An update and stuff


So what have I been up to lately?  Well I managed to complete Assassin’s Creed Unity on the PS4, the first AC game I have ever kept interested in until the end.  Why?  I think setting was key.  Of the previous games in the series I have played, most have been set either in medieval (AC 1 & 2) or around the time of the crusades (AC 3) and well, the pirating of AC4 never appealed so I didn’t play that one.  However this one was set in Paris, during the revolution, the time of Napoleon etc. and it was a brilliantly atmospheric setting I personally have plenty of interest in. 

Secondly I have been playing Grand Theft Auto V.  Now eagle-eyed readers of this blog may recall me posting about it a while back when I got it on the Xbox 360.  Well, for one reason or another I didn’t play it all that much of it, and since jumping to the next-generation with the PS4 and Xbox One, I thought it was high time I took a second look following it’s revamped re-release on these consoles.  I picked it up on PS4, and must say for what is technically a last-gen title, the detail (with improved textures, lighting, effects as well as an enhanced array of music on the various radio stations) it’s one of the best looking games I have played to date.  GTA V is a fantastic game following the exploits of three characters; Michael the former gangster now in witness protection, Franklin the stereotypical gang-banger hoodlum and Trevor the meth-dealing lunatic.  The missions are cinematic and the world is alive and complex and massive.  There are a ton of things to see and do and it never feels boring.  I’m loving it.  Check out a few screenshots I took with the PS4 to show off how damn gorgeous this next-gen version looks in the flesh:

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On the gaming horizon (next Tuesday to be specific) is The Witcher 3 Wild Hunt.  A heavily hyped and very well reviewed game that I have pre-ordered for my Xbox One.  From everything I have read and seen, it’s sounding like it will be a mammoth RPG adventure to rival the likes of The Elder Scrolls and Final Fantasy, with you as a bad-ass monster hunter known as Garalt, who inhabits a huge world that is one of the biggest apparently ever made and full of detail, missions, characters and true next-gen visuals.  I have watched some gameplay and read several reviews, and suffice to say I am VERY excited.  Roll on May 19th … I’ll do an early impressions some time in the week.

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In other news, I’ve sadly not managed to secure a trip to the cinema to see The Avengers: Age Of Ultron yet and can see it being a Blu-ray review later in the year.  The same might go for Mad Max Fury Road, but I’m still optimistic about getting to see that one, so watch this space (and no, going by myself doesn’t appeal all that much).  I have a few movies on the agenda however, the names of which I’ll keep to myself for now and let you be surprised when I post the reviews.  Yeah, I’m all about the tease.

On the TV watching front I have been pretty addicted to Better Call Saul, that breaking Bad spin-off starring everyone’s favourite crooked attorney Saul Goodman (or Jimmy Magill as he’s currently known).  It seems to have all the polish and great writing of Breaking Bad (well, it is by Vince Gilligan after all) and just keeps getting better and better.  I’m also watching The Following season 3 (yeah, yeah I know…we’re not getting a season 4…boo hiss) which has again been brilliant this year.  Clearly there is no accounting for taste, so another show hits the skids.  Talking of TV, I’m also looking forward to season 3 of Orange Is The New Black, a show at first I wasn’t entirely sure was me … the first series was good but a little lightweight, but with an excellent and gripping season 2, I am now officially a fan.  Damn Netflix just keeps on giving, doesn’t it?  I am also watching Brit drama Luther on it at the moment which stars popular actor Idris Elba as a tough Police detective who specialises in catching serial killers – right up my alley.

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So other than the above, and getting over some man-flu and a tickly cough that just won’t quit … it’s been all about work, which is going very well.  I am learning some new stuff to do more with secretarial tasks and finding it challenging and educational.  Love it when my job gives me those opportunities to learn new skills and I think it helps build a real profile and shape me for the future.  I’m also of course still looking forward to finally seeing my favourite band Garbage in November when they appear at Brixton Academy in London.  It’s going to be such a once in a life time experience for me, someone who doesn’t really get such opportunities.  I have my big brother to thank for making this happen and with my 40th birthday very much right after, November is looking to be a real belter.

