‘s-Hertogenbosch, also known as Den Bosch, is an absolutely delightful town in the southern Netherlands. It has a population of 153,000 (I am from London, we have a population of almost 9 million). It mostly rained while I was there but even so, I absolutely loved it to pieces and have fantasised about buying a house there ever since. People seem to have an enviable quality of life, there’s hardly any traffic, people cycle everywhere, there are farmers’ markets and unspoiled mediaeval buildings. The few pictures I have here cannot do it justice and I encourage you to google-image-search it because it is gorgeous.

There was a fair while I was visiting.

Despite being a tiny place, it has no less than three art museums! I went to Stedelijk Museum where the modern art is.

While I was there, they were having an exhibition of works by Chiharu Shiota, a Japanese artist who makes amazing installations out of red thread.

OK, that’s all my Dutch travel experiences. More travel photos coming right up.

Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End

Uncharted 4. Naughty Dog for Sony (2016), PS4. A third-person action-adventure game with platforming elements.

It’s March and that means we’ve arrived at Month 12 of the super awesome 14-month Year of Console Gaming here on TLYW. As you know, we are following an historical trajectory throughout the series by playing games in the order of the period in which they are set. Having started way back in prehistoric times, this month’s game is the last  we’ll play which is set in the present day.

Uncharted 4 was developed for the Playstation 4 and published in 2016. It is seemingly the final episode in a series of games which have tracked the adventures of Nathan Drake, a modern-day Indiana Jones type of figure. I understand that in this chapter Nathan is going to run about shooting people in the face and discovering secret pirate villages in which hoards of treasure are implausibly concealed behind complex puzzles, all while I admire the stunning outdoor scenery and landscapes.

Uncharted 4 was released to rapturous applause and critical acclaim. It achieved perfect or near-perfect scores in every respectable game ranking system that there is. Metacritic scored it 93 out of 100 based on aggregated reviews. IGN gave it 9/10 and Gamespot gave it 10/10.  Tech Radar said it was “utterly perfect”. The Guardian said it was a game that everyone should experience. British GQ said it was the best game ever created. It won countless awards including numerous Game of the Year awards and awards for best narrative, art direction, visual design, animation, technical achievement and performance. It was a best-selling game in 2016 in various countries and had sold 8.7m copies by December of that year, according to Wikipedia.

I am excited, even though I’m a little worried about the linear and platforming elements, being as I disliked God of War III so much. It’s a game that’s hard to ignore.

Here’s a trailer so you can see what I am in for this month.

Year of the Console, February Review. Grand Theft Auto V

I’m so thrilled that the super awesome TLYW Year of Console Gaming is back on track, after careening off the road and barely adhering to the earth’s surface for several months, like a Los Santos gangster in a stolen sports car or monster truck. We’ve reached the end of February and that was Month 11 in our special 14-month series. Game of the month was Grand Theft Auto V. It was a riot. Here’s my review.

Grand Theft Auto V. Rockstar Games (2013), Xbox 360. An open-world, first-person or third-person action-adventure game. I played single player.

Plot and setting: You will play as three frenemies whose stories are interwoven, as all sorts of gangsta events and bad man tings unfold around the Los Santos area, modelled on present-day Los Angeles. You will drive, run, fly and occasionally sail around miles of beautiful coastline, huge mountains, a glittering city, industrial hinterlands and some desert settlements that are sordid and frightful and reminiscent of Texas Chainsaw Massacre. You will commit a lot of crime for no real reason except that crime is fun.

General remarks: Grand Theft Auto has always pushed at the boundaries of what’s acceptable in video games. When GTA first appeared back in 1997, moral anxiety about the game centred on activities that now seem unremarkable in a GTA context, such as running over pedestrians in your car, robbing convenience stores and shooting at the police. This fifth episode of the GTA story caused concern among some who noticed a torture scene in which the player is required to torture a NPC using various grim instruments in order to fulfil a quest. While the gritty realism of this sequence certainly had its disturbing and uncomfortable aspects, it seems to me that it can only be properly understood when we see how the experience it offers the player is replicated throughout nearly every layer of the game. Grand Theft Auto is a fantasy. It is explicitly escapist. It is a playground – firmly contained within your Xbox or Playstation, with clear borders – in which the normal rules of civilised behaviour are suspended and you can feel thrilled with your own bravery and instinct for anarchy as you try out dozens of what-if scenarios. What if I gave up my job and turned to organised crime to support myself? What if I didn’t bother to obey the laws of driving, ran red lights and drove all over the road at 100 mph? What if I stopped respecting the idea of property and took whatever I wanted? What if I had a grenade launcher and aimed at a helicopter? Would it fall out of the sky? It’s a heady experience.

In between all of this, when you are not torturing people, shooting at them or flying light aircraft into the side of mountains, you will enjoy a surprisingly huge variety of leisure activities around Los Santos, including golf, tennis, yoga, hiking, darts, triathlons, motor sports, water sports, going to strip clubs and going to therapy. My character Michael was particularly fond of relaxing in between killing sprees by playing tennis with his wife, during which she would mock and insult him as he lumbered heavily around the court.

Thumbs up: It’s a beautifully-engineered game. Its architecture and mechanics are sophisticated and thoughtful. The city is intricate and the outdoor landscapes are beautifully rendered. Stories have depth. Characters have actual personalities and relationships. You can switch between characters as you pursue their interlinked stories, which is really enjoyable and gives you a sense that they are living people who know each other. Every little detail seems to have been thought of, right down to each character’s smartphone, on which he can receive emails and texts, make calls, browse the internet, take photos, check the financial markets and read local news. Being a Rockstar game, there’s a lot of driving which you will do at insane speeds while listening to Los Santos’s 19 radio stations, which broadcast crime news, chat shows and 240 licensed songs. There’s an immense range of things to do, missions are challenging without being impossible and things like dramatic speedboat chases are guaranteed to be screamingly exciting.

Thumbs down: This is such a proud feat of engineering and game design that I wanted to fall totally in love with it and yet I didn’t quite manage it. The thing is, perhaps as a function of GTA’s aforementioned moral playground, all three of your playable characters are horrible people. First you will meet Franklin, a young black guy who’s kind of objectionable in the sense that he’s rude, lacking in moral fibre and is easily roused to violence. Franklin will suddenly start to seem a lot nicer when you are introduced to the second playable character, Michael, a sleazy, enraged, tight-lipped white man in his forties who is rich and could have retired from crime but went back out on the streets because he likes hurting people and because he’s not happy unless he’s complaining about something. Finally, even Michael will appear to be a relatively sympathetic character when you meet Trevor, another angry old white man who has a pathological need for dominance and does poos in public. In short, they are hard to like. GTA V had this in common with The Witcher 3 which I played back in April last year, in month 4 of our series. Geralt used to enter people’s houses to rob them and step over the bodies of dying children and their parents to get to a few coins, then leave without acknowledging them or saying a word. It made it hard to care whether or not he got killed when he was next in a fight with a griffin. Also in common with The Witcher, while parts of the gaming environment are bright, fancy and pretty to look at, other areas are frankly depressing and there are times when you will find yourself standing outside deserted shacks in the mud and rain.

Return to? Yes, I think so. You can have an immense amount of fun with these characters if you don’t pause to reflect on their values. The music is great and everyone likes driving fast, shiny cars. Also, Michael was gradually starting to get better at tennis and golf.

We have video of actual gameplay!

In this film, we’re playing as Michael, who is having a disagreement with the police.

In this one, you can see all three of the playable characters working as a team on a single mission, one of my favourite aspects of the game. Trevor is flying the helicopter, Franklin’s doing range damage with a sniper rifle and Michael is rescuing a guy from some other guys for some reason. Lots of helicoptering, grappling, shooting action.

The camera in each character’s phone allows them to take photos of the scenery, wherever they happen to be, but also to take selfies, which certainly captures their personalities and has a lot of comedy value. In the photo set below, photos that were all taken by my three guys on their own phones.

A selection of favourite GTA V wallpapers, just to capture the flavour of scenes around Los Santos.

Tomorrow I’ll announce the game of the month for March. Game 12 of 14. I cannot wait.


I was lucky enough to visit Delft on my recent tour of Holland. I fell in love with it. It has mediaeval architecture, beautiful streets with quaint houses and tree-lined canals and a lovely, modern library.

There are two churches that you can go and look round to admire the architecture. I went to the New Church where William of Orange is buried, you can tell it is the new one because it was only built in the 14th century. The other church is old.

If you are in the area, you must visit this delightful bead shop. It’s not just about the gorgeous beads which are a riot of colour; the delightful Dutch proprietor will make you mint tea and sit you down at a table where you can chat for as long as you want while she helps you make a necklace. Highly recommended. Don’t buy a house in Delft, though, because I want one so don’t go taking all the good properties.

I realise it is the last day of February and therefore the latest instalment in the TLYW Year of Console Gaming is due to be published today. It is coming. I’m writing the post now so watch this space.


A few photos from my trip to Amsterdam back in August.

I obviously went straight to Museum Square to visit the Stedelijk Museum, where the modern art is.

Sculptures and outdoor scenes in Museum Square, including a brass band and an enthusiastic dancer.

Families playing in the fountain outside the Rijksmuseum.

A few photos from the shopping district. Miffy the rabbit, or Nijntje, to use her proper Dutch name, is a national mascot. I became slightly obsessed with Miffy while I was there and aspire to knit one.

I might be visiting Amsterdam again soon, so there will be more photos of historic and cute things. It’s a lovely city.

Everything proceeds well chez Gloria. Harry and I are as happy as two bugs in a rug and are looking forward to our future. I have resumed learning Chinese after a five-year break and Harry is learning with me. Chinese is a part of our day every day now. We say “wo ai ni, Harry tai tai” and “you are a very handsome xiaohuozi” and other such sweet nothings. So that’s keeping me quite busy and I am getting no video gaming done. You can find my Chinese blog at thehanyuyouwant.wordpress.com.

More travel photos coming soon. I want to show you a little bit of Den Bosch and also Delft, both in Holland, then I’ll say a few things about my trip to India.

Grand Theft Auto V

Grand Theft Auto V. Rockstar Games (2013), Xbox 360. An open-world, first-person or third-person action-adventure game. I am playing single player.

It’s February and that means it’s Month 11 of the super amazing TLYW Year of Console Gaming. There are 14 games in this specially extended series so we’re now down to the last four! The series will conclude in May and at that time I’ll take an overview of all 14 games and hand out some imaginary awards.

Grand Theft Auto has already won an award, of a kind, in the sense that it is the only game to appear twice on the shortlist of fourteen games that I had to play in order to feel like I’ve received an education in console gaming. I played GTA: San Andreas in September and in fact San Andreas was the reason why I even bought an Xbox in the first place – without that, who knows if the Year of the Console would have happened.

As you know, we are following an historical trajectory throughout the series by playing games in the order of the period in which they are set. Having started in prehistoric times, we’ve very nearly arrived at the present day. GTA V is set in 2013, the year in which it was published. We are about to return to the fictional state of San Andreas, based on Southern California, several years on from the adventures of our old friend, the gangster CJ, who was running around the area, shooting up the place, going to the gym and vomiting in chicken restaurants in a story that was notionally set in 1992. Come to think of it, that makes CJ twenty years older than the characters we’re about to meet and could be someone’s father. Cripes. How time flies.

I am beyond excited to play GTA V. I haven’t played it before but the numbers speak for themselves. It grossed one billion USD within three days of its release in 2013. It has sold 85 million copies worldwide. If there were a contest for the most successful video game of all time, GTA V would have a strong claim on that title. It is a monumental game, a towering achievement. It is almost above criticism. I feel honoured to be in its presence.

It is the game for February. Here’s a 15-minute compilation of all the trailers, which I feel is a preview not just of the game but of my life for the coming month.


Year of the Console, January Review. Dead Island and Dead Island: Riptide

I’m so happy to finally welcome you back to the super awesome TLYW Year of Console Gaming, which we are resuming following a break in October. Monthly game reviews and videos are back. The series is building to an exciting climax, scheduled for May 2018. It is a project I began last year because I wanted to develop more knowledge and skills in console gaming, after 25 years of PC gaming. It consists of a star-studded line-up of 14 of the most popular and critically acclaimed games of the last several years that can be played on a PS4 or Xbox 360.

I’m playing one game each month, in order of the date in which they are set. An exciting path through history is being carved out, a path that will ultimately project into the future. During 2017 we progressed from pre-history (Ark: Survival Evolved, Far Cry: Primal), through Antiquity (God of War III), the Middle Ages (The Witcher II), the Enlightenment (Assassin’s Creed: Black Flag), the end of the 19th century (Red Dead Redemption), World War I (Battlefield 1), the 1940s (Batman: Arkham Asylum), the 1990s (Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas), and finally arrived in 2006 on the first of October with Dead Island and Dead Island Riptide.

As the game for October, DI represented Month 10 in the series. I finally managed to get some play time over Xmas and during January and loved every minute. Here’s my review.

Dead Island & Dead Island: Riptide. DeepSilver (20011/13), Xbox 360. A first-person, open-world survival horror game set in the islands of Papua New Guinea in the early 2000s. I played in single player mode on the Xbox 360. 

Plot and setting: Your character, chosen from a menu of four or five, attempts to escape a zombie-infested archipelago along with a handful of friends. Hours of gory action ensue as you hack, slash, punch, kick and shoot a variety of hungry, grey-skinned zombies that have overtaken a luxury hotel, a large beach resort, a couple of towns, some swamps and a ship.

General Remarks: On release in 2011, Dead Island was successful and critically acclaimed. It won Game of the Year, earned an IGN score of 8/10 and sold 5m copies. Dead Island: Riptide (2013) is a stand-alone expansion that adds some new locations, quests and characters, boat travel, new ways to level up, a slightly improved interface and continues the story of the original game. I played both games, latterly and mainly Riptide, in single player mode on the Xbox 360, which proved to be pretty free from glitches.

Harry and I played together and completed Riptide in about 30 hours of gameplay. This was enough time to complete a lot of side quests as well as the main story. We were gripped and played in long sessions, passing the Xbox handset to each other when tired, so that the other one could push the action forwards.

In Riptide we played as John, a tough Australian soldier who specialises in hand-to-hand combat. John is good with brass knuckles, claws and staves, plus he kicks really hard. If you do it just right, you can punt zombies down the street or across the room, giving the game a significant element of much-needed comedy.



It was certainly among the most enjoyable games I’ve played in Year of the Console. It has aged fabulously, even taking into account graphics which are clunky by today’s standards. It’s full of nail-biting suspense – the large maps are crawling with different breeds of zombies, some of them fast, some of them well-hidden, some travelling around in hordes, yet you must go out there with whatever feeble weapons you can acquire and search for food, buildings that could be made into a secure base, engine parts for your car, etc. There are dozens of side quests to keep you busy and you will spend most of your time outdoors. For me, trying to stay alive during a horrifying zombie apocalypse is a lot nicer if you can do it in a setting of luxury beach resorts and otherwise pleasant coastal towns. A few moments were even reminiscent of Assassin’s Creed: Black Flag, as I skipped around the rooftops in the sunshine, admiring the mountains, palm trees and glittering bays in the background.

I found it a completely immersive experience and will probably remember the consistent feeling of dread for a long time. I became deeply involved in obtaining and modifying the best weapons. I had more fun with flares, molotovs, grenades, mines and even throwing knives than in any other game I’ve ever played. There’s something very rewarding about a crowd of zombies going boom as they lurch towards you.

Thumbs up: Nearly everything, but especially the suspense and the immersion. Some of the zombies make specific noises – they roar or scream when something has caught their attention and you become very alert to these sounds and their probable direction and distance as you creep around urban, beach and jungle landscapes, trying to stay alive. It reminded me a lot of Ark: Survival Evolved which I played last January and loved for the same reasons.

Thumbs down: The story is a bit thin, the characters are cardboard cut-outs and in a perfect world I would have liked a soundtrack as good as GTA: San Andreas. None of this marred my enjoyment of the game, though, I was on the edge of my seat throughout.

Return to?  I don’t know, I feel like I’ve played Riptide now and it seemed more functional and a bit slicker than the original Dead Island, so I might not bother. I absolutely would play Dead Island 2 but development has been shelved indefinitely.

One of my favourite games of the year. A memorable and compelling experience.

We have video! Here I am playing Aussie soldier  John near the start of the Riptide game. John has escaped a zombie-infested ship and washed up on the beach, on a terrible island. Gasp as I try to defend myself against a group of attacking zombies by amateurishly kicking them and randomly swinging a primitive blade weapon in their general direction, making contact about 50% of the time.

Tomorrow I’ll announce Game 11 of the Year of Console Gaming. It will be Game of the Month for February. Excited.