Next gen begins here.


I’ve pre-ordered a PlayStation 5. Yeah, as someone who primarily plays on Xbox, that kind of surprises me too, but stay with me here. I have every intention of getting an Xbox Series X at some stage, but my existing Xbox One X isn’t that old and with nothing that essential coming to the Series X at launch (that isn’t also coming to Xbox One) I did feel there was little reason to upgrade just yet. Over on the PlayStation, Sony seem to have delivered a bit more next-gen excitement this time and games like Spider-Man Miles Moralis , Ratchet & Clank: A Rift Apart and Demon’s Souls look great and show off what is possible with these machines (ray tracing, super-fast loading) … and when put simply, my PS4 is getting rather old and sounds like a jet engine when in use. I am looking forward to playing PS4 titles like The Last of Us Part II on it with faster loading and more stable frame rates.

I’m under no illusion that next-gen isn’t going to entirely knock my socks off this side off Christmas or well into next year but I wanted an upgrade to my PS4 and also enjoy keeping up with technology developments. Entering a new generation is always exciting and boarding that ship is something I love doing. Also technology gimmicks like the haptic feedback on the new PS5 ‘dual-sense’ controller will be fun to explore, even if in the long/run it’s a feature that will get used less and less (I’m guessing).

There’s still some element of the unknown here, how games will perform and what features they’ll have (and not have), and how third party games will compare between PlayStation and Xbox. Xbox has a lot of promise still, what with all the new studios they’ve acquired and the consumer-friendly services they’re offering. I just don’t feel we’ve really seen much games-wise to truly excite (Halo Infinite’s delay went along with aiding my decision to hold off on Microsoft’s console right now). Either way us gamers have much to look forward to in the coming years and the rivalry between the big console names will deliver some great games as a result I’m sure. For now though PlayStation 5 will be my starting point.

Roll on November 19th.

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.

Controlling the narrative


Since when on earth do we as game players, movie / TV watchers or music listeners get to dictate how our favourite form of entertainment turns out? Yes, we put faith in developers, writers, musicians and directors to tell a story, write a piece of music, develop a game to our satisfaction, but not for one second do we have a right to dictate how it turns out. Yes this is something I feel strongly about so thought I’d put my thoughts down in a post.

The recent Star Wars movies for example have not been to everyone’s taste (and neither do they have to be) but there has been an uprising in recent times of a certain, very vocal group of people who seem to want to alter how things turn out to their liking, and go about review-bombing, shouting their disdain on social media and in YouTube videos, as if they really believe their anger and (somewhat entitled) attitude will change how something is. Boo hoo they say, they ruined Star Wars for me! Wake up, they were not making it just for YOU. Real art is largely about the creator / designer / artist and if people like it that’s great but it’s not the point of a creative work. A creative work is to be creative!

Oh we didn’t like our favourite band’s new album? That was ‘their’ vision, not yours. You didn’t like it – move on, there are plenty of other albums out there you might like. In games, The Last of Us 2 is a prime example. It takes risks and introduces (dare I say it) bold twists and revelations to tell it’s story. It’s not just a carbon copy of its predecessor like many games before it. It’s borrowing narrative story telling from TV and movies to push the medium in a direction we don’t normally see. Yet some fans are butt-hurt because it’s not the game they expected – er, did it have to be? Were the game designers primarily focused on pleasing their fans, or did they actually want to be imaginative and creative? That’s how story telling is meant to work. We as fans don’t get to write the story. We are the audience and if we don’t like it we don’t have to play it. Jeez, write a review, post a comment but don’t believe that you can make something you don’t like change – isn’t that a little egotistical?? To such people I say: Quit your wining because Santa didn’t bring the exact present you wanted. It’s not all about you.

So yes, we don’t get to control the narrative of popular entertainment, The most tiresome entertainment is often that which panders to what is popular or expected. Thrilling entertainment surprises and takes risks. If it’s art we are here to experience it, love it or hate it but the point is we are reacting and that’s all that’s necessary. A creator should not compromise their own creation based on a reaction if it’s something they themselves are proud of. We don’t dictate it to our own agenda, that’s what personal taste is all about, we can choose to watch a different movie, we can play a different game. So enough with the hate. Quit the review-bombing in hopes of changing a meta-critic score. You’re not here to dictate, rather you’re here to respond and have your opinion but remember… it’s your opinion and like the entertainment itself … nobody has to agree.

Update


Yesterday marked 13 years since I began this blog. Wow.

In other news… Strange times we are living in I’m sure you are all aware. I’m still at work currently but the situation has felt very unsettling and decidedly weird. This blog has felt like it’s been on a bit of a hiatus with movie reviews even though I’ve had chance to watch a few flicks here and there and play games. My enthusiasm, most likely down to current world issues revolving around the pandemic has felt a bit low though. However I’m currently playing a lot of Animal Crossing New Horizons on Switch as well as occasionally playing Call of Duty Modern Warfare on Xbox One X … both games I’d strongly recommend for obviously very different reasons! I’ve also been dipping in and out of Luigi’s Mansion 3 as well as Pokémon Sword

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The prospect of the next-gen consoles on the horizon also fills me with excitement, with Microsoft putting their cards on the table whilst Sony remain a bit tight lipped and secretive, although more news day by day seems to be trickling out. I would love both machines, namely the Xbox Series X and PS5, but we’ll wait and see how they fair price-wise.

I also recently subscribed to Disney+ and have found that a solid service. Plenty of choice what with Disney movies, Marvel and Star Wars it’s a bit of a treasure trove. Along with Netflix and Apple TV at the moment, this whole social-distancing thing is at least eased with such great streaming services available.

Stay safe out there everyone!

Craig.