State of play


Regular readers of this blog will have observed I haven’t been posting many reviews of late.  Well, I’ve simply not been watching that many movies and concentrating, entertainment-wise more on videogames, what with recently buying the Nintendo Switch and having a great deal of fun with it.  Even my Xbox One and PS4 have become a little neglected as a result, even though I have been playing Persona 5 on the PS4 recently and getting some fun out of that.

Nintendo_Switch

Firstly I’ll report how much I’m enjoying the versatility of the Switch.  That simple idea of being able to play it like other consoles on my TV, and then being able to take that experience mobile and go play it wherever I like portably.  It’s pretty revolutionary and I’m guessing the big reason the console has been selling like hot cake since launch.  A month on I’ve clocked in over 60 hours in The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild and also had fun playing Graceful Explosion Machine and most recently, Mario Kart 8 Deluxe.  To a lesser extent I’ve found indie titles like Snake Pass and Mister Shifty, intriguing but somewhat flawed and very frustrating.  However I’m mostly aiming that at Snake Pass which I doubt I’ll even pick up again it annoyed me so much.

Persona-5Going back to Persona 5 for a moment, I craved a traditional JRPG and with it’s lush anime style visuals and quirky personality, I jumped on this with excitement.  The opening hours though are very slow, dialogue driven and well, not much action and I could see it putting some people off.  However having stuck with it after what seemed to be a lengthy tutorial, the game did open up, the exploration restrictions and focus on dialogue relaxed a little and I could get more into the world, the game mechanics and the general vibe.  I cleared the first major mission after about 10 hours of game time and I’m intrigued to see where the story goes.  However it is a game that once you start playing, hours fly by and I realise I need to set some time aside each time I play to really get any progression done.  For now though I’m enjoying it.

Breath of the WildBreath of the Wild has been a massive, somewhat daunting experience but has all that unique Nintendo charm I’ve always admired, and this feels like the most fleshed-out and intricately detailed Zelda game I’ve played.  I wouldn’t call myself a Legend of Zelda aficionado by any stretch and have only really played through the Gameboy release ‘Links Awakening’ and the Gamecube game ‘Wind Waker’ whilst only slightly touching on ‘Twilight Princess’ back in the day, and although this has echoes of all those games, with an art style slightly resembling Wind Waker (but less kiddie more Ghibli), I have fallen in love with everything it has to offer.  Even 60 hours in I’m still finding new areas, uncovering side quests and well, have barely delved into the main missions (I’ve completed one ‘divine beast’ so far…) so still tons to do.  All I’ll say though now to conclude is that I’m very much impressed.

On the back burner some games have had to be placed.  It’s the nature of the beast I’m afraid owning three consoles now, and I need to focus on just a small amount or run the risk of getting bogged now with unfinished games.  So Dishonoured 2 which I’ve been really enjoying has had to be ignored for a bit, as has Watchdogs 2 and Mafia 3.  Phew that’s a lot of games but for now my time is best spent with Zelda and Persona, even though both games are reportedly so huge that It’ll be a while before I dive into much else.

Smaller games are an easy option though just for a bit of variety and some of those games, like Mario Kart and Graceful Explosion Machine are dip in and dip out experiences that I don’t need to dedicate hours.  I suppose I’m lucky to have the options that I have, and I don’t take any of it for granted even though I work hard to buy the things I enjoy.

My final thoughts on the above come down to one sentence:  It’s a great time to be a gamer.  Additionally I also have some movies I need to get reviewing so expect normal service to resume shortly.

That’s all from me for now.

Craig.

New toys, new music, new year!


Apple-iPad-Air-2Well it’s a new year and I managed after dipping into some savings to get myself a new toy.  Therefore I recently purchased the iPad Air 2 which following buying directly from Apple I got engraved with my name and my website address.  So far I’m finding it invaluable to further explore my growing interest in music, and having subscribed to Apple Music in recent weeks it’s given me a way of discovering new music and having more variety in what I choose to listen to … something I hadn’t really being doing for a long time.  It’s also enabling me to get more into some TV shows I previously missed out on and am currently enjoying Super Girl and also hoping to start watching Blacklist.

