PlayStation 5 – early impressions


Well as promised my brand spanking new next-generation games console arrived today, November 19th the U.K./European launch day. On unpacking it I was aware from the various unboxing vids I’d seen on YouTube, but was still taken back by the console’s immense size and unique shape. It’s an impressive looking device!

Set up was easy; attach the cables, fit the stand (again, unboxing vids came in handy) and switch the machine on. I went though the usual on screen prompts to log in, connect to WiFi etc, and quickly began I stalling Demon’s Souls. I thought I’d check out the much talked about Astro’s Playroom whilst I wait, However it required an update, which took a while (I don’t have the fastest Internet) so it was a bit of a wait until I got to play my first PS5 game.

The only downside I’ve experienced thus far is how slow the machine copies data from the disk (definitely slower than PS4) and then the loooooong wait for an update to download. I think much of my time was even taken up purely waiting. Sigh.

Back to Astro’s Playroom and yes, that haptic feedback (combined with the built in speaker) is no joke in the new Dual-Sense controller. I love it and it certainly adds a lot to the experience. This game is largely a showcase for the capabilities of the controller but is also a fun platformer that compares favourably to Mario’s 3D outings. It’s polished, very colourful and full of personality. I must say I’m not that into games that are purely a showcase for tech, I prefer something a bit more grounded … but I’ll certainly be coming back to this.

Demon’s Souls was up next: I’ve always avoided the Dark Souls series, and many of my trepidation’s were confirmed. This is pretty tough and at times frustrating with an unforgiving restart system. However as a graphical showcase this was lush. So far I’ve only played it in its 60fps ‘performance’ mode but it felt extremely responsive and fluid. I will check out the 30fps 4K mode also, when I feel up to tackling the game again.

Finally I gave Spider-Man: Miles Morales a go. I played it for about an hour and was instantly hooked. So far this is easily my favourite. It looks stunning, the ultra-realistic reflections, courtesy of the much hyped ‘ray-tracing’ technology is stunning, and well… it’s just fun!

Miles Morales had an issue installing an update at first, but downloading it a second time there wasn’t a problem. I haven’t really explored much else what the machine can do, and haven’t touched backwards compatibility with PS4 games. I also have Watchdogs Kegion so will check that out another time.

For now though this has been good. I’m certainly impressed by the swiftness of the loading, but not so much with the installing or updating. The graphics are very good, but better than say Red Dead Redemption 2 on Xbox One X? I’m not sure. There a slickness to everything here though and it does feel ‘next-gen’. so for now I’d say that’s good enough. I’m looking forward to diving in deeper with this console so may provide updated impressions soon.

Craig.

What I’ve been watching


I thought I’d start doing a series of posts on here that cover my viewing habits outside of reviewing. I’ll offer brief thoughts and cover a number of titles, which at least doesn’t leave some movies without an opinion or two. So let’s get started…

This weekend I watched two movies that I have in my collection, starting off with believe it or not, a Buster Keaton movie. I have been inspired of late by various YouTube channels (shout out to Luke at Razorwire Reviews) that cover movie collecting, and some have covered the silent era. I’ve not watched any of Keaton’s movies before and recently purchased a 3 movie set. So I started off with 1928’s ‘Steamboat Bill Jr’ one of his most famed that I enjoyed quite a bit (and loved the last ten minutes). It was quite different and fun to experience a silent movie, with a very entertaining piano / orchestral accompaniment which I’m guessing was newly produced for the restoration. Keaton is certainly very likeable and the stunt work in this one is impressive. I can say this certainly made me thirsty for more.

Steamboat Bill Jr

I’m not sure what it is, but I’ve been attempting to revisit my past love of Hong Kong cinema but can’t say they are having the effect on me they once did. I suppose I’ve changed a bit. It may also mean I won’t rush to get the Blu-ray releases that are coming out lately … but those I have purchased, I do intend to watch. One such title is ‘Mr Vampire’ from 1985, a fantasy comedy-horror set in a small town that seems quite used to the presence of vampires and ghosts. The comedy is amusing but very silly and isn’t as enjoyable as the various vampire encounters where the main action takes place. Director Ricky Lau certainly knows how to film action and the stars here are very skilled in Kung-fu and acrobatics. Effects work, make-up etc is dodgy and the story is weak, but overall I still enjoyed this.

Mr Vampire

I also finished season three of Ozark on Netflix. A solid season with a powerful ending. Ozark has easily become one of my favourite shows of late. I also finally began watching the third season of The Handmaid’s Take – a great opening episode, as intense and brilliantly acted as ever. Can’t wait to continue with this.

Well that’s me for now. Expect more reviews as well as similar blog posts to the above, soon…

Craig.

The Xbox situation


I’ve been an Xbox fan since the OG Xbox back in the day, and supported them to this day. I love my Xbox One X but it’s certainly been a shame to watch its nearest rival PlayStation and also the Nintendo Switch soar away from it in sales figures and all-round positive buzz. The Xbox One got off to a poor start, touted as an all-round media device rather than a games console that was both weaker than PS4 and more expensive with its at the time mandatory Kinect add-on. Despite best efforts from the team ever since, with the inception of Gamepass etc,, they still failed to turn things around … not helped by a shortage of major exclusive games that could compete with what PS4 has been offering. Although franchises like Forza, Gears of War have still been well received.

Going into the new gen, it’s become clear that Microsoft and Xbox head Phil Spencer’s philosophy is very different to PlayStation. Sony are riding high on massive sales and extremely positive feedback, so are happy to go full-on into PS5 and kiss PS4 goodbye – safe in the knowledge that millions of fans will likely follow. Xbox however seem reluctant to abandon Xbox One in favour of Series X and are delivering a confusing, worrying message to their fans and anyone interested in next-gen. Phil Spencer says ‘exclusive games are anti-consumer’. They don’t want any game coming Xbox Series X that’s not also coming to Xbox One for at least a year (if not two), and are relying on a subscription service as the way forward rather than asking consumers to have to pay £50-£60 for new games. They also insist on everything coming to PC, ruining any ‘exclusivity’ their games could potentially boast. On one hand it’s very consumer-friendly, but on the other hand it suggests a lack of confidence.

Recently both Sony and Microsoft have shown their hand with regards to the future of their respective brands. Sony chose to hold off the reveal of their console, whilst Microsoft showed theirs early on. Sony showcased plenty of in-game footage and showed off the potential of their super-fast SSD storage solution in games like the dimension-jumping Ratchet & Clank. Microsoft revealed Halo Infinite in a rather current-gen state. Instead they boasted that all their games were coming to Gamepass. That’s cool, I’ll admit. Both consoles will be of course be very powerful, boast (amongst other features) ray-tracing that brings game visuals to life in a way never before seen on a console. Yet something about Sony’s marketing is exciting, whilst Microsoft’s is simply ‘safe’.

I feel that Xbox have good things in store, the Series X will still be a very capable machine, and long-term they may well turn things around. They have some good ideas to pave the way and place them in a good position for the future. Gamepass, X-Cloud etc is the way the industry is going. They have the development studios now more than ever. It’s just currently, PlayStation has the buzz, Microsoft should be focused on selling their new console, not just their brand. I’ll be interested to hear the prices of the new consoles, which could prove a major factor, and launch games line-up of which at this stage, Xbox has the numbers. We’ll see what happens.

Let’s talk about: The Last Of Us Part II


Never in the history of at least my gaming life have I experienced such backlash and a dividing of the audience as I’ve seen with this game. Having now finished it and enjoyed it, I’ve been trying to figure out and understand some of the negativity and hate thrown at this game which on a whole has been a massive critical and commercial success. Below I’ll give a short review on the game, and tackle some of the issues people are having. Warning: SPOILERS ahead.

A woman scorned…

This is a revenge tale that follows the character of Ellie, in a world struck by a virus who herself is immune from, and having to deal with the revelation that Joel, her friend and father-figure from the last game saved her from being killed by doctors who wanted to create a vaccine from her blood. Set 4 years after, Ellie’s out to avenge the death of someone she cares about on a journey where violence and hate prove a corrosive pursuit. It’s not a new idea, many movies have tackled a similar subject but in video games it’s quite unique but handled well here. At its heart it’s a stealth / action based journey set in a world not dissimilar to The Walking Dead. Characters and the performances are incredibly nuanced and deliver emotions more convincingly than any game I’ve played (it’s even better than Hellblade or for it’s time Half-Life 2). Production values and visuals are incredible, easily some of the best on PS4 (if not ever) and gameplay is slick, brilliantly realised with intense action, great atmosphere and tons of memorable encounters. It’s also particularly daring with its twists, which brings me to the criticisms, some of which I do understand.

