The Mitchells Vs The Machines


Viewed – 15 May 2021 Netflix

A girl who dreams of making it in the film making industry, one day gets her wish when she is accepted to film school. However on the same day as she leaves to begin her new life, a megalomaniacal A.I. called ‘Pal’ decides to start a robot invasion after her creator chooses to discard her for a more advanced version. Think of it as if Apple’s Siri turned evil and suddenly wanted to rid the earth of mankind. Gulp.

“Mom, Dad … we’re mankind’s only hope!”

From the creative geniuses that brought us the acclaimed Spider-Man Into The Spider-Verse, this is an energetic and highly entertaining experience, that blends family drama with a robot apocalypse action movie. Katie, our lead is a plucky, technology-obsessed, typical modern teenager and is reflective of the world we find ourselves in, where anyone with a bit of imagination can create movies and animation, on their phones or laptops. The animation style, like Spider-Man is sort of 2D art brought to life in 3D, is jam packed with ideas and detail and looks gorgeous. Occasionally I think it gets a bit over the top, with things popping up on screen to emphasis and over-emphasis moments … but mostly it works.

Although these kind of movies are not meant to be realistic, sometimes the action gets so crazy any hint of plausibility is thrown out of the window. Thankfully, a genuinely touching father and daughter sub-plot gives this its emotional crutch to rest all of the chaos upon. I get a feeling, being delivered as a Netflix original this could be over-looked, which is a shame because this has plenty of great moments, looks stunning, has real meaning and above all else is a ton of fun. Check it out.

Verdict: Recommended

PlayStation 5 – six months in


Well, its been a while since I posted about this machines and my experiences with it. Of course I’ve discovered much more since first buying the console and have much to report back on. Below I’ve separated my thoughts into a few sections for a deeper overall opinion. In short I’m loving the console.

The hardware

It has had its quirks. Generally I’ve not had many, but have experienced some issues. Firstly using external storage, such as my Barracuda Fast SSD, had one issue that crashed the system all together during an update. I was playing Spider-Man Miles Morales and the console decided to update Ghost of Tsushima on the external SSD, and suddenly I got a black screen and an unresponsive console. Turns out holding down the power button put the console into standby shut it down and it eventually restarted. Thankfully the condole came back on and I haven’t had that happen since. A bit of online research resulted in me discovering this was a known issue, and after numerous updates, this seems to have been fixed, as have many of the other known issues that have been reported. Currently the machine feels rather robust and less glitchy than it first appeared which is great for late adopters. Overall I’ve not had many problems that have ruined my fun.

The controller, the dual-sense is one of the major next-gen things about the PS5. It feels great to use, much more so than previous PlayStation controllers and is closer to the Xbox controller in weight and feel. However its biggest selling points are the haptic feedback and adaptive triggers. Although not used in all games and like the touchpad on the PS4 controller, will mostly get used in exclusive titles. In the free bundled game, Astro’s Playroom it gets a real workout, with the player able to feel (and hear) raindrops falling. In addition the way the triggers work, providing resistance based on whatever you are doing or using in-game works great when it’s used. In recent shooter Returnal the guns feel incredible with the adaptive triggers and haptic feedback giving each gun real punch.

The console’s built-in SSD is also next-gen stuff, with games often loading super-fast. Going from the titles screen in Spider-Man Miles Morales to gameplay is about 3-4 seconds which… just never happened before, and fast travel in big open world games, is finally that – fast. It varies from game to game, and PS4 games only slightly benefit from it, but actual PS5 games it’s very noticeable. It makes simply switching on the console for a quick gaming session, far more appealing.

The games

I’ve played a number of games on my PS5 and feel I have a good overall opinion on what the machine is capable of, even if we have still not had games that really push the machine’s capabilities (although anyone who has watched the recent Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart state of play, will have a good idea what can be achieved). I have played Watchdogs: Legion which has a massive recreation of London and showcases the machine’s ‘Ray Tracing’ capabilities to demonstrate some gorgeous reflections. This can also be seen in Spider-Man. It makes games look particularly impressive.

It has also been fun revisiting some PS4 games I either didn’t play or never fully got into, like Horizon Zero Dawn. As technically a PS4 game, I’ve also played a lot of Cyberpunk 2077, which I know has had its problems but I have still had a good time with it. In addition to the games mentioned I’ve also played the Demons Souls remake, which whilst technically impressive, its challenging gameplay, whilst rewarding and well worth it, can be an acquired taste (file Returnal under a similar category too).

A big selling point of many games on the PS5 is 60 frames-per-second, something that is even more appealing than say, 4K resolution. It’s not in all games, but is offered up in most, usually in a ‘performance mode’ such as with games like Immortals: Fenyx Rising (pictured above) and gives a much more fluid, sharp and life-like experience. I’m really sold on it. The more games that come out, and the better developers get used to the console, the more this will become the new ‘normal’ in games. Thats such a great thing.

I should also mention 3D audio. I recently picked up the official Pulse 3D headset and my experience thus far has been very positive. I’m a bit on the fence of the benefits of 3D audio, whether it sounds that much better than regular audio, but it depends on the games. Yet the headset sounds very good regardless delivering plenty of detail and atmosphere when playing.

Final thoughts

I’m not too happy about the price hike on certain games (mostly exclusives) to £70 which is just too high. Suppose Sony being the market leader can do what they want as long as the audience is there. However in comparison to Xbox’s Gamepass it does seem a bit of a rip off. Yet it’s hard to argue with the quality of Sony’s games. The technology built into the PS5 is really great too and that just makes for an exciting gaming future. Overall, I have very few gripes and otherwise highly recommend getting this machine if you can find one.

Games of a generation


I thought I’d look back on the last gen of gaming. The generation I am talking about of course, is PlayStation 4, Xbox One, as well as Nintendo Switch. Between these consoles there have been many quality games released, but the games/franchises detailed below are the titles that overall impressed me the most.

game on…

Dishonoured 2 – Arkane Studios deliver one of the finest sequels ever. A highly detailed and absorbing steam-punk inspired world, gorgeous visuals and the best stealth gameplay in the business. A ton of ways to play it and rewards replaying sections over and over. A game that got rather ignore upon release and really shouldn’t have been.

Rise of the Tomb Raider – I’ve always been a fan of Lara Croft and have played many of the games she has starred in. However this sequel to the rebooted Tomb Raider is the most cinematic, exciting, puzzle filled and action packed than anything that came before. It’s also endlessly playable, with perfectly implemented stealth and with many areas you can revisit and explore.

Titanfall 1 & 2 – for me the best multiplayer shooters ever made. The combination of on foot shooting mixed with giant mech carnage is done so well, it was always thrilling. Add to this the brilliantly cinematic gameplay of the sequel’s single player campaign, and despite games like Call of Duty remaining the popular vote – this series for me is far superior.

Life is Strange – one of the only story-driven adventure games that held my interest. This absorbing episodic game about a teenage girl’s return to her home town and the strange things that happen was really involving and cleverly done, so much so that its sequel couldn’t quite deliver whatever it was that made this game work. For something a bit different but still compelling, I’m really glad I played this.

Assassin’s Creed Unity – despite technical issues at launch, I didn’t pick this up until those issues were fixed. The only ‘Creed game to hold my interest all the way to the end. It didn’t feel bloated, had interesting characters, finely tuned gameplay and a fantastic world, with a stunning Paris boasting some of the most detailed visuals of the generation (the crowd physics are still yet to be beaten).

The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt – one of the deepest most absorbing RPGs I’ve ever played. A huge, intricate world to explore, rich story telling, a brilliant protagonist in ‘Geralt of Rivia’ – and brilliantly crafted action, gorgeous visuals and just plenty to see and do … for months.

Red Dead Redemption 2 – live out all your wildest cowboy fantasies in Rockstar’s stunning Wild West action adventure. A deep and involving story, memorable characters and one of the most detailed, life-like worlds ever put into a video game. This will take some beating.

The Last of Us Part II – raw, cinematic, pulls no punches, devastating – takes video game storytelling into bold, uncharted waters. One of the most absorbing and powerful games I’ve ever experienced. All aided by industry defining combat, stunningly detailed visuals and characters that truly felt alive to me. One of the all time greats.

The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild – the game I put more hours into than any other in the generation. The huge world, atmosphere and finely-tuned gameplay is endlessly absorbing. It’s also jam-packed full of secrets and things to do, but never feels overwhelming. One of the most perfectly designed and enjoyable games I’ve ever played.

Destiny 1 & 2 – for an ongoing game I always keep returning to, the world here and concept is amazing. A sci-if epic where customising my ‘guardian’, doing missions and exploring just kept me glued. Add to this constant additional content, industry defining combat and the fact it’s now free to play and on Gamepass means this is still a great go-to experience that keeps on giving.

Honourable mentions:

Resident Evil 7: Biohazard,

Metro: Exodus,

Control

So, there you have it. I’m sure there are many games I failed to mention. If some of your favourites aren’t here that’ll be because I either didn’t play them or they didn’t quite grab me as much. The games in this list show that last generation was both ground breaking and a hint at the promise of the new generation and what games we can look forward to. I’ve always found it hard to pinpoint exactly what it is that makes me fall in love with a game… but for one reason or another the games above all had ‘it’.

Craig.

Cyberpunk 2077 – impressions


A utopia worth saving?

Well the most highly anticipated game of 2020 is now the most controversial with a launch that didn’t exactly go to plan. Developer CD Projekt Red is currently on damage control after misleading gamers and journalists about the state of the game on last-gen consoles, specifically base PS4 & Xbox One. Thankfully I’ve been playing it on PS5 where it has fared somewhat better with (up to) 60fps, although frequent crashes and occasional bugs still plague the experience for me. I’m hopeful CDPR will sort many of these issues over the next couple of months and that the new consoles get their proposed ‘next-gen patch’ – but until then, what’s the game like to play?

I’m having a lot of fun it has to be said and despite some of the negativity surrounding this game right now, it can’t be argued that as far as story, characterisation, setting and gameplay is concerned, this is really good. Performances, especially in missions of other characters is very convincing as is my own character who’s voice actor really conveys emotion (I’m playing as a female V). I’ve only touched the surface of the levelling up, customisation etc and even after 20 hours have yet to really get into the cyberware or ‘smart’ weapons. Exploring night city is great too – the design of the layout, buildings, neon all very convincing and impressive. There seems lots of hidden away areas, alleyways, bars, shady characters, prostitutes, gangs and sex & violence around every corner. Yes it’s very mature but in a comic book kind of way that definitely has tongue planted firmly in cheek. The RPG elements are cool but a bit fiddly and the hacking doesn’t feel that intuitive. However there is a ton of content, what appears to be a very well thought out story and plenty of side content that’ll keep me busy for a long while.

Of course I must mention the bugs. On the PS5 it’s far from the horror story reported by users of other platforms as detailed above, but crashes that send you back to the PS5 hone screen are frequent. Also for a world this detailed, it’s looks can be inconsistent. Some streets and interiors look jaw dropping, whilst others look bland and rather last-gen (this admittedly is basically the PS4 Pro version) and is in need of polish in many places, and well, pedestrian NPCs that have some personality! Lol. But these are all things I have faith CDPR will fix – they have to to regain the image they once had in wake of The Witcher 3.

So if playing this on PS5 (and reportedly Xbox Series S & X) or especially on a high-end PC … this is (almost) the game we have been eagerly awaiting. However if you’re stuck with a last-gen console, wait until it gets the patches it’s been promised – but don’t expect miracles. Despite information to the contrary, this game was always next-gen & PC experience. Just a shame CDPR felt the need to try and please everyone.

PlayStation 5 – early impressions


Well as promised my brand spanking new next-generation games console arrived today, November 19th the U.K./European launch day. On unpacking it I was aware from the various unboxing vids I’d seen on YouTube, but was still taken back by the console’s immense size and unique shape. It’s an impressive looking device!

Set up was easy; attach the cables, fit the stand (again, unboxing vids came in handy) and switch the machine on. I went though the usual on screen prompts to log in, connect to WiFi etc, and quickly began installing Demon’s Souls. I thought I’d check out the much talked about Astro’s Playroom whilst I wait, However it required an update, which took a while (I don’t have the fastest Internet) so it was a bit of a wait until I got to play my first PS5 game.

The only downside I’ve experienced thus far is how slow the machine copies data from the disk (definitely much slower than PS4) and then the loooooong wait for an update to download. I think much of my time was even taken up purely waiting. Sigh.

Back to Astro’s Playroom and yes, that haptic feedback (combined with the built in speaker) is no joke in the new Dual-Sense controller. I love it and it certainly adds a lot to the experience. This game is largely a showcase for the capabilities of the controller but is also a fun platformer that compares favourably to Mario’s 3D outings. It’s polished, very colourful and full of personality. I must say I’m not that into games that are purely a showcase for tech, I prefer something a bit more grounded … but I’ll certainly be coming back to this.

Demon’s Souls was up next: I’ve always avoided the Dark Souls series, and many of my trepidation’s were confirmed. This is pretty tough and at times frustrating with an unforgiving restart system. However as a graphical showcase this was lush. So far I’ve only played it in its 60fps ‘performance’ mode but it felt extremely responsive and fluid. I will check out the 30fps 4K mode also, when I feel up to tackling the game again.

Finally I gave Spider-Man: Miles Morales a go. I played it for about an hour and was instantly hooked. So far this is easily my favourite. It looks stunning, the ultra-realistic reflections, courtesy of the much hyped ‘ray-tracing’ technology is stunning, and well… it’s just fun!

Miles Morales had an issue installing an update at first, but downloading it a second time there wasn’t a problem. I haven’t really explored much else what the machine can do, and haven’t touched backwards compatibility with PS4 games. I also have Watchdogs Kegion so will check that out another time.

For now though this has been good. I’m certainly impressed by the swiftness of the loading, but not so much with the installing or updating. The graphics are very good, but better than say Red Dead Redemption 2 on Xbox One X? I’m not sure. There a slickness to everything here though and it does feel ‘next-gen’. so for now I’d say that’s good enough. I’m looking forward to diving in deeper with this console so may provide updated impressions soon.

Craig.