The Last of Us Part 2 – Spoiler Free

It’s been a very odd few months in the world. Perhaps that’s the greatest understatement in history. The closure of cinemas, the halt of society as we know it, and the seriousness of the issues happening with the pandemic and the importance of the Black Lives Matter movement sapped the motivation to write anything, as there was so little in the areas I cover to write about.

Over the course of the last few months, I have watched films, played games and binged tv shows but rarely anything new. Mostly COD, FIFA, Brooklyn 99 and comfort films. Then last Friday, I got The Last of Us Part Two. I like the first one, but not nearly as much as some people, so this new one was intriguing, but I wasn’t super hyped in the build up to launch. On the day though, it felt very exciting to have something new, something I had not experienced. What I did not understand at that point, was just how unique this experience was going to be.

I have played hundreds of single player games in my life. I have watched even more movies than that. I have read countless books & comics. I have listened to podcasts that tell stories. Never before has anything I have experienced told a story in the same way that The Last of Us Part Two does, and with nowhere near as much emotional resonance.

I am going to avoid spoilers, which is going to make some of what you read here a little odd. There are points in the game where I genuinely did not want to carry on. Not because I wasn’t enjoying it, but because I just didn’t want to press the button that caused the next action on the screen. Or I didn’t want to do what the game was pushing me to do, because I had been played like a fiddle for 10 hours to be convinced of one thing, to then have it all flipped.

You are aware it is happening. This is not subtle; it doesn’t hide it like a magician to be revealed at the last moment. Part of what makes TLOU2 so remarkable is that you know exactly what they’re trying, and you tell yourself “There is no way that’s going to happen”, then hours later you find yourself frozen at the control because they’ve done exactly what you didn’t think they could.

Kinda Funny’s Greg Miller tells a story about how Metal Gear Solid was the first time he realised what video games could do. For years I was of the belief that video games had this barrier that prevented their stories from being truly complex and compelling on their own. The Gameplay always had to be part of the focus, and that would make always hold back the narrative in an odd way.

God of War in 2018, changed that for me, it told a story of a father and son that really resonated. The gameplay was fantastic, but the story was the thing that had me gripped.  TLOU2 has fine gameplay, its hectic, not the tightest mechanically but solid. The way they manipulate you and tear down the ideas you have in your head repeatedly throughout the game is unlike anything I have ever experienced.

This is a new level of storytelling. The more you think about the messages it portrays. That message to me was a lesson in how revenge, hate, vengeance, all of those horrible feelings can consume a person and make them miss out on the rest of what life holds for them. The events of the game are an extreme example, but at it’s heart, like most of the great stories, it’s a very human story that I have found myself relating to.

If we treat storytelling as a medium, encompassing games, tv, movies, books and anything else you can think of, The Last of Us Part 2 has topped it all. Nothing has stuck with me this much before. Whether you are a gamer or not, find a way to enjoy this. There are already YouTube “movies” of the game, showing you all the key scenes and elements that tell the story.

The Last of Us Part 2 is the most unique experience I have ever had with a piece of entertainment. It’s a new level for storytelling in games.

 

 

 

2019 Gaming: The Calm before the Storm

This past weekend I was thinking about what games I have really enjoyed this year, which games I would put up there as potential Game of the Year contenders and to my surprise I think the only real contender for me is Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order. But surely that can’t be the case. 

Discussing it with a friend of mine, they referred to this year as the calm before the storm, and it does make a lot of sense. They also pushed me in the direction of Outer Wilds, a puzzle exploration game which I will be playing this week, and not to be confused with The Outer Worlds. I have tried to jump into The Outer Worlds and it just didn’t grab me, I am thinking about committing a solid chunk of playtime to it and just seeing how it feels after 5 or 6 hours, but after the first few hours of it I was almost bored.

Borderlands 3 was fun, but it added very little to the experience for me, and the boss fights were largely dull after the first half of the game. The final boss is possibly the easiest big boss in the game, and I was hoping for something a little bit different. As for it being Game of the Year, it doesn’t do enough to get into that conversation for me.

The only game that’s given me any wow moments all year has been Fallen Order. It takes elements of all the recent GOTY contenders from previous years and combines them into a solid gameplay experience with an interesting story for Star Wars fans. It doesn’t quite stick the landing story-wise, and even with its spectacular ending the plot could have used a little more to tie it together.

The elephant in the room with all my games this year is Death Stranding, a game I was completely put off by. As soon as I discovered what the gameplay was, I was out, I wanted no part of it. I think during the Christmas break I might pick it up and see how I feel once I am in the world. Even Hideo Kojima’s walking simulator hasn’t hit the games industry quite the same way that 2018 and 2017 did. Horizon Zero Dawn, God of War, Uncharted 4 and Spiderman all came out over those 2 years, and that’s just listing off PS4 Exclusive games.

All the PS4 titles would win game of the year in 2019 comfortably, and that’s made this year feel barren. What that’s meant for my time spent on games this year, is a lot of game services being grinded out. I started the year hammering Destiny 2 and getting up to the level cap, deep in the weekly grind. Then I fell into Apex Legends and all spent a lot of time deep in that game right up until they changed the maps. That felt like a good point for me to jump into something else.

FIFA came along in September and I have barely played any mode except Pro Clubs, which is of course the best mode on the game. Then came my only other contender for Game of the Year so far, except possibly Outer Wilds this week. That game is, surprisingly to me, Call of Duty Modern Warfare.

I have a lot of great memories with the Call of Duty franchise, right up to Call of Duty Black Ops 2, I was a die-hard player. I spent my evenings after school either sitting on Habbo (remember that?) or playing Call of Duty. Modern Warfare 2 was when I was in my prime, and although I am not back to that level right now, I am slowly getting there.

The new Modern Warfare has an excellent single player shooter campaign that I would encourage anyone to play as it’s one of the best and most hard-hitting stories I have seen in any of these types of games. That combined with the edge of your seat twitch shooting multiplayer make it one of the most complete games of the year in terms of giving you a lot of content to play through.

What it boils down to is the end of the console generation being in sight, and this year has suffered because of it. Right now, we have less than a full year of the PS4/Xbox One generation left, and in the time, we have a lot of huge games to drop before the new squad of consoles arrive. Next year will have The Last of Us Part 2, Cyberpunk 2077, Marvels Avengers, Watchdogs Legion and Doom Eternal just to name a few. I am more excited for each of those games than anything released in 2019.

I have checked if I missed anything big this year, and the only game I found was Sekiro, a game I have no interest in. 2019 might be the most disappointing year in gaming we’ve had for a while, but 2020 could potentially be the best we’ve ever had. Fingers crossed Cyberpunk & Co live up to my lofty expectations.

Later this week I think I might do a Star Wars predictions post, which is something extremely nerdy for you to look forward to. Until the next post, thanks for reading!

ChAzJS

 

 

Why I spend too long playing Football Manager

Football Manager is a video game in the same way that Microsoft Access is a video game. Essentially, it’s a giant database of statistics, and a football simulation engine. Quite how this game is my most played in recent years is difficult to explain, but over the last few years I have poured hundreds of hours into meticulously managing my team and creating a dynasty before I scrap it all up and start again with the following years game. 

It makes little sense when you think about it, I have given up on my Football Manager 2019 save where I am 9 years deep into a save with Arsenal now the most successful team in history, and I am starting all again to use a slightly different game and revert back to a squad with all the problems I had spent hours trying to fix and train out of my squad.

But here I am, 8 hours into my next slog, and I am already feeling that addictive pull towards the game. It sucks hours from your life, and all of the time you’re watching the simulation, then addressing the press, discussing things with your players, attending scouting meetings to keep an eye on future talent, managing your youth squads and even negotiating contracts to try and keep your wage bill in check.

Do you stick to a dedicated wage structure, something the game will not police for you, but that you will have to actively decide yourself that no, you will not offer your striker 20k more than the other members of your squad. Last year I lost a star player because of 10k per week that I could easily afford. But in my head, he was out of form, and the cheek of asking for a raise at that point annoyed me enough to end up with me leaving him on the bench for a few months and getting rid at a loss.

Those moments, those situations that develop are what makes Football Manager so compelling. Yes on the face of it, it’s just stat sheet after stat sheet, but as it’s improved over the years, it’s become a story game full of relationships that build up and break down and even lead to grievances with players that you carry into the real world. I was furious when Arsenal were linked with Zaha because he had pissed me off on football manager 3 years ago and honestly, I have never let it go.

I will always have a special place in my heart for Tye Clemo though, A youth academy player the game generated itself who went on to become Arsenal’s 2nd all-time top scorer only behind Thierry Henry. I am heading into this year’s iteration with so much curiosity about what new twists await me in the coming hours I will spend berating my centre backs for missing tackles and fining a player because he got sent off and cost me a pen that means my 4-0 win becomes a 4-1 win losing my clean sheet.

To the uninitiated, it’s an unwieldy prospect. People play FIFA and Pro Evolution to live out their fantasies of watching their favourite players perform wondrous feats of skill on a football pitch. People play football manager for a different kind of love, even if stems from the same sport. I love playing football manager because I can pretend, even just on my own in my room, that I am in charge of the football club I love.

I was going to try and review the game, but I don’t think it’s a reviewable thing for me. I would never recommend anyone play this game unless they’re supremely passionate about all things football. But for the people that are in love with the beautiful game like I am, it is an absolute delight and I am going to stop this blog now because my last match was a humbling 2-0 defeat at Bournemouth after a solid start of 2 wins including a victory over Sp*rs.

Hope you have a great Monday!

ChAzJS

 

Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order – Spoiler Free Review

It’s odd for me to be nervous about a game, but that’s where I was about Fallen Order last week before launch. All the reviews were positive, but they were also comparing it to Dark Souls or Sekiro, games I just don’t enjoy the game play loop of. Dying repeatedly to figure out how to beat an opponent isn’t for me, and it doesn’t fit my idea of what playing as a Jedi should be. 

My first few hours with Fallen Order were intriguing, the world of course hooked me straight away, it’s Star Wars and I eat that up all day, but even the character of Cal was intriguing enough to get me into the story. The opening plays out as one large set piece designed to teach you the basics of movement and traversal. It works, and then it escalates to Uncharted levels of set piece. The camera tricks employed in one train sequence are excellent, and the opening ends with you being introduced to the crew you’re going to spend a lot of time talking to over the next 20-25 hours.

From there you travel to planets you’ll vaguely know (or know quite well depending on your level of fandom) and new planets we haven’t seen before. You learn new abilities, and your lightsaber becomes your pride and joy. It’s an odd thing to experience in the current gaming climate, where choice is everything, that you are given a weapon and that is it. The lightsaber is your weapon, the force abilities you collect as you go compliment it, but most of the plentiful combat is done with the iconic weapon.

That icon status helps a lot towards making it feel special, and the customisation you can apply to it is just nuanced enough to make it feel like it’s your lightsaber, and that nobody else will have quite the same one. It’s your lightsaber, and once you’re used to the combat, it feels brilliant. You can bat back blaster bolts from your standard storm troopers with ease, and then the more difficult ones require a little more thought. Late game, you will have to plan your moves in combat, but when it all comes together it looks and feels fantastic. Force Pull someone close to you and you just end them right there and then with one stab of your weapon, then you can deal with the rest of the enemies advancing on you one by one.

The combat feels well balance at the bottom two difficulties, the baby ass baby mode that I notched it down to for most of the game to get through the story provided just enough challenge to stop it being a cake walk, but lets you feel like a badass. The higher difficulties are where it becomes more like a Dark Souls or Sekiro game, relying on you avoiding being hit and picking your times to strike. The lightsaber forces you to need to get close for your most powerful strikes, but just rushing in is never a good idea.

The AI is mostly good, but there are some minor bugs at times when enemies just stand a stare at you for a bit before they remember they’re trying to end you. These things are a little bit annoying because they break the immersion a little, something that’s little but makes a different when you’re talking about the top tier games of this generation. That should give you an indication of how much I enjoyed this game.

Beyond all the game play, the story is what keeps you driving on through the hordes of enemies. Cal is not the most charismatic protagonist, he doesn’t quite have that Nathan Drake or Kratos personality, but the game play means he feels like your own character in the world, and the supporting cast around him are great. The two ship companions have some good banter between them and Cal, and one of them becomes more and more integral to the main plot as the story goes on.

The villain is an enjoyable one, at first seeming like a throwaway inquisitor, but by the end is a fleshed-out character who I almost cared for in a weird way. One character who is introduced later into the game, I found really intriguing from a Star Wars lore point of view, and it did make me wonder if there could be more stories with some of these characters.

All the game play, characters and story combine well with the stunning set pieces at the beginning and end of the game. Without any spoilers, the ending has some of the best moments in Star Wars and adds to the lore in an interesting way. There is one part of it I found myself going “Wtf I just did all that and this what you do with it” but when I thought about it, it made some sense in context of the story.

I have seen Star Wars Jedi Fallen Order described as a greatest hit of this generation and I understand why. It takes elements from Uncharted, God of War, and Dark Souls and combines them in a cocktail shaker to make this incredibly fun experience that I would encourage all Star Wars fans, and most gamers, to try out.

Everything in that shaker gets a little bit diluted by the other parts though, and therefore it feels like all three of those games without being as good at any of what they do. For example, while the set pieces are spectacular, none reach the heights of the Uncharted series. The game doesn’t quite have the polish and attention to detail that made God of War such an intricate, perfectly crafted gem of a game, and the story doesn’t have quite as much impact. The combat is really good, but it feels like a slightly toned-down version of the Sekiro system.

Fallen Order does so much of this very well, but nothing perfectly. It’s a Jack of all trades, Jedi Master of none. The fact I am even comparing it to these games shows you the level its very close to being, but it’s just a little below that tier, and that might push people that come to it for one of those elements decide to jump to another of those games. If you want stunning set pieces, go play Uncharted, and so on. If you want a game that combines elements of all of it though, then Fallen Order is a great game for you.

In a year where there have been very few games that have wow’d me, this is creeping near the top of my game of the year list. It hasn’t been nominated for the game awards because for some reason anything released after October just gets binned off until next year, which makes Fallen Orders prospects a little more ominous when The Last of Us Part 2 and Cyberpunk 2077 are here.

For me the Star Wars-iness covers over the little niggles that keep it behind the top tier games, and whilst I can’t argue it’s better than any, it’s certainly up there near them. What it certainly is, is the most fun I have had on any video game in 2019, and what more can I really want from a game where I am a Jedi.

9/10 – Respawn proves itself as one of the best developers in the business

ChAzJS

Google Stadia: Streaming Games Works…sort of

For the last week influencers and reviewers have been playing Google Stadia. Yesterday, the review embargo was up, and a deluge of universally disappointed people spoke out about how the technology was there, but the service just wasn’t up to it. It’s been a rough launch for google, and its missing a lot of the features it’s expected will eventually come to the platform. 

I can understand why there is so much disappointment around this, they promised a lot and naturally people expected that promise to be mostly fulfilled on launch. The closer to launch we got, the more and more features were confirmed as “coming soon” basically stripping down the launch from the full platform to just being a beta or Early Access launch for those who really want to play it.

I’ve seen a few people mention this, and I think google may have missed a trick by not sticking a big fat “Early Access” label on Stadia until 2020 when they have the full suite of features up and running. That early access tag is superficial in a lot of ways, basically they’ve been honest and just launched what they have now, and will add the rest later, but it has led to a lot of questions about why they have launched a severely undercooked product into an incredibly competitive market.

The lack of features is alarming, some basic functionality just isn’t there from what I can see, for example buying a game can’t be done from all platforms, only really the Google Pixel phone, and you can’t play on the phone unless you have a USB-C to USB-C connector which evidently wasn’t sent out with the controller. It feels like they should have delayed the release but didn’t want their first entry to the games industry to be a delayed launch, although I don’t think this is any better for their reputation.

What’s more important to me personally, is that the technology is working. People are playing games on their TV’s at home, walking to a shop, and carrying on whilst walking right from where they left off. That is the dream for me, and as much success as the Nintendo Switch has had, I cannot wait until I can play games like Jedi Fallen Order at home and then on my journey to work.

The fact the tech works is far bigger news that I think it’s being credited for, but it really shines a light on the infrastructure needed to play these platforms. The internet is the key component that new streaming technologies need but the infrastructure just isn’t there for most of the globe. I am in a privileged position where I have great internet in my home and enough GB on my data plan to never have to think about it, but even I will struggle with playing games on my journey into work because the signal just isn’t consistent on trains. 5G internet will fix some of these issues, but even then, my train goes underground for a large part of my Journey so that’ll be the point where I have to stop playing.

The thought of getting to lunch time and being able to carry on from where I was is delightful though. That dreamland is now on the horizon, and I am very excited for the next couple of years when we will see this tech thrive. Stadia has launched this week and is the first out of the gate. Its rough launch has been tough on Google (Bless them, hope they’re going to be okay) but I have no doubt that the people at Microsoft have been watching with eagle eyed curiosity.

Next year they will be launching Project X Cloud in its entirety, and they will be watching Stadia and probably have more of an eye on how the technology is working than the services. They have a huge advantage in the fact they have libraries of 1000s of games ready for people to play, they just have to get the technology right. Their service is already made, the Xbox store, game pass, gold, it’s already ingrained in their ecosystem and Xcloud just opens their platform to more people. Quite how their platform will perform, or how the pricing will work, I am not sure, but I am certain they will be taking notes and making sure they get this right.

The Xbox camp has been steadily making all the right choices to position themselves as the front runner of the next generation, while stadia is an unknown and Nintendo won’t launch a streaming service until 2037. Their main competition will of course be the PS5, a console we know almost nothing about. There are rumours everywhere but what’s true and what’s industry speculation is hard to pick apart, the only guarantee is that games streaming will be a part of it.

Years ago, they launched a game streaming service to little fanfare. PSNow is a service that’s been improving for years and I think will be a big part of their next generation, even if they revamp its brand to make it feel like a new product. Playing anywhere isn’t a sure thing, but they’ve also been dabbling in that for several years as well with Remote play.

Stadia’s stumbling out the block shouldn’t scare people off streaming games platforms but should serve as proof of concept. It works, it just needs to be correctly implemented with the right services. Perhaps Google will get it there sooner rather than later, but if they don’t, I am confident Microsoft and Sony will.

ChAzJS

 

 

The Next Console War

It’s Oscar season which means a load of fantastic movies are out in cinemas…In the US. Even something like The Irishman is so being shown in very few cinemas so I will be waiting for it to hit Netflix. The UK’s lack of film’s I care about, Disney Plus being unavailable, and Death Stranding being boring have all lead to me having very little new in the way of new content to dive into. 

I am into the third season of Chuck, a show I know extremely well and the emotional rollercoaster it puts you on is in full swing. I am also jumping between Modern Warfare and FIFA 20 when I have time for games, as The Outer Worlds just didn’t connect with me. I think I will give it another try when I am in more of an RPG playing mood. My news feed is dominated by football, so much so that I had a dream last night that Brendan Rodgers was the new arsenal manager and was in his first press conference saying Aubameyang was a liability. To be honest I would take that at Arsenal at this point.

There was some news doing the rounds last week about PlayStation executive Shuhei Yoshida being shuffled into a new position, meaning that almost all of the people at Sony that are publicly known as being responsible for the wild success that is the PS4 are now in different roles or different companies all together. Shawn Layden is the biggest name on that list, as he left earlier this year and it all seemed a little odd. There was no big thank you from Sony, despite Layden being there for 30 years and overseeing their biggest successes.

Now, the PS5 is a little bit of an unknown quantity, but when discussing it with friends I get a very PS3-ish feeling. After the dominance of the PS2 back in the early 2000s, Sony was completely overconfident and surrendered a huge advantage to Xbox 360 by launching an expensive PS3, without the online features Xbox was boasting. Their overconfidence at that time led to them having to spend the entire generation clawing back the Xbox 360 in sales numbers, and whilst it did eventually outsell its rival, Xbox won that battle.

This generation, Xbox One suffered a terrible launch, going with a message that gamers simply didn’t care for. It’s still a reasonably successful console, selling millions of units, the estimates would but it between 40 and 50 million units sold. That’s impressive, until you compare it to PlayStation over 100 million units. Such dominance in this generation should be a platform for PlayStation to really blow everyone out of the water next gen, but right now I am a lot more interested in the next Xbox than I am the PS5.

I have never actually been much of a fanboy for either console, well that’s a lie, I am a fanboy for them both. Xbox’s multiplayer is great and revolutionised the industry, but PlayStation Exclusive games are some of the best games in history. I am fortunate enough to own both consoles but next gen I will not be indulging in both again. I will be committing to one because I just don’t have the time for them both, and right now I am not sure if I want to back the more intriguing Xbox or the enticing Sony first party games that I will need a PS5 for.

If I can play my Xbox games on any device like it seems they are going for, I will be very intrigued by it, but I can’t sit here and say I won’t be easily swayed by a God of War 2, or a Horizon Zero Dawn 2, or The Last of Us Part 3, or Uncharted 5, Or Spiderman 2, or Death Stran…. never mind. Xbox’s challenge is to develop titles that can compete with those names I just listed, and that is where the next generation will be decided I feel.

The two consoles will be similar in power and graphical ability, and they will both probably offer streaming anywhere ability. They will both be crossplay I imagine, as that is just the direction things seem to be going. The X factor for both consoles will be the games you can only get in one place. It’s the biggest problem for Google Stadia, who are launching first, with a cool service, but they don’t have anything that I can only play on Stadia.

In the next 9-12 months we will hear a lot of news about the next generation, and I am going to predict now that I will end up buying a PS5. When push comes to shove, I can’t risk missing out on those exclusives, and even if Xbox unveils some new games, I like the look of, I am already invested in the stories of all the games I mentioned above. Except Death Stranding. Because Walking isn’t an interesting gameplay mechanic. Seriously I have watched a few videos and that is all you seem to be doing when you’re playing that game.

I am not sure how I managed to blurt out enough to fill a blog post today, but I will do it all again tomorrow. Until then, Happy Monday.

ChAzJS

 

What is Death Stranding?

Hideo Kojima is mad. It’s not an insult, in fact it’s one of the things I admire about him. His mind can come up with some of the most complicated and unusual worlds ever seen. He created the Metal Gear franchise and somehow made it make sense when everything in it suggests its rubbish. His new studio is about to release Death Stranding, and I have been looking forward to the game since the very first strange trailer a couple of years ago. 

Last Friday, the review embargo passed, and people started to talk about it. I was intrigued and I wanted to know exactly what I would be getting myself into this coming weekend when it hits the shelves. In Death Stranding, you are essentially a delivery man walking around a desolate world, and the world is populated by various obstacles, be that a valley, a river or a base of people who want to hurt you. Oh, and by weird ink monsters that you need to use your connection to your BB to fight somehow. BB stands for Bridge Baby, and that’s why you have a new-born floating in orange jelly strapped to your characters chest the entire time. Because Kojima.

That is essentially the core game play. Walking around, admiring scenery and then figuring out how to get across it to your destination. You’re supposed to be trying to reconnect one side of America to the other, because somethings happened (the death stranding) that has caused it to be disconnected and just generally not a great place. The graphics look great, and the character models look stunning with performances that are reported as being excellent by all reviews I have seen.

The cast is incredible, and if they are all as committed to this and deliver, it will be a great story to see unfold. However, I have a huge issue with my potential play through of this game, it sounds so incredibly boring. The main mechanics of the game revolve around you walking and balancing the cargo you are couriering along to someone else. It sounds like you’re literally walking between cut scenes, to then be given something to take to someone else. It’s an odd game play cycle, but perhaps the multiplayer elements make it more interesting?

Well that’s another worry for me. If the idea is for me to build structures and find ways around to get me from point A to point B and so on, then the multiplayer seems like it might end up eliminating much of the interesting parts of that. The MP in Death Stranding is odd in that you don’t see other players, but you can find the structures they have placed. People can leave signs for other players with instructions, and even leave useful structures to get around issues.

Initially that sounds good, and I understand what the developers are aiming for, creating a game that encourages you to help others is a noble idea. My concern is that due to the success of the game, it will become a game that is full of other people’s structures, making the game a cakewalk and therefore your path will just be strolling between cut scenes as I mentioned, with no player agency or anything pushing your plot forward.

The game pushes you to have to return to a base and have a shower every few hours, or days in game, because you are a messy boy. You also need to sleep and recover and be ready for the next day when you will select what equipment you need and go out again for another walk to another destination. This level of detail is dangerously close to a game I really appreciated but was bored to sleep of after a few hours, Red Dead Redemption 2.

RDR2 was stunning, a technical marvel and a great story in an incredibly well realised world. The problem I had with it, was the gameplay was slow, unsatisfying and at times boring. It took forever to get anywhere in RDR2, and Death Stranding is a game entirely based on it taking a while to get places. This is a game about the journey, which I normally enjoy, see Borderlands 3, a game where the story is meh, but the journey is fantastic, because the game play is exciting and engaging.

What all this has pushed me towards is that right now, having not played myself, I am really wondering whether Death Stranding is going to be a game I can bring myself to play through. It takes between 35 and 45 hours to complete the story if you mainline the game, and that’s a big commitment to a game when I am yet to be intrigued by any game play I have seen. Right now, Death Stranding is close to becoming a game I watch a super edit of the acted scenes and enjoy the story that way, because I don’t really want to spend my weekend walking around with a screaming baby.

Yep the baby screams if its unhappy. You must cradle your controller and rock it to calm the fucker down. I really hope this game shocks me and I love it. Kojima is a genius, anyone who can create Metal Gear has to be, but I am not sure I can stick with him for this one.

‘Til Tomorrow.

ChAzJS

 

Call of Duty Modern Warfare Multiplayer Review

If you’re like me, you will have played the Call of Duty campaign to get you back into the swing of things before you charge into the Multiplayer. I did so once I had completed the campaign and I am 8 hours in, which isn’t much but it’s enough to get a feel for the game modes. Has it managed to capture the magic from Modern Warfare 2’s heyday?

Judging Modern Warfare against those rose-tinted standards is difficult. I probably spent just as much time being murdered on the old games, I just remember the highlights. Calling in a Nuke on Highrise and finishing the game with 31 kills and no deaths in a Team Deathmatch was a moment probably up there with my best in multiplayer achievements. Second only to my legendary exploits on FIFA Pro Clubs.

Over the years Call of Duty’s multiplayer had become a frantic wall running triple jumping horror show for me. Every time I would play, I would be slaughtered in most matches by people at angles I wouldn’t even think to check. That changes with this year’s CoD. Everything is stripped back, it’s you, a gun, 3 perks and some grenades. That simplicity means it relies more on your skills and reactions, and although I am far from being the Rambo I once was, I am thoroughly enjoying it again.

CoD has always had the best FPS gun play in the world; I don’t think that has ever changed. aiming and shooting feels so good on Modern Warfare that just letting that shine leads to some great multiplayer fights. I will shout “Oh fuck off” nearly every time I am killed, but in reality, the kill-cam doesn’t lie, I got hit, and I died.

This year the Killstreaks are more restrained, but still very useful. The UAV is a vital tool and although most players after level 24 will equip cold blooded to be hidden from this, just forcing an opponent to select that over something like the hardline perk is a tactical advantage in its own way. The air strikes are different, with you forced to be able to see the area and mark it with a laser before the bombs drop meaning a little more risk if you want to get it right. You can’t bomb the ever living fuck out of the other side of the map just to try and spawn kill people anymore, unless you run over there and risk being killed by the spawning team.

I mentioned the Nuke earlier, but as far as I can tell that is not in play here. The top killstreak is the Juggernaut armour, which whilst fun, is probably one I will never see equipped by anyone. The Chopper Gunner is pretty much the top dog in the killstreaks. CoD’s killstreaks have not changed much in general because they’re one of the most satisfying gameplay mechanics in any multiplayer. You’re constantly rewarded for getting multiple kills and that determination to get the next notch on the list keeps you playing.

In terms of modes I haven’t seen before, the new Cyber Attack is a welcome addition. It’s essentially a faster Search & Destroy, but with games that last just as long. Each team must grab a device and plant it at the opponent’s base, but you only get one life. You can be revived though, which adds an interesting slant to the gameplay. If you’re the last person against 2 or 3 enemies, you suddenly feel the need to be sneaky and get to your teammates and revive them and even up the game. It means that the game can be evened up during the fight and I have already seen games go from 1v1 to 6v6 again. It’s a cool mode and one I will probably get deeper into once I have honed my skills a little more in the bread and butter for me which is Team Deathmatch.

CoD classic modes are still present, Search and Destroy, Headquarters, Domination all present and active. The one mode I am yet to play much of is Ground War, which is CoD’s take on Battlefield’s larger more all-out war approach. I will be giving it go but I like my Call of Duty to be close maps and fast action.

I was a little sceptical going into this new Modern Warfare. The love I have for Modern Warfare 2 is deep, and it’s a game that really made me realise how great this franchise can be. Since then, the yearly titles have never reached the same heights for me, but this game is threatening to do exactly that. I don’t have the same number of hours to commit to this game that I used to, but I am very happy that I finally have a Call of Duty game to enter the rotation of regular games I play.

In a marketplace flooded with Battle Royale’s and hero shooters, Modern Warfare is a throwback to the games that started the multiplayer shooter genre off. It’s a return to form for the franchise and a game I will be playing long after release for the first time in years. CoD is Back.

9/10 – CoD’s multiplayer is back to its best.

Call of Duty Modern Warfare – Campaign Review

It’s been a long time since I have been remotely excited to play any Call of Duty game. As soon as the double jumping, wall running craziness started, I was out, and I have tried a few of them with no success. This year’s entry is a reboot of the classic Modern Warfare titles that essentially made CoD into the biggest game on the planet for a long time. The single player campaign was a big part of the original MW games, and this new iteration is no different. 

First, I have to mention the graphics. This is the most realistic looking game I have ever played. It competes with even the Sony first party games and sets the bar for Death Stranding and The Last of Us Part 2 to beat over the next year. The characters are all stunningly detailed and their facial animations are impeccable. This is the closest we have ever come to real people being rendered in game and it really does help sell the immersion.

This year it seems the story writers were given licence to make whatever they want and told to try and be controversial. They succeed at times, and at others it feels like they’re trying to be a bit too edgy. For the majority of the story, I was invested in the characters and the events and CoD legend Captain Price coming back with his unbelievable moustache got me to buy in even more. As the story continues, it’s a pretty standard CoD affair, there are twists and turns but nothing you won’t see coming story-wise. The story is there to give you reasons behind each mission, and those missions are where Modern Warfare steps out from the crowded FPS genre.

During the very first mission, I knew this was a bit different. Your character feels slower, each step feels more deliberate than the sprinting and diving for cover CoD is known for. As you work your way through the mission, you take out the guards as you get used to the shooting and how good it feels to be back playing CoD, or at least that’s how I felt being a lapsed CoD player. At one point in the mission, you enter a warehouse, and the lights are cut out. Its pitch black except for the light radiating from the torch you have that only illuminates a circle in front of you. All the sudden, I didn’t feel like an invincible soldier. The footsteps I could hear in my headphones were unnerving, I knew there was enemies. The tension in these moments is something no FPS has given me in years, if ever. As soon as I saw movement, I aimed at it, sometimes I nailed an enemy, other times I aimed at nothing.

Those moments are scattered throughout the campaign, and the tension is created in different ways. One of the most talked about missions is “Clean House” which is an incredible, slow paced mission that has you doing exactly what the mission name suggests, cleaning out a house. Not a house in the middle east that has been blown apart by a war. Oh no this is just a regular Town house in North London which is full of men, women, children. Some of them are armed. Some of them are terrified. Some of them are terrified, and then they grab an AK-47 and you must take them out.

The shock value feels earned in missions like “Clean House”. As the end of the campaign approaches it starts to wear out, and it’s a little too much. Eventually you’re a little desensitised to the situation of “person looks like they’re surrendering and then they grab a gun”. There are other missions that have their moments, Piccadilly Circus is a stunning recreation and the events happening there are frightening for someone who has walked around the area countless times, and the Embassy mission is the longest one in the game and changes up the gameplay multiple times to give things a slight twist and keep you on your toes.

I honestly did not expect much from this new Modern Warfare’s campaign. I was excited to see Price and the shooting mechanics of MW have never been beat. It turns out that I really enjoyed playing through this campaign, and at the end I was sitting in my chair squealing with delight about the name drops and references. I did not expect CoD to get that kind of a reaction from me. Modern Warfare has brought me back to the series, and even if it takes a couple years between this and the sequel, I am very excited to see what comes next in the rebooted story.

I have jumped in and played a big chunk of multiplayer, and I will talk about that more later in the week. The fact I have played a lot should tell you something though, as I have already sunk more hours into this multiplayer than the last few CoDs combined. The campaign is a reason to play Modern Warfare, and the Multiplayer may just be the reason I stick around.

Good: Incredible Graphics, Stunning set pieces, and some brilliant missions that change up the CoD formula.

Bad: The story will never be that great in CoD games, but it doesn’t really need to be. Some scenes that are shocking for shock’s sake that don’t add to the narrative at all.

8/10 – Modern Warfare is back and I am very happy about it. 

 

Bethesda annoys everyone.

I hate being ill. Yesterday I spent the day laying on the couch staring into space and wishing I was at work. A rarity for me, to wish I was at work, but not being able to focus properly on anything meant I wasn’t even using the time to watch films or something that could be useful for this site. 

Thankfully Bethesda gave me something to write/rant about with the Fallout 76 subscription being launched. On top of the initial £39.99 that they ask for to allow you to play the game, they have now stuck a price on several features that have been heavily requested by the small but passionate community playing that game still.

I never jumped into it, it never struck me in quite the right way despite initially intriguing me. The idea of a multiplayer coop fallout game was something I had always wanted. To be able to run around Fallout 4 with a mate or three would have really added to the already great experience. What I did not want was a relatively empty world populated only by other players. No NPC’s no single player story.

Upon launch the game was met with terrible reviews and it came out with bugs that had been fixed by the communities’ mods on Fallout 4, suggesting that the players were more capable than the developers of the game. That aside, a community began to develop, people love the fallout world and therefore wanted to enjoy this world despite Bethesda’s own mistakes.

Now, ages after release they are releasing a subscription service that players will have to buy on top of the initial fee, in order to get a load of new features. On the one hand I understand why they feel entitled to some money for the development time spent on this, but on the other hand these are not ground-breaking features. They’re essentially Pay to win features like a move-able fast travel point and unlimited storage for the materials you collect in the world.

I have been tempted over the last year or so to jump into 76 and see what it’s like, this has now turned me off completely. It also has put questions in my head about Bethesda in general. They were once my favourite studio. Fallout New Vegas & Skyrim are two top tier games that I will always love. Skyrim came out in 2011, a year after New Vegas, and since then they have not made a game that has really blown anyone’s socks off. Fallout 4 was just more fallout. It released 5 years after New Vegas, and yet was built on the same engine with basic graphical improvements and not much in the way of new gameplay mechanics besides the crafting/building of the settlements. The shooting was improved, but for a 5 year cycle the game felt very similar to its predecessors.

The call for a new engine has been going for years, and although that is not really the right thing to be calling for (The game engine has changed a lot over the years), it’s the easiest way of saying Bethesda need to produce something new. Outer Worlds will be with us this weekend, and that game looks much better than Fallout 4 and it’s going after the same audience. Whatever their next game is will be scrutinised for bugs and errors, things that were once put down to Bethesda’s ambition and their games being so huge in every way.

That excuse has been burnt to a cinder because of games like The Witcher 3, which have released with bigger worlds, more stories, and a lot fewer game breaking bugs if any. Bethesda can’t afford another Fallout 76, and if the past is anything to go by, the next game will likely be an Elder Scrolls title.

Now I am a little bit protective of that property, and I will be so annoyed if they fuck it up. I have played through Skyrim 5 times, on 3 different platforms. I will play the next game on day 1, and if they only give me Skyrim with a fresh paint job and a new map, I will be…probably too in love with the world to care but deep down I will be furious. I want Bethesda to be the best again, but right now they’re so far behind the Naughty Dogs and Respawns of the world I am worried they may have had their best days already.

That was a long winding roundabout way for me to say “I want a new elder scrolls game” but that’s just where I ended up today. Hopefully Friday’s post will be about something more relevant.

‘Til then.

ChAzJS