Nintendo Switch – my thoughts


NintendoSwitch

Well earlier in the week, Nintendo dropped a bombshell with the reveal of their next console … formerly known as the Nintendo NX, now named Nintendo Switch … a great name and I’d say a great concept.  Give the video below a quick look…

I love the idea that it’s both a home console you hook up to your HDTV and also a portable console, seamlessly transforming just from removing the device from it’s docking station and going wherever to continue your gaming.  How the control pad transforms allowing the user to remove the two ‘joy-cons’ and then attach them to the portable version.  Very clever and something I could easily see myself utilising, for times someone either wants the TV I’m using or I simply want to sit elsewhere and carry on with my game.  From the video things I can’t see taking off is the two-player bits where people use those tiny controllers and game on the same screen … er no, Nintendo nobody’s going to be doing that.  Also unconfirmed reveals of ‘The Elder Scrolls: Skyrim’ and ‘NBA 2K17’ running on the system, is a slight concern despite both games being shown in the video – why is 2K and Bethesda being so cagey??  Also that footage of ‘Mario’ looks worrying like a run-into-the-screen mobile game and not necessarily the Mario 64 successor some people are hyping it to be.  Yet I don’t think anyone can dismiss how good the new ‘Zelda’ looks.

Questions still remain though.  We have no price as of yet.  We don’t really have any confirmed games other than The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild and well, is that a touch-screen?  I’m guessing it will be.  Third party support has been confirmed as having all the big publishers like Activision and EA (see below), which could mean the usual drought of games for a Nintendo system may not be a concern this time … only time will tell.

Switch_Partners

For now I’m optimistically excited for what Nintendo reveal next and the initial reveal of the system has me waning a Nintendo system again.  So they’re doing something right.

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My gaming history – Part 2


In the early nineties, I was in possession of two more gaming systems, firstly the much famed Sega Megadrive (aka Genesis) as well as another micro-computer, the Commodore Amiga 600.  Now for a long time, along with the Amstrad CPC 464 computer, I had found my gaming hobby growing, mostly down to having friends who had the same systems as me (mostly the Amstrad), and borrowing games and building a collection.  However it was time to movie on and if memory serves me correct, my parents got me a Megadrive for Christmas one year.  The only real issue with such a console was that compared to what I had been used to with the Amstrad, the games were much more expensive, and well let’s say the at the time bundled ‘Sonic the Hedgehog’ was my only game for the system.  Not that I was complaining – I’d never seen graphics like that in my life and it was a firm favourite.

megadrive

I later with some saving and borrowing was able to get hold of games like Revenge of ‘Shinobi’, ‘Road Rash’ … as well as being able to rent some titles from my local video rental store.  One firm memory I have of this era though was the rather guilty confession of seeking out ‘Sonic the Hedgehog 2’, which was a later Christmas present and I remember finding it when looking for prezzies in my parent’s bedroom, and having a cheeky play on it when they weren’t at home…then putting it back and acting all surprised Christmas morning.  No, I’m not proud of myself but I was only about 14!.

Road Rash    Sonic the Hedgehog

I think I had the Commodore Amiga 600 a little after the Sega Megadrive and it was one of a series of computers that were all the craze at school amongst my friends.  When I had the Amstrad everyone talked about the Amiga (and it’s nearest rival at the time the Atari ST) both home computer’s which were like a more user-friendly, cheaper alternative to the PC which was more an office system back then and not as widely available.  The micro-computer boom fizzled out in the mid to late nineties when consoles and PCs became more popular (with the success various Sega and Nintendo systems ruling the nineties).  Yet despite owning a Megadrive, to have an Amiga made me feel like I was finally a part of a bigger, more respected crowd, and it was a system I really enjoyed.  I would buy, borrow and (ahem…copy) many games for the system and firm favourites were ‘Monkey Island 2: LeChuck’s Revenge’, ‘The Chaos Engine’, ‘Alien Breed’, ‘Turrican’ (1 & 2), ‘Formula One Grand Prix’ and ‘Syndicate’.  I formed a friendship with a friend of mine that worked in a shop and both owning an Amiga developed a friendship that still exists today.  Good times.

Amiga 600

Monkey Island 2  Turrican 2

In part 3 I’ll be taking a look at the advent of PlayStation … the console to get that was marketed quite unlike other consoles before it.

All next-gen’d out


ps41

I say all, that is if you don’t count the Wii-U.  The other day I finally picked up a PlayStation 4.  Yes I got a PS4 to go with my Xbox One.  All kitted out for this apparent ‘next-gen’ of gaming platforms, and yes feel pretty good about it.  I hesitated for a long time over the PS4, not because I didn’t think it was a good console.  It’s very much a good console, but at the time I chose the XB1, it was the games, primarily the exclusives and well, familiarity and comfort with the brand that made my decision.  A year on, and well, it’s nice to have something new, isn’t it?

I was very much sold by the new ‘glacier white’ edition Sony had released in wake of Destiny, and thought it was a good a time as any to buy.  The games I feel are still not quite there for me, with exclusives like Uncharted 4 and The Order 1886 still scheduled for next year, and it lacks that killer-app compared to XB1 (Sunset Overdrive, to some extent also Halo: The Master Chief Collection) but I did pick the console up with Drive Club.  I also traded some games to get my hands on Assassin’s Creed Unity, one of the best looking multi-platform titles currently available, and that alone shows off my purchase pretty well.

10687505_724631520954624_1694893143116554298_o (1)

– direct capture using the ‘share button’ –

What do I think of the machine as far as how it works?  Slick and familiar are the words that come to mind.  The operating system isn’t as colourful or flashy as XB1, and goes for a somewhat clean and smooth version of PS3’s cross media bar which was never that appealing.  Sony haven’t tried anything radically new here but it functions well enough.  I haven’t got to grips with the ‘share’ button or the Share Factory feature, which is PS4’s version of XB1’s Upload and Record That features, and at first glance they look more clunky (but got to love the screen shot capture feature).  I am also quite disappointed that PS4 does not support external HDD’s for improving the storage space (you can use an external HDD but it only allows back ups and the storage of media, not for playing your downloaded games off …unlike XB1), which could be an issue, and I for one would rather not open up my PS4 to install an internal HDD.  It is very fast at installing games off the Blu-ray though…big difference compared to XB1.

Only the future and playing more games will really prove this machine’s value in comparison to the XB1, and I’ve still yet to see the value in the touch-pad or speaker on the controller (which does feel very nice I might add).  Early days but I’ll report more as I find it.

Glacier White PS4

Watch Dogs fall-out?


Note: this article has now been updated (see below).

So, the most anticipated game of the year is finally out, after a stunning reveal at E3 2012 and following controversy over it’s apparent downgrade in graphics since then … what do we as consumers actually have now it’s available to buy?

Watch-Dogs-Game-HD-Desktop-Wallpapers

A big, at least visually, disappointment.  The game looks last-gen with a few better textures and arguably impressive night time rain / wet road effects … but visually overall it does not impress me.  I don’t currently own the game and am not sure if I will (but I may due to it’s unique gameplay alone) but as a much hyped title, the six month delay and the e3 reveal we are left as consumers with little more than a poor-mans GTA… and stylistically it doesn’t look much different to GTA 5 which was a real show stopper on last gen hardware.  For a game also being released on the PS4 and Xbox One – it is nothing special.  Textures, roads and buildings seem to lack a three dimensional appearance … what, no bump-mapping?  Why does everything look so flat and square?  It’s like a game from the early 2000’s.  That would be forgivable then, but we have come on considerably since.  For me the best looking open-world GTA-clone in recent memory was Mafia II, which looked amazing, especially inside buildings, with very impressive detail and great lighting and shadow effects.

I hope when I finally get hold of the Xbox One version I will see something I am not currently seeing … but for now consider me rather underwhelmed.

Some gameplay of the Xbox One version from You Tuber user ‘optic midnite’ can be seen below.  Now don’t get me wrong, the game looks fun – but after all the hype and the suggestion this was going to be a true ‘next gen’ show-piece, I’m not entirely sold.

On the new consoles and even on PC this doesn’t cut it, and considering what has been achieved I can only presume the more detailed hacking mechanics have prevented the developers really pushing this on a visual basis – like too many things going on in the background?  Either way the fact we have sub-hd resolutions on both the PS4 and Xbox One (worse for the XB1 being at 792p) is baffling if these consoles are meant to be considerably more powerful than hardware that’s now eight years old (PS3 & 360).

(Updated: 31/05/2014):  Well I went and purchased Watch Dogs for my Xbox One and what are my final hands-on impressions?  Much more positive.  I’d go as far to say this is probably the most interesting game I have so far on the XB1 and certainly one of the more unique open-world games I have played.  To touch on the visuals firstly, internet videos, comparisons between PC, XB1 and PS4 do this game no justice.  Its beautiful and very detailed … and goes for a very realistic interpretation of Chicago, with an effective day / night cycle and wonderful weather effects.  The wealth of people in the game are also believably animated, do interesting things to further enhance a living world atmosphere such as once I walked by a couple who the woman was throwing bags over a balcony much to the upset of her disgruntled boyfriend … and another time I passed some street rappers, and another a couple posing for a photograph being taken by another person.  Impressive.  Lighting is first class as is water and shadows and other details like tires on cars you can actually burst by shooting them, or realistic glass shatter as you plough into bus stops with your vehicle.  Some have said this game doesn’t look as good as the PS4 version, but from what I have seen, there is hardly any difference at all, and all the details and effects are intact … so XB1 owners hesitating over the reduced resolution … don’t worry one bit.

The game itself seems a very intriguing techno thriller, such as The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo, and immediately grabbed me, all to do with main character Aiden Pierce searching for revenge after an attempted murder goes badly wrong.  It’s a great initial hook to pull the gamer in, and made me really want to unravel all the story had to offer,  The hacking is of course the big draw and it’s so well implemented that it makes the usual sneaking you’d find in games like Splinter Cell and Metal Gear Solid seem refreshing and new, and add to this first rate gunfight / shooting mechanics as well as well done driving and lots of vehicles and weapons to find … this seems the perfect marriage between the old and new to create something truly next-gen … at least in terms of giving the player a new take / spin on tried and tested game play.

I’m still early into this but so far many of my reservations and fears have been quashed.  Although some reviews have said the missions get repetitive, I am still very eager to see and play more … so would say this will be my primary game to play for a while yet.

Xbox One’s secret weapon?


Although as we know Microsoft’s next generation console, Xbox One is lagging behind Sony’s PlayStation 4 sales-wise, for me at least it is still the games that matter … and the exclusives, which helped me when making my decision over which machine to go for.  So far Son’y machine has a personally less that appealing offering when it comes to exclusive titles (Drive Club, 1886 The Order, Uncharted 4?  Meh…) compared to Microsoft wetting our appetites with promises of sequels to well established franchises like Halo and Gears Of War as well as new games like Titanfall and Quantum Break.  However this past week has seen the first real in-game footage unveiled of previously announced exclusive Sunset Overdrive, by former Sony-exclusive developers Insomniac Games (Ratchet & Clank, Resistance).  To say it looks amazing is an understatement … with memories of the colourful, arcady Dreamcast era coming to mind.  Check out the video below: