For the love of the game


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What have I been up to lately?  I’ve been actively trying to finish some games.  I completed Call of Duty Advanced Warfare recently…the campaign was not bad but seemed to just end all of a sudden, and the presence of Kevin Spacey didn’t bring a lot to the party.  I haven’t really got into the multiplayer as on first few attempts it kind of annoyed, and it’s new exo-suit abilities didn’t really enhance the gameplay as was suggested.

Otherwise I have been getting back into what I’d call Xbox One’s hidden gem, namely the underrated and sublimely fun Sunset Overdrive.  This game is just pure joy and so entertaining and funny.  Helps also it’s one of the most vibrant and beautiful game world’s I’ve seen in a long time – if you have an X1 you owe it to yourself to play this game.  It’s exactly why I fell in love with videogames, and feels so refreshing in an industry obsessed with online shooters and war games.

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I also recently downloaded the indie title The Escapists, a throwback, purposely old-school looking top-down RPG where you’re an inmate in a prison and must figure a way out to escape, whilst at the same time going about every day prison life, like going to the canteen, doing the laundry, buying items off fellow inmates, doing mini-missions for people and exercising.  It’s very different and so far I’m really enjoying it.  Also on the indie-front I’ve been playing the acclaimed Limbo, a strange, creepy platform game where you’re a little boy who must navigate a wealth of traps to go who knows where in a black & white gothic nightmare.

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I really should get back to The Evil Within, but that has proved more annoyingly-hard than fun and well, I’m in more of a fun-seeking mood of late.  On a side-note I picked up the medieval fantasy action game Lords of the Fallen, but that’s proving very tough too…which I should have guessed as it’s very much modelled on famed bastard-hard franchise Demons Souls.  It’s very cool looking though (despite some surprising frame-rate issues on the PS4!), and I like the customization elements and the setting as a whole, so I may persevere.

I’ve been into videogames for a very long time and apart from my interest in movies, it’s my other big love.  Yet it’s also one I don’t dedicate myself too enough sometimes … yes I buy games and play them, but I get distracted easily, let life get in the way and sometimes end up with a pile of games I don’t end up finishing.  It’s sort of like that now, but I’ll get there … at least with most of them.

My gaming year 2014


It’s certainly been a very fun year on my gaming calendar.  I had only got my Xbox One in December 2013 so by the time 2014 rolled around it was still very new to me.  One of the first games I played during the year was Dead Rising 3, an open world zombie slaughter-fest with immediately impressive visuals mostly down to the number of zombies all after my blood, and the tongue-in-cheek storylines and comical weapons and outfits kept me coming back.  Then we got the remastered edition of Tomb Raider, arguably Lara Croft’s best adventure yet and it looked incredibly detailed on the XB1 and meant I went on to complete it a second time, having previously owned it on PS3.

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As the months rolled by, I got my hands on the much anticipated Titanfall.  Now this game may have lacked a story of any particular significance, and it’s single player was pretty dire – but the multiplayer, wow … really grabbed me, I felt for a shooter it had real depth and the inclusion of parkour, titans and some great maps kept me playing for a good while.  I’d even go as far as saying it’s the best multiplayer shooter I’ve ever played, and for me I felt I could be good at it and it was fair and easy to learn.  I haven’t played it in a while, and well, I really need to get back in there.  One other similarly hyped game was Metal Gear Solid 5: Ground Zeroes, which although visually and concept-wise impressive left me feeling it could have been much more.  It didn’t have the replay value I had hoped, was way too easy to get spotted whilst sneaking around and well, despite an interesting (short-lived) campaign that set the stage for MGS #5, I sold it after a short while owning it.

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I got Battlefield 4 with my Xbox and that certainly got a lot of time in the drive.  I must have played through the excellent single-player campaign at least twice, because I got almost to the final mission then a bug caused me to lose my progress, so I had to restart.  I thought it had a great story with really good characters and some top-flight visuals.  One of the best launch titles for the XB1.  The multiplayer also was very addictive, but as with the likes of Call of Duty, after a while it just seemed to get too popular and too difficult to be fun anymore.  Another game I had with the XB1 was Forza Motorsport 5, which I still dip into today, and is a great, serious racer with some sharp visuals and lots of fast, meaty cars.  Certainly a game I can really lose a lot of time to and has depth and a lengthy career mode that I’ll admit I still haven’t finished.  I played it recently to compare it with the PS4’s Drive Club, and not being biased whatsoever – Forza was just immediately more accessible and more ‘fun’.

During the year, off and on I had a lot of fun with the ‘Record That’ and ‘Upload’  features of the XB1, which is very easy to play around with and the inclusion of being able to edit several clips together or narrate them etc. has been endless fun.  I also like how XB1 allows you to upload said clips not only to their own Upload service but also to Youtube.  Xbox Live’s Games with Gold was also very welcome as I pay almost £40 a year for the service and have enjoyed getting my hands on freebies like Guacamalie, Limbo and Super Time Force to name but a few.  It’s a great incentive and I look forward to what Microsoft gives away in the future.

Another highlight was Watch Dogs … yes, it was downgraded following the E3 2012 reveal but damn if it didn’t have a great cyber-hacker story and some great characters.  I think the whole hacking the city game mechanic set a blue print for the future and any sequels will only build on such an interesting concept.  I think I was fairly on my own for liking Aiden Pierce – he was an anti-hero, a troubled character, flawed but believable and I thought he was a great lead for the story.  I still come back to this one as the rendition of Chicago is very well done and well, let’s be honest here, at night, with it raining and the lighting etc. – this game can look amazing.

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In recent weeks it’s also been a case of too much choice not enough time or patience to really get some games completed.  Good examples of this are The Evil Within, which I’ll admit has scared the crap out of me more than any game this year (yes, even more than Outlast) and the onset of the horror survival genre has meant I’ve purposely avoided similar titles.  Evil Within is different though as it still plays like a classic Resident Evil game, has action not just scares, and a great atmosphere.  Still not finished it though.  Another is the polar opposite Sunset Overdrive, probably one of the most unashamedly ‘fun’ games I’ve ever played, with a perfect mix of Dead Rising meets Jet Set Radio in probably the most colourful city I’ve ever visited in a video game.

Destiny remains my biggest disappointment of 2014 as far as gaming is concerned.  Initially yes, it was all wow for me … gorgeous visuals, decent shooter gameplay and the ability to upgrade your character, weapons etc. within an always online open world.  Then after a few weeks, repetition crept in.  The single-player which seemed to promise so much was over and a big let down and then I’m meant to just keep playing the same raids and missions over and over until I cap out my character’s level?  I also didn’t like how Bungie pretty much promised the earth and delivered something ultimately very bland.  It’s still on my XB1 dash board … I may pick it up again just for the sheer beauty of it, but it’s not a game a have much of an urge to rush back to.

Of course I ended the year very similarly to how I ended 2013 … by getting a new console.  I purchased the PlayStation 4 and am very glad I did, having a lot of fun with the impressive Assassin’s Creed Unity.  The machine itself seems a simpler design to much of the ambition of the XB1 and despite more power under the hood, plays it very safe, very PS3 in comparison.  2015 will be the real time it get’s to spread it’s wings, so for now XB1 is still my console of choice.

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It will be interesting to see how 2015 shapes up.  The big games I am looking forward to are the XB exclusives Quantum Break and Rise of the Tomb Raider, as well as the PS4 exclusives Uncharted 4 and The Order 1886.  I’m a bit on the fence on how the much anticipated, heavily hyped The Division turns out, it being by Ubi Soft who do have a habit of over-hyping stuff and not entirely delivering … but it was one of the best looking games on show at both E3 2013 and E3 2014 … but I’ll wait and see if the final product looks (or plays) anywhere near as good.

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So with 2015 on the horizon, this gamer / blogger is very excited to see what it delivers.

Looking within…


Well this past week or so I have been playing The Evil Within.  This is Resident Evil creator Shinji Mikami’s latest foray into the world of survival horror and marks a return to form for the genre following the poorly received Resident Evil 6 and the cut & paste Silent Hill reboots.  I am enjoying it a great deal and it really feels suitably freaky and gruesome.  Mikami is a master at videogame design and pacing and this has it in spades.

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Atmosphere is superb and the story, for what it is … is fairly vague and trippy (the game jumps from one hallucination to the next and levels don’t follow a linear path as far as narrative is concerned).  There is a hub level where you save your game but this is also weird … a hospital or mental asylum where only a single (sort of attractive) nurse keeps you company and you go back and forth from the various levels by looking into a mirror.  You can also upgrade your abilities and weapons here by sitting in a chair that locks you in securely and clamps some sort of thing on your head … very Saw.  This game borrows heavily from various sources but has influences from Saw, Japanese horrors like The Ring and The Grudge and even The Texas Chainsaw Massacre.  It’s like a greatest hits of horror – and I am loving it.

Take a look at this gameplay demo for a good idea of this game’s tone:

The game is fairly lengthy also and I am in chapter 7 so far and know there are at least 11 chapters in total along with a new-game plus mode which I’m guessing lets you replay chapters with all your upgrades intact.  The game keeps to the Resident Evil formula with you having very limited ammo, getting weak from running, you can die very easily and you need to scavenge for supplies by opening boxes or breaking crates.  There are also a few basic puzzles to keep you occupied.  The main draw here though seems to be the boss battles, something Mikami is especially good at, and so far I’ve faced such creations as a chainsaw wielding psychopath, a freaky spider-lady and a rabid mutant dog … shudder, all brilliantly staged with plenty of clever foreshadowing (you get to creep past the dog’s massive cage in one sequence as it sleeps, leading up to a very tough encounter with the angry mutt).

If you’re after a game that’s a real throwback to the heyday of survival horror but with the big-budget stylings of Hostel or Saw … this has it.  It’s not easy, will challenge you but if you enjoy this style of game you’ll love every second.

Destiny impressions


Well I have had a few days with the most hyped game this year, namely Bungie’s much anticipated open world shooter / MMORPG hybrid ‘Destiny’.  Now I won’t review the game as such, as I am still touching the surface, but my experience playing this game has been fairly positive so far.  I think the fact you are always around other players, playing their own missions and if you want you can just join in, or instead go about your own business is fairly revolutionary for a console game.  Yes it has been done before, most notably in Sega’s Phantasy Star Online, which I played briefly   Yet for the most part MMORPGs have been the stalwart of PC gaming … but with this online-focused generation, it’s becoming the norm more and more in many new games … see the forthcoming The Division.

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As a game it blends aspects of space RPG Mass Effect, as in your character customization and the hub world of The Tower … but on missions it is more like Halo, with a large influence it seems from Borderlands.  For me the general shooting is excellent.  Upgrading weapons, adding to your character, meeting other players and discovering different locations and enemies makes for a great deal of immersive fun.  I wouldn’t say it’s a game I play for the story – it’s vague at best but I am only just starting with that … I play it for the feel, the gorgeous vistas, the satisfying gunplay and the general slickness of it all.  As with Phantasy Star it feels a little repetitive, basically going on a variety of horde-style encounters, surviving until they’re all dead, or your ‘ghost’ scans something and an exit opens up.  Your ghost is an a.i. companion that generally leads the way and comments during the story-based missions, but also comes in handy for scanning the environments for interesting locations or summoning your hover-bike which is another cool aspect and a welcome mode of transport considering the often immense environments.

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Outside of the main game there is also The Crucible, a more traditional multiplayer mode not unlike Halo or Call of Duty but I haven’t played that mode yet.  Probably dip into it later.  I have the Xbox One version of the game and am very impressed with it.  It feels like one of the smoothest games I have played with a rock steady 30fps and a gorgeous 1080p full HD resolution, putting it on pretty-much equal parity with the PS4 version (yes, I’ve read up on that to confirm).  I think anyone who enjoys social-based games or even Halo or decent first person shooters, Destiny is worth a go.  It will only grown in time with Bungie’s ambitious plans for the game, and can see the initial universe expanding to a larger selection of planets … meaning more to explore and more enemies to send back to their makers … most likely at an additional cost.

The game is out on both Xbox One, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 – so what you waiting for?

Ramblings…


Well it’s a bit of a lazy Sunday so thought I’d write something on here.  This past year has had a few ups and downs … personally I’ve gone through some depression.  However I think I have overcome most of it, and looking to a future where such a thing isn’t at the forefront of my thoughts (at least not as much).  I’m concentrating on more positive things, like friends, family and my job, hobbies etc … things that make me happy.  I suppose it’s all about appreciating the good things in life, rather than focusing on what’s missing from it.

In the coming months, as far as this blog is concerned, I have some stuff to look forward to.  On the gaming front Destiny is just around the corner … preloaded it on my Xbox One last week, and well it’s been agonizing waiting for it to unlock but it will finally be available on Tuesday.  I’ll report back on this long awaited, much anticipated game next week.  Also got Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare pre-ordered, along with Sunset Overdrive.  Both look amazing.

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The Netflix challenge has hit the skids a bit, as I was feeling like it was less about movies I wanted to see, and more about doing the challenge, so not sure if I will go back to it.  An interesting ‘experiment’ none the less.    Some movie’s on the horizon include reviews of the Blu-ray release of Spirited Away, one of my favourite Studio Ghibli movies … add to that Hayao Myazaki’s swansong The Wind Rises.  I also have the 15th Anniversary of The Green Mile pre-ordered, so will finally give my opinion on this much loved prison drama. 

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Towards the end of the year, it’s possible I may own a PS4.  Can see that happening.

In other news:  I have been closely following the news on my favourite band Garbage and looking forward to what they have planned for next year.  They intend to re-release their debut album to mark it’s 20th anniversary, as well as their sixth studio album that they have been working on for the past year or so.  Also a tour has been hinted at and if they make it back to the UK I have, to name one of their best tunes, made a ‘vow’ to see them this time around.  Exciting times to be into this band who seem to really be in their element these days.

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Well enough from me for the time being.  Please remember to check back often for movie reviews and general ramblings and I’ll make sure to keep the content coming.  I appreciate all my visitors and subscribers, those that press ‘like’ or offer their comments etc.  Makes this little blog really mean a lot to me.

Craig.