SPOILERS AHEAD: stop reading if not finished TLOU2

Final warning….. SPOILERS

A beloved character from the first game, Joel is killed early on. Online leaks spoilt this and caused many fans to make their mind up about the game before even playing it. Also, at certain points you take control of the main antagonist, Abbie who is painted early on as bitter and evil, but as you play through her segments her driving force becomes more understandable. Yes, I took a while to warm to her and her segments take up a bit too much of the game with some parts (the skyscraper) feeling padded out or unnecessary. However her relationship with the two Scars members proves a worthwhile highlight. Yet the game asks a great deal of the player to be onboard with this character, and I can see those shocked or offended by Joel’s death, would find the Abbie segments too big an ask. I almost wanted to stop playing when the game had me controlling Abbie whilst fighting Ellie. But I persevered and am glad I did. Where it went with it’s revenge ark – was incredibly powerful even if it made for quite a bummer ending.

the face of evil…?

Yet the hate levelled at this game … sigh. Threats to the game makers and performers, petitions to have it remade. Entitled much? I agree it won’t be a story everyone can get behind, I may even have ideas how it could have played out differently to get the same result without ‘forcing’ the player to do certain things in the name of hammering home it’s message. Yet for daring storytelling, assured game design that may not break the mould but polishes it to near perfection … I found very little to complain about. There is no room in this industry for such hate and threatening behaviour though. If you don’t like the game, just don’t buy it, don’t play it, express your opinion but keep the bile and hate to yourself. Not many game designers have the audacity to deliver a story in this way, and such a backlash might only cause the industry to shy away from such bold manoeuvres in the future.

Beauty in dark times…

I personally loved this game and have found myself coming back to many sections again for collectibles, the gameplay and for the rich and (at time’s ridiculously) detailed world these brilliantly realised characters inhabit. Is it perfect? No, structurally I’d have liked some of the fat trimmed here and there as well as more ‘choice’ given to the player rather than just violence as the only action. But with that said it’s a game I won’t easily forget.

A-Z Challenge – conclusion


Starting this challenge on May 1st, I guessed there would be times it would get quite challenging (duh), as in order to keep on track I would sometimes have to watch a movie from my Blu-ray collection that I wasn’t in the mood for. As the weeks went by, I would swap and change titles to better support what mood I found myself in, and to explore a variety of genres and sometimes titles from different countries.

… in support of physical media

I think on a whole the final list of 26 movies is a nice and varied one. Below you can take a look at the list in full (complete with my verdicts) and draw your own conclusions … and maybe feel inspired to attempt something similar yourself?

Arietty – Recommended

Betty Blue – Good

Carlito’s Way – Recommended

Die Hard 2 – Recommended

Edge of Tomorrow – Recommended

Frenzy – Good

The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo – Essential

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix – Poor

Interstellar – Recommended

Jurassic Park – Essential

Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang – Good

La La Land – Recommended

Mission Impossible: Fallout – Recommended

North By Northwest – Good

Once Upon A Time In Hollywood – Good

Parasite – Recommended

Quantum of Solace – Good

[REC] – Recommended

Sympathy For Mr Vengeance – Recommended

Time Bandits – Recommended

Unforgiven – Good

Vertigo – Good

The World Is Not Enough – Good

X-Men Days of Future Past – Recommended

Your Name – Essential

Zu Warriors of the Magic Mountain – Poor

I’m really proud to have completed this challenge in the time frame i gave myself (ending on June 30th) and hope to attempt something similar again in the future. If I was to pick a highlight from the movies I saw, it’d probably be Parasite, although watching Time Bandits again was great fun too. I also enjoyed discovering some Hitchcock movies. Disappointments? Unforgiven, which I found quite boring, and Zu Warriors of the Magic Mountain which wasn’t as good as I remembered. Otherwise I had a good time with the majority of my choices. Now though it’s back to normal and high-time I got onto checking out some newer movies that I can review.

Craig.