Next gen begins here.


I’ve pre-ordered a PlayStation 5. Yeah, as someone who primarily plays on Xbox, that kind of surprises me too, but stay with me here. I have every intention of getting an Xbox Series X at some stage, but my existing Xbox One X isn’t that old and with nothing that essential coming to the Series X at launch (that isn’t also coming to Xbox One) I did feel there was little reason to upgrade just yet. Over on the PlayStation, Sony seem to have delivered a bit more next-gen excitement this time and games like Spider-Man Miles Moralis , Ratchet & Clank: A Rift Apart and Demon’s Souls look great and show off what is possible with these machines (ray tracing, super-fast loading) … and when put simply, my PS4 is getting rather old and sounds like a jet engine when in use. I am looking forward to playing PS4 titles like The Last of Us Part II on it with faster loading and more stable frame rates.

I’m under no illusion that next-gen isn’t going to entirely knock my socks off this side off Christmas or well into next year but I wanted an upgrade to my PS4 and also enjoy keeping up with technology developments. Entering a new generation is always exciting and boarding that ship is something I love doing. Also technology gimmicks like the haptic feedback on the new PS5 ‘dual-sense’ controller will be fun to explore, even if in the long/run it’s a feature that will get used less and less (I’m guessing).

There’s still some element of the unknown here, how games will perform and what features they’ll have (and not have), and how third party games will compare between PlayStation and Xbox. Xbox has a lot of promise still, what with all the new studios they’ve acquired and the consumer-friendly services they’re offering. I just don’t feel we’ve really seen much games-wise to truly excite (Halo Infinite’s delay went along with aiding my decision to hold off on Microsoft’s console right now). Either way us gamers have much to look forward to in the coming years and the rivalry between the big console names will deliver some great games as a result I’m sure. For now though PlayStation 5 will be my starting point.

Roll on November 19th.

Let’s talk about: The Last Of Us Part II


Never in the history of at least my gaming life have I experienced such backlash and a dividing of the audience as I’ve seen with this game. Having now finished it and enjoyed it, I’ve been trying to figure out and understand some of the negativity and hate thrown at this game which on a whole has been a massive critical and commercial success. Below I’ll give a short review on the game, and tackle some of the issues people are having. Warning: SPOILERS ahead.

A woman scorned…

This is a revenge tale that follows the character of Ellie, in a world struck by a virus who herself is immune from, and having to deal with the revelation that Joel, her friend and father-figure from the last game saved her from being killed by doctors who wanted to create a vaccine from her blood. Set 4 years after, Ellie’s out to avenge the death of someone she cares about on a journey where violence and hate prove a corrosive pursuit. It’s not a new idea, many movies have tackled a similar subject but in video games it’s quite unique but handled well here. At its heart it’s a stealth / action based journey set in a world not dissimilar to The Walking Dead. Characters and the performances are incredibly nuanced and deliver emotions more convincingly than any game I’ve played (it’s even better than Hellblade or for it’s time Half-Life 2). Production values and visuals are incredible, easily some of the best on PS4 (if not ever) and gameplay is slick, brilliantly realised with intense action, great atmosphere and tons of memorable encounters. It’s also particularly daring with its twists, which brings me to the criticisms, some of which I do understand.

SPOILERS AHEAD: stop reading if not finished TLOU2

Final warning….. SPOILERS

A beloved character from the first game, Joel is killed early on. Online leaks spoilt this and caused many fans to make their mind up about the game before even playing it. Also, at certain points you take control of the main antagonist, Abbie who is painted early on as bitter and evil, but as you play through her segments her driving force becomes more understandable. Yes, I took a while to warm to her and her segments take up a bit too much of the game with some parts (the skyscraper) feeling padded out or unnecessary. However her relationship with the two Scars members proves a worthwhile highlight. Yet the game asks a great deal of the player to be onboard with this character, and I can see those shocked or offended by Joel’s death, would find the Abbie segments too big an ask. I almost wanted to stop playing when the game had me controlling Abbie whilst fighting Ellie. But I persevered and am glad I did. Where it went with it’s revenge ark – was incredibly powerful even if it made for quite a bummer ending.

the face of evil…?

