This Week in Gaming – 22.02.19

This week I go over what games I’ve been playing in the last 7 days, speculate a little on what Google could be unveiling at their GDC panel, and look ahead to this week’s big release, EA’s Anthem. 

What I’ve been playing

Last week Shadow of the Tomb Raider was brought onto Xbox Game Pass, Microsoft’s stupidly good value for money subscription service. I thoroughly enjoyed the previous two games since the franchise reboot in 2013. I didn’t get round to Shadow when it released for one reason or another, but once I had to give it a go once it came to Game Pass.

Square Enix have largely stuck to the formula they have used in the previous 2 games, and not added a great deal I’ve found. A little disappointingly for me, the game feels similar to my time with Tomb Raider and Rise of the Tomb Raider, but has so far not hooked me into the story. The first two games had shades of Uncharted about them, with the hunt for some ancient treasure being the motivation behind some great character work. This time round the same motivations are there, and we do dive into Lara Croft’s childhood, but its missing that intangible element that just makes you want to keep going back and pushing onto the next part of the story.

I think the lack of a supporting cast we are invested in takes its toll on this third instalment. By the third game in the Uncharted series, we are just as invested in Sully and Elena as we was in Nathan Drake. Lara Croft is the only character I could name from any of these games, I couldn’t even come up with the name of her friend in this game that I have been playing this very week.

One potential reason I grew tired of Tomb Raider, is because I knew I was just a few button presses away from the addictive brilliance of Apex Legends. Neither Fortnite or PUBG ever held my attention quite like Apex is right now, and if I wasn’t writing this, I would be playing it. I went in-depth on a little more in last weeks post, but it’s honestly one of the most well made, excellently balanced games I have played in years. The battle pass comes soon, and with it hopefully a slew of challenges and objectives to mix gameplay up a bit.

Google is coming

This week Google announced that they are going to be unveiling something, no clues on exactly what, at a press event to be held at the Game Developers Conference in March. After the apparent success they had with allowing people to stream Assassins Creed Odyssey through Google Chrome, all signs point to some kind of digital streaming gaming platform.

Google have been expanding into new markets in recent years, with their Phones and tablets emerging as viable options in both markets. They have a very trusted brand, and if they can beat Microsoft and Sony to the punch on a reliable games streaming platform with no latency issues we could be seeing a new contender emerge. Nintendo will always Nintendo, so I don’t see this affecting them very much, but I am sure the big 2 console owners will be watching carefully come March 19th.

I for one hope they release some form of hardware. I don’t believe it will be a box like the current generation consoles, but more likely similar to their Chromecast devices, which can just be plugged into a TV. The device itself will be just a proxy through which users can connect to Google’s cloud processing servers, allowing for HD to 4K quality, high fidelity games to run via the cloud straight onto people’s TV’s.

Such a device could revolutionise how accessible games are, and I can see new TV’s, or even an App for smart TV’s being launched which would allow everyone access to the world of video games with a much lower cost to entry. The elimination of a chunky piece of hardware not only saves space in people’s living rooms, but also reduces the production cost per unit sold for the tech giant. Any news on a release date for the platform is scarce, but all will be revealed in a few short weeks.

Anthem out of tune at launch?

I have been looking forward to BioWare’s Anthem since I first laid eyes on the game a couple of E3’s ago. I love Destiny, and I am a huge fan of Iron Man, so the two being smashed together and being given a story crafted by the creators of the Mass Effect series is a match made in heaven for me. It’s currently installing on my Xbox as we speak and once this is written I will be diving into the game (I prefer PS4, but my mates play Xbox, what can you do).

The game has been “out” for about a week now, although the exact launch day is a little messy. If you have an EA Origin account on PC at a certain level of membership, you could download and play Anthem, the full game, from February 15th. I have EA Access on console, meaning I had 10 hours of gameplay for free, available from the same date. I didn’t take up that offer because of two reasons. For one thing, I knew I had a busy week, and wouldn’t be able to get a decent session in until friday anyway. Secondly, being a platform in a similar vein to destiny, I knew the launch would be a little rocky.

That thinking has been proved right judging by all of the discussion around Anthem this week. Game bugs, crashes and excruciatingly long load screens have all been cited as regular occurrences for players in this opening week. BioWare and EA have announced a Day one patch to deal with these issues, but even the developers themselves aren’t sure exactly when the game released as the patch was dropped on thursday.

