E3 thoughts


e3-2018

I had mixed feeling in the run up to this year’s E3 conference … the biggest event on the gaming calendar, where the big companies, publishers etc. showcase their plans for the coming year and beyond, often revealing games and services for the very first time.  It’s always very exciting, but with the recent slight fall from grace Microsoft and it’s Xbox brand had experienced with a drought of AAA exclusive games compared to it’s immediate rivals, Sony and Nintendo – I was also concerned.  So below I’ll go through my brief thoughts on the various conferences shown followed by a few highlights.

Microsoft

Microsoft had a lot to prove.  The army of Sony fan-boys loved sticking it to the American giants that the platform was lacking the big name exclusive games compared to their beloved PlayStation, and I can certainly understand where they are coming from.  Where’s Xbox’s God of War?  So watching the near 2 hour conference was nerve-wracking … but, Xbox head honcho Phil Spencer came out swinging, with an immediate reveal of Halo Infinite (just a CGI trailer sadly) and then went on to present a very confident presentation showcasing many games and several exclusives, including the likes of Ori and the Will of the Wisps, Crackdown 3, Forza Horizon 4 and  Gears of War 5.  However the big news was the acquisition of 5 game studios that will now be working on first party games for the Xbox platform … the big surprise being the purchase of Bafta award winning studio Ninja Theory (Hellblade: Senora’s Sacrifice).  Microsoft shot down the nay-sayers that would presume Xbox isn’t interested in exclusives anymore and set in motion a future that well really, should have been set in motion years ago – but at least now that future is more promising that it had seemed before E3.

Crackdown 3

Outside of exclusives, some games that will be appearing elsewhere also, were shown for the first time including Devil May Cry 5, Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice and Cyberpunk 2077.

I would have liked to have seen a Fable announcement or the rumoured Perfect Dark game, but that elusive, big name exclusive title that would wow me and surprise me, was sadly absent.  Microsoft did a lot right here to build confidence in their brand and to pave an exciting future ahead, along with a brief mention of new Xbox hardware on the horizon … but in the present, they still for me didn’t do enough to sway those not already invested in Xbox.

Nintendo

Super Smash Bros UltimateWith Nintendo riding high on the success of the Switch, and it being my preferred platform of choice for the best part of the last twelve months, I had high-hopes for their presentation.  Much more low-key it turned out than Microsoft, with no on-stage conference just a 45 minute Nintendo Direct.  Games like Daemon X Machina, Fire Emblem: Three Houses, Super Mario Party and Super Smash Brothers Ultimate were revealed for the first time along with several indie titles and more footage of previously announced games like Captain Toad Treasure Tracker.  However an absence of Mario Tennis was odd and especially disappointing was no mention of Metroid Prime 4.  The follow-up Nintendo Tree House event showcased Smash as well as an in-depth look at the forthcoming Pokémon Let’s Go games … but my overall impression was that Nintendo really didn’t pull anything out of the bag this year, perhaps a little too confidence with the Switch’s continued success.

I’ll certainly be getting my hands on Smash Bros as it looked a ton of fun and Pokémon interested me a lot more than I expected.

Sony

Sony went for a rather unconventional approach to their conference, hosted in a tent for starters and focusing on previously announced games rather than any new reveals (for the most part).  It was not what I expected from Sony, who are currently the industry leaders by a large margin but I guess they can relax and show they don’t really have anything to prove anymore.  So yeah if they want a banjo player on stage, then I guess they can have that.

Ghosts of Tsushima

So we got to see a lot more of The Last of Us: Part II, Death Stranding and the first full details of Ghost of Tsushima and Spider-Man.  Flute players, banjo players and a running commentary …different, but what’s E3 without a few bizarre moments?  I am excited for The Last of Us definitely, it looked incredible as did Ghost of Tsushima.  I was however surprised to see a Remedy game showcased, namely ‘Control’ but it’s a multi-platform title so they hadn’t jumped ship to Sony after mostly working with Microsoft for years.  Several games for PlayStationVR were also announced even if VR doesn’t interest me.  The big surprise for me was a remake of Resident Evil 2, arguably my favourite Resident Evil game of all time.  Not exclusive to PlayStation but an exciting announcement all the same.

The overall feeling I got from the Sony conference was that PlayStation were sitting very confident in their line up of games, not really showcasing anything ground-breaking for the future, but that’s probably something to do with the persistent PlayStation 5 rumours.  It’s clear to me Sony have some very good studios in their pocket and they’ll continue to dominate the market for the foreseeable future.

The other conferences etc.

I didn’t take a great deal of notice of the other conferences other than checking out highlights from EA, Ubisoft and Bethesda, all of which showcased some exciting stuff including Rage 2, Assassin’s Creed Odyssey and the impressive looking The Division 2.  As with all games shown, taking what we’re seeing as actually what we’ll finally get should include a hefty pinch of salt but damn… were there some stunning looking titles showcased this year.  The future looks healthy for all 3 major platforms and the games industry as a whole is making leaps and bounds in technology and innovation to bring us, the gamers so much for the coming years.

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Switch anniversary and the year ahead


Hi everyone.  I’ve not posted like this in a while.  Life’s been pretty busy start of the year despite me managing to cram in rather a lot of movies to review.  Also there seems to be some good stuff on the horizon for me, and thought I’d give it a little write-up.

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First it would be remiss of me not to mention that today marks the first year anniversary of the Nintendo Switch, a console I have fallen in love with and over the past twelve months has given me so much fun and enjoyment.  Highlights of course include The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild and Super Mario Odyssey, but along with this smaller titles like Rayman Legends and Steam World Dig 2 have also been a lot of fun.  The portability, versatility of this system can not go un-mentioned either and it’s a unique joy to play it in bed, sitting in my living room or in front of my bedroom TV on a larger screen.  Having the best of both worlds.  In the process, the Xbox One and PS4 have fallen by the way-side and not the Switch is my go-to console of choice and with games on the horizon like Donkey King Country Tropical Freeze and Yoshi, I can see it staying that way for the foreseeable future.

IMG_0286I’m of course also looking forward to seeing Garbage again in concert in September.  It will mark the 3rd time I have seen my favourite band live and well, I’m still pinching myself that I actually got to meet them as well back in 2016.  This tour will mark the 20 year anniversary of their second album ‘Version 2.0’ and as it’s my favourite album of theirs where I went from liking the band to being a real fan, this concert where they’ll play every track and every b-side released at the time … fills me with excitement.  I’ll be meeting up with a few like-minded friends when I am there so it should be a great experience for me again.  Incidentally, lead singer Shirley Manson was recently honoured by UK publication NME with their first ‘icon’ award which was presented to the Scottish singer at their annual NME awards in London.  As a long time fan this was a very proud moment for me.  I have said it before and I’ll keep saying it .. Garbage don’t get the recognition they deserve and it’s awards like this that feel even more special simply for that fact.  Well done Shirley!  Currently they are working on album #7 with a hope of a release in 2019.

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In other news, I’m currently watching several TV shows, including new seasons of Homeland, X-Files, The Walking Dead and Mr. Robot, the latter I consider one of the best shows available right now.  Speaking of TV shows, I was pleased to see a brief return of one of my favourite cult shows over Christmas, namely The League of Gentlemen, which was only three episodes but it was bliss.  The creators, Mark Gatiss, Jeremy Dyson, Reece Shearsmith and Steve Pemberton then followed this up by announcing a tour, of which I rushed to secure tickets.  Strangely enough it’s scheduled for two days after I see Garbage.  What a weekend that will be!  Their brand of humour is rather dark, character-driven comedy that is probably an acquired taste, but I love it.


As far as this blog is concerned, I want to vary the content a little and might do special posts of certain subjects, like favourite actors, movie genres etc and more stuff on video games and music.  I’m unsure what form that will take as I want to make it as interesting as possible, but I continue to love writing this blog and it keeps my love of writing alive.  Hope you all manage to get something from it too.

Until next time.

Craig.

Embarking on an Odyssey


Super Mario Odyssey CappyWell of course I purchased Super Mario Odyssey as a Nintendo Switch owner.  Probably the game I’ve been most hyped about all year.  So what’s it like?  I wouldn’t say I have the vastest experience with Mario games and haven’t owned all of Nintendo’s systems.  However I enjoyed Super Mario Sunshine on the Gamecube and dabbled in Super Mario World from time to time in it’s various incarnations although always found that particular entry overly difficult.  Odyssey however is the first fully free roaming Mario game in a while and on picking up the controller I was pleased at how fluid and natural the controls felt (helped I’m guessing by the game’s 60fps).  Graphically it’s varied, colourful and highly-detailed even if the worlds don’t quite have the wow-factor of Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, that other AAA Nintendo Switch game this will inevitably get compared to, which is unfair as the games couldn’t be more different.  Odyssey’s main plot is simplistic and typical Mario-fair.  Bowser has kidnapped Princess Peach and this time is planning a wedding.  It’s Mario’s job to rescue her and prevent the wedding by chasing Bowser’s flying ship across various kingdoms dotted around the globe.  In each kingdom there are a number of ‘moons’ to find to power your hat-shaped space ship known as the ‘Odyssey’ and this is where the game delivers it’s inspired gimmick. 

Mario Odyssey

A talking hat named ‘Cappy’ befriends Mario after Bowser wrecks it’s home, and chooses to help Mario in his quest because his own sweetheart, a tiara has also been kidnapped.  Cappy can be used during the game in a variety of ways, to either break boxes, platform to higher levels or possess in-game characters to help solve puzzles and further traverse the environments.  It’s a great addition to the Mario-formula and makes for endless gameplay opportunities, but does come at a cost.  You feel slightly over-powered with it and your ability to possess enemies can make the game rather easy, meaning it’s quite possible to breeze through the entire game despite how huge the various kingdoms can be.  Yet that would do the game a disservice as exploration, finding the moons and all the secrets, collecting outfits or souvenirs for your ship is where the meat is and the game greatly rewards players who go off the beaten track and search every nook and cranny.

I’m enjoying my time with Super Mario Odyssey but at this stage, a fair portion into the game I don’t feel it has the depth of Zelda to clock in 100hrs plus, but realise this is a very different but equally polished experience that will keep me coming back for a good while yet.  Does it deserve the wealth of accolades it’s had, the myriad of 10/10s?  Maybe not but it’s still a brilliant game that, if you have a Switch is an essential purchase.

Gaming perfection?


Yesterday I finished one of the most talked about and acclaimed videogames of the year… The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild.  Not for a long time has a game captivated me as much as this did.  It was a game I could walk away from for a week or two, and then come back and instantly feel appealed and at home in it’s world.  It made simply walking around and exploring as much fun as actually playing the game for it’s story or missions or quests.  It’s also a game I shall still come back to even post-credits, as the world is so huge and full of wonder, I just can’t stop exploring and simply enjoying being part of it all.

Breath-of-the-Wild

It’s filled to over-flowing with fun characters, interesting, awe-inspiring and varied environments and many many fun things to do and see.  The main quest involves eventually restoring peace to the world of Hyrule, by rescuing Princess Zelda from the clutches of the malevolent force ‘Ganon’, who not only has shrouded the magnificent castle Hyrule in an impenetrable force of evil, but also taken over four ‘divine beasts’ who once were guardians of the world but now drench the world in fear and danger.  Once you reclaim said guardians by climbing aboard their bodies and defeating a boss in each, only then can you attempt to defeat Ganon.  It’s a vast under-taking but one I always felt compelled to persevere with despite the wealth of distractions available (the endless amount of ‘shrines’ to discover, the myriad of countless quests given to you by various characters) which is something the likes of Grand Theft Auto doesn’t seem to be as good at – keeping the player focused on the main quest and not just the side stuff.

Add to this a ridiculous attention to detail in every aspect of the game.  The amount to see and do is crazy, the detail in the cartoon world presented is like nothing I’ve ever witnessed before…it has an atmosphere, personality and beauty to it that taking pictures and just standing looking around at stuff, the life, the wild-life and plants, the trees, the realistic weather … is just so fulfilling.  It is definitely what you’d call the complete package, and probably a game that such like we may not see again this generation.

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It’s gameplay and difficulty seemed very well implemented, with a gradual learning curve and increase in difficulty that works seamlessly with character progression, discovering new abilities, new armour and skills or weapons, that not once did I feel the game was unfair or that I couldn’t get past something without some perseverance.  That’s not to say it was easy – at times it was very tough, but it was a toughness that I felt my failings were my own fault and not that of the game, and as I learnt and developed my own ability, I’d triumph just when I was meant to and not before.

So I honour this game with my highest recommendation.  If you have a Nintendo Switch or even Wii U … it’s a must play.

What I’ve been up to


Destiny_2

I haven’t posted on here for a while.  Well, apart from going away on holiday for a long weekend last week, I haven’t been watching any movies and have more been concentrating on a combination of work and in my leisure time, playing some games.  Currently I’m playing Destiny 2 on Xbox One which I had pre-ordered a while back.  Short impressions?  I’m really digging it.  It’s not exactly far removed from Destiny 1, bar some improvements and polish to the formula, such as now being able to travel to different locations without returning to orbit.  I put many hours into Destiny 1 and can see me putting just as much time into this sequel.  The advent of clans and easier to be a part of fire teams seems an added incentive also.  Graphically it’s no slouch either, with varied planets to explore and great effects and atmosphere.  The core combat is also as satisfying as it ever was.  The game could greatly do with some new enemy types however but apart from that I’m having a great time.

Steam World Dig 2

Another game I’m enjoying is Steam World Dig 2 on the Nintendo Switch.  I liked the look of this game from footage I’d seen a while back and it’s as fun and interesting an experience as I’d hoped.  What can I say – platform exploration mixed with mining / digging is like gaming crack, and I find it very appealing that I want to rush back to the game time and time again.  It may be a 2D platformer but it has colourful, vibrant graphics with a charming art-style and plenty of detail.  I don’t have much else to say other than give it a try if curious.

I also got my hands on the highly anticipated Sonic Mania.  I have the Switch version and boy, I’d forgot how difficult Sonic used to be.  It’s sort of a celebration / re-imagining of the first 3 Sonic The Hedgehog games from waaaay back on the Sega Megadrive, with a few new stages added in for good measure.  Although I’m enjoying it and it’s still a great deal of addictive fun, it’s reliance on old-school pixel graphics is a little disappointing – a bit of refinement here and there would’ve been nice – and a few new animations only adds so much.  Overall for a Switch game it’s at times a bit ugly.  Yet as a celebration of a famed videogame character, I guess it does it’s job well enough.

twin-peaks

I finished watching Twin Peaks Season 3 also, and have come away somewhat disheartened.  The ending, without spoiling just left me thinking ‘wtf?’ and many plot threads (if they can be called that – this was not your usual show) failed to go anywhere.  I’m leaving my final verdict until after I’ve re-watched the whole season on Blu-ray where I can really study it … not that I’m really expecting to come away all that wiser.  We’ll see.  Yet I will say this:  as a purely artistic, utterly surreal ‘vision’ and as a return to film-making by acclaimed director David Lynch it was still effective, and at times amazing – but satisfying?  The jury’s still out on that one.

I have some movie reviews in the pipe line and a few other ideas for this blog, so keep an eye out for further updates soon.

Craig.