First Impressions: Gears of War 4

I found that the first three Gears games all started slowly. The opening sections were all about slowly introducing you to how the game felt and eventually things would start to get crazy a hour or two into the game. Not so with Gears of War 4! It starts with a proper bang, throwing you straight into the action. A prologue section essentially summarising everything that has gone before in the Gears‘ world has you playing through a few different ‘scenes’ from that history and they are all loud, brash and noisy. In other words classic Gears!07-10-2017_08-12-48
Outside of that great start there is not a lot to tell about the gameplay in terms of first impressions – this very much appears to be standard Gears of War action. This is, of course, not necessarily a bad thing – what has made the series so great so far is that the way your character moves, shoots, re-loads and uses cover just works so smoothly.07-10-2017_08-13-26
This game, perhaps unsurprisingly, looks lush. For a series that has spent a lot of it’s time in dark corridors there sure it a lot of time spent outside in the day in the first Act of Gears 4. Much like every other first sequel in a series on a new console everything is just a little more detailed and colourful that what has gone before it. So far there’s no wow factor but it certainly holds it own against other such games from recent times.
The other thing worth mentioning is the story – in the early going you are an Outsider, not part of the COG. I won’t go into detail, to avoid spoilers, but it certainly is a change for a series that has so far made a play of how the Gears aren’t trusted by most folks – here the tables are turned, you are most folks! How this will play out I’m not sure but it’s a turn up for the books.07-10-2017_08-15-11
I kind of think you’ll already know whether you want to play this game. I haven’t seen anything yet that would be likely to really bring in new fans that hadn’t enjoyed Gears of War before now. On the other hand, if you did enjoy those games on the 360 then this seems to be keeping the basic formula the same. If that’s you then I’d recommend going for it – I am certainly enjoying going back to Sera myself.07-10-2017_08-12-25

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Speeding: First Impressions of Fast RMX and Sonic Mania

There has been a whole ton of speed on my Nintendo Switch recently as I’ve been playing through Fast RMX and Sonic Mania at the same time. I’ve been really enjoying them both despite the eye-bleeding speed that both are played at!2017092017585800-993B0B446253E7FDAAC3C1A7681F46FE
I picked up Fast RMX for my Switch when I got the console but I quickly got distracted by Zelda and then Mario Kart and had kinda given up on it. Not because it was bad but it simply seemed like it’s chance had passed. However, a recent update to bring more tracks and vehicles to the game gave me the kick to get back to it. It’s not a full-priced game but none of the corner cutting has been in the gameplay itself. You speed along some well designed tracks collecting boost power ups (and using them) as well as running over particular coloured sections that, as long as you have your craft in the right configuration (a simple button press), will give you a boost as well. It’s fast and furious and intense right to the end of every race – just what a futuristic racer should be.2017091813403600-1628E0CE3F839127054B0EE36E28E52A
I went back and forth with whether to get Sonic Mania. Although back in the day I was a ‘Sonic guy’ – I didn’t play a Mario game at all until adulthood – the nostalgia I had for it wasn’t enough to make it an essential purchase. As such I wasn’t sure I fancied a retro game when I could just play a modern one with modern graphics and design. I’ll dig into this more at a later date when I’m at a place to review the game fully but the key here is: this is not a retro game. Retro-styled for sure but almost everything about how the game works is thoroughly modern. As such, it’s close to ideal – a great game for newcomers with a heavy dose of nostalgia for those that first controlled Sonic all those years ago.
If you’re considering either of these games then my advice is simple: go right ahead! Both of them are around 1/3 the price of a brand new off-the-shelf game but hold up far better than that.2017092021564200-1628E0CE3F839127054B0EE36E28E52A

First Impressions: Dirt 4

Rally games used to be my thing. Back in the days of Colin McRae and V-Rally they were my favourite type of game. Then came the rallying sections of Gran Turismo 3 and 4 and Rallisport Challenge on the Xbox. I just loved sliding sideways around corners, just enough grip to keep moving more or less in the intended direction. Sadly, overtime I both drifted away from them and the rally games themselves just weren’t as good as they once were. As such, I was vaguely interested in playing Dirt 4, but not desperate to get my hands on it.16-09-2017_21-35-50

The first couple hours of playing it seemed to back up my ambivalence. This is a technically an excellent game. The car handling is balanced and the feedback you get from the game is such that I never feel like the car is doing unexpected things. The graphics and the presentation of all the menus and options is top notch. But I just didn’t feel like it was that exciting. It was like a great example of how to make a solid game, without any x-factor.16-09-2017_23-03-02

However, once I started to get into faster cars, as I worked my way through the career and dipped my toe into the online stuff, it started to come to life. Although you also get involved in Land Rush and Rallycross races, it’s in the rallying sections where the game is as it’s best. Flying along narrow sections of track, threading the needle with a little bit of acceleration, a little bit of braking and a little bit of steering – all at the same time – is a joyful experience. Or at least, it is until you slightly lose concentration, miss a pace note and end up barrel-rolling down down the road for a hundred yards! Much like this:

Barrelling Down The Road from The Gamer Boys on Vimeo.

Now I’m into it properly, I am really enjoying this game and I have every intention of seeing the career mode through to the end and digging into the online modes too. I also haven’t checked out the ‘Your Stage‘ course generator yet either. Much to look forward to! I recommend you checking out this game if you are a racing fan.16-09-2017_23-03-20

Click here to purchase the game on Xbox One from Amazon.co.uk:

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Impressions: MotoGP 17

You’ll note that this post isn’t entitled ‘first impressions’ or ‘review’. Quite simply this is because I have no interest in playing this game past the 3 or so hours I’ve spent with it and thus these are my only impressions and I’m not going to ever get into a position to do a full review.MotoGP™17_20170831165110

Here’s a list of what’s good about this year’s MotoGP game:

  • nothing.
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This shot is actually vaguely appealing – don’t be fooled!

Here’s a list of what’s bad about this year’s MotoGP game:

  • graphics are average in-game
  • graphics are horrible in cut-scenes and menus
  • ‘cut-scenes’ is generous, they are as pointless as they are poorly made
  • the gamepad rumble is strange and confusing
  • the camera is disconcerting
  • the career mode is lifeless and a drag
  • etc

MotoGP™17_20170901214457Really, the MotoGP games that were out 10 to 15 years ago were superior to this, where has it gone so wrong?

I can wrap this up real quick: don’t bother with this game. Fans of MotoGP will be disappointed and everyone else will be angry that they wasted their money on it.

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First Impressions: Madden NFL 18

Another year, another Madden. Right? Just some cosmetic tweaks that don’t really make much difference and new rosters. Right? Well, yes, that is exactly the case in many ways. However, this year’s Madden may have an ace up it’s sleeve that could propel this edition above the usual yearly touch-up.

When Dez beats his man off the line of scrimmage – don’t think, just throw. from The Gamer Boys on Vimeo.

The place I normally head to in a new Madden is Franchise Mode. I select my Dallas Cowboys and set about trying to win the Superbowl. In that aspect, nothing significant has changed. The menus and systems are almost exactly the same, allowing you tweak your depth charts and upgrade your players. The game itself is very similar too, although there is a reasonably significant jump in graphical detail this time around which does add something. I’m 4-1 at the moment, so looking good for the playoffs if I can keep it up! So far so good – if you’re the kind of person that picks up this game every year then there is enough here to make sure you won’t feel let down.02-09-2017_09-37-17
However, there is one thing that might shoot this edition up, from a decent update to a top sports game: Longshot. This is a new story-based mode where you play as an aspiring young quarterback trying to get drafted by an NFL team. It’s early days, I’ve only completed the first act so far, but this might well be a game changer. So far I have really enjoyed it – many sports games try and add a story or career mode to hold the matches together but what really sets this apart is how it has tapped into the psyche of a football fan. Every young fan wants to be a player when they grow up and every older fan is looking at the college game to see which kids their team should draft. The story you are playing through is something we watch unfold year after year. It feels real: this is not Roy of the Rovers stuff, and is much the better for it.04-09-2017_23-42-16
Time will tell if Longshot can come through on it’s promise. In the meantime I have a game coming up against the 49ers and I have injuries along the O-Line. Might be a tough one.

Click here to purchase the game on Xbox One from Amazon.co.uk:
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Click here to purchase a download code for Xbox One from Amazon.co.uk:

Fighting with ARMS

I would normally steer clear of fighting games. I’m not totally crazy about them in the first place but mainly I don’t enjoy them because I am absolutely useless at them! And I don’t like to lose. At least not hopelessly.
Even spending a lot of time with them doesn’t improve my skills as it would any other game – I once did get near to being OK at Dead or Alive 2 on the PS2 thanks to playing it relentlessly but that is very much the exception that proves the rule – fighting games are not for me.2017081517364200-5175A9E8354E328724729A6641D0F22FHowever, in the case of ARMS I decided to pick it up anyway thanks to my love of the Nintendo Switch and the fact that it looked like it was trying to do something different. I do think if you like fighting games you will enjoy this. The presentation, from the graphics to the tutorial to the menu system, is excellent. The gameplay is indeed slightly different than most fighting games – the dynamic of engaging your opponent or keeping your distance is gone, in ARMS you are always engaged in battle. Finally the collection of available characters is great, with something for everyone. Don’t be surprised if Twintelle or Max Brass is a playable character in the next Mario Kart or Smash Bros game!2017081517330100-5175A9E8354E328724729A6641D0F22FI’m not going to do a proper review of this game as that would require me to play it at a lot and that would require me to have some skill at it! However, I have seen enough of it to be sure that if beat-’em-ups are your thing then you will really enjoy this and I’d recommend picking it up.

Things were much the same for The Boy – he loved it to begin with on the easiest difficulty but as soon as the game got difficult he really struggled and quickly lost interest. In fairness, he has his young age as an excuse – I’m just awful.2017081522140700-5175A9E8354E328724729A6641D0F22F

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First Impressions: Puyo Puyo Tetris (Nintendo Switch)

I’ve got to confess that I didn’t expect to enjoy a Tetris game again! Tetris feels as old as the sun to me. It was one of the first, if not the very first, games I ever played and I have had it (or clones of it) on countless consoles and mobile devices. At the end of the day it hasn’t really changed – or not for the better – over all those years and I thought my time with it would be done.
Additionally, I also have to confess that I’ve never played a Puyo Puyo or Puyo Pop game. I was vaguely aware of their existence but didn’t know anything about them. Thus the combination of Puyo Puyo and Tetris didn’t particularly appeal to me.
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However, this was one of the few games out there these days that had a demo, so I thought I’d give it a go. I am pleased that I did! Outside of the Puyo Puyo being new to me – and at this stage I’m still enjoying the Tetris more – the game injects another dimension into the Tetris by being really going all in on the competitive play. You can just play a normal game of Tetris by yourself but the main bulk of it is playing against the CPU, playing against others locally or playing online.
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The demo gives you a good idea what to expect but the full game adds Adventure mode. I can’t tell you anything about the story as the ‘cut-scenes’ quickly became insufferably long and cringe-worthy. What’s great about it is that it constantly throws different challenges at you, across both Puyo and Tetris and a huge host of game modes. The steady stream of different games is, so far, keeping me fully engaged.
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I’ll do a more full review when I’ve completed Adventure mode and played more in the other modes too. For now, I’d recommend it if you can find it for a good price. In the review I’ll answer whether it is worth the high price of entry for a puzzle game.

Click here to purchase the game on Switch from Amazon.co.uk:

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