I know a lot of people now lose interest in a game if it is broken on release, and i completely understand and sympathise with that logic. With Anthem though, I am willing to give it a bit of time to correct these issues. At launch, Destiny 1 and 2 were fraught with similar bugs and issues. The same is also true for Ubisoft’s own version of these shooter looter games, The Division. What we saw with all of those games, and what I hope we see with Anthem, is continuous support and updates from the developers to make the game the best version of itself that it can be. Destiny 1 and 2 are both excellent games, and I have spent far too many hours on the Destiny 2 grind, and the gameplay and loot cycle have kept me hooked. If Anthem can get into a similar place, we are looking good.

What does worry me, is the comparisons some are making with Bethesda’s “How to botch a guaranteed success” game, Fallout 76. That game released with a load of bugs and glitches, and without the community mod support that Fallout 4 received, no sign of them all being cleared up. Just this week Bethesda banned a player who had committed over 900 hours to the game because apparently he had collected too much ammo for the game and he was kicked off the servers permanently. If Anthem goes the way of Fallout 76, it will be the biggest disappointment in gaming of the decade for me.

I will find out this weekend, and my review in progress (which means I will update it and give a final verdict when I’m finished with the main story) with Anthem will be up on Monday morning at 8am, so check back for my in-depth thoughts on the shooter then.

Thanks for reading!

ChAzJS on XBL and PSN

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My Most Anticipated Games of 2019

Gaming is fantastic. If you’re not into it, get into it. There is a game for you, whether it’s a 2D platformer in the vain of the old Super Mario and Castlevania, or a sprawling open world like The Witcher 3. It’s the biggest entertainment industry in the world, and here are my most anticipated games coming in 2019. 

Anthem – 22nd February 

BioWare have made some of the most popular games of the last 20 years, from Star Wars The Old Republic to Mass Effect. Anthem is their newest idea, looking like a mixture of Iron Man suits and Destiny, which sounds great to someone who has sunk a lot of hours into Bungie’s shooter in the last 12 months.

Mass Effect Andromeda was widely considered to be a rare miss for BioWare, even though I personally thought it was a decent game. Decent doesn’t cut it nowadays though, and Anthem needs to really hit for both BioWare and publisher EA to get them back in the fans’ good books.

Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice – 22nd March

From Software develop games I never play, but something about the trailer for their newest effort got me interested. It looked stunning for a start, and the combat looked unique. It’s very early days at this point in terms of what I know about the game, but hopefully we see something special from the developer.

I haven’t got into Bloodborne or the Souls games, as their live die repeat gameplay doesn’t appeal to me, but I am hoping this game is a departure from that hook, and they go for something new like Guerilla Games did a couple of years ago with Horizon Zero Dawn.

The Outer Worlds – 2019

With no confirmed release date, I am hoping this manages to stick to 2019. Coming on the heels of the failure that was Fallout 76, and in the void created by no Borderlands 3 announcement, the creators of the Fallout franchise Obsidian are bringing their new IP, which looks to combine the lessons learnt from Fallout with the fun and whimsy of the Borderlands franchise.

This is possibly my most anticipated game of the year, as at the moment it’s the only single player game I am 100% in for. Days Gone and Sekiro both look decent, but at this point there isn’t enough to get me to commit to buying them. In one excellent trailer, The Outer Worlds convinced me to buy with a lot of confidence this is going to be a very fun game to play.

The Last of Us: Part 2 – 2019 (Hopefully)

Naughty Dog are the kings of single player gaming experiences. Crash Bandicoot was the PS1 mascot, Uncharted was the premier single player adventure game, and until last year, The Last Of Us was considered the Jewel in PlayStation’s library. God of War showed us things can still improve, and in one swoop Sony Santa Monica’s God and Son story laid the challenge down to Naughty Dog.

The Last of Us: Part 2 may not make the cut for 2019, but I sincerely hope it does, as Naughty Dog have shown time and time again they can exceed the lofty expectations fans have for their games. We know very little about the game, but it’s bound to be another evolution on the last few Naughty Dog games, with Uncharted and The Last of Us’ gameplay influencing each other in the last few games.

There are bound to be a lot of games this year that surprise us, as God of War did last year, so hopefully we get something similar again from something like Days Gone. Thanks for reading, please share on Facebook and Twitter if you liked this!

ChAzJS

 

These are a few of my favourite things (2018)

It’s a new year, so what else to do but write a post about my favourite film, TV show and game of the last year. These aren’t necessarily what I think is the best in terms of technical skills involved or even story, but they’re the pieces of entertainment that I enjoyed the most personally.  I have 4 picks, one for each of the 3 formats, I mentioned above, and then the one thing that I really enjoyed the most.

Favourite TV Show of 2018 – Killing Eve

I had no idea what this show was, right up until the minute I started watching it. A quick read of the synopsis told me it was about a female assassin, but beyond that I was blind going in. The shows brilliant leads Jodie Comer and Sandra Oh are equally fantastic in the show, and the dynamic that is developed between the them and the rest of the cast really make this show tick.

It has a little bit of everything I like in a show, and crucially for me, it doesn’t take itself too seriously which is what didn’t work for me in another good show from last year The Bodyguard. The only contender to Killing Eve’s crown was Netflix’s Daredevil season 3, but honestly even that didn’t come close. If you haven’t got round to Killing Eve yet, it’s on BBC iPlayer and im sure its streaming worldwide somewhere, it really is too good to miss out on.

Favourite Game of 2018 – Assassins Creed Odyssey

I have shocked myself with this choice and I am kind of cheating, but I know what my favourite piece of entertainment of the year is and I don’t want to give something 2 spots on this list, so Assassins creed has found its way here. I loved Spiderman, I appreciate the masterful work in Red Dead Redemption 2, I have played more of Fifa and Destiny 2 this year, and Fortnite is a endlessly enjoyable experience, but no game captured my imagination quite like AC: Odyssey did. I chose to play as Kassandra, and within the first hour of the game i was absolutely in on her story and what she was trying to do.

From the first moments on the island of Cephalonia, to the last minutes of the game I was hooked and this game does that by giving you a lot of fun tools, a massive, busy open world with lots of quests, and letting you play your way in it. I had largely given up on Assassins Creed after not enjoying the new style of play in the previous entry AC Origins, but this has brought me back and I still play this occasionally now, after completing the 3 huge main Quests. This was a very tight choice between AC and Spiderman on PS4, but today, I’m picking AC when tomorrow I might pick Spiderman, they’re both that great.

Favourite Film of 2018 – Avengers Infinity War (SHOCKING) 

This is a very tough category for me, with so many great films in 2018 i had a real hard time decidi…. LOL JK it just had to be Infinity War. Yes Spiderverse was amazing, and there are a lot of brilliant drama’s around, but nothing compares to the event that was Infinity War for me. It may require 22 films of homework before you watch it, but the payoff is sublime. A movie of this scale and encompassing so many characters is an achievement never attempted before in cinema history and somehow the Russo Brothers, Marvel and everyone who worked on this film managed to pull it off.

There are moments in this film that make me smile, laugh, well up, and gasp in disbelief. I remember the thought in my head in the final act of “Are they actually going to do it, end it at that iconic point from the comics”. I thought that, and then they went ahead and did exactly that. No spoilers here, but by now everyone has seen it, that moment is one of my favourite movie scenes of 2018.

Favourite Piece of Entertainment in 2018 – GOD OF WAR (PS4)

Sony Santa Monica’s God of War is the single greatest piece of entertainment I have ever consumed. Not just 2018, but in my 25 years on earth. Nothing in video games compares to the feeling of calling the Leviathan Axe back to your hand after throwing it through an enemy. No game I have played looks better than this game, and No game, film or TV show has ever produced a 10-15 hour experience all capture in one, long, uninterrupted camera take.

God of War can be compared to a stage show with its small cast of engaging characters and easy to understand plot, at the same time as being compared to the biggest blockbuster games and movies of all time with its spectacular set pieces and bombastic action. I know a lot of people, older generations in particular, will never see anything part of God of War, and I wish I could change that. God of War for me goes beyond just being a game, it is entertainment and storytelling at its very best.

Thanks for reading my rubbish! Please share if you think anyone else you know might want to waste some of their time reading my thoughts.

ChAzJS

My Problem with Red Dead

Red Dead Redemption 2 is a game that should have me completely hooked. It’s a vast open world, beautifully detailed and made by a studio who I rank among the top 2 or 3 in the world of Game Development. So after 5 hours in the game, have shocked myself because I am not interested in going back to the game.

It’s a technical marvel, unrivalled in realism and the attention to detail in every aspect of the world is incredible. Interactions with characters is attached to the left trigger, and every character in the game, all the gang and every member of public or lawmakers everywhere are there to be spoken to. You can live in this world as protagonist Arthur Morgan for as long as you want.

It does the job of immersing you very well, everything in the world reacts exactly how it would in the real world. Gallop too close to a tree on horseback? Your horse will hit it and fall, and Arthur will be sent flying, any hat he was wearing going flying. He then has to find his hat to put it back on, and hope his horse survived the fall. Want a long beautiful beard? You best be playing for a number of hours, as it grows over time, and can only be shaved to a shorter length.

These little details are everywhere and it’s a truly brilliant acheivement in realism. There has been so much praise for all of this in RDR2, and I haven’t been able to argue against the majority of it, it’s a genuinely brilliant example of what video games can do. There’s one issue I have, which has been something every one of my favourite games I’ve played this year has nailed perfectly.

Based on my 5 hours playtime so far, Red Dead Redemption 2 is not fun to play. It’s a slow starting game, opening like a Tarantino western, and the crawling opening feels like a demo area before you get to play in the real open world. Once there, you’re left to it, and that’s not much less instruction than you’re given in the game.

The design choice rockstar have made to make everything organic in the game, forgoing many of the traditional video game-isms we are use to by now is certainly brave. It’s a move that a lot of people are really enjoying, judging from the reviews. For me though, Rockstar have not given me the tools I want to have fun in this world.

‘Fun’ is a simple word, but very hard to define when it comes to video games. Swinging around New York in Spiderman is fun. Kicking guards off a mountain and then swan diving after them on Assassin’s Creed Odyssey is fun. Throwing the Leviathan Axe and recalling it to Kratos’ hand on God Of War is fun.

The only fun I’ve had in Red Dead has come from the cut scenes occasionally making me laugh. Besides that, it’s been hard to find pure enjoyment in this game. I am playing it because I have to, because I feel like I should love this game. I turned it on tonight, got to a bridge where a rival gang decided to straight up murder me. I could easily have reloaded the game, and taken them out straight away, but I didn’t. I turned off Red Dead and went onto Assassin’s Creed to kick people off mountains. Less realistic I know, but bundles more fun.

God Of War (2018) Spoiler free Review

It’s rare I do a game review, but when a game came along and went so far above my already lofty expectations I had to write about it. God Of War is a franchise I’ve never been big on, the hack and slash nature never appealed to me but the buzz around this year’s sequel was too high to ignore.

It follows the series’ protagonist Kratos, who previously has just been an angry fighter and not much more beyond that, and his journey with his son Atreus to scatter the ashes of his late wife. That is the core of the story. No saving the world or taking down the gods or contrived plot device so many games use to push stories along. Even games as excellent as the Uncharted series tend to have that treasure you’re looking for to push you along.

God of War features 10 characters, including peripheral ones, in a 20-30 hour story. There are hints at other players in the background but we never see them, and that gives the game’s story some real power as by the mid to late game you’re very invested in every character that pops up. I’ve heard it compared to a grand theatre show, or an indie movie with big action set pieces, and they’re both very apt comparisons. The whole game, if played without turning off the console, is all on one long camera shot. There are no cuts, there are no loading screens, it’s one long story told as if there is a camera man behind Kratos on his journey.

The relationship between Kratos and his son is so well done. Kratos, the flawed character he is, is not very good at being a dad and has left a lot of Atreus’ upbringing to his mother. Experiencing the characters struggle to adapt and be a good father is compelling and it’s often the moments between cut scenes and action sequences that the best moments in the game can be found. The two of them talking and learning about each other feels so natural and intriguing I often found myself waiting in the boat or outside an objective just to make sure I got to the end of the conversation they were having. I honestly can’t say any game has made me do that before.

In with all of the excellent and compelling story telling is some of the most satisfying and rewarding combat I’ve played in any game. The leviathan axe is yours to use immediately, and the intuitive controls make combat so much fun. The variation in styles you can adopt means you’re never bored, and the ability to call your axe back to you exactly like Thor in the MCU calling back his hammer never fails to feel awesome. So satisfying I would often launch my axe past enemies just to call it back through the enemies before going for the kill.

I know there are lots of lapsed gamers, not having the time to sink hours into games in between their busy lives. If you are one of those, and only have time for one game played out over a year, this should be it. God of War is possibly the best game since “The Last of Us” and it may even be better than that masterpiece.

Good: Everything. Seriously it’s incredible.

Bad: It’s PS4 exclusive,but that is just another reason to grab Sony’s machine.

10/10 – wow.