Top 5 Open World Games: Monthly Roundup February 2018

Please see here for previous Top 5 Round Ups from 2018:
January: Top 5 Rocket League Showroom Battle Cars

Open worlds have been a significant thing in gaming recently. The early part of 2017 had The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild and Horizon Zero Dawn going head-to-head in the spring. They were both grand adventures set in a sprawling and varied open world full of possibilities. I did a compare and contrast post about those two games here. Further games like Assassins Creed Origins and the recent Monster Hunter World have continued the theme.lozbotw4

Recently I picked up the Hot Wheels DLC for Forza Horizon 3 and one of the things I noticed about it is how it is less open-world that the main game I had played a year previously. The two key parts of an open world game are the ability to go where you want and do things in whatever order you want – all within reason, of course! So, it got me thinking about my favourite open world games and whether or not that aspect was what made the game great.05-02-2018_22-35-04

The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild (review here)
Was the open world what made it great: Yes
Hyrule is the undisputed star of this game. In fact this game in general is the absolute definition of an open world game done right. The world was so big and so varied and every single new area you came across had something interesting to do, fight or investigate. For sure, everything else was great – the characters, the story, the shrines, the boss battles – but it was just existing in the world and experiencing everything it had to offer that made Breath of the Wild so great.lozbotw2

Horizon Zero Dawn (review here)
Was the open world what made it great: No
The broken state of the world in Horizon Zero Dawn is a spectacular sight to see. It’s quite the most beautiful game I’ve ever played – see here for a post about that. But actually that’s not really what it’s all about here. Sure, you can go about things as you wish but actually the story line was so gripping and spectacular that I wanted to plough on directly through it. It’s a great achievement of a living and vibrant world, but it’s still only a backdrop for a fantastic narrative.Horizon Zero Dawn™_20170707221530

Forza Horizon 3 (review here)
Was the open world what made it great: Yes
The first Forza Horizon was a great racing game and it’s sequel opened up the world so that you weren’t tied to just the roads anymore. However, it was the 3rd edition that really got the combination right. Cars that were as fun to drive in a race as they were to just drive about the place and an absolute myriad of events and challenges to take part in dotted everywhere. This really was the definition of doing things in whatever order you want – there are always multiple options of what to do next and you can just fill your boots.08-02-2018_07-34-01

SSX3 (review here)
Was the open world what made it great: No
SSX3 took the somewhat on-rails gameplay of SSX Tricky and placed it all on three open mountains that you could descend as you wished, taking part in whatever events you liked. That was cool, and the long events that took you right from the very top to the very bottom were spectacular. However, that wasn’t the main draw – it was the spectacular tricks: doing uber tricks whilst grinding on a rail is something that has never been bettered in any extreme sports game.2018-02-08-03-35-28-1-e1518104985266.jpg

Minecraft (review here)
Was the open world what made it great: Yes
No round up of open worlds would be complete without Minecraft. Not only can go you wherever you want and do things in whatever order you want but you can even shape the world itself how you want! So, of course, the world itself is the key here. Whether it’s building your first tiny shelter, bravely venturing into the depths in search of resources or zinging about on a rollercoaster of your own creation, Minecraft is all about how you and the world interact.2017081613284700-773F9627E0AC611AA92DA55E307BD361

What about you? What are your favourite open world games? And was it the world that made them great, or something else? Let us know in the comments below!

Advertisements

An ode to Forza Motorsport cover cars

It’s been a recent tradition for me, since the Xbox One was released, that I fall in love with the car on the cover of each Forza Motorsport game. Is it that they just always choose a great car to adorn the artwork, or is is that something about the car being on the cover tricks me into enjoying the drive? Which came first, the chicken or the egg?!

With Forza 5 it was the McLaren P1. A thing of beauty that went like a rocket and other than some brakes that struggled to slow the thing down, handled very nicely as well.

d73b0786-8f4b-4842-b7ec-3ba1583716e7.jpeg

Then came Forza 6 and the Ford GT. Even more beautiful, particularly in blue. And although it didn’t have quite the acceleration of the P1, it flowed round fast corners like it was flying, a joy to drive.

bcf7bd20-4a60-4e69-9daa-c004f777700a.jpeg

But now we come to Forza 7 and the Porsche 911 GT2 RS. Don’t get me wrong – it’s a fine car to drive. But on this occasion it is not my favourite.

a8e0eba8-15de-4c6d-b9c6-ab8ef3b5a6bd.jpeg

Instead that title goes to the Porsche 918 Spyder. As you’ll see below this car is very similar to the 911, which probably supports the theory that it’s all in my head! I really can’t think of anything I can complain about when driving this beauty. Speed, agility, balance. I’m going to be looking for 918s in future racing games for sure. And yes, I do have a thing for cars with those little wings on the back that go up and down!!

4d444e63-a6e3-4885-b6f7-fa90bad2cc19

What about you, what are your favourite cars from the racing games you have played? Let us know in the comments below.

Click here to purchase the disc from Amazon.co.uk:
Click here to buy a download key from CDKeys.com:

Xbox Game Pass expansion – news and views

I recently posted some thoughts on Gaming Subscriptions (here and here) and talked about my conclusions from having an Xbox Game Pass subscription for a few months. Essentially, I found that it was probably great for newcomers to all that Xbox has to offer but for those of us who have played most of the games on the service as they came out originally, it holds little value.

Screen Shot 2017-11-12 at 13.17.14

However, Microsoft has just changed the game (pun entirely intended). See here for the details but the short version is that from the release of Sea of Thieves in March, all Microsoft Studios games will be available on Xbox Game Pass alongside their release. That means that for your monthly subscription you get the pool of older titles that you have now and additionally get to play any new Halo, Gears of War, Forza and many more. Coming up soonest are Sea of Thieves, State of Decay 2 and Crackdown 3.

crackdown3

This is an immediate game changer for us consumers. If you are considering buying any of those games within a year or two of their release then the cheapest way to do it will be via an Xbox Game Pass subscription. Why pay £50 up front when that will get you 6 months of the game you want, plus everything else that the service offers?

Perhaps more interesting though is what this could mean going forwards. Will things like EA Access follow suit? If this is a success for Microsoft, other publishers will surely want to get on board with the concept. But on the other hand, perhaps this kind of deal only makes sense for a company who also sells hardware off the back of it. Xbox Game Pass wants to be the Netflix of gaming but it was more like a catchup service. Perhaps this change will enable it to have the same kind of success as Netflix has in video.

Screen Shot 2017-11-12 at 13.17.55

One potential word of caution though. We have gotten used to new releases having the ‘standard’ version and also some kind of ‘enhanced’ version which either includes more content up front, of gives the access to it when it is released. No doubt Xbox Game Pass will only supply the standard version and leave us with add-on purchases for our season passes and extra cosmetic items. If this idea takes off industry-wide I can easily foresee a slow creep to where the ‘standard’ version is really more of a ‘basic’ version – a glorified demo, to tempt you in to paying for the full experience. That might not even be a bad thing but given the various recent controversies around additional downloadable content, it’s something to keep in mind.

09-12-2017_21-22-30

For what it’s worth, I can see this really shifting Xbox Ones in the short term. New buyers won’t need to worry about which particular games to get in their bundle – just get an Xbox Game Pass subscription and you’re set for a long long while. In the longer term, who knows where this will take us but as a consumer, I intend to reap the benefits whilst I can.

What do you think on this? Will you be getting an Xbox Game Pass subscription on the back of these changes? Let us know in the comments below!

First Impressions: Cuphead

I’m not a person who typically likes games that are hard for the sake of being hard. In fact, I would be more likely to deliberately avoid them. Generally, I would rather play lots of different games than play a few games a lot, so anything that is deliberately hard doesn’t appeal to that mentality, as it would usually take longer. When Cuphead was shown at E3 last year I immediately wanted to play it as it just looked so great and seemed to be so much fun. But that enthusiasm was immediately doused when the first, and seemingly only, thing anyone could talk about with it was how hard it was.10-01-2018_07-25-15.png

In the end the wonderful art style, based on 1930s cartoons, won out over the potential difficulty and I was gifted the game for Christmas last year. I am happy to say that, whilst it is indeed ridiculously difficult entirely for the sake of being so, it’s also a huge amount of fun. In fact it is that aspect that has turned out to be the key, as it can be impossible to appreciate the retro visuals when you are just desperately trying to stay alive!10-01-2018_07-26-09.png

Despite having it for nearly a month I’ve only made it to the end of World 1. There are four worlds in total so it could be a long while before a review goes up on this blog! The reason for my slowness is not entirely down to being rubbish. In addition, every play session needs to be a long one, so the number of chances I get to play it are limited during a typical week. This is down to the punishing difficulty level – a quick ten minute go will almost certainly result in no progress at all. You need to slowly develop your understanding of each level as you play (and die, a lot) until eventually reaching the end. There’s not really any point in loading up the game unless you can dedicate a good chunk of time to it.10-01-2018_07-25-31.png

Thankfully, this doesn’t ever quite reach the point of feeling like a chore since it is just such a blast to play. The actions – running, jumping, shooting – all feel great and the tension created by the difficulty really gets released into joy and relief when you nail a boss that 30 minutes before felt impossible.10-01-2018_07-24-53.png

It’s still early days for me – it may be that the relentless unfairness of the game eventually gets me down and destroys the fun. At this stage, however, I have really enjoyed Cuphead. Given it’s bargain price, I’d happily recommend it – if it ever stops being fun then you’ll still have got good value for money out of it!10-01-2018_07-24-24.png

Happy New Year – let the gaming continue!

I’ve had an unexpected fortnight off from this blog to open 2018. With all the busyness of the Christmas break and then going back to normal life I didn’t have time to think about writing. The Boy and I did have time to play games however! As such, there is plenty for me to get my teeth into and write about through the rest of January. So, what can you look forward to from The Gamer Boys in the coming weeks? Read on.

Rocket League (Switch)2018011008294900-6F4D679ED7D2A016B654B265B956C5F0
We will have a review of this soon but, spoiler alert – it’s awesome! Of course it would be nice if you would read our review when it’s ready but really – don’t wait for that, just buy it. It’s going to be fairly high up on my all-time top games list. Something else we did was finally buy all the additional battle cars from the showroom, so I think I’ll put together a post about some of them – some are fantastic, and when such a great game is is so cheap, spending small chunks of money on DLC is no problem. See my First Impressions here.

Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle2018010308503700-9600BAE614E6833B1A261F5FB229CDBA
I have completed this game now, and it is wonderful. Somewhat odd, but once you get past that it’s just a really good game. The combination of the crazy Rabbids in the whimsical Mushroom Kingdom hides how deep the gameplay is. I’m sure it’s not as in-depth as some strategy games but it requires enough thought and planning to keep it intriguing and interesting all the way through. I wonder if a sequel, or at least further Ubisoft/Nintendo collaboration, could be in the works. Review forthcoming!

Cuphead10-01-2018_07-25-45.png
I was given this game for Christmas and have been loving it so far. Of course, all the talk about this game is about how difficult it is. I will be no different! It is willfully hard for the sake of being hard – perhaps that is a subject worth looking at on this blog too. I’m currently just at the end of World 1 out of 4 so First Impressions will be up on the site very soon.

NBA Playgrounds (Switch)2018010918174200-4A1B5A3AF288537CEBE6559E7DFB000B
An ‘Enhanced Edition’ of this popped up on the eShop the other day. There’s a new set of tournament games to play through so I thought why not give it a go?! It’s still just as much fun as it was before although there’s nothing new enough to mean a change to what I said in my original review. Still – even more worth picking up now if you haven’t already!

In other news
I’ve got some other ideas to make The Gamer Boys blog less random, like a monthly round up of a ‘Top 5 “somethings” in gaming’ and other regular series like that. Let me know your thoughts on them when they start appearing! Otherwise, let us know what you’ve been playing at the start of 2018 in the comments below. Happy New Year!

Reflections on 2017 – What an amazing year for gaming!

What an amazing year for gaming 2017 has been! There have been so many fantastic games released, across multiple platforms and genres. Early this year, when I began writing about the games The Boy and I were playing, I had no idea what a good time it was to start this blog! We’ve also been lucky with the retro games we’ve played, whether they were just catch up from 2016 or older games we’d never previously got around to. I have added more games to my All-Time Top Games List this year than any year before – 10 games have been good enough to get 5 stars here.lozbotw1

So here’s a roundup of the year, in reviews and awards. Please note that if your favourite game isn’t mentioned, just remember that I have probably just not caught up with it yet (Super Mario Odyssey, I’m looking at you). I’ll do a backlog catchup post later in the week to round up those.

2017 Reviews (by score and then chronologically)
5*
Forza Horizon 3
The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild
Mario Kart 8 Deluxe
Old Man’s Journey
Minecraft
Horizon Zero Dawn
Super Mario Galaxy
Madden NFL 18
Gears of War 4
Uncharted: The Lost Legacy

4*
New Super Mario Bros 2
Puyo Puyo Tetris
Dirt 4
Fast RMX
Sonic Mania
FIFA 18 (Switch)

3*
Mirror’s Edge Catalyst
Super Bomberman R
NBA Playgrounds
Gone Home
Gran Turismo Sport
Hue

2*
Magikarp Jump

2017 Awards:
Best Game: Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wildlozbotw2
It was my desire to write about how good Breath of the Wild was that originally sparked the idea to start some kind of blog. This game is just endlessly entertaining, I genuinely never wanted it to stop.
Runner Up: Mario Kart 8 Deluxe
There have been many great Mario Kart games over the years but with 8 Deluxe, Nintendo have perfected the formula. And for local multiplayer, there’s no better thing.

Best Platform: Nintendo Switch
switchIt’s not hard to see why the Switch wins out here given the best game awards above! But in its first year it’s fair to give the console some bonus points for the genius of its design and the ability to play anywhere anyhow, as well.
Runner Up: Xbox One.
This was a close run thing as both Xbox One and PS4 had 2 great exclusives in 2017. The PS4 loses out because it also had the biggest disappointment of the year (see below).

Best Multiplayer Game: Mario Kart 8 Deluxe2017050713184900-16851BE00BC6068871FE49D98876D6C5
As mentioned above, there is nothing even close to this for local multiplayer – in years, in fact, not just this year. It is absolute fun and the great combination of punch-the-air wins and heartbreaking losses only gets better with friends.
Runner Up: NBA Playgrounds
With Mario Kart dominating local multiplayer this year I turn to online multiplayer for the runner up. When I found a likeminded opponent who also wanted to play spectacularly – rather than just win – these games were exciting and ridiculous.

Most Unexpectedly Great Game: Madden NFL 1807-10-2017_22-39-27
I fully expected this to be just another annual edition of Madden until I played the new Longshot story mode. It was absolutely brilliant and elevated a good game to great.
Runner Up: Minecraft
I’d been avoiding Minecraft for ages – wasn’t sure if would be ‘my kind of game’. I was wrong. It’s fantastic and I spent untold amounts of hours being creative in it.

Wooden Spoon – Worst Disappointment: Gran Turismo SportGran Turismo™SPORT_20171020214155
Never before has a game given me something so good – in this case, the car handling model – and then given me no reason at all to enjoy it. Very disappointing.
Runner Up: Mirror’s Edge Catalyst
After I really loved the first Mirror’s Edge I was looking forward to this. Sadly, whilst it maintained the enjoyable free running, it lost its heart and its storytelling.

First Impressions: Forza Motorsport 7

Currently Forza Motorsport 6 sits in the top 10 of my All-Time Top Games list. It’s my favourite racing game ever, so it really begs the question – how could a sequel possible top that? Well, so far, I’d have to say that I haven’t really seen much that does. Which is not to say that Forza Motorsport 7 has been in any way bad so far – it fact it’s been ace – but as yet I see nothing that significant makes it better than its illustrious predecessor.09-12-2017_21-22-30

As always, throughout the Forza Motorsport series, it is a joy to drive around. The handing is a wonderful combination of the fun and the serious. Try and take a corner too fast and you’re unlikely to find yourself the victim of snap oversteer leaving you facing the wrong way as you would in a proper driving simulation. Equally, you are not going to be going very fast if you are driving like that. Early braking, balancing the car on the apex and smooth acceleration are what gets rewarded here. It means that it’s both accessible and challenging at the same time.09-12-2017_21-23-15

But that hasn’t changed here in FM7 – so what has? Well, firstly, we have some new tracks such as the very enjoyable Dubai circuit and the return of some others like my favourite track in the world – Suzuka in Japan. This has been missing from the series since FM3, so I’m super glad to have it back. Secondly, the structure of the career mode in the game has been updated to make it more engaging. In FM6 it was really just a list of races to complete but now you have a genuine career where you can choose the outfit you’ll drive in and there is an ultimate goal over all the races – winning the Forza Driver’s Cup. Thirdly we have some new vehicle types like Truck racing – which is a lot of fun. Time will tell if these small changes come together to have a lasting effect on how good the game is.09-12-2017_21-24-55

The last change I’ve noticed is the dynamic weather and time effects. We’ve seen such things before, like races where night decends half way through or rain starts to fall but here in FM7 it’s implemented better than I’ve ever seen. This is mainly due to how subtle it is. I remember playing Drive Club on PS4 a few years ago and in races when it started to rain I’d think ‘oh, here it comes again’. But in FM7 it comes in slowly and doesn’t always turn into a downpour. Likewise the time effects – the sun seems to set gradually and it takes me by surprise when I notice it blinding me from low in the sky. Again, if this turns out to be a great aspect of the gameplay or a slightly better implemented gimmick, only time will tell, but I like it so far.09-12-2017_21-22-52

All in all Forza Motorsport 7 has done nothing to put me off in it’s early races and as such I have every intention of playing it a lot in the coming weeks and months. When I finally get to the end I’ll put a review up to let you know the final reckoning but I can already assure you that if you are looking for a racing game on Xbox One right now, you won’t be disappointed by FM7.09-12-2017_21-23-30

Click here to purchase the game on disc from Amazon.co.uk:
Click here to purchase a download key for the game from Amazon.co.uk: