Monthly Archives: January 2012

“Get me drunk so I can tolerate these bellends!”: Thoughts on Itchy Feet and music as fashion.

As you may well already know, on evenings you can often find me at local venue The Duchess, where I serve as bartender/box office attendant/manager of sorts/general bitch. I was serving one visibly troubled customer last night, and didn’t have his beverage of choice (one of the night’s recurring themes as it happens, but hey, this post isn’t about stock control failure). Exasperated but clearly just in need of a drink (any drink), he gives me a handful of coins and utters the following immortal line – “Get me drunk so I can tolerate these bellends!”

The ‘bellends’ in question were attending Itchy Feet, a retro-leaning clubnight that’s immensely popular with students – so much so that it’s generally only worth running during term time, when it’s an almost guaranteed sell-out. The night taps into the resurgence in popularity of all things vintage/retro, and according to its marketing blurb, it offers a “unique mix of Swing, Soul, Funk, Rhythm & Blues, Rock ‘n Roll and Ska… the best retro tunes with a contemporary twist… something new out of something old.” (Hmm… new age fun with a vintage feel, anyone?)

Here’s the thing though – we used to do a not-too-dissimilar night called Satisfaction every Saturday, but did the Itchy Feet crowd turn up for it? I think the fact I’m talking about the night in the past tense probably tells you the answer to that. So where does Itchy Feet succeed where Satisfaction didn’t? Well, for one, it’s a monthly/bi-monthly event – trying to make any sort of niche clubnight work on a weekly basis is tough going, particularly in a place like York. But I think that the most important thing is the perception of Itchy Feet as a ‘cool’, ‘alternative’ event amongst a significant subset of students – an event to ‘be seen at’, if you will.

Crucially, however, I don’t think it’s particularly about the music, despite any good intentions the creators of these events may (or may not) have had. The majority of the crowd seem to see it as an excuse to dress up and dance – albeit one with a thin veneer of self-satisfied superiority for them to bolster their own ‘alternative’ credentials with. The people behind Itchy Feet may be dismissive of those modern clubs playing ‘Sexi club classix’ all night, but their creation isn’t as far removed from them as they’d would like to think.

I won’t claim to be any expert on fashion, but think of any musical movement of the past few decades and your mind will no-doubt also fix upon the fashion choices that those bands and their fans made. Mohawked punks, neon-garbed ravers, sharp-suited mods, dyed-black emos, whatever. To me, however, nights like Itchy Feet represent something different – the re-appropriation of music as fashion. This stems back to the impression I got that the music itself is a secondary concern to most of the crowd, whose thought process appears to be as follows: I am here > this implies I like this music > this makes me look cool > isn’t this a nice dress/suit I’m wearing? > more G&Ts please. Knowing the words isn’t necessary (as several muted singalongs demonstrated), and neither is any particularly strong investment in the music. A loosely recognised melody and a catchy beat seem to be all that’s required – and whether that come in the form of a genuinely classic record or a cod-reggae version of a modern song is neither here nor there.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I actually don’t mind (or even enjoy) a lot of the music that’s played on these nights – my concern is that a large proportion of the crowd don’t like it as much as they’d like you to think they do. And this is the nightmarishly pretentious world that our previously-quoted protagonist saw, like the child who realised the emperor’s new clothes were nothing but a sham – except in this case the child in question turned to alcohol to blot the unpleasant image of the emperor’s naked body from his mind.

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Blood Red Shoes Return: New Single, Album, UK Tour Announced

Blood Red Shoes - In Time To Voices

Blood Red Shoes are surely one of the UK’s best two-piece rock bands, having already delivered two fantastic albums as well as building up a reputation as a ferocious live act. 2012 sees them return in full force with a trio of announcements – so let’s cover them in the order that they’re going to happen. Firstly, the band’s new single ‘Cold’ will be released on the 19th March – have a listen to the track on Youtube below.

The first thing you’ll notice about the song are those absolutely colossal drums, demonstrating an intent to somehow outdo themselves in terms of sheer sonic impact – add into the mix the usual razor-sharp guitar riffs and impassioned dual vocal lines, and it’s clear that this is a prime Blood Red Shoes cut. ‘Cold’ will be the first single from the duo’s third album, which is entitled In Time To Voices and will be released a week later on the 26th March. You’ll be able to pre-order the 11-track album from all the usual suspects, but it’s worth noting that Play.com have some signed copies up for grabs, and Recordstore are doing an exclusive t-shirt bundle.

And last, but certainly not least, the band will be back on the road at the end of April, embarking on a 14-date UK tour. The full list of dates is as follows:

April:
27th: Brighton, Concorde 2
28th: Portsmouth, Wedgewood Rooms
29th: Oxford, O2 Academy

May:
1st: Bristol, Trinity
2nd: Norwich, Waterfront
3rd: London, Heaven
4th: Birminghan, HMV Library
5th: Manchester, Academy 2
7th: Liverpool, Zanzibar
8th: Newcastle, Cluny
9th: Aberdeen, Tunnels
10th: Glasgow, King Tuts
12th: Leeds, Cockpit
13th: Nottingham, Rescue Rooms

Those outside the UK, fear not – more shows in Europe (and possibly beyond) are due to be announced shortly. For now, there’s that new single to stick on repeat and the prospect of a new album to look forward to – personally, I can’t wait.

For more information on Blood Red Shoes, check out their website.

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A Tale Worth Hearing – Late Night Fiction Release New Single

Late Night Fiction - Exits, Pursued By A Bear

I have to admit that I’m not a huge post-hardcore fan, but I was pointed in the direction of Hull four-piece Late Night Fiction and I did enjoy their more melodic take on the genre. They’ve got a new single coming out at the end of the month (30th January, to be precise), entertainingly titled ‘Exits, Pursued By A Bear’ – watch the video for the track below.

The excessive screaming that often seems to pervade post-hardcore tracks is thankfully restrained here – used in short, sharp bursts for emphasis rather than as a default vocal style. And really, that makes a lot of sense – if you’re screaming all the time, then what do you do when you really want to make a point? The melodic vocals are complimented by instrumentation is as dynamic and varied as you might hope for – the track rides on a bed of relentless, intricate drumming, with intense bursts of guitar are interspersed with math-rock riffs and moments of serene, post-rock calm.

Overall, ‘Exits, Pursued By A Bear’ marks a fine way for the band to kick off 2012, and it’ll be interesting to see what else they come up with this year. For more from Late Night Fiction, have a listen to previous single ‘Dialectics’ here, or check out their Facebook and Bandcamp pages.

‘Exits, Pursued By A Bear’ is available on Grey Man Records on the 30th January.

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Let’s Get Cynical About: The ‘BBC Sound Of 2012’ Longlist

Apologies for the belated, truncated version of my usual take on this, but I found the BBC Sound Of 2012 poll particularly uninspiring in comparison to previous years. So, instead of my usual artist-by-artist breakdown, I’m going to lump artists together into nebulously defined genre categories. Oh, and for anyone who’s still confused about the lack of Lana Del Ray and Emile Sandé, they weren’t eligible due to already having had a UK Top 20 hit – you’re welcome. Positions in the final top 5, where relevant, are in brackets.

R&B/Rap/Hip-hop

I’m no expert on any of these genres (hence the fact I’ve crassly lumped them all together), but I think it’s fair to say that, overall, this general style of music has had the strongest showing in this year’s list. While it is quite amusing that a critical darling such as Frank Ocean (#2) is still eligible for the list, there’s little denying he deserves the nod – after all, anyone who can turn the phrase “I CAN’T FEEL MY FACE!” into a memorable R&B lyric deserves props. Elsewhere, bratty Azealia Banks (#3) is sure to turn heads with her amusingly crass style, and A$AP Rocky sounds like someone smushed together Snoop Dogg and Kanye West. In the absence of the ineligible Maverick Sabre, Dot Rotten is the UK’s sole representative here – listening to ‘Keep It On A Low’, I’m not sure if he wants to be Professor Green or an auto-tuned R&B star.

Dubstep

So long, James Blake – this year’s list is all about ‘brostep’, and in the world of deafening you with the most abrasive, hideous noises possibleSkrillex (#4) has proven himself king. As such, he tends to polarise opinion – either you think he’s the best thing since sliced wobble-bass, or you’ve probably already written a post on your favourite dubstep forum about how he and his ilk are a rancid stain on the genre. Now I’m no dubstep expert, but I tend to prefer the more subtle side of things myself. Also on the longlist is Flux Pavilion, who is possibly the UK’s answer to Skrillex. Although that does beg the question as to whether we really need an answer to Skrillex…

Singer-Songwriter/Radio Friendly*

His nomination for this year’s Critic’s Choice award at the Brits may have been a giveaway to his eventual victory in this year’s ‘Sound Of…’ poll, but Micheal Kiwanuka (#1) doesn’t feel in any way like an undeserving winner. He’s got a great voice, and there’s a timeless feel about a song like ‘Tell Me A Tale’ that makes it feel like it’s been transported directly from another era. I initially though Lianne La Havas was “this year’s Amy Winehouse” – but she’s more of a Corrine Bailey Rae I guess, so sorry about that Lianne. It’s Ren Harvieu who wins that dubious accolade, with both her soulful tones and the oh-so-tasteful backing are clearly aiming for a 60s vibe. The end result screams ‘Radio 2 playlist’ loud and clear – in that sense, at least, Harvieu feels like an almost guaranteed success. And finally, Jamie N Commons makes the shortlist thanks to being able to do a pretty good impression of Nick Cave – there’s a nagging feeling that his retro schtick is a little contrived, but it sounds authentic enough.

*I’m aware that neither of these are actually genres, but it’s a convenient way to group all these artists together. Call me lazy, I don’t mind.

Indie/Folk

Those looking for some respite from the constant proclamations of the death of guitar music weren’t going to find much to cheer them up in on this year’s shortlist. Apparently the best we can do is limp-wristed Mumford-a-likes Dry The River and the snooze-worthy indie-pop of Spector. Which makes Brookyn’s Friends the de facto saviours of indie, I guess? Well, no – while I enjoyed the funky, lo-fi sass of ‘I’m His Girl’, there are other names outside the shortlist that I’d point you to first – 2:54, FOE and Islet all spring to mind.

Pop

I was almost tempted to lump Niki & The Dove (#5) in with the ‘indie’ category, but they’re really more of an electro-pop band. Regardless of what genre they actually are, they’re the most interesting act on the longlist by far, sounding like a meeting of minds between Fever Ray and Robyn. The only other pop act on the list are Stooshe, an obviously contrived, overtly filthy trio who somehow don’t sound quite as awful on record as they do on paper – although granted, that’s still not much of an accomplishment.

Find out more about all of the artists on the BBC’s Sound Of 2012 page.

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Let’s Get Cynical About: The Brit Awards 2012

Looking back on 2011’s Brits nominations lists, my rampant cynicism and uneducated guesses proved to be largely incorrect – a welcome change from 2010, when I adopted the same policy and correctly predicted two thirds of the winners. Time for a little humble pie perhaps? A re-assessment of my opinion of the awards?

…nah, cynicism and uneducated guesses it is!

British Male Solo Artist

Ed Sheeran
James Blake
James Morrison
Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds
Professor Green

James Blake = token ‘cool’ choice, James Morrison = token ‘oh he still exists?’ choice, Noel Gallagher = token ‘legendary’ choice, Professor Green = token ‘urban’ choice. Which leaves us with Ed Sheeran, our probable winner. Sigh.

British Female Solo Artist
Adele
Florence and the Machine
Jessie J
Kate Bush
Laura Marling

In its end of year pop roundup, Drowned In Sound awarded Adele with ‘The Adele award for being Adele’ – and to be honest, I think that would be an accurate way to re-name this year’s British Female Solo Artist award. There is the slimmest of chances that the award could go to Jessie ‘MANDEM MANDEM!’ J, but I’m almost certain that Adele’s ridiculous level of sales and global recognition make her a shoe-in here.

British Breakthrough Act
Anna Calvi
Ed Sheeran
Emeli Sandé
Jessie J
The Vaccines

This category is once again open to the vagaries of the general public, almost guaranteeing that none of the following will win: Anna Calvi (too credible/not a big enough following), The Vaccines (they’re a guitar band and guitar bands aren’t ‘popular’ any more), or Emeli Sandé (hasn’t yet had enough time to establish herself). This probably means it’s a straight fight between Jessie J and Ed Sheeran, so I’ll hazard a guess that Jessie J will take it.

British Group
Arctic Monkeys
Chase & Status
Coldplay
Elbow
Kasabian

Apparently nothing is sacred at the Brits any more, so for the first time (I think, correct me if I’m wrong), the British Group category has been thrown open to the public as well. In terms of sheer popularity, Coldplay strike me as front-runners here – but Arctic Monkeys (my vote, for what it’s worth) and Kasabian could be contenders if they can harness their own not-insignificant fanbases. I’m going to stick with Coldplay as my prediction though, and take any other result as a surprise (a somewhat unpleasant one if Chase & Status win).

British Single
Adele – ‘Someone Like You’
Ed Sheeran – ‘The A Team’
Example – ‘Changed the Way You Kiss Me’
Jessie J featuring B.o.B – ‘Price Tag’
JLS featuring Dev – ‘She Makes Me Wanna’
Military Wives/Gareth Malone – ‘Wherever You Are’
Olly Murs featuring Rizzle Kicks – ‘Heart Skips a Beat’
One Direction – ‘What Makes You Beautiful’
Pixie Lott – ‘All About Tonight’
The Wanted – ‘Glad You Came’

While there are still three X-Factor related artists in this list, it’s worth noting that Little Mix aren’t one of them – but the Military Wives choir that usurped their Christmas number one throne does make an appearance. This category is always a bit of a crapshoot, with many groups of hysterical fangirls block-voting to outdo each other – God knows who the eventual winner will be, but given that Adele is also in this category, let’s go for her.

Mastercard British Album of the Year
Adele – 21
Coldplay – Mylo Xyloto
Ed Sheeran – +
Florence and The Machine – Ceremonials
PJ Harvey – Let England Shake

Much like last year, the Brits ‘Album of the Year’ shortlist does its fair share of Mercury Prize aping – but at least the two albums they’ve taken from that shortlist were actually released in the right year (2011) this time round, so congratulations on that, Brits judges. To be honest, the other three records on this list are just blandly pleasant/mildly offensive window-dressing (delete as appropriate) – it’s all about Adele vs. PJ Harvey. Will its seemingly universal critical acclaim and Mercury Prize-winning status allow Let England Shake to triumph over the gargantuan sales and not-quite-so-universal critical acclaim of 21? My gut instinct says that the answer is no – but come on Mastercard, you’ve got appearances to keep up. You don’t want Barclaycard to look better than you, do you? DO YOU?

P.S. I’m well aware that you can have a Barclaycard that is also a Mastercard, shush.

International Male Solo Artist
Aloe Blacc
Bon Iver
Bruno Mars
David Guetta
Ryan Adams

If the results of last year’s Brits taught me anything, it’s that the judges aren’t entirely against backing a credible/critically acclaimed artist (hello, Arcade Fire and Laura Marling!). Of all the artists in the International categories, Bon Iver strikes me as the most likely recipient of this particular brand of generosity (particularly with his multiple Grammy nods this year). Consider this my small display of faith in the judges – that and an admission that I don’t actually have a clue who’s going to win this one.

International Female Solo Artist
Beyoncé
Björk
Feist
Lady Gaga
Rihanna

Right, back to your regularly scheduled cynicism. Let’s see… Björk and Feist are too alternative/cool to win, and Rihanna won last year. That leaves Beyoncé and Lady Gaga, which is tough to call – but I reckon that Gaga has probably made more of an impact this year despite Beyoncé’s Glastonbury headline slot.

International Group
Fleet Foxes
Foo Fighters
Jay-Z & Kanye West
Lady Antebellum
Maroon 5

Lady Antebellum’s nomination seems like an incredibly belated nod to their success at 2010’s Grammy awards, so they probably won’t win. I have this nagging feeling that Maroon 5 are going to take this one – it’s probably them or Jay-Z & Kanye West, who count as a group now thanks to Watch The Throne, I guess.

International Breakthrough Act
Aloe Blacc
Bon Iver
Foster The People
Lana Del Rey
Nicki Minaj

The judges giveth, and the judges taketh away – this category is no longer public-voted as it has been in the past two years, although there’s no-one in this shortlist who would be anywhere near as hideous a winner as Justin Beiber was in 2011. Anyway, this looks like a straight fight between the chin-stroking critical acclaim of Bon Iver and the NEXT HYPE! of Lana Del Rey. There’s always the chance that Aloe Blacc could sneak in with a ‘hey, I had one really popular single!’ win (a la Cee-Lo Green last year). My hunch, however, is that Lana Del Ray will take it.

To find out more about the awards and to vote in the relevant categories, visit the Brits website.

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Local Artist Of The Whenever #15: The Buccaneers

The Buccaneers

Having been amongst York’s finest proponents of bluesy garage-rock since 2006, The Buccaneers celebrated a pair of firsts last weekend with a packed out show at York’s City Screen Basement (I would have loved to have been there, but alas, duty called). The trio is made up of Andre de Gaye (guitar/vocals), Johnny Gatenby (Drums/Vocals) and Leo Wild (Bass), and the night saw the premiere of their first ever music video, for their new single ‘Don’t Breakdown’ – the clip was directed by Matt Lee, and you can watch it below.

The track’s laid back swing rhythms and lashings of Hammond organ give it an instant 70s feel, while B-side ‘Shake It Or Leave It’ packs a Rolling Stones-esque vibe, with fuzzed up guitars and a vocal reminiscent of Kings Of Leon (before they went a bit shit). And in keeping with the retro feel, you can get the two-track single as a 7″, another first for the band – so if you prefer your tracks on vinyl, head over to The Buccaneers’ bandcamp page and pick up a copy.

The Buccaneers have been a consistently impressive presence on York’s music scene over the past few years, steadily building up support along the way. With the year having only just begun, we can surely expect more to come from the band in 2012 – keep your ears open and your eyes peeled.

Find The Buccaneers on Facebook here.

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The Let’s Get Cynical Video Game Awards 2011

Sure, these are somewhat belated, but at least that’s given me the chance to play a couple more of 2011’s big releases. Read on for some arbitrary discussion of games I played in 2011 – I must warn you that it may not be entirely spoiler-free.

Best Attempt To Revitalise A Genre: Bulletstorm

I’ve never been particularly big on military style shooters, so Bulletstorm was appealing to me on a couple of levels. Firstly, it tossed all pretence of realism out of the window; and secondly, it featured an arsenal of weapons more varied and interesting than the bog standard ‘an assault rifle/a slightly different assault rifle/an SMG/etc etc’. But the game’s real innovation was the skillshot system – rewarding players with points for executing skilful kills, which they can then use to buy more guns and ammo to repeat the cycle with. This changes the nature of the game from a simple struggle for survival into an arcade-style playground, where the goal is to reap the biggest points reward from any given encounter – and to keep things fresh, the game encourages you to experiment with new weapons by offering a sizeable bonus for discovering a new skillshot. You’ll have more fun if you choose to experiment more often, although admittedly by the end of the game it’s easy to fall into using the same few weapons and combos, particularly on harder difficulties where dispatching enemies quickly becomes more important. Bulletstorm probably raised more eyebrows for its crass exterior than its interesting gameplay, which is a shame – there’s a lot of potential here, and anyone who’s becoming a little weary of the current shooter landscape should probably stop and check it out.

Go big or go home.

Most Underwhelming Conclusion: Gears Of War 3

SPOILER ALERT! I’ve had fun with Gears Of War 3 in both single and multiplayer mode, but considering this is the big finale for the trilogy, I felt it left a lot of questions unanswered. What’s even more frustrating is that Epic dangle these unanswered questions in front of your face – particularly in the final chapter, where there are several exchanges that involve Adam Fenix trying to explain things to his son, Marcus (the game’s protagonist). Marcus, of course, cuts his father short, telling him that they can talk about it later. Without wanting to entirely spoil what happens at the end of the game, let’s just say that they don’t. Of course, I guess this has kinda been done deliberately to keep the possibility of a prequel open – but it still feels kinda lame. It’s not the only problem I had with the game’s story either – too much of the mid-section feels like nothing has actually been achieved by the protagonists, and even the big ‘noble sacrifice’ moment feels a bit pointless and somehow avoidable. I suppose that serves me right for actually giving half a damn about the story in a series like Gears Of War though…

This might be the last we'll see of Marcus, but I think the franchise will return...

Funniest Game: Portal 2

While Portal 2 should be praised for taking a cerebral approach in a first-person game rather than simply requiring you to shoot a bunch of guys, it also deserves praise for being genuinely hilarious. Stephen Merchant’s performance as the blundering robot Wheatley is a perfect counterpart to the return of the maniacal, homicidal GLaDOS, and they’re not the only entertaining characters you’ll come across along the way. The puzzles can occasionally be baffling but generally feel rewarding once you figure out the necessary twist – there were only a couple of moments which basically amounted to “find the only (concealed) surface where you can place a portal” that frustrated me enough to resort to a guide (thanks, internet). Portal 2 may be a more compact experience than sprawling open world games or the limitless battles of an online shooter, but it’s one that’s absolutely worth playing – even more so if you’ve got a friend to share the fun with, thanks to the new co-op mode.

This is Wheatley. He'll crack you up.

Most Overwhelming Game: The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim

The overall philosophy of The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim seems to be to let the player do as they please. Sure, there’s a main quest which has something to do with dragons and the end of the world or some such – I can’t tell you much more about it because I keep getting distracted by an ever-increasing number of side quests and other miscellaneous crap. The huge number of places to visit and people to talk to mean that you’ll rarely go for long without being offered a new objective – even the sheer size of the world itself is overwhelming, often prompting a reaction of “I have to go all the way over THERE?” upon being given a new quest. However, what at first seems like a chore can turn into an adventure in itself – stumbling across undiscovered places, fighting off bandits and the local wildlife, and inevitably getting attacked by a dragon just when you thought you’d got to your destination in one piece. Thankfully Skyrim’s fast travel system means you won’t have to spend all your time on cross-country trekking, which is just as well really – the game’s near-bottomless amount of content is going to keep me busy enough…

Oh no, not another bloody dragon.

The ‘Best Dust Off The Wii Again’ Award – The Legend Of Zelda: Skyward Sword

Sadly, the an old adage is once again ringing true – the best games on a Nintendo console are usually the first party ones, and this year’s biggest reason to wipe the dust of your increasingly neglected Wii was The Legend Of Zelda: Skyward Sword. Still, it seems like there’s no better way for a console to bow out than with a new Zelda game that’s just in time for the 25th anniversary of the series, and it’s probably one of the best we’ve seen. By crossing the stylised visuals of The Wind Waker with the more mature take we saw in Twilight Princess, Nintendo have nailed a colourful and expressive aesthetic that really brings the world to life. The game also fully realises the dream of motion-controlled swordplay that was only hinted at in Twilight Princess, thanks to Wii MotionPlus allowing your movements to match those of Link. Despite feeling more confined than previous Zelda games, it’s no less engaging – the relationship between Link and Zelda in the early part of the game is completely endearing, and you’ll always want to press on and discover what new challenges lie ahead. Oh, and it’s the first fully orchestrated game in the series, right down to the classic ‘item get’ and ‘puzzle solved’ jingles. At the end of the day, it’s a new Zelda game – if you hate the series, move along, but for everyone else, a fantastic adventure awaits you.

You'll actually have to think about where you're swinging your sword now.

Best (Indie) Game: Bastion

To be honest, it almost feels unnecessary to talk about Bastion as an ‘indie game’. Sure, it may be the work of a small studio (Supergiant Games), but it absolutely doesn’t feel like it – as an all-round package, this game stands toe-to-toe with the biggest-budget releases of the year. A wonderful, hand-painted aesthetic, a gorgeous acoustic soundtrack, and a surprisingly deep and varied selection of weapons make this game both a joy to behold and a lot of fun to play. But the icing on the game’s aesthetic cake is its narrative device – a husky-voiced narrator follows along with the action in real time, telling the game’s story as it happens. By rights, it should get old, but somehow it works perfectly as a compelling hook to keep you engaged. Bastion is one of those games that has ‘must-play’ oozing from every facet of its being – so just go do it.

Bastion - Not just a pretty face.

The ‘I Don’t Really Know What Award To Give This Game’ Award: Assassin’s Creed: Revelations

Now, I’m a big fan of the Assassin’s Creed series, so I’m not exactly going to complain too much about getting more stealthy-climby-stabby goodness on a yearly basis. I enjoyed my time with the single player story of Assassin’s Creed: Revelations, but looking back, the promised additions ended up being kinda variable in their actual impact. The bomb-crafting was played up as a big thing, and while there are various combinations for you to try out, I mostly just ended up experimenting with them before going back to using the three bombs I found most useful. Similarly, the much-touted new hookblade offered a couple of handy new moves, but mostly amounted to an automatic ‘climb faster’ button (not an unwelcome addition, I’ll admit). I didn’t mind the new Den Defence mini-game – a tower defence style affair where you place assassins and fortifications to stop waves of attacking templars – but thinking about it now, it seems kinda stupid. Why are they sending all their guys down this one narrow street? Surely they could attack from multiple angles? Sure, like many other things in the Assassin’s Creed universe, it’s a gameplay contrivance – but in this case, it feels both kinda dumb from a logical perspective, and a missed opportunity from a game design perspective. On the plus side, it feels like Ubisoft have finally nailed the ‘Assassin’s Tomb’ style sections that I found a bit iffy in the previous two games – one sequence I found genuinely thrilling has you chasing a group of templars down an underground river as they try desperately to pick you off. Overall, the single player mode may provide you with some story-based ‘Revelations’, but don’t expect a true revolution when it comes to the gameplay itself.

Another epic adventure awaits Ezio.

The multiplayer is also back, and apart from the fact that the detection meter now goes in reverse (meaning you need to stalk your target for a while to get the highest scoring kills), it’s mostly a case of fixing what wasn’t broken. Which is fine really – while it’s not as revolutionary as when it first appeared last year in Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood, there are still very few multiplayer experiences like it. There are some new abilities and gametypes to keep things interesting, the seemingly obligatory inclusion of a Call Of Duty style system for unlockables and ‘prestige’ levels, and even a bit of background on Abstergo and the Templars thrown in to keep things interesting. It’s still probably my favourite multiplayer game, and I’m still going to play the hell out of it. Despite all my little gripes with it, Assassin’s Creed: Revelations is still one of the games I’ve enjoyed the most this year – but it doesn’t feel like it’s done quite enough to warrant any praise as great as ‘game of the year’. So these rambling paragraphs will have to do, I guess.

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