Punishingly brilliant…


For the last few days, I have been playing the much anticipated Elden Ring. Developed by From Software, the team behind such cult hits as Dark Souls and Sakiro: Shadows Die Twice, they’ve once again delivered a tough-as-nails experience, this time given a huge open world to explore between your countess deaths. From Software’s style has certainly made me wary in the past, but I got to understanding the appeal of such games in the recent Demons Souls remake. That game is nails-hard, unfair and frustrating, but for some reason – still fun. The same can certainly be said here, and with the highly detailed open world to explore and a wealth of enemies to battle, there are always options, alternative routes and most importantly tons of exploration available.

A daunting world…

Unlike previous games from the developer, Elden Ring feels much more accessible, and not quite as intimidating. There is so much to see and do, it didn’t take long to pull me in. The world is equal parts eerie, magical and beautiful and even though the graphics are not that technically impressive, the art design shines through. The setting is comparable to The Witcher 3. The creature design is also top-notch and very imaginative … there’s some amazing work gone into this, especially when you discover the various bosses – and its difficult not to stand in awe – then die horribly.

The intricacy of the RPG elements should also be applauded. Granted the game doesn’t really do a great job of how it all works, but there are plenty of guides online, and I’ve enjoyed ploughing into tips and tricks to get the best weapons, level up my character the best way, get cool magic abilities and some badass weapons. I’ve sunk about twenty hours already into this and I am just so into this world, how it plays, the wealth of places to go, monsters to find and things to learn and get better at. It’s consumed much of my weekend I must admit, and I don’t regret a second of it. I’m having a ball, despite how challenging it can get. I’d say that’s testament a quality game; if you just love playing it and can’t wait to get back to it.

A must play.

Return to Night City


Recently I downloaded patch 1.5 for Cyberpunk 2077, one of the most heavily hyped and also heavily criticised games of the last few years. Patch 1.5 is the latest in a long list of updates the game has received since that disastrous launch in 2020, When the game came out it was a bit of a mess. I played on the PS5 which ran the PS4 version in backwards compatibility mode, and the experience, whilst playable suffered from frequent crashes that took you back to the PlayStation dashboard, plenty of glitches & bugs and despite a rather well written story with a memorable cast of characters, felt unfinished and not really fit for release.

Almost a year and a half later we now have the official next-gen (current gen) versions, available as free upgrades to owners of the PS4 and Xbox One versions, and comes with a suite of improvements, enhancements and quality of life upgrades. To put it short, this is the version the game should have released at launch. Immediately the game (I’ve been playing the PS5 version) is noticeably sharper, benefitting from not only a higher resolution (reportedly ‘dynamic’ 4K) but also higher-resolution textures. The game offers up two modes, ‘performance’ for a silky smooth 60fps, or ‘ray-tracing’ at 30fps. Having played about with both settings, I’ve kinda settled on ray-tracing as the world just looks better for it, and although the mode only effects shadow quality – when jumping back and forth from that mode to performance, the alternative looks a little less filmic, and comes off as a bit flat (albeit with the benefit of higher frame-rate). Whichever your preference, with improved crowd density over the PS4 version, far better A.I. for NPCs, vehicles, police, gangs – the game plays so much better. Another big bonus for me with this next-gen version is the implementation of the adaptive triggers on Sony’s Dual-Sense controller, making every weapon more punchy and adding weight snd heft to every vehicle. The controller’s speaker is also used, for such things as Keanu Reeve’s Jonny Silverhand talking to you.

Experiencing the world of Cyberpunk 2077 now has that wow factor it was always meant to have. It’s not without a few glitches still and I did get a crash to the dashboard once, but as a whole it just feels more polished and stable. The potential for this game was always huge and this version is closer than its ever got to realising that dream. Exploring the massive environment of Night City is simply awe-inspiring and even just walking around, interacting, going into buildings and just soaking up the atmosphere is a joy that’s now (mostly) uninterrupted by technical issues.

I hope CD Project Red have learnt from their mistakes and continue to support the game. It has too much going for it to just fade into obscurity snd there is clearly passion, love and real artistry gone into this, regardless of how marred it was at launch. Let’s try and focus on what it is now rather than what it was back then, because right now having sunk several hours into a new game (yes I restarted it) I feel hyped at the prospect of playing it again.

The game has a free 5 hour trial for anyone uncertain of picking it up. I’ll report back if I experience any alarming issues as I progress through the campaign … but for now this is one of the top-tier experiences you can get on PS5, Xbox Series X / S or PC.

Asian Cinema Season


Announcement

You may (or may not) have noticed that I’ve posted a few reviews lately covering Hong Kong Kung-fu movies, and considering that Hong Kong and Asian Cinema has been an on / off passion of mine, I thought I’d begin a season, with me posting reviews of any Far Eastern movie I own on Blu-ray that I haven’t previously reviewed, and plan to group them all together in their own section, located via my ‘special stuff’ page.

This will cover movies featuring Jackie Chan, Jet Li etc, as well as titles from Korea and Japan. Hope you all like this idea and I may continue it with other themes in the future.

Craig.

Xbox spends big…


Just a quick post. Microsoft just bought Activision Blizzard for around $67 billion. That means Xbox now owns Call of Duty. Just let that sink in…

Going forward once the deal closes, reportedly sometime in 2023… this will likely mean games like Crash Bandicoot, Tony Hawks Pro Skater, Spyro the Dragon, Diablo, Overwatch and Call of Duty could become day one Gamepass titles. It could also mean that COD on PlayStation could be no more. Hmm. It’ll be interesting how Sony reacts to this.

Update


So I’ve had a break for a couple of weeks. To be honest I haven’t been that in the mood to watch movies and have mostly been focusing of playing games and watch TV shows. Over Christmas I purchased Resident Evil Village which I’m loving and is proving a worthy, atmospheric follow up to RE7. I also put in quite a bit of play on Halo Infinite both single player and multiplayer and consider it a return to form for a franchise which had seemed to lose its footing since developer 343 Industries took over from Bungie. I also finally finished A Plague Tale Innocence – a challenging game with a great premise and a genuinely powerful story. Oh, and I got the platinum on Ratchet & Clank Rift Apart but getting all 47 trophies! A first for me I might add.

Resident Evil Village

As for TV, I have mostly been watching Netflix and Disney+. I am nearly at the end of Hawkeye which is great, and I’m a bit addicted to The Big Bang Theory, which passed me by during its initial run. Desperate Housewives is also a guilty pleasure I’d say, and away from these services I’ve also been trying to finish the final season of Wentworth.

Hawkeye

That’s not to say I’ve not watched any movies. Over Christmas I watched Raiders of the Lost Ark, an undisputed classic which was part of a 4K Blu-ray box set I got as a present. Image quality was very good with lots of detail and overall it was fun to revisit the movie. Maybe I’ll check out the other movies in the set at some stage. For my birthday in November I received a Blu-ray box set of the Dirty Harry movies and am slowing watching all but for the first (which I’m overly familiar with) with my Dad who’s quite a fan of Clint Eastwood. So far Magnum Force was quite good, whilst The Enforcer was a bit rubbish.

I have a number of movies I want to check out and will be posting reviews as usual. So normal service should resume soon!

Craig.