Yet the hate levelled at this game … sigh. Threats to the game makers and performers, petitions to have it remade. Entitled much? I agree it won’t be a story everyone can get behind, I may even have ideas how it could have played out differently to get the same result without ‘forcing’ the player to do certain things in the name of hammering home it’s message. Yet for daring storytelling, assured game design that may not break the mould but polishes it to near perfection … I found very little to complain about. There is no room in this industry for such hate and threatening behaviour though. If you don’t like the game, just don’t buy it, don’t play it, express your opinion but keep the bile and hate to yourself. Not many game designers have the audacity to deliver a story in this way, and such a backlash might only cause the industry to shy away from such bold manoeuvres in the future.

Beauty in dark times…

I personally loved this game and have found myself coming back to many sections again for collectibles, the gameplay and for the rich and (at time’s ridiculously) detailed world these brilliantly realised characters inhabit. Is it perfect? No, structurally I’d have liked some of the fat trimmed here and there as well as more ‘choice’ given to the player rather than just violence as the only action. But with that said it’s a game I won’t easily forget.

Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse


Viewed – 19 July 2019. Online rental

I wasn’t that fussed about watching this. This is mainly down to the fact, I’ve found the recent Spider-Man movies underwhelming.  However I kept hearing good things about this, especially the animation so I thought I’d give it a go.  Miles, a young black kid with a talent for graffiti, gets bitten by a radioactive spider after trespassing into an underground facility.  There he witnesses a battle between Spider-Man and various super villains just as an experimental device creates an inter-dimensional rip in reality.  Soon after Miles discovers he has wall crawling abilities just as various other ‘Spider-Men’ appear from alternative realities.

Immediately I was taken back by the excellent animation and particularly wowed by how it combines the look of 2D comic book art with CGI – it’s certainly a style I want to see more of.  The story whilst initially a bit cliched anchors itself with convincing relationships and a solid learning-to-be-a-hero ark.  The various multi-verse versions of Spider-Man are also a great idea ranging from a brooding noir style to Japanese animation and even a Porky Pig-style incarnation.  We also get the semi-usual Spider-Man and even Spider-Gwen.  Action throughout is also inventive, exciting and a visual showcase.

Villain Kingpin’s look is too exaggerated for my liking, but characters like The Prowler (something about that guy sends shivers) and Doctor Octopus are a welcome addition.  For a movie called ‘Into the Spider-Verse’ the fact multiverses aren’t especially explored is disappointing, and the final battle has a bit of a weak conclusion.  However for a Spider-Man movie this is a step-up from The Amazing Spider-Man movies and even Homecoming.  Recommended.

Verdict: 3.5 /5

E3 2019 roundup


The biggest calendar event in gaming, E3 has come and gone once again, and as usual there’s been surprises, disappointments and lots and lots of games! Sony’s absence this year was jarring but not all that missed as there was still plenty to gush over, some of which, my personal highlights, I’ve detailed below…

Microsoft

I was majorly hyped going into this press conference that kick-started E3 2019 and have to admit … I came away a little disappointed. Big games announced the previous year like Gears of War 5 (now simply called Gears 5??) and Halo Infinite were shown but with little to no game play. I wasn’t really expecting much from Halo, but more was shown of Gears last year than we got in this initial press conference. A strong focus on the multiplayer was also concerning.

However, a ton of games were revealed, a good amount of exclusives such as the new game from Ninja Theory ‘Bleeding Edge‘ which looked cool but a bit too Overwatch-y for me. A release date for the long-awaited Ori and the Will of the Wisps was welcome, even if February 2020 still seems like a long wait. There just wasn’t that big ‘wow’ moment I had hoped for unless you count Keanu Reeves coming on stage to reveal the release date for Cyberpunk 2077 (April 3020) – which admittedly was rather cool. Even a reveal of-such of Microsoft’s next console ‘Project Scarlett‘ didn’t do much – what does it look like? How much will it cost? Still, 4 times more power than Xbox One X? Where do I sign?

Overall the show entertained, showed a lot but never really took off for me, which was unexpected considering all the promise of last year. Xbox is clearly in good shape and has plenty still to offer, but with PS5 on the horizon, this wasn’t quite enough to silence the nay-sayers.

Nintendo

Ok Nintendo truly knocked it out of the park with a Nintendo Direct and Treehouse hands-on that showcased a good amount of games I’d really want to play. Luigi’s Mansion 3 looked incredible, as did the personally-anticipated The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening. I was also really impressed with Astro Chain. Oh, and The Witcher 3 is getting a Switch port? That’s pretty damn amazing. Animal Crossing delayed till 2020? Oh well, it didn’t float my boat much anyway. There was also no sign of Bayonetta 3 or Metroid Prime 4.

However it was the confirmation and teaser trailer for a sequel to Breath of the Wild that genuinely blew my mind. I’m suddenly excited about Nintendo Switch all over again!! That’s how you deliver the goods at E3.

The other guys

Ubisoft’s conference was decent. I’m certainly now hyped for the amazing looking Watchdogs Legion, and the new Ghost Recon Breakpoint game looked cool too. A lack (again) of a Splinter Cell announcement was disappointing though.

Square Enix showed more of the highly anticipated Final Fantasy VII remake which looked lush. However I remain on the fence about Crystal Dynamics’ Avengers game. The Switch version of Dragon Quest XI looks great though.

Bethesda seemed to take a long time apologising for Fallout 76, but did manage to show off Doom Eternal and various game expansions and mobile games (a growing trend at E3). The new game from Arkane Studios ‘Death Loop‘ looked freaky and interesting, as did ‘Ghostwire Tokyo‘.

Nintendo and a few others aside , a reliance on pre-rendered cinematic trailers rather than hands-on game play footage was problematic (no Cyberpunk game play after all this time?) but this year E3 still proved it’s worth and remains for me the best way to get hyped about the games industry … an annual event I truly hope never disappears.

Game of E3: for me it’s definitely Watchdogs Legion

Biggest surprise: Breath of the Wild sequel teaser

That’s all from me for now.  Lots to look forward to on the gaming horizon.

Craig.

State of Play


gamingWell it’s obvious we live in a really amazing time for video games.. i’m in the fortunate position to own three games consoles; the Xbox One X , PlayStation 4 and Nintendo Switch … and even though I’m not a PS4 player these days (I mostly use it for Netflix on YouTube), I find plenty to turn to via my Xbox and Switch.  The games I’ve been playing lately including still diving in and out of The Legend of Zelda Breath of the Wild (clocked over 200hrs on that masterpiece so far) as well as persevering with Pokémon Let’s Go and to a smaller extent Super Smash Bros Ultimate.  As far as newer games are concerned I’ve been playing Metro Exodus after recently completing Metro Last Light (highly recommended), Exodus has some of the best graphics I’ve seen for a while on Xbox One X which really shows off the system in its full 4K glory, and is a solid survival shooter that has strong echoes of the legendary Half Life 2 due to a focus on story and characterisation as well as polished gameplay.

Devil May Cry 5

I’ve also recently started playing Devil May Cry 5, the latest entry in a series I’ve always been fond of even though I’ve only really ever played the first game … but I did play the seriously misunderstood spin-off DMC Devil May Cry a while back on the Xbox 360 which I consider an underrated gem.  I’m also still occasionally dipping into Red Dead Redemption 2 which whilst a very good game and real showcase for the Xbox One X, fails to fully hold my interest as much as other games can do.  I’m not entirely sure why this is because it’s really well done and they’ve re-created the Wild West superbly, but I think it’s that open-world freedom which, with exceptions, I find turned off by. In most regards when it comes to games I much prefer a straightforward linear narrative with occasional side quests and secrets thrown in, if a game has any chance of holding my interest.

I think regardless of what system you prefer, what games you play there is something for everyone available at the moment. It’s to the point that sometimes there’s a too much choice and it’s more a case of a lack of time or lack of money preventing me from playing some of these titles … but if I choose wisely I can stumble upon some real gems and get some great experiences in this hobby I enjoy almost as much as movies.

Craig.