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:

Click here to purchase the game on PS4 from Amazon.co.uk:

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REVIEW: Super Mario Galaxy

  • Released: 2007
  • Played on: Nintendo Wii
  • Also available on: –
  • Time to get into: 1 Hour
  • Time to complete: 30 Hours
  • Multiplayer: no

All I can say, after finally playing this game just the ten years late, is thank goodness for The Boy and his enthusiasm for all things Mario. It was he who insisted we pick this up. This is a wonderful game and my favourite Mario game ever – in fact, just one of my favourite games ever, full stop. I won’t be too thorough in reviewing this game as it’s been out for so long but if, like me, you somehow managed to miss this the first time around then let me have a few moments of your time to explain why you need to go and fix that as soon as possible!

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The Nintendo Way
Super Mario Galaxy is huge victory for function over form – it’s all about the gameplay. This is the Nintendo way, isn’t it?! The other aspects of the game are all adequate. The graphics are fine, although even in 2007 they weren’t groundbreaking due to the Wii not being built to compete on specs. The story is the same as every Mario game – you know; Bowser kidnaps Princess Peach, Mario fights through various obstacles to rescue her etc etc. Standard, but that is fine. On the other hand, everything about the actual gameplay is spectacular – the level design, the platforming action, and the controls to combine them.

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Levels and Galaxies
The sheer variety of environments you will find yourself in is remarkable. As Mario jumps from planet to planet – sometimes even within levels – you’ll not only find yourself on solid platforms but in water, in the air, on platforms that are sinking into lava and many more. If anything, what’s most remarkable about this is that it never feels overwhelming – the game does a great job of guiding you to what you need to do. Only once or twice did I get stuck and even then when I figured it out it was simply that I had somehow missed something obvious!
On top of all this my personal favourite thing about the levels was how the game messes with gravity. There are a number of levels where different platforms have different directions of gravity. Some even let you influence that gravity yourself. Mario can then move around levels walking on the walls and ceilings as well as the floor. Gravity is clearly an important part of a game called ‘Galaxy’ but the developers have gone so much further in harnessing that to open up new areas for Mario to move around in.

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Actions and Power-ups
Every action that Mario can take feels totally smooth and natural. Running, jumping and spinning quickly all work nicely and the placement and timing of Mario’s moves can give different results, opening up even more options for getting through levels and defeating enemies. Power ups are also brilliant at adding more aspects to the gameplay. Bee Mario can fly, Spring Mario can leap high, Fire Mario can light torches on fire to open up new sections etc.

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Controls and Remotes
Traversing these wonderful and varied levels with these spectacular and varied moves is made fantastic by the control scheme. Super Mario Galaxy combines normal button-and-stick inputs with motion controls on the Wii Remote. It does this almost perfectly! Moving Mario about is usually the domain of the stick on the Nunchuck. The buttons take care of actions like jumping. Finally moving the Remote around is used to gather the collectibles, pointing when required and shaking to get Mario to spin. This combination quickly becomes second nature – if only more Wii games back in the day could have combined Wii Remote motion controls with more standard controls to such great effect.

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Verdict
What a fun game this is! I always looked forward to what the next level would have in store for me. Run, jump, spin, fly, buzz, bounce, skate – every action was a joy from beginning to end. The ultimate platformer.

Review5

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.

Review1

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:

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:
Click here to purchase the game on PS4 from Amazon.co.uk:
Click here to purchase a download code for Xbox One 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…!)

Review5

Click here to purchase the game on disc 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

Click here to purchase the game on cart from Amazon.co.uk:
Or Click here to get a download code from Amazon.co.uk: