

A genuinely tough achievement requires you to be good at a game, but not just good, REALLY BLOODY GOOD. So that is what I'm going to include here. Likewise, I've made the proviso that I would only use one achievement per game as you could probably make an entire list just from Deathsmiles or something similar.

So with all of that in mind here is a list of some ballbreakingly tough achievement tasks that will make grown adults weep and bring low even the mightiest braggart. If you THINK you are some kind of achievement don then perhaps you can give these a go and bloody prove it.


1) Deathsmiles - The True Tyrant - So you fancy yourself a bit of a SHMUP specialist do you? WELL YOU FUCKING AREN'T! At least not until you've hit up Deathsmiles on the MBL game mode at difficulty Level 999, then gone through most of the game without using a single continue, then done the last few stages without LOSING A SINGLE LIFE. All that will just get the boss to appear - THEN YOU HAVE TO BEAT HIM, in what is the most insane display of skill and reflexes known to man/woman/beast. Think you can do this - you're probably wrong.

2) Asteroids Deluxe - Platinum - Oh look, it's an old XBLA arcade game - how hard can that be? Bloody brutal actually as you have to somehow score over 250,000 points on Normal difficulty which sounds simple but is actually harder than Vinnie Jones in his Wimbledon heyday.

3) Cloudberry Kingdom - Shenanigans - What a lovely twee little game this is, full of rainbows and fluffy wonder. How about this achievement then? Oh you just have the simple task of getting through Chapter 7. It's almost natural progression. Did I mention that this includes level 319. Sounds a piece of piss right? I mean the level only takes a minute and has a mere 40 jumps. No problem. WATCH THIS AND WEEP ABOUT YOUR COLLOSSAL HUBRIS YOU IDIOT! (P.S The video shows the A.I accomplishing what no mortal could hope to do)  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bhjG8buiWiI&feature=player_embedded

4) Robotron: 2084 - Wave 100 - Just make it to Wave 100 in default settings in one of THE HARDEST GAMES EVER. I swear that these retro games were added to XBLA just to punish anyone stupid enough to think they could best them. You can't best them, they will best YOU and you will spend a lifetime in therapy recovering.

5) Injustice: Gods Amongst Us - Ultimate Battler - Do you think you're a pro at fighting games? Well here comes Injustice to set you straight. To knock off this "straightforward" achievement you just have to complete all the battle modes. A mere afternoons work right? Well, that's if you have the skill to beat the entire Injustice roster at the highest difficulty without continuing. That's one challenge by the way - now go and do the other 19 sucker.

6) Pinball FX 2 - NEARLY ANY ACHIEVEMENT - Pinball FX has a lot of tables to buy and pretty much all of them are brutally hard. Do you have the skills to get flawless runs on all of the tables to complete the "story modes" locked within them? Doubtful, as even though each table can theoretically be completed in just a few minutes you need to get the perfect streak of bounces, ricochets and point scoring to do everything before you run out of balls. Let's be honest, you never had the balls to tackle Pinball FX in the first place.

7) Chariot - Unbreakable - Hey, it's that game that launched free on Games with Gold. Do you know why it was free? It's because they felt bad about charging you for the mental torture you were about to experience. We're all good at platformers right? So how hard can this be, it's just Mario with a coffin. How about you take those skills and complete the games hidden level without using a single gadget, should take you a few minutes right? Yeah, must be why no bugger can do it. Go hard or go home.

8) Dance Dance Revolution Universe - EXORBITANT cleared - after all those easy games it is time to really work up a sweat, via the medium of dance. What the hell though? Someone only went and made a bunch of impossible achievements here as well. Do you fancy getting flawless clears on songs at 1.5x the usual speed? I don't give a shit if you care, YOU HAVE TO DO IT! This achievement isn't even meant to he hardest set of challenges but the developers are clearly sadists as they sneakily made this one even tougher then the top tier. If you have a spare ten to fifteen minutes then I'm sure you can knock this out of the park.

9) Pier Solar and the Great Architects - That's Slippery - Time for a minigame to soothe those frayed nerves. What do you mean I need a series of perfect button presses over five to ten minutes to get this achievement? WHAT DO YOU MEAN THERE IS ONLY ONE CHECKPOINT?! WHY IS THIS EVEN HERE?!!! If you have the reflexes of a cat then this one is for you, if you are a cat then you have no idea what achievements are or the thumbs required to manage a controller.

10) Spider-Man 3 - Gold Medal Winner - How about a quick race? How about 48 of the most ridiculously difficult and nefarious races known to man, all requiring perfect timing with one of the worst control schemes ever? Sure, you could knock these out in an hour if you had the mad skills of a gaming GOD, but the reality is that you will attempt them once - fail spectacularly and then wish you'd never even heard of Arachnid Dude or whatever his stupid ass name is.

11) Michael Jackson: The Experience - NO ONE WANTS TO BE DEFEATED - We haven't had a dance game in a while so how about spending a few minutes getting five stars on Beat It, one of Jackson's best songs. Should be easy right? Unless you take into account the fact the movement recognition on this game is appalling, so much so that you actually have to perform the moves ahead of those on screen to stand any chance. Even then the game might arbitrarily decide that you messed up and make you fail. I doubt even MJ in his prime could pull off the moves required to nail this one. The only Experience this game gives you is one of unrelenting sadness.

12) The War of the Worlds - I Am Arthur Clark - complete the game without dying. Yes, complete this twitchy, annoying, glitchy game in one sitting without a single death. LOL. Expect to rage quit long before this becomes even remotely viable - you suck.

13) Child of Eden - Fireworks from Heaven - SHMUP games are notoriously hard and Kinect games are notoriously tricky to control with any subtlety, so why not COMBINE THE TWO INTO ONE UNGODLY MASHUP?! (I'm assuming whoever thought this was a good idea was drunk/high/insane). So now you have to do an almost flawless run of one of the games levels, on Hard, using the bloody Kinect to get things done. We're all praying for you.

14) Rock Band 3 - Is This Just Fantasy? - Time for a bit of singing, I mean it's only one song. Oh, but you have to have three people all singing together to get ALL the triple awesome ratings on Bohemian Rhapsody, if even one of you messes up then you have to redo the whole thing again and again. Probably sucks that the song is so long now, huh? Shh, shh, shh, don't cry - it'll be alright.

15) Gunstringer - Undead and Untouchable - Beat Play 4 Act 4 without getting hit, which would be fine if you didn't have to steer your pesky string man through a series of nefarious obstacles while shooting down a bunch of dastardly types needing split second reactions to do both. I'm starting to think the Kinect was designed purely as a way to make annoying achievements even harder and to have you tear the hair from your head in frustration. Leading to a life time of wig related expenses. Maybe Kinect was part funded by a wig company, did you ever consider that? You did now.

16) Missile Command - General - This is the last of those ancient XBLA games I will put on here, I swear. For this doozy you just have to score 50,000 points on Classic mode, which requires the usual does of practice, dedication and the patience of at least ten saints. Assuming you manage all of that then you might stand a chance. It's doubtful though, as you probably suck and this game will mock you for the rest of your days.

17) Triggerheart Exelica - Perfect Play - Oh look, it's another SHMUP that requires you to complete the entire game without dying even once. I mean bullet hell games like this are so easy that it should be a massive stroll really, you can probably do this with one hand tied behind your back, while simultaneously running from a T-Rex and also knocking out one of the other achievements on this list on a second console strapped to your leg. That's how easy this probably is. (Give it up, YOU JUST CAN'T DO THIS ONE).

18) Guitar Hero 3 - Living Legends - If you are a total don with a plastic guitar in hand, then all you need to do is find someone else as awesome as you are and get them to help you Five Star all Co-op songs on Expert. Should only take you an hour or so due to your mad skills right? Oh, one small proviso - only player one will get the achievement, so if your buddy wants the achievement too then you have to do the whole thing TWICE. What a crock of shit, right?

19) Earthworm Jim HD - Superhero! - Nostalgia is a funny thing, we all remember how kooky this game was back in the day but forget how bloody hard it was. Not to worry though as there is an achievement for that, all you have to do is get through the whole game in under 50 minutes. Think you have the stones for this? Well I think you're probably as spineless and weak as the titular character (without his suit). Feel free to prove me wrong.

20) Metal Slug 3 - All Cleared Without Continue - Well the name says it all, just breeze through a sidescrolling platform/shooter that is known for its absurd difficulty without continuing. How about the try and beat the game at ALL first, then think about the skills required to do this achievement and then go ahead and play something else that will not make you look weak and feeble. You'll thank me.

21) Trials Evolution - Wail of the Banshee - You could probably put a bunch of achievements from any of the Trials games in here, but I went with this one because I'm a bastard. All you have to do is complete one tournament, Hard as Nails, with ZERO faults using the Banshee. I mean this one is so easy I'm practically giving it away here. Alternatively you'll rack up a million faults on the first section and throw me some serious shade. One of those is accurate.

22) Moto GP 08 - Legend - Win a title on the hardest difficulty with simulation handling and manual transmission. The Moto GP games handle like dogs even on the easiest difficulty, so try upping the ante and take it on like the pros and see how well you do. I'll be over here with a stack of bandages for the approximately one BILLION times you go flying over the handlebars and fail spectacularly.

23) The Beatles: Rock Band - I Got Blisters On My Fingers! - Playing the drums in Rock Band is probably harder than learning the actual drums. Assuming you don't break your plastic gear in the first five seconds, then you need to get 100% notes hit on the Expert version of Helter Skelter. Even bloody Ringo himself isn't up for this. Don't believe me? Just ask him, he told me to fuck right off.

24) Catherine - A God is Born! - Complete the final stage of Babel which is the ludicrous, randomly generated, puzzle tower of doom that you can attempt if you are a Catherine demi-god. Feel free to play it in co-op to make this easier (ha ha) as then you ONLY need to get 160 steps to win. Will you make that many steps? I suspect there is more chance of you being crushed under the games many blocks for lacking the awesome puzzling skills needed to succeed.

25) Hexic HD - Grand Pearl Poo Bah - The game that originally came free with every Xbox 360, so you really should have completed it by now. For this paltry challenge you just need to create a six pearl flower. You need to make a ring of six matching colours to make ONE star, then you need to make a ring of SIX stars to make ONE pearl, then you need to make a ring of those pearls to be done. I mean how easy is that? Other than the random nature of the colours, the incoming bombs and all the rest. Still, this should take you half an hour tops. Get to it.

I'm going to assume that most of you will be totally up for checking off the simple challenges on this list in a couple of days of downtime, so just let me know when you're done and I'll put your name up on the Hall of Fame with all the other LIARS AND CHEATS who couldn't do any of the above.

Now go out and buy Avatar for that nice easy 1,000g and hide your head in shame.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Achievements: a gamer's crutch

It's 10am on a Saturday and my fiancé wanders into the living room, wrapped in a blanket, she still looks tired but, more than that, she is furious. I've been up since roughly 4am, maybe a touch earlier, in order to meet up with some like minded people and play Call of Duty 3. We aren't playing for fun, or even because we know each other that well, instead we are playing to rack up enough points to unlock the gnarly online achievements that so few people have attained. It's a waste of time, but also a bit of a compulsion.

My gaming career, not that it's earned me any money of course, began way back in the day with a Spectrum 128k. This was the updated and improved version of the tired Spectrum 48k and actually had a tape player BUILT INTO the system, such was the lofty state of advancement at the time. Early games included Manic Miner, Treasure Island and Firelord to name but a few.

At the time my obsession with games was only slight. My parents controlled when we could play and the games themselves didn't really lend themselves to multiple attempts, seeing as they were so small and linear to begin with. A few games certainly piqued my interest, like the collection heavy Dizzy series that relied on you finding and locating key items in order to solve puzzles. The series grew in size and scope, relative to the era, until things became pretty demanding. So much so that Spellbound Dizzy had a helpline set up in order to assist gamers in finding the last few items they may be missing.

In an era before online guides and with monthly magazines only having so much room for tips, you can imagine that I ran up a pretty big bill. Or would have. Luckily my mother had the clever idea of recording those guides and then typing them out for me while she was on her lunch at work. Bless her heart.

From there we had the obvious leap to games on the NES and SNES, with a brief sojourn into the Amiga in order to sample puzzle classics like Monkey Island. Probably the first game that I remember just HAVING to spend a lot of time with was Super Mario World. If you found and completed every single level, and some of them were devilishly hard, then you got a little star next to your game save. That was it. A star. Yet I poured hour upon hour into doing just that, finding and unlocked each level in turn until I could bask in my triumph. For a few seconds anyway.....

There was no time to enjoy it, as I had to move onto something else; Zelda: A Link to the Past, Shadowrun, Metal Marines and I especially remember getting up early before I had to go to school in order to spend even more time on Secret of Mana. I never played games and got bored, or played them for five minutes and moved on, I played them until they were done, finished, and beaten in every conceivable way. Probably the best example would be Striker, a SNES football (soccer) game that was pretty easy to beat. Only you could never save your triumphs, or the two uber tough teams you unlocked from winning the bigger cups. So I made it my goal to beat every single cup, league and tournament I could in one epic session. With Guatemala by the way - as one of the decent teams would have been too easy. I did it happily, knowing that once I powered off the console my achievement would be instantly erased.

Again though, this was relatively small fry, as games were still fairly constrained in terms of their size and scope. Plus, operating on a budget that consisted mainly of pocket money and Xmas/Birthday gifts I was bound to play games to death as I only had a few games to go at regardless. So it never caused me too much grief in terms of friends or family.

The next step up was the Playstation and games like Final Fantasy VII - my first real introduction into JRPG titles. This was a game which was chock full of hidden nooks and crannies, one that was designed from the ground up to have surprises around every turn. I beat it the first time in roughly thirty seven hours, and remember feeling disappointed as I had been led to believe that it was impossible to complete in any less than eighty. I felt let down by the game, as if the rug had been pulled out from under me. Then I spotted a guide and saw all the bits I'd missed: the Gold Chocobo, the hidden material, the ultimate summons. Time for a second attempt, and this one lasted a good 90 hours and saw me beat the last boss in one attack: such was the strength of my ultra buffed characters.

Here at last was a console with games that matched my ambitions. Titles that demanded on repeat viewings and had rewards for alternate playthroughs. Did I unlock Hunk on Resident Evil 2? You know I did, and that bloody useless Tofu as well. I then went to my friends house and did the same for him, only on the Dreamcast version. Took me a couple of hours without a guide. I remember feeling pretty proud of myself, even though I had literally just done the very same thing that I'd already accomplished myself weeks ago. It felt like an achievement. The irony isn't lost on me.

By this point I had a part time job and was going through college and then university. So by the time the PS2 and Xbox turned up I had free reign to pretty much pick up and play every game I wanted to. I'd run through games in as fast a time as I could, often failing to savour them properly, just so that I could move onto something else. I still put the time into unlocking as much content as I could, but it often meant that I'd choose quick games over lengthy ones or get bogged down on bigger games as I couldn't bring myself to skip certain tasks.

The clearest example, and the one that almost broke the cycle, was Final Fantasy X. I spent hours making sure I would be able to unlock and find every single item, ultimate weapon and ability. From hopping past 200 lightning strikes to using a key combination of abilities to turn massive damage into skill building points, nothing was beyond my remit. Only I found myself growing tired of the nitty gritty, was it all worth while? I could have spent that time moving on with the game, but instead I was grinding against specific enemies and using guides to make sure I hadn't missed anything. It felt more like a chore than a game, and it's a lesson that somehow failed to stick with me.

The overwhelming reason is probably that I was just as much into books, films and attempting to seem attractive to the opposite sex (no mean feat when you list books, films and games amongst your hobbies) as I was in games. So I had other diversions to stop the frustrations from totally putting me off my gaming style for good. In hindsight it's probably a shame that I didn't persist with just the games, grow annoyed and pack them in entirely or at least to a more moderate level, but sometimes these things work out. Or not.

By the time the Xbox 360 came out I was a convert to the Microsoft cause. I'd ridiculed the original Xbox at first but had gradually shifted my perception, mainly thanks to my friends persistence and a large number of late night Halo LAN sessions that were often raucous, ridiculous and hilarious affairs. So my new console of choice was the 360, also helped by the fact the PS3 was ludicrously expensive to begin with.

At first it seemed like I'd bought a dud. The new releases were non-existent and I barely touched the thing for the first six months I owned it. After a while I started to play a few games that other people had lent me, the first being Call of Duty 2. I figured I'd tackle the game on the hardest difficulty just to spin it out for a while and, along the way, happened to unlock all of the achievements. At the time it didn't really mean a lot. Sure it was nice to see them popping up along the way but what, if anything, did they matter?

Then of course, my gaming nature to bleed every last drop out of a game took over and achievements, naturally, were a good way to measure my progress. I'd play through games on multiple difficulties, track down hidden items and even play specific matches and modes online in order to get things done. A buddy of mine felt the same way and that was how my first achievement boosting session occurred.

It sounds a little sordid really, probably because it is, "boosting". Like we were trying to score drugs, only the fix was actually a virtual number that had no real meaning outside of our heads. We set up games on Top Spin 2 together and proceeded to take turns losing. Though we did also duke it out a few times on the game for real, this was the first example of me basically taking the shortest possible route to achievement success. Is it the legitimate way to get things done? Of course not, but it was the best way for me to get the game done and move onto something else. The real surprise was just how many people felt the same way.

Eventually of course that led me to specific sites set up to assist people in acquiring achievements, with guides and hints. Not to mention a plethora of like minded fools to team up with to make seemingly impossible tasks that much easier. In a way though it also changed the way I played games, often for the worse. I used to only pick up games that appealed to me, ones that had good word of mouth or looked like they would interest me or provide a unique experience in some way.

Once achievements kicked in, that all changed. Instead of avoiding crappy games I would go out of my way to track them down and blitz through them. Titles like Avatar: The Burning Earth (notorious for giving up the full 1,000 Gamerscore in roughly 30 seconds), Hannah Montana and My Horse and Me 2 were just the tip of the iceberg and pretty much anything and everything became fair game. I was aided (and abetted) in this endeavour by the fact I worked at Blockbuster and could rent games for free, when I moved on from that job I took out a Lovefilm subscription to maintain the same perks. It wasn't wasting money, I reasoned, if it was a monthly subscription and I didn't actually own the games. Though at the same time I would still buy brand new games and leave them sat on shelves for years as I didn't have time to play them - too busy playing crap. Games like Assassins Creed 2, all the Mass Effect titles etc went to waste while I played movie tie in after movie tie in.

Around the time I was approaching over 100,000 Gamerscore I was made redundant. My old company had over expanded and, as I was one of the newest hires, the writing was on the wall. Tragically it happened about a month after I'd just bought a new house but I'd at least shown a bit of foresight and planned ahead. I was renting two rooms to a couple of friends (who also had an Xbox 360 each - which I would mercilessly borrow to "boost" games against a non-responsive opponent) and so was covered until I got a new job.

Around this time I also met my other half. We met through a mutual friend, just chatted online to start with and then I would pop in and see her at work when I could. We shared a lot in common, with interests in reading, films plus the clincher being that she was a bit of a gamer herself. Eventually I plucked up the nerve to ask her out and, maybe out of some kind of pity, she said yes. Shortly thereafter I got a new full time job and a few months after that she moved in.

Of course, in the background there was always the gaming. I would stay up late at night to finish off crappy games or boost with other people. I stopped reading, pretty much entirely, and I'd no longer go to the cinema and watch other films. That's not to say those hobbies were exactly rivalling healthy equivalents like running, football or carrying watermelons, but at least they were something. Instead I dedicated my spare time to playing games, bad games, ANY games. Though at least I spent the majority of time with my girlfriend. Or so I thought.

Over time she began to point out that I spent more time gaming anything else, even spending time with her. I lost track of the amount of times that she fell asleep on my lap while I was trying to complete Ben 10, or track down that last item in Looney Toons. It was good natured at first, a little joke and smile. I'd inevitably laugh and be set straight for a few days, maybe a week, and then eventually I'd creep back into gaming mode when some new piece of tat with easy achievements turned up.

The jokes gave way to arguments, and the arguments gave way to promises (not kept) that I'd do better. To my shame I'd also be that engrossed in playing games in a morning that I was occasionally late for work, it was only by five or ten minutes, but as someone that gets annoyed by people being one minute late it was decidedly out of character. Not to mention stupid.

Which leads us back to where we started on that fateful Saturday morning (25th October - a week before her birthday). Call of Duty 3 was a game I'd despaired of ever finishing off, mainly due to the ludicrous need to get 40,000 points online. However, a method emerged which saw teams throw flags at each other and rack up thousands of points per game. I approached my girlfriend to ask for her permission to play, at 4am (as most of the people involved were in the U.S.) and she said that would be fine. Though asked that I stop playing by 9am and make her breakfast.

I didn't stop at 9am.

By 10am she was downstairs, practically in tears, and rightfully at her wits end with my antics. I'd once again chosen to inflate some meaningless score over being with her and felt like a class A moron. She had had enough, she packed up a few things and went to stay with her parents for the weekend. I asked when she'd be back, and her reply was "I don't know". I genuinely thought that was it. End of the road. No one deserved to get dumped more than me, and what had I achieved?

For the next couple of days I mooched around the house not doing very much. I was on my own and felt like throwing my 360 off a cliff in some kind of ceremonial act of contrition (kind of like Say Anything but with less boombox and more violence towards consoles). I didn't touch my console again and really have hazy memories about what I did with myself during that time other than having a sense of pity (entirely unjustified) and hoping things could turn around.

She called me on the Sunday night and asked me to go over and see her. I did so and we talked for a couple of hours, just about where we were at, how we felt about each other and what I could do to stop being such an ass.

Did I completely mend my ways? I'd be lying if I said I had never played a game purely for achievements since then, but I no longer let it overwhelm me. I've played plenty of games since, some of them crappy, but they mainly come through my review work. I now only purchase games that I know I'll enjoy and steer clear of games that need a lot of online play, for fear that they will drag me back down into the pit. We still occasionally argue about me spending time on the console, but it's a rare event and certainly not as ongoing as the grand "whose turn is it to wash up?" melodrama. In fact I can't remember the last time it was brought up (my lady probably can, she dates and files all grievances against her - possibly for some end game life strategy I am unaware of).

There will always be that bit of OCD about the way I approach games, and my girlfriend (now wife) understands that. Part of my wedding speech even mentioned her tolerance of all the crappy games I used to play, and the ludicrous boosting I did, it got a good laugh. Mainly from her - which was the most important thing. Though it was no laughing matter at the time, and it took us a while to get back on track.

Of course, having said all that, I still currently have 383k worth of Gamerscore and a 96% achievement completion ratio. I still try to complete every game I play 100% but it no longer bothers me if I can't. Last year was a milestone moment for me, as a bunch of friends asked me to join in a boost for the two prestige achievements on Call of Duty: World at War. 200+ hours of boosting for two zero point achievements. We had a brief practice session and, for the first time, I said to them that I was out, it wasn't for me and I'd rather spend all that time doing something else. They understood and I felt like a weight had been lifted. It seems like nothing, but there was a point when I would boost ANY game no matter how long it took. Since then my boosting has been kept to a minimum and I just play games I want to play, like in the good old days.

In fact I decided to finally go back and play all the great games I'd missed (while playing crap for points) and sell off all of the crappy games I had sat around, still untouched. In the last year alone I've played through three Assassins Creed games, Dark Souls, Portal 2, Deus Ex: Human Revolution, all the Splinter Cell games and a bunch of other stuff and it's been great. I can enjoy the story rather than skipping it to complete the game faster and revel in superb games that I should have been playing all along. I've sold off 30+ games that I'd had sat around to pimp for points and I doubt I'll miss any of them. I even bought, and played on DAY ONE, a bunch of newer stuff too which is amazingly unlike me and I could actually talk about new games with other people that had played them AT THE SAME TIME. It was a liberating experience.

The best thing in life (as opposed to what Conan might think) is that I spend time together with my wife every day, I do some cooking before she lands and she tells me about her day and who she wants to kill at work. We hang out for a few hours, watching TV, moaning about work and telling each other random "nuggets" (stupid facts we have discovered during our day) and it's great. It's the way it should be and it boggles my mind, looking back, that I put that sense of having someone, someone to share life with, behind the tick tock of a virtual number.

Achievements are a fun addition to games, and they changed how I play games forever (and not always for the better), but don't let them BECOME the game.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Boldly going where quite a few have gone before..........



It's been a while since I blogged about anything, a new hectic job will do that to you and, even with the best intentions, I find myself with less time on my hands to idly type away. Which is a great shame as I love waxing lyrical every now and then.

Still I did think it would be fun to share some of my thoughts with you about the latest Star Trek movie, a film that seems to be long on hype but short on actual substance. At least for me. I enjoyed the film, sure, but it wasn't the Earth shattering event that many had billed it to be. In many ways I actually found it lacking in comparison to JJ Abram's first Star Trek effort too which is slightly disappointing considering the benchmark he set down.

The film got off to a rollicking start, with an opening sequence that felt like it had been taken straight from the original series. A planet is in peril and the crew of the Enterprise defy that pesky Prime Directive in order to try and save it. I have no idea why ALL of the senior staff are on this particular mission - does your Chief Doctor make the best getaway man, should your Head Science Officer be dropped into a volcano, do you need a Communications Expert on board the shuttle and, above all, would the Captain be the best choice for an impromptu temple heist? I get that they are trying to reintroduce the major players but it just felt like they were forcing the issue somewhat.

Things go badly, then turn out fine in a last minute rescue that leaves a lasting impression on the impressionable natives. Kirk submits his report and Spock, to no ones surprise but Kirk's (seriously does he know what a Vulcan is?), submits the truth. Though I find it odd that Spock would be all for the Prime Directive when it was made pretty clear that the plan to freeze the volcano was his in the first place. Would that meeting not have been a better time to say, "maybe we should step back. PRIME DIRECTIVE FOLKS." Him going along with it and THEN deciding they should have upheld the directive seems like an odd change of character.

Anyway, Kirk gets stripped of his command, which was genuinely surprising, only it turns out he doesn't lose it for very long, which wasn't surprising at all. You also get another of those patronising exposition lines that ruins what is coming, as Admiral Pike says that Kirk would never sacrifice himself for the good of the ship. I HOPE THAT IS IMPORTANT LATER, you may say. Rogue agent John Harrison, aka Benedict Cumberbatch, aka the best thing in the film, has decided to lay the smack down on Starfleet and starts by blowing up the annoying as hell Noel Clarke (yay!). Oh yeah, and the research lab he worked in - which was more the point.

For some reason that leads to Starfleet pulling all their most senior people into a glass fronted room with no security and only being moderately curious about why Harrison stole a non-space worthy gunship. Enter said gunship, exit most of the Starfleet higher ups. Including Admiral Pike, which is a shame as I loved how his character turned out, but obviously it gave Kirk the required telling off/daddy issues to go get some revenge.

Oh, except for Admiral Marcus who was all grizzled and moany about the Klingons wanting a war. He lived and decides that Kirk should go and nuke part of Kronos (the Klingon home world) from orbit as that is where Harrison is hiding out. That part of the planet is uninhabited and such a bombardment from a Federation ship would in NO WAY START A WAR!!!! It was here that I died a little inside as the rest of the film become so pedestrian and obvious that it barely seemed worth the effort.

72 missiles are shuffled on board the Enterprise and Scotty refuses to sign for them and resigns. That may as well have read "we needed a major cast member somewhere else, and this was the best we could do." Honestly the scene where he quits is awful, with neither him nor Kirk bothering to have a rational discussion. Kirk could have just said, "Hey, take them on board now and we'll check out these mystery missiles when this security dude is gone." WHICH IS EXACTLY WHAT THEY DID LATER ANYWAY! So why boot Scotty off the ship? No reason. To make matters worse, Chekhov, who has had precisely zero screen time thus far is then booted down to engineering and is reduced to the role of single line dialogue for the rest of the film. At the same time the Admirals daughter, Carol Marcus, is introduced and then does nothing other than have THAT scene in her pants for the rest of the film. To say she is superfluous is an insult to the lowliest of extras. She serves no point whatsoever.

In fact, it's worth pointing out that beyond Kirk, Spock and Scotty (in the second half of the film anyway) the rest of the main characters get very short shrift here. More on that as we go.

After Bones (thank God for Bones, legend) and Spock growl at Kirk over blasting a planet, he decides to go the route of negotiation and leaves Sulu in charge (for his one major line of dialogue, seriously do we not like Sulu and Chekhov anymore? What gives?). They threaten Harrison with the missiles and he then dismantles a bunch of Klingons before deciding to hand himself in.

Again this whole scene was a mix of good and bad. The new look Klingons certainly bode well for the future, and I liked the whole look and feel of the warrior race even though they are only in the film briefly. The whole "one man army" thing with Harrison also worked well too. What didn't work was the ham fisted negotiation bit with Uhura. Again it was as if Zoe Saldana demanded more screen time and the writers had to throw in a few jarring sections just to make her feel better. The same thing happened as they went to the planet, with a lengthy blurb between her and Spock that was meant to showcase his emotional attachment to her but came off as pretty trite.

Still they roll Harrison back to the ship and he reveals he is KHAN!!! To absolutely nobodies surprise. I mean who else was he going to be? Bones starts to analyse his crazy awesome blood and Khan tells them that the missiles they have on board have some unlikely contents (other super people) and for Kirk to check out some co-ordinates.

So they crack open a missile (could have done it earlier when Scotty asked, but nooooo!) and send Scotty to check out the mystery location. Khan waxes lyrical about how Admiral Marcus wanted weapons knowledge and thawed him out to get it, before then threatening Khan with his old crew if he didn't co-operate. Khan did a runner and here we are. Turns out the ship is knackered though due to some suspicious sabotage - but at least it gives Chekhov a reason to say something for once. Poor guy.

Then Admiral Marcus himself shows up in his big, bad new starship and goes to town on the Enterprise. He beams his useless daughter away first (seriously, why was she in this film?) and is about to deliver the coup de gras. BUT WAIT.

It turns out Scotty found the new ship at those pesky co-ordinates and got on board. Yes, he got on a board a high security new vessel, that requires only a highly trained skeleton crew to staff it, without ANYONE NOTICING. I died a little more inside.

He deactivates the ship briefly, giving Kirk and new chum Khan a chance to suit up and go for a space ride over to the new ship in a bid to disable it. BUT FIRST A REALLY IMPORTANT BIT OF STORY FEATURING BONES AND A TRIBBLE.........

"Dude. why are you injecting that DEAD Tribble with Khan's super blood?"
"I dunno. Just want to see what it would do."
"Well I sure hope that becomes REALLY important later."

I hated this scene. I hated it with a passion as it made everything that followed blatantly obvious and it felt like they were just patronising the viewer. They'd mentioned Khan's blood having healing properties on a number of occasions but that clearly wasn't enough so they went for the overt 'stick it into something dead that will no doubt spring back to life at an opportune time' moment. BULLSHIT! Don't do that, it's insulting to everyone involved.


