Why do I write this blog?


Over the years I have asked myself that question numerous times.  I know for a fact I write it because I love writing and giving my opinion and just having a voice to put out there about the things I am into.  However I do this not to make money (I don’t make any money from it) and therefore it’s purely a hobby I like to share with anyone who wants to read it.  I enjoy the creativity of writing reviews, of choosing my words and offering an opinion in a creative and potentially interesting way.

In subsequent years considering I have been writing this for almost ten years now, I can’t say I’ve enjoyed a great deal of popularity, and sometimes I do think about giving up and moving on.  But that would be a genuine shame.  I try not to get disheartened when I read other blogs that clearly have a lot more interest than mine and many more comments (I on average get 2-3 comments a week, and about 30-40 viewers a day and a handful of likes) … so yes 700+ subscribers not withstanding, not many folks are all that interested.  However did I start this blog to become popular?  Not really.  I did it for myself and I still get enjoyment out of writing reviews even if not many people are going to read them or take that much notice.  I do intend to keep the blog going however and really appreciate any interest or attention offered.  I suppose I just don’t expect all that much likes or comments, and after 9 years I’m OK with that (in a way).  Not to say I wouldn’t love it, but it’s clearly not going to happen.  I think some folks on here who write very similar topics have a dedicated core audience of still-active users (I doubt many of my subscribers are even around any more) who either know the writer or have been more into his or her blog for a long time, and that’s an audience I have never been or will never be a part of.  So why do I write if hardly anyone reads it?  Again for myself and for the enjoyment of writing.  Those that do stop by, thank you and I love you all.  Those that don’t click any further than seeing me on a feed, that’s your choice and happy on your way you go.

I have a number of reviews, gaming opinions and other ramblings planned for the weeks ahead, so do come and take a look and if you choose not to, then no worries.  I’ll still be here regardless, in my little corner of the web … doing my thing.

Craig.

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A return to Destiny


Destiny

A while back I played a game called Destiny on my Xbox One.  It’s a game that was heavily hyped leading up to it’s launch in September 2014, and seemed to reach much of that hype on first appearance.  However I stopped playing it shortly after I finished all the single player missions that came with the game.  Recently however and with the prospect of similarly styled online action game The Division – I thought I’d give this another go, especially considering all the DLC that has been released for the game in subsequent months.

So I went ahead and purchased The Taken King Legendary Edition, which also came with The Dark Below and The House of Wolves expansions, and even more excitingly boosted my character’s level to 25.  Levelling up my character was something I had been struggling with when previously playing the game and I’ll admit I didn’t put in the right amount of time to really boost my level and stats.  Over the last week or so I have therefore being having a great deal of fun in Destiny and really appreciating the play style of the game, the various planets to explore and a ton of missions to go on.  The big draw of a game like this is the loot (which is either dropped during gameplay by defeated enemies or rewarded following completion of a mission).  Loot & experience helps improve your character’s abilities, by upgrading and swapping weapons, armour etc. and altering how your characters performs and looks.  It can be a labour of love to mould your character to your play style and make him (or her) as bad-ass as you can.

Destiny vistaNow the other big draw for me also is the sieges in the game where you get thrown into a mission with usually up to two other players and work together to defeat the enemy and again, collect loot.  Now I’m a bit of a novice at what is now being called PVE (player vs enemy) as apposed to PVP (player vs player) and the urge to go in all guns blazing, collect as much loot as possible is addictive even if on one occasion I did a bit of  an online no no by collecting all the loot following a siege and leaving my colleague with nothing …. and they’d done all the best work as I’d kept dying all the time.  I am not proud of this and well, have tried to share and be a better player ever since.

Destiny-Moon

It has to be said also that the look, the level design, the character models and the atmosphere in Destiny should be applauded.  The game looks jaw-dropping at times with epic vistas, creepy dungeons and plenty of effects, superb lighting, impressive water and reflections and a pulse-pounding score making this game feel epic and important.  There has been some talk of Destiny 2 lately, which I think would be a mistake – Destiny was hyped as a constantly evolving online world and just jumping to a sequel barely two years into this games lifespan seems too early.  Give us more DLC Bungle, support the game and let the community and the game world grow to what you originally had in mind.  The game already plays brilliantly – don’t ruin it now.

My character – isn’t he cool?

Destiny Character

The Division beta – impressions


One of the most hyped games for this year has to be Tom Clancy’s The Division, an open-world MMORPG set in a locked down New York after a pandemic outbreak.  I got access to the beta of the game over the weekend after pre-ordering, and I must admit it’s very good indeed.  I haven’t actually managed to partake in some of the much talked about co-op gameplay or the PVP dark zone sections, but just exploring the disaster-stricken New York streets, taking on scavenger gangs and completing side missions as well as the beta’s main mission … has been a lot of fun.

Division beta 1

screenshot captured directly from my PS4

Visually the game has had a bit of a downgrade since the initial E3 reveal but that was to be expected considering the game was first shown before the Xbox One and PS4 were even released.  But with that in mind, how do the visuals stack up in this near-finished version?  Very good indeed actually.  There are a ton of effects at work, impressive weather such as wind & snow considering the game is set at Christmas, and a wealth of detail on buildings, the road, and cars (yes you can still close that car door, folks!).  The lighting is very atmospheric and with what appears to be a dynamic weather and day / night cycle the game shows off it’s true beauty the more you play it.

division beta 2

screenshot captured directly from my PS4

Gameplay-wise (with similarities to Destiny) you create your character (well, their face and gender but I didn’t do much with this aspect when first booting up the game), and then are introduced to the world, following the storyline of an agent flown into the crisis and having to make his (or her) way to the base of operation – a hub environment that you enhance and develop as you go on missions and complete tasks.  It’s a good idea and one that will mean there’s more than just a develop character / stats excuse to keep on playing.  I wonder if this is the only base of operation or if there will be others in different areas the player can develop?  The core shooting feels good too, with an excellent cover-based mechanic that enables the player to run to various areas of cover very easily, making for some exciting encounters.  The character / NPC designs are very detailed and slickly animated making this game feel very next-gen overall.  I think it will be a game that could become quite addictive also as more missions become available and various quests are discovered.  The enemy characters at this stage seem quite samey (all violent hoodies it seems) but that could change once the game is out and we could get boss fights.  It’s too early to be sure though.

For now The Division is looking to be a solid game to invest a ton of time in so I can’t wait till March 8th!

2015 – a look back


2015

I usually like to do a blog post looking back at the year and the highlights it’s held both for me personally and on this blog as far as entertainment is concerned.  For a good portion of the year, from about March onwards I was all excited and geared up to see my favourite band, ‘Garbage’ of which I’ve already reported on here how it went seeing them at Brixton Academy in London in November – so the lead up to that was a big focus to my year.  However I did try and distract myself from this by playing various videogames and watching plenty of movies … reaching about 60 movies in total in the last twelve months (phew).  During this time my job and various other activities have kept me busy and of course I’ve enjoyed writing this blog as well.  So I’ll take a look back now and give my thoughts over the year that was 2015.

January – March

I started off the year with the enjoyable but not amazing ‘Maleficent’, enjoying Angelina Jolie’s turn as the iconic evil sorceress.  The first high point though for me was ‘True Detective’, which I’d borrowed off a friend … season one with Matthew McConaughey and Woody Harrelson which turned out to be riveting.  For some reason however I didn’t get around to season 2.  Then we came to the very impressive ‘Ex_Machina’ … my first taste of true science fiction this year that would turn out to be a great year for the genre.  I also very much loved ‘The Grand Budapest Hotel’ and found it a breath of fresh air and endlessly inventive.  The Oscar’s overshadowed much of February and it was good to see Eddie Redmayne picking up a statue for his turn as Stephen Hawkins in ‘The Theory of Everything’.  Also Birdman picking up best picture was it would turn out, marvellous considering it’s one of my favourite movies of the year.

true-detective-matthew_thumb.jpg

I borrowed the much hyped but beyond the gorgeous visuals, disappointing ‘The Order 1886’ for the PS4 and thought it was a fun game that failed to reach it’s full potential.  Still worth it for the story and the graphics, especially if you can rent it or get it cheap …just don’t pay full price.  Then I experienced the underwhelming cash-grab that was ‘The Hunger Games: Mocking Jay Part One’ … which I’m hoping proves a better experience when I finally see Part Two.  A pleasant surprise however was the Sean Penn thriller ‘Gunman’, coming from the creators of Taken I was half expecting another poorly conceived rip-off of that classic movie … but no, this was hard-hitting action packed and well acted.

April – June

One of my major highlights for the year as far as games was concerned was the indie title ‘Ori and the Blind Forest’ …a superb, fiendish old school puzzle-platformer that was really addictive, had a beautiful Studio Ghibli-like art style and a large world to explore and get lost in.  I also enjoyed the comedy road movie ‘Identity Thief’, discovering the entertaining Melissa McCarthy for the first time.

Around this time I noticed I had reached a milestone, that of writing this blog for 8 years…wow.  I wrote a post reflecting on this and how I was feeling at the time.  I went through various observations of my life, work, dealing with depression that comes and goes to this day, and of the satisfaction this blog and my hobbies have given me when times haven’t been ideal.  I do venting and such from time to time as readers on here will be aware and hope you can excuse some of the more negative ponderings in between the movie reviews and gaming impressions.  Anyway on with the show…

john wick

‘John Wick’ turned out to be nearly everything I could want in a John Woo inspired action thriller and Keanu Reeves was back on blistering form.  Kevin Costner’s thriller ‘3 Days To Kill’ turned out rather poor and finally getting around to seeing ‘Donnie Brasco’, mob drama with Al Pacino and Johnny Depp was equally underwhelming.  Garbage’s new single and collaboration with singer Brian Aubert ‘The Chemicals’ left me with mixed feelings for a long while, and although I don’t consider the track amongst the band’s best work – it’s really grown on me over the last few months.  Nicholas Cage vehicle ‘Joe’ proved very interesting however and was one of his better recent performances, and Tim Burton’s subdued ‘Big Eyes’ proved decent if fairly lightweight for that particular director.

Also during April I was gifted with finally seeing the remarkable ‘Birdman’, from the increasingly impressive director Alejandro González Iñárritu (21 Grams, The Revenant) and also proved a unique return for Michael Keaton.  On the gaming front I got my teeth into the PS4 version of ‘Grand Theft Auto V’ and the much hyped ‘The Witcher 3’ on Xbox One …er, two games I still haven’t finished.  TV offered up the Breaking Bad spin-off ‘Better Call Saul’ which proved highly entertaining and I can’t wait for season 2.  The biggest disappointment around this time however was the news that ‘The Following’, one of my favourite shows was to be cancelled after the current season ended.  I was gutted but at least the final season 3 turned out to be excellent.

The summer blockbuster season kicked off in fine form in June with the exhilarating ‘Mad Max Fury Road’ which despite me not loving as much as some of my friends, I still got a kick out of.  E3 also dominated the gaming calendar around this time with plenty of exciting announcements for both the PS4 and the Xbox One.  Brit spy-spoof ‘Kingsmen: The Secret Service’ had it’s moments but didn’t impress me all that much … and Project Almanac was a fun yet forgettable time travel drama.

July – September

‘Terminator Genisys’ was one of the most purely ‘fun’ movies of the year and ticked many of my Terminator fan-boy boxes.  I don’t really care what others think of that movie.  ‘The Babadook’ also proved a refreshing horror movie that dealt with psychological trauma and the stresses of being a single mother with intelligence.  Around that time I also checked out ‘It Follows’ which was probably one of my horror movie highlights of the year.  Studio Ghibli animation ‘The Tale of Princess Kaguya’ also proved heart warming, magical and captivating just how a Studio Ghibli movie should be … and ‘Chappie’ was a highly enjoyable sci-fi actioner that once again made me a big fan of director Neil Blomkamp.   ‘Still Alice’ was a powerful story of one woman’s battle with Alzheimer’s and Julianne Moore rightly deserved her Oscar nod.

Chappie.jpg

As I rolled into August I got around to seeing some very good movies such as ‘American Sniper’ which proved very powerful, and ‘Mission: Impossible Rogue Nation’ which was again another very exciting entry in the franchise.  Then we came to another great sci-fi drama in the name of Christopher Nolan’s ‘Interstellar’ which although at times confusing was full of wonder and amazing ideas backed up by amazing visuals.  ‘The Gift’ also turned out to be a surprising and very well acted psychological drama with a brilliantly complex Jason Bateman, whilst Iranian vampire drama ‘A Girl Walks Home Alone At Night’ proved visually striking but lacking in pretty much everything else.  Liam Neeson vehicle  ‘Run All Night’ also sadly showed that this gifted actor had found himself stuck in a rut of forgettable thrillers.

Although late to the party, I thought ‘The Conjuring’ was one of the best horrors I had seen in a long while, and Disney remake ‘Cinderella’ proved suitably enchanting whilst offering little new.  Crime thriller ‘The Drop’ seemed a suitable swansong for the late James Gondolfini (sob) whilst ‘The Avengers: Age of Ultron’ was fun but lacked that special ‘something’ to stand out in a crowded superhero market place.

October – December

As autumn and winter rolled around, disaster flick ‘San Andreas’ turned out to be a very enjoyable CGI-packed vehicle for Dwayne ‘the rock’ Johnson, and on TV some of my favourite shows came back, namely ‘Homeland’, ‘The Returned’, ‘The Walking Dead’ and ‘Fargo’, which have all proved excellent this season.  Dinosaur sequel ‘Jurassic World’ was a lot of fun and one of the better entries in the popular franchise, whilst Guillermo Del Toro’s gorgeous looking ‘Crimson Peak’ was one of my biggest disappointments of 2015 as I had hoped it would be another masterpiece by this talented director rather than the uninvolving style over substance it turned out as.  Thankfully Kevin Bacon thriller ‘Cop Car’ turned out quite the breath of fresh air and is well worth checking out.

Garbage 20YearsQueer (2)

November was for me, dominated by both seeing ‘Garbage’ and turning 40 (!!).  They were amazing live and I highly recommend you check them out for yourself if you get the chance.  I also visited London with my brother and pretty much that whole week will stay with me for a long time to come.  I hope to see the band again next year but don’t know if that will happen for sure yet.  Fingers crossed!  Yet I did get around to seeing a couple of movies as well, such as the intense, Oscar winning drama ‘Whiplash’ and entertaining animation ‘Minions’.  Yet one of the major highlights and probably my gaming experience of the year was finally getting my hands on ‘Rise of the Tomb Raider’ which was sheer gaming joy from start to finish and one of the best looking games yet on Xbox One.

So we come to December and much of this was focused on the imminent release of ‘Star Wars The Force Awakens’ which thankfully turned out a fantastic experience.  However aside from this movie I checked out comedy spy spoof ‘Spy’ with an again enjoyable Melissa McCarthy and ‘The Man From U.N.C.L.E.’ which proved enjoyable and visually impressive, but let down by a confusing plot.  I also finally managed to see Pixar animation ‘Inside Out’ which blew me away and was one of their best efforts yet.  Other than that ‘Assassin’s Creed Syndicate’ is one of the best entries in the franchise yet, with Victorian London a great setting full of atmosphere.


So there you have it, 2015 all done and dusted.  So what is left to say?  My end of Year Top Ten will be revealed on New Year’s Eve (this Thursday) and I’m already looking forward to compiling it.  There have been some amazing movies this year with some pleasant surprises.  My gaming calendar has been a bit underwhelming with only a small handful of titles truly impressing, but I am hoping 2016 fairs better.

For now though I’ll leave you waiting in anticipation for what I’ll crown my favourite movie of the year…

For the love of the game


animals-playing-video-games

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.

TheEscapists Hero

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.

limbo-08

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.