Tag: gaming

Year of the Console, June Review. Red Dead Redemption.

Welcome back to the TLYW Year of Console Gaming. It’s the end of Month 6 and we are almost halfway through our specially extended year, which is actually 14 months long. Perhaps surprisingly, in light of continued romance, I’ve had a pretty good go at this month’s game: Red Dead Redemption. By the last weekend in June I’d logged almost 10 hours of gameplay and completed 21% of the main quest line.

As you know, we are following an historical trajectory throughout the year. June was the month in which we finally entered the 20th century. Set during the final years of the American Wild West, circa 1910, the action takes place in the southwestern United States and Mexico. There is plenty of horse riding and the scenery involves deserts, rough buildings made out of timber and those cacti that look like a person holding up their arms.

I’ve been playing on the Xbox 360 this month, marking the first game we’ve played on Xbox so far this year – there will be more over the summer and autumn. My Xbox is about 2.5 years old, so I have attempted to use it before. I have previously attempted to play various iterations of Grand Theft Auto and Dead Island, but got nowhere fast. My console-handling skills were non-existent and I now think that GTA was an awful place to begin console gaming, what with all the driving and high-speed chases. This time around, returning to the Xbox after five solid months of industrious console handling on the PlayStation, I took to the Xbox like a natural and played to a respectable standard on Red Dead almost from the beginning.

One thing that Xbox 360 lacks is built in screenshot and video capture software, so I bravely expanded my tech skills even further by hooking up the Xbox to my Republic of Gamers laptop via an Elgato HD60 video capture device. It is a joy to use and can even stream content, so I could, in theory, stream my gameplay to Twitch or YouTube. You don’t know how tempted I am to have my own live gaming channel and it is only a pity that I have to go to work.

Thanks to my experiments with the HD60, I not only have screenshots this month, I have real video of my own gameplay. The first one shows our hero John Marston learning to capture and tame wild horses and is a fun quest. It is outdoors in nice weather, fully makes the most of the open land, the horse handles beautifully, it’s active and quite exciting. These were some of the most enjoyable moments, chasing a herd of wild horses around.

The second video shows what playing RDR is actually like much of the time, if you are me, anyway. It does not depict a heroic tale of glory. John Marston needs to find and rescue this woman called Jenny. He rides all through the desert and when he eventually finds Jenny, he accidentally tramples all over her with his horse. She flees in terror and John fails the quest. I love the part at the end where John & I realise that he has failed and he just stands there, in the middle of nowhere, looking around despondently.

Screenshots

Red Dead Redemption. Rockstar (2010), Xbox 360. A third-person, open-world, action-adventure game set in the western United States and Mexico in 1910. 

Plot and setting: Cowboy John Marston arrives in the frontier town of Armadillo to fight off bandits and horse rustlers and protect the local hookers from being murdered in broad daylight.

General remarks: An atmospheric game. Everything is very rich in story, even the side quests. NPCs are interesting and different from each other. Combat isn’t too hard, thanks to an effective auto lock on your gun. The artwork and the emotional tone of the characterisation and story are both quite warm, almost romantic. I really noticed this in contrast to last month’s game, Assassin’s Creed 4: Black Flag, which is rather crisp.

Thumbs up: Outdoor questing almost all the time, whether in farms, towns or the open land. Impressive scenery, nice weather with dramatic sunrises and sunsets. The horse handles beautifully and the animation is realistic. It’s very satisfying, riding your horse around.

Thumbs down: After a while, I seemed to lose track of the main quest line and wandered around uselessly for a while, collecting herbs and being savaged by mountain lions. The questing became a little monotonous, perhaps partly as a function of the vast, unchanging scenery. I was surprised that after only 10 hours of gameplay, I was looking around for some variety in the range of things to do.

Return to?  I might return and play the expansion pack Undead Nightmare, which I didn’t have time for this month. I felt like I was starting to run out of momentum with the main game and its quest line, but I enjoyed the scenery,  the mechanics of gameplay and my horse, so zombies might shake things up a bit. This was probably my 3rd favourite game so far this year, after Ark: Survival Evolved and Assassin’s Creed 4: Black Flag.

The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt

Welcome to Month 4 of the Year of the Console Game. It is 1 April and I am incredibly excited to announce the game that we will be playing throughout this month, as we move from Antiquity into the Middle Ages, on an historical trajectory that will continue for the next year. The game for April is The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt.

I have already made it out of the starting zone and collected some screenshots, check it out. As you can see, it is going to be very outdoorsy, just the way I like it. Sun shining down. Snow on mountains. Rivers. Attractive sunsets.

The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt – Game of the Year Edition_20170328001645

Witcher 3 is an action RPG that is played from a third person perspective in an open world. According to Wikipedia, that world is 30 times larger than in the previous two games in the Witcher series and the practical upshot of that is that I am going to be spending a lot of time exploring, on horseback and occasionally on boats, which sounds perfect for me. It is set in 1272, so we have moved on from the craziness of Ancient Greece and have joined a society that is much more similar to the present day than anything we’ve played so far.

With its knights, rustic inns and many dangerous & fictional predators such as gryphons, The Witcher 3 is bound to feel like familar territory to any RPG gamer. There are obvious parallels with Skyrim, which I played on the PC and loved. One review of W3 said that Witcher 3 is to Skyrim as Game of Thrones is to Lord of the Rings. To me, this says that Skyrim is the more intelligent and complex game, with better, more serious storytelling, while Witcher 3 is going to be about glamour and spectacle, but we shall wait and see if this comes true. I’m not against a bit of glamour and spectacle. I enjoyed Skyrim‘s subdued, almost monochrome, palette and austere, Nordic landscapes but I have the feeling that W3 is going to be more showy and if there are beaches and glittering blue seas, I will not complain.

There is a story, not one that you need to care about if you haven’t played the previous two games. Our hero is that blond guy you see in the pictures. His name is Geralt and he is searching for two missing people: his girlfriend and also his adopted daughter; an annoying child who looks disturbingly like a miniature adult. He’s going to travel around this giant landscape doing quests for people who might be able to give him some information. He will end up fighting various beasts and ghouls but will be aided in this endeavour by being a Witcher – a specially-bred monster-hunter who can do a bit of magic as well as swing a sword and use a crossbow.

Combat seems like it’s going to be fairly straightforward. Apparently, dodge, parry and counter-attack are essential skills for melee combat so I shall make sure to get some practise in early before I level up. Other than that it’s just a case of whacking things with the correct choice of sword or using one of only about half a dozen magic spells. I think the combinations of buttons are going to be simpler than God of War III and there should be less extreme button-mashing.

The Witcher 3 was developed and published by CD Projekt. It was released for the PS4 (and Windows and Xbox One) in 2015. It immediately won numerous Game of the Year awards. I think we are in for a fun month. I hope so. I will let you know how I get on.

Trailer:

God of War III Remastered

Welcome back to the Year of the Console Game. It is 1 March and I am super excited to announce the game that we will be playing throughout this month, as we move from pre-history into Antiquity, on an historical trajectory that will continue for the next year. The game for March is God of War III.

god-of-warGod of War® III Remastered_20150311214233

The setting is Ancient Greece and your character is that muscly guy who you see there, whose name is Kratos. Kratos is the son of Zeus, king of the Olympian gods. In the earlier parts of this trilogy of games, Zeus has somehow betrayed Kratos, and now Kratos is out for revenge. This is going to involve leaping around wildly and hitting a lot of things with a big sword.

The God of War series is by Sony’s Santa Monica Studio and first appeared in 2005 for the PS2. It is critically acclaimed, was a flagship brand for PlayStation and is agreed by many players to be one of the greatest games of all time, so lucky me that I get to play it. God of War III Remastered was released in 2015 for the PS4, which is the version I am going to play.

This is really going to push the boundaries with my console gaming skills, which is what I wanted. Ark: Survival Evolved offered opportunities for puttering around quietly in a boat. Far Cry: Primal permitted me to spend most of my time in the bushes, firing arrows at things from a distance. God of War III is going to be something else altogether. This is old-school console gaming. I can expect:

  • constant hack-and-slash action that requires quick reflexes and the ability to remember combinations of buttons;
  • elements of platform gaming, which I haven’t seriously engaged with since the 1990s;
  • puzzle-solving, see above.

The need for fast reflexes and remembering complex combinations of buttons worries me a bit because I am old but I wanted a challenge so now I’ve got one.

Everyone says this is a gorgeous-looking game and that’s important. It’s going to be action-heavy and fiery and will certainly make a change from two months of unspoiled nature, dinosaurs and neanderthals. Here’s the trailer so you can see what I am in for throughout March.

Blog Updates

Do you talk to yourself? I do. I think it is something that kicks in when you’ve been living alone for a long time. I might be doing stuff around the house and sometimes I comment out loud on how it is going. I say things like ‘right, then’ and ‘ffs’ and quite often ‘I’m not having a very good time’. Today I was happy. Everything seemed to be coming together. I am free from the world’s worst job. Business is doing okay. I have recovered from a 10-day sinus infection. I am popular with boys and lots of people want to date me. I’ve been seeing art and culcha around London. I said out loud, a propos of nothing, ‘I am having a good time!’ It was a rare moment of genuine and complete happiness. Of course, I was tempting fate by saying this and I stupidly returned a phone call to receive news of a family member who is one long, perpetual, expensive, time-consuming problem and a bad news generator. Fuck me for being happy for five minutes. By the end of the phone call, I’d started smoking again.

Anyway. I planned to update the blog today and that’s what I’m doing. It’s even more important to keep updating the blog when your patience is being tested and so I shall attempt to restore my previously good mood.

I’ve decided to start collecting Achievement Points and Brownie Badges again and have updated the blog pages. Also, we used to have themed seasons here on TLYW and now I finally have a more normal life, I am reinstating them. Here are the two major ones.

Classical Music, Yo

classical

I have developed a sudden taste for classical music. I don’t know where that came from, I am usually all about house, hip hop and reggae. As you know, I’ve recently been to two performances by the London Philharmonic Orchestra and then I went to The Pirates of Penzance by the English National Opera, which I have already blogged about. Then I went to see Verdi’s Rigoletto, which I will blog about separately. I’m going back to the London Phil next week for some Stravinsky and before I forget, we have these magical things coming up in London over the next few months:

I am just going to ride this wave for as long as it lasts. It’s educational and uplifting.

Year of the Console: 12 Games in 12 Months

console

As you know, I take gaming very seriously and this year I am expanding my repertoire by taking up console gaming. There are so many things that I want to at least try, so I am ambitiously going to play 12 games in 12 months. Just the other day I was overcome with a stroke of genius. I could have played 12 games in no particular order, or played them in order of the date of publication but instead I am going to play them in order of the historical period in which they are set. This is going to be great, it will prevent the gaming from becoming too repetitive, will give a theme and sense of progression to the gaming  year and will encourage me to play things I’ve never considered or tried before, which is what Console Year is all about.

January and February are both pre-history. If I’d had this idea earlier I would have played Ark: Survival Evolved (dinosaurs) in January and Far Cry: Primal (Cro-Magnons) in February but instead I did them the wrong way around. But I won’t remember this in a few months.

Far Cry Primal. Screenshots of my actual game play! Finally figured out to get photos off the Playstation.

Ark: Survival Evolved. It took me a while to figure out how to not get killed all the time. Now I’m really into it but February is going to end on Tuesday so I have to play as much as I can in the next 36 hours.

It’s almost March and so my history theme suggests that I need to play something set in either Ancient Greece or the Roman Empire. This isn’t going to be easy as there was a rash of games set in antiquity 10-15 years ago and barely anything since. Also most of the Roman Empire games were for the PC. But I will find something. After that we will zoom through the Middle Ages, slaying dragons along the way. Then some 18th century piracy. A spot of Victorian steampunk. World Wars 1 and 2. I expect to hit the present day around September and we will be playing futuristic sci-fi by Xmas.

Days Gone (Sony, PS4, 2017)

I will post properly very soon. I’ve been enjoying the unbelievable luxury of finishing each day’s work at a sensible time and then pursuing my interests, which right now means gaming. I think I’ve sunk about 30 hours into Far Cry Primal since I unpacked the Playstation at Xmas. On Day 1 I had effectively no experience with console gaming. 30 hours later, I can operate the PS4 controller with the skill and confidence, if not the twitchy reflexes, of a 17-year-old. I have speared rhinos, taken down whole camps of rival cavemen, grappled my way up mountains, used an owl to drop bombs, and tamed a sabre-tooth tiger, which I now ride around on. I think I’m about two-thirds of the way through the game. I only stopped this evening because I came to a large fort which I had difficulty handling. I now realise that what I need to do is capture one of the mammoths that is idling around outside the fort, ride it in there and trample everybody to death.

Anyway, this isn’t about Far Cry Primal. It’s about the game I’m going to play when it is released and when I have finished the other games on my urgent priority list. Of course, I am referring to Days Gone (tbc, probably 2017) by Sony Bend. It is an  open world action-adventure survival horror game, played in the third person (a view I prefer because I can see more of what’s going on around my character). It is set in a post-apocalyptic rural environment where the place is overrun with hordes of zombies. I mean hordes. And they are fast. They batter down obstacles and they climb over each other to race towards you. I just watched the trailer and it is nail-bitingly tense action, genuinely frightening and quite stressful for all 10 minutes even when all you are doing is watching someone else play. Check this out:

I actually said ‘Oh no’ out loud when my hero made it to the roof of the building and I could see how many zombies surrounded us on every side.

Interview with one of the artists here on gamesradar.com. “Over the top, extreme action,” he says. Who doesn’t want that? This will be ideal for my newly polished console handling skillz.

The 8th Day of Xmas: Holidaying like a professional.

Last week I remarked that the first day of holiday is always a bit weird because I am still in work mode. That takes a few days to evaporate.

I am happy to report that I have now fully mastered the art of being on holiday.

  • Get up at 1pm and don’t bother opening the curtains, it’ll be dark soon anyway.
  • Immediately switch on console.
  • Get coffee and Pot Noodle and bring to console.

I have sent messages to all the dating guys informing them that all future communications are cancelled as of now because I need to invest my time elsewhere due to urgent priorities.

I am glad I have a well-stocked fruit bowl. A couple of days ago I wondered if I’d eat all the fruit but now I see that I need that next to my Playstation and we are good to go for the next several hours.

Right, I must get back to it. I’m playing a little bit of ARK: Survival Evolved (2015) just in case I am missing anything really fantastic in the way of landscapes and dinosaur-taming, then I’ll probably go back to Far Cry Primal for a while, or for six months.

The 7th Day of Xmas: Gaming Review

That marked the half way point of the Xmas hols.

Dating. There was a date in the earlier part of the day but it was another non-starter, unfortunately. He was another case of social anxiety, I don’t need that, I haven’t got time to deliver therapy.

Dinner. I couldn’t be bothered to cook. I ate cheese & biscuits and then sponge pudding and then I went for a nap.

Movie. Nope. Didn’t do that either.

Gaming. So, what did I do today, I hear you ask. I gamed. It’s like Xmas was invented for gaming. Let’s review where we are up to.

Having been a PC gamer since the early 90s, I’m using this Xmas holiday to teach myself to use consoles. I’ve been practising every day and at the same time sampling a variety of recent games to see what’s out there. My console skills are improving quite fast. Since we last spoke about gaming, probably yesterday, I introduced myself to Metal Gear Solid 5: Phantom Pain (2015), Assassin’s Creed 4: Black Flag (2013) and Everybody’s Gone To The Rapture (2015). Right now it’s 3.30am on Day 8 of Xmas and I’m playing Far Cry Primal (2016) again, which we started on Day 1. I’ve been waiting to find something that excites me enough to spend lots of time with it over a few weeks or months. Here’s what I’m learning, other than which button to press to change weapons.

Dark Souls (the original version, 2011, which I started the other day) is a very atmospheric and intelligently-designed game with considerable artistic merit and I want to play it some more. Despite this, it looks like a gloomy, dystopian world and what I really want is a pleasant, soothing environment to play in. I like slaying dragons and such but I’m not mad keen on spending a lot of time exploring caves, dungeons and rotting, elaborate castles. I like to be outdoors in the sun. I like to be out on grassy plains or a mountain or a beach, hunting or just riding my horse around and exploring the map. For this reason, even though I can see it’s a bit soulless and corporate, my heart lifted when I played the opening stages of Assassin’s Creed: Black Flag because it is set in the Caribbean and concerns 18th-century pirates, so it is beaches and glittering blue seas all the way. And ships. I can really get along with that, that’s my idea of a pleasant in-game environment.

Apparently another factor that’s important to me is that the game shouldn’t make excessive amounts of noise. I don’t need constant explosions and helicopters blowing up and suchlike. What I really like is when the sounds are those of my arrows whistling through the air. Far Cry Primal is making me very happy in that respect. It is peaceful and quiet. I am occasionally attacked by bears and hostile cavemen from rival tribes but most of the time I’m quietly stalking deer, goats, boar and suchlike, and going around lighting bonfires. I can play it at 3 in the morning without worrying about disturbing my neighbours.

The final thing that matters to me, after the visually pleasing environment and low levels of aggressive noise, is that the learning curve of the game should be appropriate. I need games that give me an easy start because I don’t know where any of the buttons are on the console. It’s all very well telling me ‘L1’ or ‘R3’ but I don’t always know where that is. So that’s why Dark Souls is quite difficult right now. It requires you to have at least minimal knowledge of how the hardware works. In contrast, Far Cry Primal has been pretty easy to learn how to use. I still suck quite badly at melee combat but my ranged hunting skills are improving fast. Also, there’s already a sense of progress within the game, I’ve managed to level up a little bit. Right, I shall make some more coffee and get back on it. Hooray for Xmas. I’ve waited all year for this.

“Open-world sandbox gameplay, bringing together massive beasts [and] breathtaking environments”, says Ubisoft. Right up my street.