Xbox @ E3 2015


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Not long finished watching Microsoft’s E3 briefing and have come away rather impressed.  We got to see a new Gears of War being demonstrated in-game and hell, it looked bad-ass.  Only a glimpse but the next-gen graphics and a new somewhat Chris Pratt inspired protagonist certainly peaked my interest for one of my favourite franchises.  It was also good news to hear a fully remade version of the original Gears Of War would be out this year the wet our appetites for the next instalment.

rise_of_the_tomb_raider1It was also good to finally see some in-game footage of Rise of the Tomb Raider even if the footage shown was a bit heavy on cinematics and less on the actual gameplay – but the snow and weather and ice effects shown were very nice … and considering the game is out in November, I’d say what we saw was pretty much as it will be to play.

I was mildly intrigued with the announced Rare Replay Collection.  The famed studio that made a big splash in the Nintendo days hasn’t exactly wowed audiences since it got acquired by Microsoft back in the early days of Xbox (can we forgive the abomination that was Perfect Dark Zero?) but the chance to rediscover countless Rare gems such as Banjo Kazooie and Conkers Bad Fur Day was mouth-watering.  No word on if said games would be spruced up in next-gen clothing, but considering it’s a compilation, I doubt it.  Rare also revealed a new I.P. in the name of Sea of Thieves, a multi-player open world what looks like pirate sea fairing-thing.  Certainly interesting and the cell-shaded, cartoon visuals definitely appeal.  Excuse me though if I haven’t got massive faith in Rare as a developer these days.

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One of the real big announcements was that Xbox One was going to be backwards compatible with Xbox 360.  Now considering the vast library of games for the 360, that’s a big coop for the new console even if backwards compatibility has always seemed silly to me on a new console.  Can’t people movie on?  But considering Microsoft’s struggles with their console this generation compared to the PS4, I think it’s a very wise move to get the former fan base back on board.

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There was the expected Forza 6 and Halo 5 Guardians presentations (…wow!), and another glimpse of The Division with what has to be said slightly pared back graphics??  Add to this the recently announced Fallout 4 on Microsoft’s stage along with Rainbow Six Siege.  Then we also came to Holo Lens and the recently announced partnership with Oculus Rift (owned by Valve??) to get excited about, but no word on a price point for either, and surprisingly Oculus Rift had very little being said about it.

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So for day one, this was a good showing for Microsoft and Xbox One.  There was still plenty of talk of Indie games and Windows 10 which I’m cautiously optimistic about … yet overall, I was suitably excited.  No shows for the hyped exclusives Quantum Break and Crackdown, but you could say we still got more than a bumper show this year.

Over to you Sony.

The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt impressions


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Probably the most anticipated game of the year.  CD Project Red’s long awaited follow up to the award winning Witcher 2: Assassin Of Kings takes the series full open world RPG and is the most ambitious project the acclaimed studio have ever under took.

But the important thing here, beyond the hype is for a fairly take them or leave them fan of RPGs, how does it play?  I chose to pick up (or more specifically download) the Xbox One version, and after about seven hours with it, I can confidently say … this game has me hooked.  Think a cross between Red Dead Redemption, The Elder Scrolls series and to some extent Assassin’s Creed and you sort of get the idea.  You play as Geralt, a bad-ass monster hunter or Witcher; feared, respected and reviled in equal measure.  The quest kicks off with you in search of the sorceress Yennifer; a former lover of Geralt’s who he’s been tracking for years and is close to catching up with her.  Also you are on the look out for your prodigy Witcher / sorcerer Ciri, who we meet in the flashback prologue where you train her as a child.  The story holds many twists and turns however, places to visit monsters to hunt and kill for bounty, and a massive, highly detailed world to explore and get lost in.

Launch trailer

This kind of game for me can be a little daunting and I’ll admit it took a while to really get into.  The fighting controls are a little unwieldy at first until you get your head around them and learn to throw in magic and protection spells with your swordplay.  Yet with plenty of character customization, potions to brew and abilities to unlock … this becomes a very deep and engrossing experience that I’ve really only touched the surface of.

On the Xbox One it looks fantastic.  One of the most impressive aspects is the weather and the lighting, how trees blow in the wind, rain fall, mist rolls across the land and moonlight bleeds in through the trees (or eye-burning sunlight).  Also add the sheer detail to houses, villages, grass, very realistic water and the wealth of creatures and monsters … and a myriad of interesting folk and characters.  This is a joy to behold.  There are a few (minor) fluctuations in frame rate and occasional pop-in or glitches, and the game did freeze on me once after dying.  So it’s not perfect, but for the scale and number of things going on it’s still an impressive technical achievement that will only get smoother and more polished with future patches.

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Screenshot captured directly from my Xbox One

Anyone after a long, rewarding and deep game to really get involved in, then you can’t go wrong with this epic RPG.  It has it all and I’m sure will throw up many surprises and memorable situations as I progress.  It’s out now for PC, PS4 and XB1.  So what you waiting for?  Time to kick some monster ass and break some hearts.

An update and stuff


So what have I been up to lately?  Well I managed to complete Assassin’s Creed Unity on the PS4, the first AC game I have ever kept interested in until the end.  Why?  I think setting was key.  Of the previous games in the series I have played, most have been set either in medieval (AC 1 & 2) or around the time of the crusades (AC 3) and well, the pirating of AC4 never appealed so I didn’t play that one.  However this one was set in Paris, during the revolution, the time of Napoleon etc. and it was a brilliantly atmospheric setting I personally have plenty of interest in. 

Secondly I have been playing Grand Theft Auto V.  Now eagle-eyed readers of this blog may recall me posting about it a while back when I got it on the Xbox 360.  Well, for one reason or another I didn’t play it all that much of it, and since jumping to the next-generation with the PS4 and Xbox One, I thought it was high time I took a second look following it’s revamped re-release on these consoles.  I picked it up on PS4, and must say for what is technically a last-gen title, the detail (with improved textures, lighting, effects as well as an enhanced array of music on the various radio stations) it’s one of the best looking games I have played to date.  GTA V is a fantastic game following the exploits of three characters; Michael the former gangster now in witness protection, Franklin the stereotypical gang-banger hoodlum and Trevor the meth-dealing lunatic.  The missions are cinematic and the world is alive and complex and massive.  There are a ton of things to see and do and it never feels boring.  I’m loving it.  Check out a few screenshots I took with the PS4 to show off how damn gorgeous this next-gen version looks in the flesh:

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On the gaming horizon (next Tuesday to be specific) is The Witcher 3 Wild Hunt.  A heavily hyped and very well reviewed game that I have pre-ordered for my Xbox One.  From everything I have read and seen, it’s sounding like it will be a mammoth RPG adventure to rival the likes of The Elder Scrolls and Final Fantasy, with you as a bad-ass monster hunter known as Garalt, who inhabits a huge world that is one of the biggest apparently ever made and full of detail, missions, characters and true next-gen visuals.  I have watched some gameplay and read several reviews, and suffice to say I am VERY excited.  Roll on May 19th … I’ll do an early impressions some time in the week.

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In other news, I’ve sadly not managed to secure a trip to the cinema to see The Avengers: Age Of Ultron yet and can see it being a Blu-ray review later in the year.  The same might go for Mad Max Fury Road, but I’m still optimistic about getting to see that one, so watch this space (and no, going by myself doesn’t appeal all that much).  I have a few movies on the agenda however, the names of which I’ll keep to myself for now and let you be surprised when I post the reviews.  Yeah, I’m all about the tease.

On the TV watching front I have been pretty addicted to Better Call Saul, that breaking Bad spin-off starring everyone’s favourite crooked attorney Saul Goodman (or Jimmy Magill as he’s currently known).  It seems to have all the polish and great writing of Breaking Bad (well, it is by Vince Gilligan after all) and just keeps getting better and better.  I’m also watching The Following season 3 (yeah, yeah I know…we’re not getting a season 4…boo hiss) which has again been brilliant this year.  Clearly there is no accounting for taste, so another show hits the skids.  Talking of TV, I’m also looking forward to season 3 of Orange Is The New Black, a show at first I wasn’t entirely sure was me … the first series was good but a little lightweight, but with an excellent and gripping season 2, I am now officially a fan.  Damn Netflix just keeps on giving, doesn’t it?  I am also watching Brit drama Luther on it at the moment which stars popular actor Idris Elba as a tough Police detective who specialises in catching serial killers – right up my alley.

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So other than the above, and getting over some man-flu and a tickly cough that just won’t quit … it’s been all about work, which is going very well.  I am learning some new stuff to do more with secretarial tasks and finding it challenging and educational.  Love it when my job gives me those opportunities to learn new skills and I think it helps build a real profile and shape me for the future.  I’m also of course still looking forward to finally seeing my favourite band Garbage in November when they appear at Brixton Academy in London.  It’s going to be such a once in a life time experience for me, someone who doesn’t really get such opportunities.  I have my big brother to thank for making this happen and with my 40th birthday very much right after, November is looking to be a real belter.

Well, enough from me for now.  Hope you’re all having fun in whatever you’re all up to and continue to check in on me and this blog regularly for more updates, reviews and gaming impressions.

Craig.

Ori and the Blind Forest – impressions


Ori and the Blind Forest

I’ll admit, the latest blockbuster game over a smaller indie game will normally hold my attention much longer every time.  However recently that has changed, and with the release of the gorgeous old-school platformer ‘Ori and the Blind Forest’, my once feverish love of platforming games, harking back to the glory days of Sonic The Hedgehog, has been restored.

You play as a woodland spirit who after the death of his adoptive mother, he has to fend for himself in a sprawling forest in hope of returning it to it’s former glory.  I can’t say the story is the big pull here, and it’s fairly whimsical and vague at best, but the setting … this ultra-detailed woodland environment is a sheer wonder to behold.  This is certainly the best looking old-school platformer I have ever seen, utilising the graphical power of XB1 (and XB360, this is a Microsoft exclusive, so it’s also on the PC), to create a world that’s really fun to explore.  Now this is no easy children’s game, despite it’s cute looks – there are puzzles, platforming acrobatics and a wealth of abilities to upgrade that make every area fiendishly tricky.  Trick as in, it never feels like I can’t get past an area, it’s just going to take timing, memorization and a bit of skill.  That’s the addictive quality of this game and each new section presents new ways to play and explore and combat enemies.  It’s also a huge game and over 8 hours in I am still finding new places and earning new skills.

from my channel on YouTube

For £15.99 this is a must buy.  It borrows heavily from games such as Metroid and Sonic The Hedgehog and wear’s it’s clichés proudly – it doesn’t do a lot new, but gimmicks in my opinion have ruined many a decent looking platformer in the past, and this just does what it does very well indeed.

Essential.

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.