Kirk and Khan jet over to the new ship and meet up with Scotty. I actually loved this bit and briefly thought that old JJ was going to pull another genius moment and have Khan end up as a decent enough guy. The chemistry actually worked and the tone between Kirk/Khan is very similar to that between Kirk/Spock. Right on the money.

Of course then they get to the bridge and Khan betrays them for no discernible reason (other than the fact Kirk had Scotty stun him first - what a douche move). Think about it. If Khan wanted Kirk dead he could have stranded him in that asteroid field they flew through, no questions asked. He could have easily killed Kirk and Scotty when they got onto the new ship, as he pretty much singlehandedly took out the rest of the crew and would STILL have been in prime position to negotiate for the release of his people from the Enterprise. So why wait? Why tag along and then decide, at the last minute, to go back on your word. I mean I get why they had him kill Admiral Marcus, as the guy was a total asshat, but the rest makes no sense. He could have easily asked Kirk for that ship and his crew and then done a runner.

Here is where I have to question the new JJ universe, ignoring what we know about Khan from the original film etc, as the set up in this film has Khan as a dangerous but ultimately honourable guy, who is out to save his crew. That's what they set up, but then they rush back to the previously established character in a pinch because of the need for conflict.

So we then get old Spock back on the horn saying how dangerous he is and that he is utterly ruthless - as if that snippet of dialogue is capable of explaining away all of Khan's other actions (most of which were ambiguous or at least respectable) and justifying the film then turning him into a psychotic loon.

Spock beams the missiles (sans Khans crew) over to the new ship, crippling it, while Kirk, Scotty and token love interest Carol are beamed back to the Enterprise. The ship is messed up though and going down cue another roll eyes moment:

Scotty - "We can't get power because the core isn't aligned."
Kirk - "I'll align it by hand."
Scotty - "You can't go in there, it's full of radiation and you'll die just like in Wrath of Khan, only that time it was Spock."
Kirk - "Man I hope that DEAD Tribble has made a startling recovery........"

So this super advanced ship, that has a radioactive warp core, does not have any radiation suits? Really? Come on now. So the obvious happens.

Kirk goes in there, he saves the day, he dies. Spock gets pissed off, tracks down Kahn (who somehow survived his giant ship blowing up AND crashing) and beats him up. AT THIS EXACT MOMENT THAT TRIBBLE COMES BACK TO LIFE, YAAAAAY! SURPRISE. So they can steal Khan's blood and give it to Kirk ensuring he isn't dead. Huzzah!

Master criminal Kahn is put back into cryo-storage with his crew (I hope it was in the same warehouse as the Ark of the Covenant - with those top men) and everyone else lives happily ever after. Clearly Kirk made the ultimate sacrifice play so now he is cool and has LIVED UP TO EXPECTATIONS (TM).

Thank God it's over.

My main problem was how dumbed down the story was, with important points being hammered home every ten seconds that ruined any surprise you may have gotten from the movie (dat tribble). Not to mention that a lot of the characters felt completely redundant. Sulu and Chekhov were the hardest hit, and the character of Carol Marcus served no point at all other than to get a shot of a lovely lady in her pants into the trailers no doubt. Uharu was, in a way, overused - often turning up in scenes and conversations where she didn't seem relevant, while her actual job on the ship seemed irrelevant. Not to mention bringing back old Spock felt far more forced, and unnecessary, than it did in the first film where it was handled in a very organic way.

The saving grace was Bones, who made me laugh every time he turned up and chewed through his dialogue superbly - kudos to Karl Urban. Cumberbatch as Khan was also superb, and the interaction between Pine as Kirk and Quinto as Spock bodes well for any future instalments. I also enjoy Simon Pegg as Scotty too, even though his character seemed to have a few random off key moments throughout.

On the whole though this feels like a massive step back for me. The first film reinvented the franchise and gave them carte blanche to re-imagine the universe as they saw fit - but instead they just remade Wrath of Kahn, and swapped Kirk for Spock when it came to the sacrifice play. Talk about playing it safe. Kahn was always one of the best films and a remake would have been positively received regardless, but I feel they could have done so much more. Even within the remit of this story, they teased an alliance with Kahn and the thought of him out there, either with a crew of similar supermen/women or as a lone operator, would have left the door wide open.

Instead they rolled him out of stasis, made you like him, made you feel for him, then inexplicably made him go crazy for no reason at all and then rolled him back into stasis. What a let down.