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 I stalling 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 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.

Spider-Man: Far From Home


Viewed – 12 November 2019. Online rental

In the wake of the events of Avengers: Endgame, Peter Parker / Spider-Man (Tom Holland) is on a school trip in Europe when a series of elemental beasts begin to attack various cities. When a hero from another dimension appears to battle them, Parker feels obliged to offer his help, aided by new tech left to him by the (spoiler) late Tony Stark.

I wasn’t the biggest fan of the last few Spider-Man movies but do think Holland is perfectly cast. This time around he teams up with Jake Gylkenhaal‘s Mysterio, who proves a very interesting character even if an actor of his calibre is hardly ‘stretched’. Samuel L Jackson‘s Nick Fury is also a welcome return after his absence from other movies. The story is generally teen angst complicated by an inconvenient new threat, and the shadow of Tony Stark / Iron-Man looms once again which for me spoilt the last movie. However here at least Spidy gets to do his own thing and we are treated to some great set-pieces with some very imaginative moments revolving around Mysterio’s illusion powers.

At the end of the day this hardly breaks the mould for a Spider-Man or Marvel movie and lacks the depth of a Captain America or Avengers – but when it’s all this entertaining … does that really matter? Not ‘amazing’ then, but still the best Spidy outing in quite a while.

Verdict: 3.5 /5

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

Stan Lee dies


So sad to hear that the legendary Stan Lee has passed away. The creator of many of our favourite super heroes, including Spider-Man and The Incredible Hulk, he was the pioneer of many a kid’s childhood fantasies and well, we wouldn’t have the Marvel Cinematic Universe without his boundless imagination. He will be sadly missed.

R.I.P.

Avengers: Infinity War


Viewed – 09 May 2018  Cinema

Do I suffer from comic-book movie fatigue?  To a degree yes.  I still enjoy some super-hero smack down action but have felt underwhelmed by recent fare both through over-familiarity with the concept and the desire for something different and a little deeper.  So we come to this epic instalment where it seems Marvel is throwing everything at the viewer for the ultimate battle against what appears to be the ultimate foe – Thanos.  Hinted at and foreshadowed in previous movies, the intergalactic megalomaniac, played by Josh Brolin is finally out to claim the fabled Infinity Stones, of which if he claims all six will give him ultimate power over life and death in the universe.

Avengers Infinity War

So the stakes are immensely high and it’s up to a disbanded Avengers (Iron Man, Captain America, The Hulk, Scarlet Witch, Black Widow etc) and any friends they can pull into their ranks (including Spider Man) to stop this powerhouse of a villain.  In a movie like this it would be easy to go lazy and just fill the run time with fight after fight, which we get in spectacular fashion … but what takes this to another level is the depth to the characterisation I wasn’t expecting and even though it’s crowded with ego’s butting heads, somehow many of the characters get time to have their moment and stand out individually.  Despite such a serious situation it also throws in moments of decent humour, especially with the inclusion of the Guardians of the Galaxy, with the scenes between Chris Hemsworth’s Thor and Chris Pratt’s Star Lord proving particularly funny.

So we come to the central figure here, the long awaited and somewhat hyped appearance of Thanos, and Josh Brolin brings a surprising amount of pathos and grit to the character that makes him the closest Marvel has got to the level of Heath Ledger’s Joker.  He really is that good, and in a movie with many surprises and bold plot developments, he elevates the movie into the realm of classic status.  The fact the movie takes risks with a very familiar formula, especially in it’s closing moments just has to be applauded also.  This is the best Avengers movie yet and could possibly be the best Marvel movie.  So simply put, you have to see this one.

Verdict:  5 /5