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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Compare and Contrast: Zelda vs Horizon

Two games; both released early this year, both open world adventures, both universally well received. I played The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild before I played Horizon: Zero Dawn and I consequently spent most of the first half of my Horizon playthrough thinking about how similar it was to Breath of the Wild. By the end however, I had found that it is in fact the things that are different that define these games and make them so very good.lozbotw2
Why they are the same
Setting: both games are set in fantasy worlds and allow you to roam around wherever you like and tackle the story in your own time. They have plenty of side-quests and side-tasks for your to complete to fill in your time and give you a reason to explore.
Story: both storylines are about a lone warrior fighting to save the world from a dark and powerful enemy whose many minions of different kinds are spread across the environment.
Combat: as fantasy games they both have bows, arrows and bladed weapons – no guns here. Ranged combat is excellent in both games. Health works very similarly using food and other things from the environment to bring lost health back up and also allowing for potions to boost health and other benefits.Horizon Zero Dawn™_20170707221530
Why they are different
Combat: close-up combat is great in Breath of the Wild. You have lots of control over Link‘s movement and a variety of attacks and good timing is rewarded. In Zero Dawn however, melee combat is horrible. A hand-to-hand battle is something to be avoided wherever possible. Part of this however, is that the combat against the massive machines that inhabit the world works very well and by it’s nature this is ranged combat. Which brings us onto the real key difference…
Setting and Story: the key difference between the two games is how they tackle these two aspects and which is the focus of each game. Quite simply it could be summed up as this: Breath of the Wild is all about the setting, the open world and the experience of exploring it. Zero Dawn‘s focus is on the story and how the plot line unfolds. The story in the Zelda game is designed to get out of the way and allow you to enjoy the experience. In the Horizon game it is the opposite – the world is just there as a placeholder to allow the jaw-dropping story to play out.Horizon Zero Dawn™_20170816213035

Neither of these approaches is wrong, by any means. I enjoyed both games hugely. However, it is interesting to note how two games that start from very similar places have so significantly diverged by their ends. And it is their end-states that prove to be their great strengths. I didn’t want Breath of the Wild to end as I just wanted to continue to exist in that fascinating world, looking into every nook and cranny. On the other hand, I raced through the final hours of Zero Dawn, desperate to see how the drama would unfold. This shows how game developers looking to build an ‘open-world’ game do not have to be constrained by that – perhaps we can stop referring to games as ‘open-world’ games and just enjoy whatever that world has to offer.lozbotw1

Click here to purchase the Zelda cartridge from Amazon.co.uk:

Click here to purchase a download code for Zelda from Amazon.co.uk

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

REVIEW: Horizon Zero Dawn

  • Released: 2017
  • Played on: Playstation 4
  • Also available on: –
  • Time to get into: 6 Hours
  • Time to complete: 50 Hours
  • Multiplayer: No

When Horizon: Zero Dawn finally let me in on it’s secrets, after huge amounts of exposition and a slow drip feed of small details that kept me on tenterhooks, I actually had to pause the game and take a moment to try and take in what I had just discovered. To even attempt a story on this scale is truly audacious and then to pull it off through the use of an open, varied world and a set of well-drawn characters is something really remarkable. The gameplay that sits behind this isn’t quite perfect but it is more than good enough to let the storyline show itself for what it is: genius.Horizon Zero Dawn™_20170816201813

The plot thickens
A video game is also the best medium through which to tell this story. The interactivity of it allows for a slowly blossoming plot to work itself out and for each and every strand of it to weave together into one. There are long periods where you are ‘just’ playing and not advancing the story at all but eventually everything you have seen and been through is pulled together into a single point before the climactic final battle.

I won’t talk too much more about the story line of Horizon: Zero Dawn in an effort to steer completely clear of spoilers. Suffice to say, the less you know the better – and you will not be disappointed! Aloy is a fantastic lead character and 50 hours in her company will not seem too long.Horizon Zero Dawn™_20170816213035

The arrow is true…
The gameplay, it the widest sense, serves to allow your character to experience this evolving plot in the same slowly-broadening type of way. In terms of what you actually do, it’s fairly standard open-world stuff – there’s a reasonably fair balance between hunter-gatherer exploration aspects and fighting with bows, arrows and your ever-present spear. What makes these things better than just ‘standard’ is what you are fighting – the machines! The world is randomly (and often not-so-randomly) populated with animal-like machines of varying sizes from ones that are clearly based on horses all the way up to huge mechs that look like dinosaurs. The learning curve is perfectly balanced – where at the start I feared to get near a pack of the smallest animals by half way through I was striding confidently into the middle of such groups. By the end I would even go into battle with a Thunderjaw – massive dinosaur-like machines complete with all manner of weapons – confident of my survival. By this point you’ve built up your arsenal to include all manner of damage-dealing ammo to allow you to fight as you wish. Should you tie the animal down and pick it off bit by bit or rain bombs on it to set it on fire? The choice is yours and the game does a fantastic job of indicating which things are likely to be successful against particular machines without dictating each battle to you. This choice also extends naturally to the world itself – you can creep about moving from one hiding spot to another or brazenly stride about the place inviting attack.Horizon Zero Dawn™_20170819220428

The spear, less so
It’s in battle though that the two major flaws in Horizon: Zero Dawn are revealed: human enemies and melee combat. Compared to the variety of machines and the different tactics you, and they, employ, the human AI is average. It’s not awful by any means but by itself wouldn’t make for an interesting game. They feel more like an annoyance than an enemy. Fighting humans is also when the problems with melee combat are most obvious. If you are hiding and an unsuspecting machine or human walks by you can press a button for a scripted stealth attack. This does work nicely. However, outside of that melee combat is absolutely useless. You have a quick attack and a longer attack but the quick attack does almost no damage, even after upgrades, and the long attack takes so long for Aloy to actually pull off that your human opponent has usually dealt you damage by the time it happens. So, it’s ideal to keep to ranged combat, all of which is absolutely excellent, and use your spear as a last resort.Horizon Zero Dawn™_20170823224644

Beauty
I’ve already written about how wonderful the game looks here, so I won’t talk about that anymore. If you don’t want to bother reading that separate post, the short version is: Horizon: Zero Dawn the most beautiful looking game I’ve ever seen! Outside of the melee combat, I have only minor gripes with things like how it’s sometimes not clear what parts of the landscape you will be able to jump up onto and not, which leads to some ungainly jumping on the spot occasionally. Basically what you have here is a stunning and interesting open world, and some great combat options to fight your way through it. It’s hard to complain!Horizon Zero Dawn™_20170823233131

Verdict
Horizon: Zero Dawn is a great game wrapped up in an amazing story. Whilst it’s not perfect, it’s flaws fade away in the face of what it does well – giving you a great basis to experience the genius plot as it unfolds. Aloy and her fellow characters are great company throughout and even after umpteen hours you are still going to want more at the end. (Which is a good thing, given the post-credits cut scene…!)

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

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!