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.

The Xbox situation


I’ve been an Xbox fan since the OG Xbox back in the day, and supported them to this day. I love my Xbox One X but it’s certainly been a shame to watch its nearest rival PlayStation and also the Nintendo Switch soar away from it in sales figures and all-round positive buzz. The Xbox One got off to a poor start, touted as an all-round media device rather than a games console that was both weaker than PS4 and more expensive with its at the time mandatory Kinect add-on. Despite best efforts from the team ever since, with the inception of Gamepass etc,, they still failed to turn things around … not helped by a shortage of major exclusive games that could compete with what PS4 has been offering. Although franchises like Forza, Gears of War have still been well received.

Going into the new gen, it’s become clear that Microsoft and Xbox head Phil Spencer’s philosophy is very different to PlayStation. Sony are riding high on massive sales and extremely positive feedback, so are happy to go full-on into PS5 and kiss PS4 goodbye – safe in the knowledge that millions of fans will likely follow. Xbox however seem reluctant to abandon Xbox One in favour of Series X and are delivering a confusing, worrying message to their fans and anyone interested in next-gen. Phil Spencer says ‘exclusive games are anti-consumer’. They don’t want any game coming Xbox Series X that’s not also coming to Xbox One for at least a year (if not two), and are relying on a subscription service as the way forward rather than asking consumers to have to pay £50-£60 for new games. They also insist on everything coming to PC, ruining any ‘exclusivity’ their games could potentially boast. On one hand it’s very consumer-friendly, but on the other hand it suggests a lack of confidence.

Recently both Sony and Microsoft have shown their hand with regards to the future of their respective brands. Sony chose to hold off the reveal of their console, whilst Microsoft showed theirs early on. Sony showcased plenty of in-game footage and showed off the potential of their super-fast SSD storage solution in games like the dimension-jumping Ratchet & Clank. Microsoft revealed Halo Infinite in a rather current-gen state. Instead they boasted that all their games were coming to Gamepass. That’s cool, I’ll admit. Both consoles will be of course be very powerful, boast (amongst other features) ray-tracing that brings game visuals to life in a way never before seen on a console. Yet something about Sony’s marketing is exciting, whilst Microsoft’s is simply ‘safe’.

I feel that Xbox have good things in store, the Series X will still be a very capable machine, and long-term they may well turn things around. They have some good ideas to pave the way and place them in a good position for the future. Gamepass, X-Cloud etc is the way the industry is going. They have the development studios now more than ever. It’s just currently, PlayStation has the buzz, Microsoft should be focused on selling their new console, not just their brand. I’ll be interested to hear the prices of the new consoles, which could prove a major factor, and launch games line-up of which at this stage, Xbox has the numbers. We’ll see what happens.

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.

Gaming in 2018


gaming

This was the year that I embraced the Nintendo Switch further and also upgraded my Xbox One to the Xbox One X.  It’s also been fairly packed as far as actual games are concerned, and although I haven’t finished that many games, I have experienced a rather wide variety of gaming than I have for a while.

HellbladeI dipped my toe into the narrative-lead genre with Life Is Strange and enjoyed following a story primarily rather than shooting or hitting things.  It was refreshing.  The award winning Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice took a similar narrative focus but also brought with it intelligent examinations of mental illness mixed with nors mythology.  Both are games I intend to go back to and finish at some stage.

Finishing (at least as far as their stories are concerned) The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, Super Mario Odyssey, Dishonoured 2 and Shadow of the Tomb Raider this year were also some of my fondest gaming memories in the last twelve months, and especially Zelda being now one of the best games I’ve ever played.  It feels a good time to be a gamer.

Shadow of the Tomb Raider

Sony’s PlayStation 4 I confess has taken a significant back seat this year with even titles like God of War not really holding my interest.  I think it’s just the fact it’s the most talked about and most popular games consoles on the market that leaves me cold and I often find myself shunning that which is treated as such and well, who doesn’t like to back the under-dog?  So yes, Xbox has got far more of my attention and although I’ve only slightly dipped my toe into the consoles admittedly lacking exclusives (Sea of Thieves seemed cool at first ‘till I realised it had nothing to offer the single player, and Xbox One XForza Horizon 4 is superb but racing games don’t hold my interest.  However I did really like State of Decay 2 and should get back into it at some stage).  Yet I admit it hasn’t been a great year for Xbox despite their Gamepass service being terrific and a great way to play lots of different games I may otherwise pass up.  I have my hopes for 2019, but Crackdown 3 or possibly the next Halo isn’t going to win them a console war they’ve already lost.  Roll on next gen I say.

Recently I’ve been getting into Pokémon.  In the run up to Nintendo Switch exclusive Pokémon Let’s Go, I’ve been playing the mobile game Pokémon Go.  I really like the concept and can see it being a new thing for me and am really enjoying the Switch game since having it for Christmas.  In addition to this I’ve been playing Super Smash Bros Ultimate (I’m a complete novice to the series but am certainly impressed with what this version offers as far as modes and gameplay not to mention the graphical detail on show).  Also I’ve been playing the much hyped Red Dead Redemption 2 which is THE showcase for the Xbox One X, with native 4K resolution and the most detailed and impressive gaming world I have ever experienced.

Pokemon Let's Go

There’s been a fair few games I’ve had to leave on the back burner, and whether or  not I return to them I can’t say but games such as Xenoblade Chronicles 2 and Assassin’s Creed Origins are two I hope to dip back into as I was enjoying them a great deal but with so many gaming distractions throughout the year, it’s easy to get side tracked.

So there you have it, my thoughts on gaming for me in 2018.  I’m excited for what 2019 will have to offer and am sure I’ll get to play many more great games.  For now I’ve got my work cut out with the games I have got.

Update


The first thing I wanted to write about was a little game I’ve been playing lately called ‘Life Is Strange’ a game that has garnered good reviews and a bit of a cult following.  As a change from what has become the norm in gaming for a while now (let’s be honest if you’re not killing ‘something’ it’s not a game in most regards) so sitting down to play this narrative-driven adventure was refreshing.  You play the role of Maxine, a girl who returns to the home she grew up in to attend a prestigious academy.  However whilst there she discovers all is not well in Arcadia Bay and after getting re-acquainted with her childhood friend ‘Chloe’ she begins to unravel a mystery surrounding the disappearance of a local student.

max_and_chloe__life_is_strangeI liked the writing here, the well-defined characters, a few bitchy stereotypes and shifty villain-types but not everyone is what they appear to be on the surface.  Add to this clever gameplay mechanics that include time travel and as the game progressed in it’s episodic chapter structure, I found myself thoroughly absorbed.  This game has made me feel things only a good TV show or movie has and it felt totally alien to the hobby but very welcome.  I felt sadness and excitement and wonder, and it’s all done so well.  If you are yearning for a break from all the violence or button-bashing thrills and want something to really make you think and feel, I highly recommend you give Life Is Strange a go.

Garbage 2018

In other news, guess what?  I’m gearing up to go and see my favourite band ‘Garbage’ again and will be heading to Brixton Academy this month. The last time I saw them at the Troxy in London I did the whole VIP meet & greet thing and got to meet the one and only Shirley Manson!  Well, I am doing it all again; meet & greet, early entry, watch them rehearse, q&a etc. and I’m so excited.  The concert is part of a tour Garbage are embarking on that begins this weekend (first date: the Electric Picnic festival in Ireland) which celebrates the 20th anniversary of arguably their finest album ‘Version 2.0’ which personally is my favourite album of all time by any artist.  To hear certain tracks live is going to be such a treat and one of those once-in-a-life-time experiences.  As you can tell I’m totally looking forward to this and will undoubtedly report back on it all once I’m back home.

That’s all for me for the time being.  Please check back again for more reviews and stuff soon.

Craig.