Garbage Autobiography Ltd EditionIn related news I was happy to see that last night Garbage’s lead singer Shirley Manson received the ‘powerhouse’ award at the She Rocks Awards ceremony in Los Angels that is held annually to promote women in the music industry, both on stage and behind the scenes.  In addition to this news I also saw a separate interview with Garbage drummer / producer Butch Vig where amongst other topics he revealed that the band is to release a cover of Cat Stevens’ “Where do the children play” as part of forth-coming charity album Music to Inspire – Artists UNited Against Human Trafficking.  It’s to be released on January 31.  In other Garbage news the band also recently revealed a limited edition of their forth-coming autobiography ‘This Is The Noise That Keeps Me Awake’ which for the first 1000 copies sold will be signed by the band and come with an exclusive vinyl consisting of 6 unreleased live recordings as well as a presentation box.  I some how managed to nab one of the first 1000 so am ridiculously looking forward to July when it will finally be in my hands!

Having been unwell last week and the week before I haven’t really been in the right mood to play games or watch movies, and have mostly spent my spare time chilling.  However now better I’ve been getting back into the sublime The Last Guardian which from the maker’s of cult PlayStation games Ico and Shadow of the Colossus, is a breath of fresh air in an industry full of shooters and well, violent games like Grand Theft Auto and Mafia 3.  I love the exploration, puzzle solving and the look of the fantasy world the game inhabits, and well the icing on the cake is the unique concept of a little boy and his enormous dog / bird-like creature – the two having to work together and rely on each other to get through the world in one piece.  Seven years in the making, many rumours of it’s cancellation and the end result is everything I could have hoped for.  I’m also towards the end of Gears of War 4 to go back to a gun-obsessed kill-fest but hey, this series has really struck a cord with me and the fourth entry is just as action packed and gorgeous as the other games and I’m enjoying it a great deal.  However I’ve never been able to gel with the multi-player, which granted has become a big part of the franchise but I’m sorry…I just don’t find it ‘fun’. 

The Last Guardian

There’s also several movies I’d like to see but haven’t got around to as of yet.  The Golden Globe winning La La Land and also Passengers, Hackshaw Ridge and especially the imminent Trainspotting 2 are all on my radar.  Hopefully you’ll get to see reviews of all of these at some stage, so keep your eyes pealed.

That’s all from me for now.  Until nest time.

Craig.

My gaming history – Part 3


See previous posts here:  Part 1 and here: Part 2.

As I started work, got money of my own my history with gaming gets a tad cloudy.  I think the very first videogame system I obtained from my own hard-earned cash was the original Sony PlayStation.  I saved up to afford it and even remember buying a walkthrough guide to Resident Evil 2 in the weeks leading up to getting the system.  To say I was excited was an understatement.  For a long time the PlayStation was my only system (I think I got a Gameboy somewhere along the line but my interest in that was limited to simply playing and completing The  Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening).  Sony PlayStation

gran turismoI played a lot of games on it and recall a firm favourite was Tekken 3 which I enjoyed endless nights playing against a friend and well, those bouts were legendary!  Some of the best games on the system for me were of course, the first Metal Gear Solid and also I’d say Legacy of Kain: Soul Reaver (a series I really wish would come back).  I also think Gran Turismo was a particular highlight.Sega-dreamcast

Following the advent of PlayStation that made gaming much more of a mainstream hobby, I did get hold of more systems, firstly the Sega Dreamcast, which I’d say pioneered the online gaming revolution we take for granted these days and was seriously ahead of it’s time.  The Dreamcast I’d say had one of the strongest games catalogues around with such gems as Jet Set Radio, Virtua Tennis, Soul Calibur, Dead or Alive 2 and Powerstone as well as many more.  It was a short-lived system and really deserved to be more successful – but as at the time the PlayStation 2 had just been released, Sega’s final console didn’t stand a chance.  It was around this time I also got a PS2 and a little later an Xbox.

The_Legend_of_Zelda_The_Wind_Waker

The PS2 was of course my gaming system of choice for a good while but I did like my Xbox too even if the advent of Microsoft didn’t really hit it’s stride until the Xbox 360 came out.  During this era I also managed to get a Nintendo Gamecube which I think back to fondly and well, it had Super Mario Sunshine and Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker on it, but as with Nintendo consoles in the post-PlayStation era the only decent games were Nintendo produced (mostly) so quickly having games to get for the system became few and far between.  I sold it somewhere down the line and think that pushed me onto the last generation of consoles before we find ourselves where we are today.

To be concluded.

E3 brief thoughts


E3-2016

I’ll get this out of the way right from the off.  Are Sony and Microsoft about to royally shit on us, the games console buying public?  Yes it seems if you have purchased either a PS4 or an Xbox One recently or at all.  You see both companies are basically coming out with vastly improved versions of their consoles that they promise will not effect the existing machines, but really … how can it not?  I spent good money on buying both the Xbox One and PS4 and from day 1 the Xbox One has fallen behind due to a ropey launch and inferior specs compared to it’s rival.  Then for a while it’s been rumoured that Sony were going to announce a PS4.5 or PS4 Neo which would be compatible with 4K televisions and have improved graphics and extra processing power.  Er, Sony … hasn’t the bags full of cash already sent your way from the overwhelming success of the PS4 shown that you don’t need to improve the PS4?  That it already sells??  I can see why Microsoft has done this as it was losing the battle against Sony and struggling with certain multi-platform games, however the PS4 is a big success.  It’s baffling and like with how Sony got arrogant by over-pricing the PS3 at launch, seems like they’ve once again let their success go to their heads.  So yes, Microsoft will be launching ‘Project Scorpio’ towards the end of 2017.  I’m not entirely sure when the PS4 Neo is out, and in the mean time we’re getting the Xbox One S … a slimmed down, redesigned and pretty sexy looking version of their existing console.  Either way as an owner of both machines I am pissed off at the moment.  But I suppose the end of 2017 is a while away yet.

Xbox-One-S-and-original

In other news Sony showcased a rebooted Resident Evil despite it being called Resident Evil VII it was revealed as primarily a first person horror experience not unlike Amnesia.  I think one of the big surprises for me was the reveal of the new God of War … with a bearded, ageing Kratos walking around with what appeared to be his son.  An interesting concept that looked beautifully realised.  As did Horizon: Zero Dawn another PS4 exclusive which was first revealed last year but now we got some actual gameplay and it looked gorgeous.  Also we finally got a release date for the much delayed but highly anticipated The Last Guardian which as a fan of Ico I’m really looking forward to – even if the delays make me nervous of the final game’s quality.

thelastguardian1

In Microsoft’s camp we got our first real look at Gears of War 4 which looked sweet.  Very effects heavy section they showcased along with some new weapons.  Nothing to really re-write the rule book but it looked like Gears and that’s good enough for me.  Also they showcased yet another Forza Horizon which I have no interest it – but it was pretty, and some Minecraft VR stuff which was it seemed more of the same from last year.  The big focus for them seemed to be hardware and again indie titles which was a bit tiresome.  Where were the big surprises?  And by surprises I don’t mean basically saying “sorry Xbox One owners, we hate you”.

I can’t say I have really studied e3 this year, as I’ve had other stuff going on but have taken a few brief glimpses of footage and come way underwhelmed.  Yes there are some good things on the horizon but with the hardware announcements mentioned above, also a very uncertain and worrying future as a current gen console owner.

Will The Division be good?


I have the game coming next Tuesday and to be honest I’m a little apprehensive.  The two Betas that we had were ok, and the gameplay and combat seemed good…but I’m still not entirely sure how interesting the final game will end up being.  Will it be a game that only really comes alive when playing co-operatively, or will it work just as well (or well enough) in single player?  The world it depicts that of a post-virus outbreak near-future New York is certainly compelling and developer Massive Games has done a great job of bringing New York to gritty life, but the wow-factor of the first reveal and the final graphical downgrade still stings me.

the division art

I have been playing a lot of Destiny lately and enjoy it on an exploration and character developing basis, and the various missions whilst a bit samey are still fun with solid gunplay mechanics and an interesting world.  Yet that has several large planet environments to explore and therefore gives some variety to the surroundings.  The Division on the other hand just has New York and as well realised as the city environment may be, for a game that is meant to last for a long time, several years in fact … one admittedly huge environment is still that – one environment.  I’m sure the various areas and districts will have their own flavour, but at this stage I’m wondering about the game’s lasting appeal for months to come.  It also niggles me the developer’s focus on The Dark Zone, a multiplayer PVP environment that for me, was never the big pull of this game and turns it into basically another multiplayer shooter but with loot and a few NPC characters to shoot.  It’s interesting but the developer seems way too focused on it and less  focused on the game’s narrative or single player / co-operative experience outside the ‘dark zone’.

I’ll offer a more rounded opinion on the game once I have played a fair bit of the final product.  At the moment though I’m a little less excited than I should be.  I’ll leave you with the launch trailer…