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:

Gold Wheels at last! MK8D is done.

Finally The Boy and I have completed Mario Kart 8 Deluxe and collected the Gold Wheels! 2017080820012500-16851BE00BC6068871FE49D98876D6C5See our previous post on Gold Mario (here) for our progress at that point. What we had left to do was beat the ghost set by the staff on all 48 tracks in Time Trial mode. It has taken a long time and a lot of effort but we are there!

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Here we both are in a race afterwards showing off our All-Gold Marios:2017080820160900-16851BE00BC6068871FE49D98876D6C5

The Top 5 tracks that we found the hardest were:
5. Dolphin Shoals
4. Cloudtop Cruise
3. SNES Rainbow Road
2. Big Blue
1. Wario Stadium
Most of them were reasonably straight forward with whatever character and vehicle customisations you liked but there were a few that really made you have to figure out what characteristics you needed to go with to get the best time. To beat our nemesis, Wario Stadium, we ended up with Bowser Jr, the Koopa Clown kart and Roller tyres.2017080820002100-16851BE00BC6068871FE49D98876D6C5

Thankfully it proved to be just enough! The whole process has been a lot of fun – Mario Kart 8 Deluxe is such a good game, how could it be anything else?! Now when we play online we can show off our All-Gold Mario to the world!

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Click below to purchase Mario Kart 8 Deluxe on cartridge from Amazon.co.uk:

Or click below to purchase a Mario Kart 8 Deluxe download code from CDKeys.com:

Portability For The Win

Let me be clear about something: I love the Nintendo Switch! It has some great games already but what really sets it apart is the portability. The ability to play ‘proper’ games on the go has changed the opportunities that I have to play and how much I enjoy playing.
Last weekend I was in Brussels with the family. Before the Switch this would have meant a few days without games but no longer. Here we are playing on the Eurostar on the journey there:

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Even once arrived, it was easy to play when we were relaxing between bits of exploring, be it in a sports bar:

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Or even in Starbucks overlooking the Grand Place:

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Mobile games are fine but touch screen controls are restrictive compared to full controllers. The Switch is the best of both worlds and I would no longer consider getting a game that was available for the Switch on any other system. Why tie yourself to the TV when you can have the flexibility of playing anywhere, any time? I reckon this is exactly what Nintendo was aiming for with the console and they have nailed it. Long live the Nintendo Switch!

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

Click here to purchase the Switch stand that we use from Amazon.co.uk:

Click here to purchase Puyo Puyo Tetris from Amazon.co.uk:

Click here to purchase Mario Kart 8 Deluxe from Amazon.co.uk:

Click here to purchase a code for Mario Kart 8 Deluxe from CDKeys.com:

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:

Sequels – Addition or Replacement?

Sequels usually fall into two camps for me. Those with storylines like adventure games or first person shooters I consider an ‘addition’ to that franchise – even if the gameplay is improved and tweaked, the story gives you reason to go back to the previous entries. On the other hand, sequels in franchises like sports games or racing games are more ‘replacements’ – they bring advances to the gameplay and give you no reason to go back. Occasionally though, a sequel will transcend these definitions and give you enough new gameplay outside of a story to be a great experience without stepping on the toes of it’s predecessor.
One such example is SSX 3.

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The game before it was SSX Tricky, which was just amazing. It was just outrageous in every aspect – the characters, the tricks, the speed, even the soundtrack. This is still the best game I’ve played in terms of pure fun – no complications or distractions, just massive tricks and massive points.
So where could SSX 3 go? There was no narrative so they couldn’t just tweak the formula and put a new story on it. What they did though, was retain enough of the gameplay – the crazy tricks and the races – whilst placing it in a new setting. Here you had a more complete structure to the events in the game, more organised tracks and mountains and just a little bit of an open world feel. It was a stunning game in it’s own right without diluting the simplicity and, frankly, preposterousness of Tricky.

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I originally played this games on Playstation 2 but have recently picked them up on the cheap for the original Xbox. I’m surprised and pleased to report that they are still fantastic games all these years later! Normally I would only consider one game in this kind of franchise for my All Time Top Games List. If I didn’t use that policy that list would be full of 6 Forza Motorsport games, multiple Mario Karts and a multitude of FIFAs and PESs. But SSX Tricky and SSX 3 are both worthy enough, and different enough, to get separate places on that list.

SSX Tricky Intro from The Gamer Boys on Vimeo.

Now I’m going to head back to Garibaldi and see if I can get back to when I could get well over 1 million points on the way down there!
What about you? Which other sequels have been great without just replacing the game before? Let us know in the comments below.

Mobile Golf: Mario Golf & Golf Zero

I’ve been casually playing two different golf games recently. I won’t get deep enough into either to be in a position to fully review them so I thought a comparison post might suffice.

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I have regularly enjoyed golf games since playing Tiger Woods 2005 – I really think the sport translates better into playing a video game than onto TV to watch (and I won’t go into my ability, or lack thereof, at the real thing!). The challenge to your skill is significant but not under any time pressure – a rare thing in sports and sports video games.

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The two games I’m currently playing are Mario Golf World Tour on the 2DS and Golf Zero on my phone.
Mario Golf World TourHNI_0001 Despite the analog stick on the 2DS this game doesn’t use any kind of motion control, instead opting for the usual press-a-button-as-a-slider-moves-along-the-screen concept. Even so this works well and once you’ve got the basics you find that the things you have to consider – how hard you hit it, topspin, fairways and bunkers etc – are reasonably close to those you’d face in a proper golf sim. Of course this game is not that and it brings all the usual Mario charm to proceedings.

Golf ZeroScreenshot_20170626-125909This game, on the other hand, is about as far away from a golf sim as it is possible to go and still use the word golf to describe your game! It’s a platformer combined with a kind of extreme golf. You end up taking your shots whilst in the air plummeting towards the sea. Really, it defies explanation, so watch this video for an example of what I mean:

Golf Zero from The Gamer Boys on Vimeo.

I consider both of these games just brief distractions from life and from my main gaming due to their relative lack of depth and repetitiveness. But that said, I would still recommend either game to anyone looking for just such a distraction. Whilst a couple hours spent hunting in an open world or thrashing around a track in a driving game endurance race are fantastic, sometimes a quick ten minutes hitting a small white ball about the place is just what is required!

Attention To Detail

One of the things I really notice about great games is the little details. I still remember the first time I played Halo on a demo stand in a shop somewhere and was just amazed by the grass – it looked real! More recently in Uncharted 4 if you stopped to look around, so did Nate:

Enjoying the view from The Gamer Boys on Vimeo.

The game that has struck me with this recently is Mario Kart 8 Deluxe. Perhaps it is simply the amount of time that The Boy and I have sunk in this title that has me noticing these things but I noticed that after a dunk in some water your character dries out over the next few corners! Here’s Luigi (I’m always Luigi!) just after going through the water:

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And here he is after powersliding around the next turn:

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I love these things in games that reveal themselves over time.

I am not sure which is the chicken and which is the egg – do I notice these little bits of finesse because the game is great or is the game great because of them? Let us know what you think in the comments below!

Click below to purchase Mario Kart 8 Deluxe on cartridge from Amazon.co.uk:

Or click below to purchase a Mario Kart 8 Deluxe download code from CDKeys.com: