2016 a look back


Regular visitors to this blog will already know what my major highlight of 2016 was … hey, I still can’t stop talking about it.  Yes it was going to watch my favourite band Garbage perform at the Troxy theatre in London and to actually meet them.  Wow, I still pinch myself that it actually happened but it did and I feel so proud of myself for achieving a true dream of mine.  Their latest studio album ‘Strange Little Birds’ also impressed.

garbage troxy

Other than that event, I think 2016 has been a decent year for quality movies, something that will be reflected in my end of year Top Ten coming on New Years Eve (make sure you check back here then!).  But it hasn’t all been great.  There’s also been a number of disappointments and rubbish I’ve had to sit through just to bring my opinion to you, my readers.  Particular disappointments include the rather poor Legend, a new movie about the British gangsters Ronnie & Reggie Kray, and despite the casting of Tom Hardy in both roles, this was a borderline insulting Hollywood-isation of a violent and gritty true story that was done so much better when the Kemp brothers from Spandau Ballet did it in the early nineties.  I really didn’t get much out of The Coen Brothers’ Hail Caesar! either, which should have been a fun, fascinating snapshot of old Hollywood, but had a limp script and a confusing plot that just felt like a slog despite good production values.  Also along the way I felt underwhelmed by Deadpool … probably the most hyped and acclaimed comic book movie of the year that left me a little ‘meh’ despite finding it funny, it just seemed a bit of a one note show.  The summer also brought with it some further disappointments … let’s all agree that Batman V Superman could have been better, and well, wasn’t Suicide Squad a let down, promising so much and delivered so little?  I wasn’t that impressed with Richard Linklater’s Everybody Wants Some!! either – a deflating spiritual follow up to his classic Dazed & Confused.

deadpool

It was also the year that I tried to branch out, listen to more music (not just the aforementioned band) and discovered new artists like Kristin Kontrol, PVRIS and Against The Current … yeah, thankyou Apple Music.  So broadening my horizons has been fun, even if in the music industry it has been sad to see the passing of legends such as David Bowie and Prince this year.  With that said, the music industry continues to irritate me however and I find myself left cold by much of today’s most popular music (Beyoncé, Lady Gaga and to an extent Gwen Stefani all delivered rather ‘average’ albums despite plenty of publicity and hype).  Yet I find solace in those artists existing outside of the heavily publicised, record label controlled mainstream and well, there’s some really good stuff to find if you’re willing to look beyond what you’re told to listen to.

game of thrones

On the TV route highlights of the year for me have definitely been the last season of Game of Thrones, arguably the best yet and some of the best TV I’ve witnessed all year.  I also got a lot of enjoyment out of House of Cards (I’m still behind…currently on season 3).  Daredevil was also good, despite a slow start.  However the big surprise this year has been just how good West World turned out to be, of which I’m due to watch the final episode any day now.    Orange Is The New Black was underwhelming this year though and despite some shocks towards the end, really needs to step up it’s writing and characterisation for the next season or I can see myself switching off.

titanfall 2

Oh and hasn’t it been a packed year for videogames?  I enjoyed and completed the following:  Uncharted 4, Deus Ex Mankind Divided and Titan Fall 2 … but have played many other titles, some of which have been too huge to finish (yet) or have caused me to lose interest.  One such game like that has been The Division, which managed to lose it’s appeal after a while and I haven’t gone back to it in ages … something I can’t say for the similar Destiny which with it’s expansions and still-intriguing concept keeps on pulling me back even two years since release.  The news of updated versions of current systems wasn’t so good however, having spent a great deal of money on owning the PS4 and Xbox One only to have the advent of PS4 Pro and Xbox One Scorpio to eventually replace them.  But for now I’m still happy with what I’ve got and will continue to be until games stop getting released for these machines.

I wanted with this post to touch on the various things that have interested me and stood out for good or bad this year and with that I’ll sign off for now.  There’s some more reviews on the horizon and of course my end of year Top Ten.  So watch this space for much more soon.

Craig.

My gaming history – Part 3


See previous posts here:  Part 1 and here: Part 2.

As I started work, got money of my own my history with gaming gets a tad cloudy.  I think the very first videogame system I obtained from my own hard-earned cash was the original Sony PlayStation.  I saved up to afford it and even remember buying a walkthrough guide to Resident Evil 2 in the weeks leading up to getting the system.  To say I was excited was an understatement.  For a long time the PlayStation was my only system (I think I got a Gameboy somewhere along the line but my interest in that was limited to simply playing and completing The  Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening).  Sony PlayStation

gran turismoI played a lot of games on it and recall a firm favourite was Tekken 3 which I enjoyed endless nights playing against a friend and well, those bouts were legendary!  Some of the best games on the system for me were of course, the first Metal Gear Solid and also I’d say Legacy of Kain: Soul Reaver (a series I really wish would come back).  I also think Gran Turismo was a particular highlight.Sega-dreamcast

Following the advent of PlayStation that made gaming much more of a mainstream hobby, I did get hold of more systems, firstly the Sega Dreamcast, which I’d say pioneered the online gaming revolution we take for granted these days and was seriously ahead of it’s time.  The Dreamcast I’d say had one of the strongest games catalogues around with such gems as Jet Set Radio, Virtua Tennis, Soul Calibur, Dead or Alive 2 and Powerstone as well as many more.  It was a short-lived system and really deserved to be more successful – but as at the time the PlayStation 2 had just been released, Sega’s final console didn’t stand a chance.  It was around this time I also got a PS2 and a little later an Xbox.

The_Legend_of_Zelda_The_Wind_Waker

The PS2 was of course my gaming system of choice for a good while but I did like my Xbox too even if the advent of Microsoft didn’t really hit it’s stride until the Xbox 360 came out.  During this era I also managed to get a Nintendo Gamecube which I think back to fondly and well, it had Super Mario Sunshine and Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker on it, but as with Nintendo consoles in the post-PlayStation era the only decent games were Nintendo produced (mostly) so quickly having games to get for the system became few and far between.  I sold it somewhere down the line and think that pushed me onto the last generation of consoles before we find ourselves where we are today.

To be concluded.

Update


I feel I’ve been neglecting my readers of late and not posting as much as I should.  What can I say, life get’s in the way and yes I have a life.  But apart from that I really do like posting on this blog even if only a handful of people ever read it…those handful are important though!  Anyway I digress.  What I wanted was to give you the heads up about a few things I’ve been doing of late.  There’s been an emphasis on gaming and well, I got myself some games I need to get around to finishing before the big slew of releases leading up the Christmas.  There are too many good games coming out to actually manage to play them all let alone complete – but I have my beady eyes on a few.

Uncharted-4

For now though two games are on regular rotation, that being Uncharted 4: A Thieves End on PS4, arguably the best looking PS4 game and a rather polished adventure with that as expected Naughty Dog mastery of detail and game design.  I won’t say for such a game it’s grabbed me as much as Rise of the Tomb Raider did, but then that game was more about survival and this game’s more a summer blockbuster.  But I’m enjoying it.  The other game I took a gamble with and downloaded is the much underrated Recore for XB1, like Uncharted an exclusive but nowhere near as well received, which is understandable – Uncharted is clearly a flagship title for PS4 and Sony whereas Recore was under-Recoremarketed and isn’t really meant to be a system seller as much as the forthcoming Gears of War 4 will be.  However what it is is a rather classic throwback to platform shooter / exploration games like Metroid and I’m enjoying it a lot.  I love exploration, puzzle solving and platforming and this does those three things brilliantly.  The surrounding game, it’s story and it’s character design isn’t anything to write home about and it suffers from a few technical issues here and there … but it’s nowhere near as bad as the media will have you believe.  I’d say If you like the sound of it, give it a chance.

I also have Mafia 3 pre-ordered on the XB1 and have asked for Watchdogs 2 on PS4 for my birthday (note for your diaries readers, it’s 14 November lol).  I also would like to dive into the latest expansion that’s been released for Destiny namely ‘Rise of Iron’.  I really like Destiny and it’s world and the upgrading of my character and weapons and exploring etc.  keeps pulling me back far more than The Division seems it ever will.    But to save money and give me a chance of completing those two games above, I’m holding off on taking the leap as of yet.  I can also see even Dishonoured 2, a game I’m particularly excited for being put on the back burner until there are not so many games to play.

Daredevil S2

TV is taking up some of my time too and I’m trying to finish off current seasons of certain shows that I like, such as having just finished Daredevil season 2 (it was great, sometimes amazing, started a little slow but really delivered half way through.  I think I still favour season 1 more though).  Also nearing the end of the current season of Orange is The New Black which I feel has failed to really hit it’s stride this season apart from a strong opening and the return of a favourite character…I just wonder where it’s going.   I’m also watching House of Cards season 2 … yes I’m waaay behind but love it.  Its been pretty strong this season too.   Also enjoying British police drama Luthor…I think I’m on series 3…but I lose track.  Suitably violent and disturbing and well, Idris Elba is fantastic.  I’ve also lined up two more Netflix Marvel shows to get into, Jessica Jones which I keep hearing good things about and the imminent Luke Cage which looks a lot of fun.  I may focus on Jones first as the two shows seems to connect with one another by looks of it.

jessica-jones

Now back on topic … for movies I have a few in the pipeline you’ll be seeing reviews of.  I need to get around to watching Everybody Wants Some!  Richard Linklater’s spiritual sequel to one of my all time favourite movies, Dazed & Confused.  Also I’m hoping to see The Magnificent Seven with friends from work next week sometime.  Did I also mention that I have a special edition of Donnie Darko coming?  Look out for an in-depth review of that and how it stacks up on Blu-ray.  Also there’s that final Studio Ghibli movie When Marnie Was There that‘s out soon so I can’t wait to get my paws on that.

I’ve not forgotten about my continuing series My Gaming History which will have a new post in the coming days so look out for that.  But for now that’s what’s going on with me as far as a few of my hobbies, interests and this blog is concerned.

Craig.

E3 brief thoughts


E3-2016

I’ll get this out of the way right from the off.  Are Sony and Microsoft about to royally shit on us, the games console buying public?  Yes it seems if you have purchased either a PS4 or an Xbox One recently or at all.  You see both companies are basically coming out with vastly improved versions of their consoles that they promise will not effect the existing machines, but really … how can it not?  I spent good money on buying both the Xbox One and PS4 and from day 1 the Xbox One has fallen behind due to a ropey launch and inferior specs compared to it’s rival.  Then for a while it’s been rumoured that Sony were going to announce a PS4.5 or PS4 Neo which would be compatible with 4K televisions and have improved graphics and extra processing power.  Er, Sony … hasn’t the bags full of cash already sent your way from the overwhelming success of the PS4 shown that you don’t need to improve the PS4?  That it already sells??  I can see why Microsoft has done this as it was losing the battle against Sony and struggling with certain multi-platform games, however the PS4 is a big success.  It’s baffling and like with how Sony got arrogant by over-pricing the PS3 at launch, seems like they’ve once again let their success go to their heads.  So yes, Microsoft will be launching ‘Project Scorpio’ towards the end of 2017.  I’m not entirely sure when the PS4 Neo is out, and in the mean time we’re getting the Xbox One S … a slimmed down, redesigned and pretty sexy looking version of their existing console.  Either way as an owner of both machines I am pissed off at the moment.  But I suppose the end of 2017 is a while away yet.

Xbox-One-S-and-original

In other news Sony showcased a rebooted Resident Evil despite it being called Resident Evil VII it was revealed as primarily a first person horror experience not unlike Amnesia.  I think one of the big surprises for me was the reveal of the new God of War … with a bearded, ageing Kratos walking around with what appeared to be his son.  An interesting concept that looked beautifully realised.  As did Horizon: Zero Dawn another PS4 exclusive which was first revealed last year but now we got some actual gameplay and it looked gorgeous.  Also we finally got a release date for the much delayed but highly anticipated The Last Guardian which as a fan of Ico I’m really looking forward to – even if the delays make me nervous of the final game’s quality.

thelastguardian1

In Microsoft’s camp we got our first real look at Gears of War 4 which looked sweet.  Very effects heavy section they showcased along with some new weapons.  Nothing to really re-write the rule book but it looked like Gears and that’s good enough for me.  Also they showcased yet another Forza Horizon which I have no interest it – but it was pretty, and some Minecraft VR stuff which was it seemed more of the same from last year.  The big focus for them seemed to be hardware and again indie titles which was a bit tiresome.  Where were the big surprises?  And by surprises I don’t mean basically saying “sorry Xbox One owners, we hate you”.

I can’t say I have really studied e3 this year, as I’ve had other stuff going on but have taken a few brief glimpses of footage and come way underwhelmed.  Yes there are some good things on the horizon but with the hardware announcements mentioned above, also a very uncertain and worrying future as a current gen console owner.

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