Horizon Zero Dawn’s Photo Mode

Horizon Zero Dawn really is the most beautiful game I’ve ever played.
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I’m not just talking about the graphics per se. There have been plenty of games over the years that have looked stunning. Fifteen years ago I was amazed by the graphics in games. The grass in Halo on the Xbox was literally unbelievable the first time saw it. The way every room glowed in Resident Evil on the GameCube. The car models in Gran Turismo 4 on the PS2. What Guerrilla Games have done with HZD is harness great modern graphics to create something that is genuinely beautiful. I spend far too much time in this post-apocalpse world just wandering about looking for a great photo opportunity!
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Great graphics are really not necessary for great gameplay. Right now my favourite console is the Nintendo Switch (I go on about why here) which has far ‘worse’ specs compared to even the Xbox One and PS4 I own, let alone the PS4 Pro or the forthcoming Xbox One X. Breath of the Wild is a stunning looking game anyway. The Boy has sunk so, so many hours into Mario Kart 8 but he hasn’t commented on the graphics once. And let’s not even consider how important graphics are to Minecraft! Well done to Guerrilla Games for making graphical power serve a need, rather than be a need in itself.
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I wonder if this kind of thing will remain a rarity or if it will be more a focus for developers now they have such amazing tools at their disposal. All the talk around the Xbox One X is about the specs – 4k gaming and how many teraflops it has. I don’t even know what a teraflop is! What I do know is that on my, standard, PS4 I am stunned on a daily basis by the beauty of the world in Horizon Zero Dawn.
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Click here to purchase the game on disc from Amazon.co.uk:

Round-Up: Console Controller Comparison

Why does a controller matter?
The controller is an oft-forgotten but key part of the gaming experience. At the end of the day it’s the only thing where the player is physically connected to what’s happening in-game so it really is significant! I’m surprised that more isn’t made of controllers when new games and new consoles are considered and reviewed, so I thought I would collect together my thoughts on the three main console controllers; Xbox One, PS4 and Switch – just looking at the standard ones that some in the box. I believe there are two main things that make a good controller: responsiveness and comfort.

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Responsiveness
The controller needs buttons that feel completely responsive, to remove as much of the barrier between the player’s actions and what happens on screen as possible. Any disparity, such as latency between button press and action, or even just the feeling that the button is harder/easier to press than it should be and the immersion of the gamer in the game is lessened.

Comfort
The controller needs to be comfortable simply due to the length of time that it will be held by the gamer. Even a quick 5 minute thrash around a track in a racing game it a fairly long time to tightly hold on to something like that, let alone the multi-hour sessions that a lot of us get involved in. If the shape, weight or feel of the controller isn’t great it’s ultimately going to hurt!

Controller Comparison: Xbox One

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The Xbox Controller has evolved over the years from the massive ‘Duke‘ controller that came out with Halo in 2002 all the way through to the recently released ‘Elite‘ controller for Xbox One. I believe that the Xbox controller is the best available right now because it really nails one of the above criteria – responsiveness. The basic feel of it in the hand is fine, if nothing remarkable, but every single button, be it face buttons to triggers just feels right in-game. The triggers are smooth for accelerating and braking vehicles and also quick for firing weapons. The shoulder buttons are easy to press for changing settings but also solid for throwing punches and other melee attacks. The face buttons are heavy enough for precision timing without being too heavy for quick button-bashing. They really have nailed it!

Controller Comparison : Playstation 4, ‘Dual Shock 4’

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The current Dual Shock excels in the other stipulation above – comfort. Although I have some issues with the buttons being slightly spongy and their placement being odd (why are the triggers the bottom of the controller? They often catch on things) these minor gripes are made up by the great feel in the hand. The wider size compared to previous Dual Shocks is a better fit and the weight and depth of the controller feels great even after extended gaming sessions.

Controller Comparison : Nintendo Switch, ‘Joy Cons’

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These are a totally different beast from the two controllers above. They are designed for a different purpose as the need for them to be easy to take off and used in multiple ways – on the console, by themselves or together on the grip – is more important than their responsiveness or comfort. In some ways the Pro Controller for Nintendo Switch would be a closer comparison but I really wanted to compare only what you get in-the-box here. What’s great about the Joy Cons actually is that they don’t have to skimp too far in order to achieve their versatility. Whilst in a direct fight they would be third best here in both responsiveness or comfort they actually get remarkably close considering all the things they need to be able to do.

Verdict
All three of the controllers that you get in the box with these current consoles have their strengths. And all three are decent in the other areas too. It’s crazy to think how far we’ve come: 15 years ago I would have been putting down the original Xbox controller and picking up a Dual Shock 2 and not enjoying the feel of either in my hands. With these controllers available today we really are spoilt!

What about you? Which is your favourite controller on consoles at the moment? And which is your favorite ever?! Let us know in the comments below.

Click here to purchase the Xbox Controller from Amazon.co.uk:

Click here to purchase the Dual Shock 4 from Amazon.co.uk:

Click here to purchase the Joy Cons from Amazon.co.uk:

In addition, click here to purchase the gGrip for the Joy Cons from Amazon.co.uk:

And lastly, if you’re interested, here is the Pro Controller for Switch from Amazon.co.uk:

First Impressions: Horizon Zero Dawn

It has taken me a while to get into this game. Perhaps because I spent so much time in Hyrule playing Breath of the Wild earlier this year. Perhaps because that game was so good. Perhaps simply that Horizon doesn’t start all that well, relatively speaking. I stuck at it because basically everyone loves this game, so I assumed it must get good sooner rather than later.

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And oh boy, it certainly did! Without spoilers, there is a section early on – for me it was between 5 hours and 6 hours play time – where the little you know so far is torn up and wildly discarded as you are set on your quest and sent out into the full game. It’s a wonderful, spectacular and gut-wrenching section that somehow manages to be different from what is immediately before or after it and yet still feel like a natural part of the game.

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So far I take this to be a mashup of Breath of the Wild and Mass Effect. You have the same exploration and crafting stuff going on as in the Zelda game but the story and the missions are dealt with much more like Mass Effect – even down the way conversation choices are chosen. This is not a bad thing! Both those games are in my Top 10 Games Ever – maybe by the end Horizon Zero Dawn will be too.

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

E3 Round Up

So the three current console manufacturers, alongside a number of publishers, have had their E3 showcases for 2017. A lot of drama and arguments have been had online about it all so I’m going to keep my summary positive and mention the top 3 games for each console that I am now looking forward to after the expo. At the end of the day – there is plenty of great gaming to be done here, there’s no need to argue about it!

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Forza Motorsport 7
– it’s Forza. Thus it will be amazing!
Super Lucky’s Tale
– I love the idea of having a fun and light hearted game to play with The Boy on Xbox.
Crackdown 3
– the first one was superb, the second only ok. Hopefully this can get back to it’s original heights.

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Super Mario Odyssey
– it’s Super Mario. Thus it will be amazing!
Yoshi
– totally loving the look of the art style of this one. Betting it plays great too.
Mario+Rabbids Kingdom Battle
– this game was rumoured and I was unconvinced, but by the look of the showcase it will be awesome!

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Uncharted: The Lost Legacy
– it’s Uncharted. Thus it will be amazing!
Detroit Become Human
– this kind of reminds me of Quantum Break in some ways. I always like a bit of Sci-Fi.
Spiderman
– of all the various superheroes, Spiderman ought to be the one who translates best to a video game. Let’s see if this one finally nails it!

What about you? Which games are you looking forward to most after the E3 showcases? Let us know in the comments below!

REVIEW: Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End

  • Released: 2016
  • Played on: PS4
  • Also available on: –

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Short Review: Naughty Dog perfected their Uncharted formula here – the balance between platforming, shooting, fighting, driving and puzzling is spot on but that’s not what elevates it to ‘Best Game Ever’ status – it’s the storytelling. It’s as good as the best movies but you get to play the main part!
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