Well, enough from me for now.  Hope you’re all having fun in whatever you’re all up to and continue to check in on me and this blog regularly for more updates, reviews and gaming impressions.

Craig.

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All next-gen’d out


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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.

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– 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 … room for improvement?


This is the last post I’ll be writing on this heavily hyped and popular game now I have had more time to really get to grips with it.  So there are a few things I’ve noticed and a few things I wish had been implemented better … or at all.

Ubi Soft have done a great job with this recreation of Chicago and its a blast to explore, especially with all the extra side missions and wealth of people and things going on. What did puzzle me was the amount of bus shelters – but not a single bus! Also why aren’t there any Taxis in this city? Just seems like a complete oversight by the developers. Also strange that Police seem to be absent for the most part until you do some sort of crime. Shouldn’t they be on patrol anyway?  Then the pedestrians which at first glance are well done and individual, it soon becomes apparent that there are a ton of repeated lines of dialogue like ‘what is going on in Chicago’ and ‘she has a crazy perfect ass’ but spoken by different pedestrians and in different areas of the city. A tad lazy for an apparent next-gen experience.

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The weather system is at first impressive and I can’t fault the thunder / rain effect. Even the slight smoggy look at certain times of the day is impressive, but wouldn’t it be cool if there were other effects catered for, like snow? As seen in The Division, but perhaps time of year is a factor, so a wintery sequel? Hmm.  Building interiors lack some detail and I think they could have had a few more areas you can go inside and explore. It doesn’t feel as interactive as GTA V and that was a game on last-gen hardware. Oh and why is this city, like many open world games completely unpopulated by children and animals? I get it, we don’t need to see a child run over by a crazy gamer or shot at point-blank range, but hey – not very ‘real’ either, is it? Couldn’t it be implemented so that such incidents would have a much bigger impact on your reputation compared to regular pedestrians? Just a thought.

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The cash system is far too generous. I haven’t once during the time I have played, lacked money – I either pick it up from fallen foes, steal it off pedestrians or its just plain given to me … lots of it. Makes the whole buying weapons, pills, clothing part of the game a bit boring if its so easy to come by. Oh and as for weapons, getting hold of high powered items like the grenade launcher, very early on, makes many of the missions rather easy. Shouldn’t such hardware get unlocked the more I progress, or as I have mentioned, wouldn’t more of a lack of cash make such cool weapons worth ‘saving up’ for etc… with cash earned perhaps during side quests? I actually had the grenade launcher around the start of the game. On the subject of weapons, how about customization and individual weapon mods, like perhaps a silencer on a sniper rifle…?

The game has some very cool ideas though. The way you can hide in your car following a police chase feels very cop thriller territory, and the story itself, whilst very serious in tone, has the feel of a cool high tech TV series or a movie, with characters that feel real – to me at least. I love profiling pedestrians for some of the weird job titles etc. Also getting hacked during my game is very clever and fun to track down the hacker and blow him away…lol. Some have said the driving is a bit off. I disagree. This depends on the car you use, and feels believable to how real world cars react, as in over-powered ones spin out very easily etc. The bikes are awesome, by the way.

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That extra six months of development, I do wonder where it went . . was it getting the core gameplay principals just right, or adding silly (but fun) diversions like digital trips and cash runs? Personally the time given to such mini games could have been better put to use on limiting the repeated dialogue, giving us buses and taxis to ride (not just trains…) and general polish (yes the game has bugs…). Oh and don’t get me started about the radio… firstly no stations and no DJs? Granted this is Ubi Softs first stab at this sort of GTA-like game, but really? It’s been a stable mate of this style of game for years.

So for the inevitable WD #2 I hope we don’t just get more of the same, but Ubi Soft dedicating themselves to delivering a fully immersive, open world experience with all these little details intact – believe me they matter.

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?

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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: