Nioh Trial better than full on game releases?!

Nioh Last Chance Trial Impressions

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Nioh has been a game that has been at the back of my mind for some time. I had heard about it, seen a few gameplay videos and was generally intrigued by the whole thing. That said I never did much digging and as such was greatly surprised by the fact that it’s releasing on February 9th and that there is a last chance trial for everyone to play as well!

Before going in it was pretty obvious that this was a very Dark Souls inspired affair and playing the tutorial instantly confirmed this. Personally the more souls like games we get the better and Nioh does plenty to differentiate itself from the competition. Most noticeably its Japanese setting makes for some interesting weapons, armor, enemy design and so on and while gameplay feels instantly familiar to veterans of the Souls series it has a number of noticeable changes to make this a very refreshing and exciting affair. Each weapon for example can be used in 3 different forms, and stamina or Ki as its called here can be regained by well timed R1 presses rather than just letting it recharge. This game more than any other I can think of really places an emphasis on stamina, you can see the stamina of enemies and the well timed stamina recharges mentioned above can also dissipate area of effect zones (That significantly slow down stamina recovery) created by supernatural mobs. This constant focus on watching your stamina created some really engaging and exciting fight sequences particularly against the demo’s boss and larger creatures. Just like Bloodbornes health recovery system it encouraged me to stay in the action more often, as opposed to the more defensive style of Dark Souls games.

The Trial itself has a very significant amount of content, enough to keep me hooked for many hours without getting bored. An entire level is present, as well as a extremely challenging harder version of the same level and also included is a mini boss fight like side mission, which I have been unable to beat. This is perhaps my favourite thing about what I experienced was the very steep difficulty. Even the standard mission was no pushover but I never found the difficulty to be unfair or infuriating, extremely challenging yes but also incredibly fun and rewarding. Levelling up and obtaining new armor, weapons and items, exploring and fighting strange creatures, this game just felt right the entire time. The amount of content contained here and how well executed it all is bodes extremely well for the final game, the trailer certainly looks encouraging.

Perhaps my only real criticism is the graphics, the art design is great but the overall look of the game does look somewhat dated if not dam right ugly. Also even tho I found the selected level extremely fun, it really only served a gameplay purpose and didn’t feel like a lived in place so to speak, as such exploring and moving around the often quite ugly environment is perhaps the games weakest aspect. Otherwise the overall presentation and sound design of the game is pretty awesome.

In conclusion the Nioh Last Chance Trial is an absolute blast to play and if the final game delivers more of the same and then some it could just turn out to be one of the best games of 2017.

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Love it, hate it, love it again.. hate it again, this game divides my opinion of it like no other.

The Last Guardian Review

The Last Guardian first announced all the way back in 2007 has at long last been released. While always curious I was never to fussed about whether this game was actually going to be playable and while I’m glad it’s finally in the hands of the players one does wonder what the team was actually doing for all those years?

Have you ever wanted to run around some ruins with a big bird, dog, cat thing which *ahem* shoots lightning out of its tail? Well then The Last Guardian is most certainly for you. All jokes aside that is pretty much the game. As ‘the boy’ players wake up alongside ‘Trico’ a beast of some description chained up, covered in wounds and the remnants of armor, in a tutorial like sequence you build its trust and soon set out together on a quest of simply heading up. The story is very simplistic but not in a bad way. The boy narrates the story, but these moments are very rare and left intentionally cryptic. The story is instead mostly told through the interactions between the boy and Trico and is more about the journey than the final destination. There is little use of cinematics, no other main characters and no collectibles or similar story telling devices used throughout the game. The story has a very fairy tale like quality to it or a very Legend of Zelda type vibe and while not particularly complex it’s unlike anything else I’ve personally ever played. As such it’s hard to criticize the story seeing as it’s very unique and more importantly the kind of story that can only be told in video game format, but seeing as the game was in development for so long one wonders why the story could not have been something so much more?

As always gameplay is the most important aspect of any video game experience and this is where The Last Guardian is at its best and unfortunately at its worst. Even before embarking on the adventure the controls feel wrong. The camera for example I found to be very sticky and delayed, there are many moments when I simply wanted to stop and look around, the camera unfortunately did not make this as nice as it could have been, at other times as many other reviewers have mentioned the camera can be truly awful in tight spaces, particularly when riding on Trico. The gameplay itself mostly consists of platforming, light puzzle solving and a sprinkling of combat, the whole time players only ever control the boy with Trico acting of his own accord or taking basic instruction from the player. Again the controls just like the camera feel delayed and as such take some getting used to, when it clicks it clicks well but at other times simply moving around can be a pain as the controls often fight against you. One of the biggest joys of the game and one of the most frustrating is Trico himself. At times Trico will do exactly what you want him to do or will even do the right thing without the player needing to issue instruction. At other times however Trico will simply not obey player commands, will often leave you behind, will stand about looking confused and so on. I’m all for creating a believable creature after all the story and gameplay are built upon the relationship between the boy and Trico, this however means there are often unbelievably infuriating moments throughout the game where I literally wanted to smash the controller against the wall or wish I could make Trico shoot himself in the face with his lightning tail.

As mentioned above when the gameplay clicks it does so incredibly well. Platforming and exploring around the giant ruins as the boy is great fun and often awe inspiring. The puzzles while simple are satisfying to solve and make use of Trico in some fun and interesting ways. The biggest surprise for me was the combat aspect of the game. It’s not combat in the traditional sense, the boy can’t directly attack the lumbering suits of armor that chase him about but the mechanics at play here are more deep than you would expect. The boy can jump on enemies to topple them over, shove them to make them drop objects or push them off ledges, throw items to stun them and even pull their heads off. When Trico is at play the suits of armor will use spears and swords to attack him and planes of glass to make him cower away. In response Trico will enter a fit of rage and smash all the suits of armor in sight as he constantly strives to protect the player from harm. Later on in the game the boy gains access to an item to take control of Tricos lightning tail which adds another level of complexity to the combat. Unfortunately the suits of armor are used sparingly and like the rest of the game these exciting situations can be plagued by the wonky controls and while fun these sections are extremely easy. It’s a shame because towards the end Trico and the boy work in tandem to successfully defeat small armies of enemies and one can only wish there was more of it or that it posed more of a challenge.

Soundtrack wise the game is pretty good. It’s used quite sparingly but what’s on offer here is used nicely for both quiet moments and the games more dramatic and action oriented sequences. From quiet subtle melodies to rousing and loud assaults on the ear drums the soundtrack has a quality to it that remains consistent and engaging throughout the roughly 10+ hour playtime. In many ways however the soundtrack can be considered to be somewhat uninspired and often comes across as very by the books. It can leave a lasting impression but equally it will often pass by  having fulfilled a purpose but nothing more.

Visually many people have likened The Last Guardian to the likes of PS3 era graphics, while the game was intended for a PS3 release I find this criticism to be unfair. The game is not the most visually impressive thing to experience on the PS4 nor is it the worst. The game takes place entirely in one location and the sense of scale and the interestingly designed buildings constantly beg for exploration. The games biggest fault on its visuals however is that the entire journey looks the same, the areas at the start look the same as the areas at the end apart from the segments taking place in the games big finale. The lack of visual variety for the most part is pretty disappointing as most games always do something to shake things up visually from time to time. That said what’s on offer here can be truly beautiful and awe inspiring, particularly as you get higher and higher the game is often best enjoyed by taking a step back and taking it all in. From the peaceful tranquility of small wooded areas to gazing out at the next massive tower you have to reach.

So one part masterpiece, one part infuriating, tedious trash. Despite the criticism however The Last Guardian is unique, coming out in a year in which most AAA titles involve massive killing sprees with machine guns. It often evokes feelings of nostalgia taking players back to a time when more games like this where made during the PS2 and PS3 era. I can’t recommend that people pick up and play this, but at the same time I feel it HAS to played so that you can figure it all out for yourself.

Is Rouge One a better Star Wars film than The Force Awakens?

Rouge One: A Star Wars Story Review

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“The Force is Strong”

So Rogue One released the other day and for the most part has been received positively. There is as expected plenty of people that dislike the film, although a lot of this criticism seems a tad unfair. On pure spectacle alone Rogue One is not only a thoroughly entertaining film but a truly exceptional Star Wars film as well.

Galen Erso (Mads Mikkelsen) a former scientist for the empire is living a humble life with his wife and daughter Jyn, but is torn from this peaceful life by Krennic (Ben Mendelsohn) who uses him to complete work on the Death Star. Skip ahead a number of years and Jyn (Felicity Jones) along with a strong cast of misfits join together to steal the Death Star plans for the Rebel Alliance. From there the film follows a pretty straightforward narrative and for anyone who’s seen A New Hope they will know ultimately know how the film will end, not that that’s a bad thing. If anything the fact that the film takes place just before A New Hope and still manages to surprise and add new ideas showcases just how well executed the main narrative is.

The main fault with the film is its slow start, it often drags and the pacing feels off. This downtime however is essential in establishing the main cast of the film, namely the members of Rogue One but also the ambitious decked out in all white Krennic. The film does struggle in getting to know each of the main cast in any great detail apart from Jyn, but each member of the team brings something unique to the table in their actions, dialogue and choice of weaponry. Importantly enough is established by the films climatic end to add emotional depth to the finale. Personally the characters K-2SO and Chrrut steal the show whether it be K-2SO’s sarcastic comments or the badass combat skills of Chrrut taking on Stormtroopers with nothing but a stick. It’s not just the main cast that shine either, but pretty much all the supporting cast, from Mon Mothma and Bail Organa to the undeniably brilliant and downright awe inspiring moments with Darth Vader.

Visually the film is nothing short of spectacular. The Death Star now often overshadowed by even more destructive Sci-Fi armaments such as the Force Awakens own Starkiller base is yet again an imposing and deadly force. It is used expertly throughout the film and is responsible for some of the films most breathtaking shots, whether it be hanging ominously alongside Star Destroyers as it nears completion or unleashing its destructive might on a planet. It’s not just the Death Star that provides a visual treat but pretty much the entire film, from the varied and diverse planets visited to the clinical interiors of imperial installations to the explosive and action packed land and space battles. The battle sequences from the small to the large are worth the price of admission alone. In particular the finale which the film feels like its building up to the entire time is one of the most action packed and adrenaline fuelled  sequence of events to ever grace the big screen. The nitty gritty down in the mud action is perhaps the most dark the Star Wars universe has seen and thus provides a refreshing break from what you would come to expect.

Audio wise the film is on the same level as its visuals. The familiar sounds of the Star Wars universe are all present and accounted for and sound as good as ever. The big difference with Rouge One is that the score is not composed by John Williams but instead by Michael Giacchino. While noticeably different from the work of Williams the soundtrack takes appropriate nods and inspiration from the familiar Star Wars tracks. The result is a soundtrack that sounds like Star Wars but with enough changes to make it something more unique just like the rest of the film.

Perhaps where Rouge One succeeds best is in its ability to be a Star Wars film, it really does feel like a darker grittier version of the original trilogy. It incorporates all the things fans love from the original trilogy and as an added bonus even incorporates some details from the prequel trilogy as well, which is an appreciated touch. There are a number of noticeable nods to the overall franchise but it never loses focus on its identity in that sense it really is a Star Wars story, not a film that is needed or essential to the wider narrative but at the same time is both a thoroughly enjoyable standalone film as well as a masterful prequel to A New Hope.

Happy 15th Birthday Halo!

Celebrating 15 years of Halo CE and why its still an incredible game.

November 15th 2001 the day that Halo Combat Evolved launched with the original Xbox. Despite being 15 years old Halo CE remains an incredible title which has aged incredibly well. It remains my favourite game of all time, not based on nostalgia or the fact it launched an entire franchise of amazing titles, no it remains my favourite game because it was and is an amazing game, its gameplay, soundtrack, story and just about everything else cannot be beaten and has never been surpassed.

A bold thing to say but that is genuinely how I feel about this game. From first awakening as the Master Chief to the very climatic and breath taking final moments this game is one hell of an adventure. Firstly, I would like to mention the gameplay which even in 2016 is still exhilarating and fun. Whether it be blasting grunts up close with the iconic and stupidly powerful magnum on the opening level or engaged in all out-vehicle combat with the tank. The gameplay is by far the strongest component of the entire game. Halo CE throws new things at you as the game progresses. Every Level has something iconic or memorable associated with it which makes the 10-mission long campaign very fulfilling and replayable. Iconic and exciting guns, action packed vehicle sections a plethora of powerful enemy’s, interesting and diverse environments, the list goes on. Halo CE was and still is a fun and exciting game to play and I believe it always will be a truly timeless gem of incredible gameplay. The entire campaign can also be played in coop and often over looked is the fact that the game also boasts a ridiculously fun multiplayer mode.

The gameplay is not the only thing that Halo CE does so well, its story while simple remains a well written and engaging journey. There is only a small cast of characters although this is the game in which one of gaming’s most iconic characters makes his debut. Master Chief the mostly silent super soldier who players take control of in the game. Badass, awesome, heroic, legendary, just a few words that describe the man in the armour. The great thing about Master Chief in Halo CE is that very little is revealed about him and he undergoes limited character development, while this at first sounds like a fault with the game it instead allows the player to become and be the Master Chief. This game, more so than any other title in the Halo franchise is where the player IS the Master Chief. Of course, another iconic character is Cortana, the smart AI leading the player from objective to objective while slowly unravelling the story without ever being expositional or treating the player dumb. There are great characters besides these two however such as Captain Keyes and 343 guilty Spark, easily two of my favourite characters from the entire franchise. The story again is for me timeless, it’s easy to follow and not overly complex but neither is it dumb or silly. It moves along at a great pace, the player learning things about the world as the characters do. Just like the gameplay it introduces new things as the title goes on. What starts out as a desperate fight for survival against a covenant of aliens evolves into a story about saving all sentient life in the galaxy. It really is a fantastic premise, one which is executed perfectly, if there is fault to be found with the plot it is trivial. What separates Halo CE from other games including those found in its own franchise is that it works perfectly well as a standalone title. No prequel or sequel or expanded universe content is needed to enjoy Halo CE’s plot. The game can be enjoyed at any time, by just about anyone looking for a decent plot and for me remains one of my favourite stories of all time to be found in any media.

What is the glue that keeps the gameplay and story stuck so flawlessly together? The soundtrack of course. The soundtrack of Halo has naturally progressed over the years, but for me nothing can beat the original. From the iconic monks chanting to its most dark and unnerving tunes, the soundtrack has something that accompanies all of the games story beats and action sequences. It works so well with the game and can easily be enjoyed without it as well. Its moving, its touching its certainly memorable. A soundtrack so majestic that it can easily be enjoyed for years to come. Graphics and sound are perhaps the two things were the original title does show some age, but this never stops the game from being enjoyable, and there is of course Halo CE Anniversary (Celebrating 5 years) which rectifies the games graphics and sounds. Not to discredit the games original look and sound of course, which even after 15 years are not off putting in the slightest.

So yes, I love this game truly LOVE this game, it means a lot to me as an individual and so naturally there is a certain nostalgia associated with it. The point of this however was not to get all nostalgic about the Halo franchise celebrating 15 years but instead to showcase that even after 15 years Halo CE is still fundamentally a video game masterpiece, which for me has never been beaten and probably never will be. I’ve been enjoying this game for 15 years since I was 7 years’ old and I’ll probably enjoy it for the next 15 as well.

Cortana: Halo, It’s Finished.

Master Chief: No, I think we’re just getting started.

Battlefield One Campaign kinda bad?!

Battlefield One Campaign Review

So, Battlefield One was released not too long ago and has received excellent reviews across the board. Not just for its amazing multiplayer which truly is amazing but a lot of praise has been given to its single player as well. Having now played though its entirety twice here are some thoughts and feelings on why the campaign isn’t all that great.

Unlike most single player campaigns Battlefield One tells a series of smaller unconnected story’s from around the globe, from the trenches of France to the Mountains of Italy. This both works for and against it. First, some positives, on one hand this allows the player to see the war from multiple viewpoints with characters from different walks of life, from a traditional tribeswoman fighting a guerrilla war against the ottoman empire to a chauffeur turned tank driver taking on the might of German defences. This of course also means that gameplay is very varied from vehicle focussed missions to all out-infantry combat to sneaky open ended stealth affairs.  There are five war stories to play though (six including a short prologue) each with multiple missions to play though. There are some great moments to be had here particularly on the tank and aeroplane missions, featuring some truly awesome battles and cinematic moments and with the more interesting and personal stories to boot.

Of course, the actual production values of the game are nothing short of amazing. With some truly amazing facial animations and for the most part some authentic, believable and great voice acting. The graphics and sound design are overall truly incredible from the thundering sound of shell being fired to the echo of a sniper round, the game also features an appropriately themed and rousing soundtrack used to great effect in both epic and quieter moments.

However, while there are great moments to be had there are plenty of downsides to the campaign. Most notably its length is a major issue. The player only gets to experience one set of characters for a short time, notably not nearly enough time to grow attached or care for the characters, and not all the war stories are equal with two of them being pretty spectacular and the other three somewhat average both story and gameplay wise. Often there are stealth sections that are often tedious and boring, partly due to the very by the books and uninspired stealth gameplay. At other times the player will often feel like an action hero, single handily taking on ridiculous situations, you could argue there’s nothing wrong with that but it certainly doesn’t sit well with the WW1 setting, particularly when enemies will often stand out in the open to be shot at. At other times the campaign will often feel like a missed opportunity, there is certainly limitless potential in the War Stories format which players can only dream of. At other times one can only wish that they decided to flesh out a few select stories rather than having multiple or even focused on having a fully-fledged traditional campaign.

Overall the campaign is by no means bad, what’s on offer here certainly adds value to the overall package with collectables and challenges for those wanting to squeeze out all the content the campaign has to offer. Unfortunately, the length, the often tedious and boring gameplay and the overall direction of the narrative holds this back on what could have been something truly special. Let’s hope that in the future we will see more single player games set during WW1.

Battlefield 1 Multiplayer the best thing ever?!

Battlefield 1 Multiplayer Review

 So, Battlefield 1 was recently released amongst a plethora of other big multiplayer titles. And with a modest 63 Hours playtime within the past week it would be safe to say that Battlefield 1 is clearly doing something right. The kind of game that swallows you up and completely immerses the player into a blissful state and doesn’t let them emerge until hours later.

Unlike most modern shooters with their future or near future settings Battlefield One decided to take itself back to the dawn of all-out war with a WW1 setting. This concept clearly caught the attention of many players when first announced but it is perhaps this decision which has made Battlefield One such a success. Not only does the game stand out from other titles but truly invigorates and revitalises a series which has been very so so with its Battlefield 4 and Battlefield Hardline outings. One thing to quickly realise when first booting up the game is that this is a Battlefield game before it’s a WW1 game, but it’s the way in which those aspects combine that makes Battlefield 1 something truly special.

There are only a few modes to choose from but each mode offers something different, depending on what kind of player you are. From small scale team deathmatch modes to massive all-out war in conquest, there is little variety true but each game type is so flawlessly executed and well done that you could easily spend hours playing just one. Easily the most exciting addition to the franchise is operations, a 40 or 64 player mode of attack and defend which combines the best elements of conquest and rush together. It’s here that everything Battlefield 1 offers can be found, from dynamic weather changes, destructible environments, massive maps, interesting and exciting vehicles, weapons, gadgets and so on. Apart from a few minor bugs the gameplay is truly exceptional in every aspect of its diverse gameplay, whether you be blasting players up close with a shotgun in team deathmatch or dropping bombs on them from a massive airship in conquest.

There is plenty for the player to dig into besides simply enjoying the gameplay although some of these aspects do weaken the overall experience. Each of the 4 main classes for example can be ranked up and each earn new weapons and gadgets between ranks 1 and 3, there is however a massive drought of progression until rank 10 and even then, it only offers a few more weapons to unlock. Battlepacks offer the player a random chance at earning different rarities of weapon skins and this system works great and is very satisfying apart from the fact that the battlepacks are earnt randomly at the end of each match. For the truly invested there are several different medals and dog tags that can be earnt for various feats and of course simply playing to earn a higher rank. The most exciting addition to the progression of the game however is the codex, various challenges and tasks will unlock new entries in the codex so that players can learn more about the weapons, vehicles, tactics and so on of WW1. What could have easily been some half effort inclusion to add more content to the game, is instead an extensive codex bristling with interesting, relevant and well written information. A surprisingly great addition to the game and a great jumping off point for those wanting to learn more about WW1. As one would expect from a Battlefield game the graphics and sound design are as always brilliant and put other titles to shame.

So, Battlefield 1’s multiplayer is something truly exceptional a one more go mentality that starts at 11pm and ends at 2am, its addicting, it’s fun, its everything you could want from a multiplayer game and then some. Plus, it’s only going to get better, with some of the issues raised being directly addressed in future updates, with new modes and a map coming soon and as one would expect a massive amount of content coming in its steeply priced season pass. See you on the Battlefield.

Hunt for the Wilderpeople Review

Ricky Baker and his new foster father Hec get stranded in the New Zealand wilderness and due to a major misunderstanding quickly become the subjects of a nationwide manhunt. Cue one of the most delightful, heart-warming and funny adventures to ever grace the cinema screen.

First off let’s take note of just how beautiful this film is as in the sets themselves. The mountains, forests and lakes of New Zealand are undeniably amazing and are used to great effect here, from the opening shots to the film’s most intimate moments the film always takes place in the most amazing of locations. For the films narrative to work you do need to feel as if the main characters are out in the wilderness and the amazing locations do a great job of immersing the viewer.

The films not just some tourism fuelled eye candy however, there is real soul and joy in this film. Both main characters Ricky and Hec have great chemistry together something most definitely needed to pull off its narrative beats. From their rocky start the relationship builds up slowly and realistically over the course of the entire film, watching this grand adventure take place as it inevitably spirals out of each other’s control is simply thrilling and to great credit of the film remained unpredictable. Supporting characters are also incredible playing key parts to the story without ever interfering with the strong tale between Hec and Ricky.

The film is filled with great humour such as its very tasteful use of pop culture references, some very heart felt and poignant moments and even has a few slices of exciting action. The film never gets bogged down with over doing certain aspects of its story, instead everything works and clicks in together and moves at a pitch perfect pace.

Not much can be said to fault the film really. A slightly out of place scene involving some poor CGI only slightly tarnishes the pacing. Personally, the New Zealand accents were often tricky to understand, this is not an attack on the film of course but most certainly something to be aware of.

Overall an incredible film. Exciting, refreshing, heartfelt, beautiful. If you’re looking for the kind of the film that really hits the spot you can’t go wrong with Hunt for the Wilderpeople (Could certainly do with a more catchy title).