Thursday, 19 November 2015

The Last of Us Remastered/ PS4




Boom! It will take me a little while to really emphasize how much of an impact this game has had on me since I first played the remastered version on PS4 last year. Words will only do so much. It was one of those gaming moments that changes the way you feel about gaming and shapes what it is that you will forever be looking for game wise and comparing similar games too. I had one such moment the first time that I ever played Resident Evil 2 and I must admit it has been a long time since I can remember the last. GTA San Andreas springs to mind and Fallout New Vegas.
The Last of Us stands out as one of those moments etched into my personal history of significant events. The way I described it to one of my brothers, who I often talk gaming with, is that it has taken elements of all of my favorite survival horrors and rolled them into one, whilst still remaining fresh and difficult to compare with another.
'Well done Naughty Dog.'



Gaming is big business, so because of this, games are being made to please those ever faithful players who keep gaming big business. The amount of playing hours is on the up. The graphics keep moving closer to real life. And more noticeable for myself, the voice acting is being taken far more seriously. So much so that the odd celebrity actor is turning up in the latest blockbuster of a game.
For the Last of Us, the main characters Joel and Ellie are voiced by Two seasoned voice actors in Troy Baker (Joel) and Ashley Johnson (Ellie). Troy Baker, also happens to be a member of Akira Yamaoka's Silent Hill band. (A little reference to Silent Hill: Homecoming, my first blog post). Troy has also voiced many characters in many popular games, of which I am sure many of you will already be aware of. This element adds to the very film like feel of the game, along with the very real fungus infection (cordyceps), Naughty Dog have developed a survival horror that isn't just playing with fantasy; you feel that they want players to get lost in a plot that could actually become a real life scenario and it certainly had that effect on me throughout.

The plot

The game begins with a little pre-history. 20 years prior to the main story. Joel is a single parent to his daughter Sarah. Although you don't know for sure, you figure that tragedy gave birth to this scenario. Joel struggles with the responsibility of being both mother and father to his daughter. On the night of his birthday, an outbreak of mutated cordyceps fungus begins infecting humans, turning them into very 28 Days Later type nut jobs, who attack and eat whoever gets in their way. During the panic that quickly develops in the surrounding areas, Joel, Sarah and Joel's brother Tommy, attempt to escape to safety. Forced to flee on foot, Sarah is shot by a soldier ordered to shoot on sight as the authorities attempt to control the already out of control infection.

20 years later, a very worn out looking Joel, winds up looking out for another young girl, by the name of Ellie. Joel, who has become a smuggler, with his partner Tess, comes across a wounded Firefly (rebel group) leader, Marlene, whilst looking for a guy who has ripped them off (Robert) with supplies, who just happens to of sold them on to the Fireflies. 'Big Breath.'
Robert dies. The wounded Marlene convinces Joel and Tess that they can have their supplies (guns) back, if they can complete a delivery for her. In comes Ellie, the delivery. Then begins what becomes one of the best survival games that I have played in a long, long time.

It doesn't take long for Joel and Tess to find out that Ellie is infected, only she was bitten 3 weeks prior and the normal period of infection taking over the host is two days. It takes some convincing, but both agree that Ellie may be worth taking to the intended destination, where more Fireflies are waiting to run tests to see if they can figure out a vaccine.

What happens from here on out, are a series of events with Joel saving Ellie, Ellie saving Joel and the two of them bonding closer whilst working through their previous traumas and losses.
'Fuck me! If that's not enough, then I can't say how a game could ever please you.'




'The story of Joel and Ellie, has similarities to the film, The Road (Viggo Mortensen ). Check it out if you haven't already.'



Gameplay

For me this game is dominantly survival horror. It is also listed as third person action adventure. I would say that the action adventure is the storyline, with survival horror being the driving force behind how the game plays out. It is difficult to say that the game is like anyone of it's predecessors in the survival horror genre. However you can implement your own similarities.
 There are many of the classic survival horror traits, such as:
1) Surviving horror (pretty obvious).
2) Surviving with limited supplies.
3) Post-apocalyptic setting.
4) The element of surprise.
5) Needing to hide or take cover.
6) Of course, mutated monsters/humans, hell bent on chewing your face off.
7) Finding and/or crafting weapons, items, and items of healing.



The game unlike some survival horrors, has a very human feel about it. Rather than it just being a creepy, in the dark, zombie fest, you are faced with a survival of the fittest type world, with the surviving humans often being more dangerous than the still quite human infected; unless they are full blown clickers that is. (See second picture). Controlling your characters isn't difficult. There isn't much fiddling about to do. Navigating your environment is pleasant. As always though, being on screen with other characters in this type of game still has its downfall; 'They fucking get in your way!'
But not as much as I have experienced in other games. Somebody, somewhere, has got to get this element right. Is it too much too ask for?  Maybe it's the balance of being able to move around so freely, that on occasion you may bump into each other.

Resident Evil 0 is on the right path, giving you limited control of your partner whilst you take lead, meaning that you can move them out of the way should they happen to just rock up in front of you whilst you're attempting to navigate a tight space. 'More on this another time.'




Once you get stuck into the game, it becomes a bit of an emotional rollercoaster. Joel ends up solely looking out for Ellie, a job that he would have done differently if given the choice. But there is little choice but to push on in the hope that both can survive long enough to get to the Fireflies. There are intense moments throughout. Some really tugging on the heartstrings. At times you will have to become more stealthy than a ninja, using a technique known as listen mode. When in listen mode, your character has a heightened sense of hearing, allowing you to locate the movement of enemies close by. Traits like these can also be upgraded. At times you will need to make tough decisions on which items are more important to be crafted and which weapons and abilities when upgraded will be more effective for the next stage of your journey. The crafting of items, such as health kits and shivs, come straight from what you pick up in the environment, plus at various points you can upgrade weapons, such as handguns and bows, with parts that you find whilst scavenging. Being able to do this as you play, rather than as an end of chapter bonus is much more pleasing, as you feel that you are actually part of the nightmare, heart beating experience that you imagine Joel and Ellie must be going through. I also like the fact that you do actually have to hide and seek throughout, using stealth takedowns to lessen the chance of being outnumbered and killed by humans and infected alike, whilst still offering plenty of gun play for those who like to pop one off. Get this right and you will be in full stock of items and weapons when it is needed the most.

The Last of Us is a visual masterpiece and sounds beautiful. There are moments throughout where you are reminded of the true power of nature, seeing how it is steadily claiming back the man made concrete jungle. I have already talked about the voicing. The sound is minimalistic and doesn't really need to be anything more. The infected sound terrifying. Those in the early stages are very witch like (Left for Dead), with the more advanced stage of infected sounding like demented dolphins. I love an environment that you want to stop and take a look around in. Giving that I enjoy observing my own human surroundings, it is not surprising that I find the ever more advancing game worlds captivating. Even though most of what you are walking around in, is a bombed out dive. Homes are abandoned and the streets are littered with squats. You spend a lot of time moving underground or climbing through buildings that are falling apart. I like this, because it is very true to how I spent a lot of my own childhood. Those who are from my area of Newcastle (Benwell), will understand what I am talking about. Fair enough we didn't have clickers. We did however have charvs or chavs if you are south of England.
Despite the crumbling walls around you, there are still many magical moments to be had; such as, seeing a giraffe, seeing some monkeys and riding a horse. You also get to appreciate the smaller animal kingdom, as little butterflies and the like flutter around you at times.

The one thing that doesn't come off as pleasing to the eye, is the blood of those you put to rest. Hitting an enemy close to a wall will give off a nice splatter effect, but when it comes to them hitting the floor dead, the blood pools into what just looks like a splodge of red paint. 'Survival horror.' Real blood please.

There is another plus and that is the realistic carrying of weapons and items in a big rucksack on Joel's back. You are able to clearly see where he is storing the weapons he is carrying, rather than just imagining that he has incredibly deep pockets. Another downside, is the fact that you can just reach through things to pick up items, such as a door that you haven't yet opened up or the back end of a cupboard to the inside, putting your hand through something that should be solid. Small things like this should really be ironed out given the quality of today's games.

As I am now playing through the PS3 version, I can tell you that there isn't a huge difference between that version and the PS4 re-mastered version. Naughty Dog pretty much got it spot on first time around. The PS4 control comes into play more in the re-mastered version and that is about it.
There are many twists and turns, right up until the game ends, leaving you feeling like there really should be some more of the story to come. Lets hope so.






'So then. Are you convinced?'

I certainly was, from the moment that I began playing and it is a game that I will continually come back to and talk highly of. 
My score, (which I do just for my own enjoyment) for The Last of Us is 9 out of 10.


If you love survival horror then this should be on your list of games to play next.


 



  

Wednesday, 11 November 2015

Uncharted: Drake's Fortune/ Playstation Now



Wherever there are missing ancient treasures, there are Nazi's. At least that's what watching Indiana Jones had taught me as a child and this is what Uncharted also touches on in Nathan Drake's first adventure on the Playstation 3. 
I love Developers Naughty Dog (today).
Because I didn't own a PS3 long enough to ever play games like this, it is only in the last 12 months, through owning a PS4, that I am catching up on all of the exclusive titles to PS3 and boy am I having fun.

First let's get the sexist comments out of the way. It's the male version of Tomb Raider's Lara Croft, only with Nathan Drake, you don't just want to get up close and personal, then play around with camera angles until you find the one that best shows off his body, whilst you spend the next 10 minutes admiring the scenery.....Or do you?

Truthly I couldn't help but admire the scenery in this fantastic specimen of an adventure that would certainly put a smile on Indy's face or perhaps even Lara's.
I didn't like Tomb Raider.


My first interaction with developers Naughty Dog came way back in the days of the PS1 console and the game Crash Bandicoot (which I also didn't like). Then at the end of last year, when I came out of gaming hibernation, I was blown away by the first game that I played on PS4, which happened to be another PS3 release and Naughty Dog game/film called The Last of Us, of which I played the remastered version. More on this game at a later date. 


This year, due to Playstation kindly allowing PS4 users to stream PS3 titles, at a cost that is less per 30 days than most PS4 titles, I have had the pleasure of completing the first in the Uncharted series of games; Drake's Fortune. Coming at a time when Uncharted 4 is about to arrive, I am now keen to complete the rest of the games in this series, ready for the latest adventure to begin.

The Plot

Before I begin, I will say that for me, the plot combines a lot of what I love about human life on earth:
1) History.
2) Mystery.
3) Ancient civilisations and the speculations that we have about them in modern times.
It was just missing some aliens; but it did end with mutants who were once humans who had become infected from contact with the mummy of El Dorado (it's close enough).

Nathan Drake, the protagonist of the story, supposed descendant of English pirate (at least to the Spanish) Sir Francis Drake, comes across Sir Francis's alleged lead coffin, whilst being filmed for a documentary, off of the coast of Panama. What a story we have already. It gets even better. Inside the coffin is not the remains of a fine English gent, rather a diary written by the fine English gent, Francis, pointing to the location of the legendary lost city of gold, El Dorado. Wow. Cue modern day pirates, lots of explosions, a rescue from a handy sidekick (Victor 'Sully' Sullivan), treks through the amazon, betrayal, nut job rival treasure hunters, nazis, mutants, a girl who gets in the way; now you pretty much have what could've been another Indiana Jones film made into in a game. (Also it is better than any Indiana Jones computer game).










So how does it play? Action adventure. 3D platform. Slight horror element. 

Absolutely fantastic. First off. This was back in 2007. This was at a time when some games still looked and played as though they were made for the previous consoles (xbox and PS2). I was mightily impressed, as visually it is stunning, with an action storyline that is in depth to say the least. Your eye's are tantalised, especially when you are poking around ancient ruins or German U-boats or jet skiing up mini waterfalls. It's one of those games where you want to look around, in between actually playing the game (if you do, you may also find hidden treasure) and there are enough pauses in action and climbing to be able to do so; but not long enough for the game to become stale. The action just keeps on coming at you, with such things as being shot out of the air whilst in a plane. Being chased whilst shooting from the back of a jeep. Being shot at whilst driving a jet ski. In fact, there is a lot of being shot at in various different scenarios, whilst the music skillfully lets you know when its on and when its over. Thankfully there is also a small collection of guns and explosives that you can use to shoot back at those maniacs who just won't stop shooting at you (Will everyone just stop getting shot)? Plus if they happen to get a little too close or surprise attack you, Nathan is rather handy with his fists; melee attacks allowing you to combo up on your enemies. The game got a little bit of stick for the climbing element, which I found to be great fun. The combination of shoot shit up, now climb shit up, for me was balanced throughout, leaving the feeling that you were not just doing the same thing over and over. There is also some vehicle fun to be had. The control system is simple. Aiming of weapons straightforward, with nothing being over complicated, keeping the game moving at a pace that is thoroughly enjoyable. It looks fantastic, it plays fantastic.


The sounds are also a treat. A bit of drumming for you inner shaman and some panpipes for those meditation moments.
   
 Having never played this game previously, I had overlooked what it was all about. Thankfully I did, as the twist in the tale (mutant Spaniard's), close to the end of the game, was completely unexpected. It was a bit like the time that I watched From Dusk Till Dawn, having heard about it, but not the fact that it contains shit scary vampires about half way through. Admittedly the mutants are not as scary as Quentin Tarantino and you can pretty much brush them off like dust from your khakis after an explosion. The let down for me personally, stopping this game being a 10 out of 10, is the ending. After having dusted close to a million pirates and mutants and survived more explosions than bomb disposal in Iraq. The final showdown is a bit of a let down. Basically you kick Navarro's (final boss) ass in about 10 seconds with about 10 punches. The shoot out before this point doesn't really count, as you have been fighting this way throughout the game. Apart from that, this game is definitely worth a fiddle about with. I loved the historical references (whether real or made up) so much so, that I took it upon myself to find out more about Sir Francis Drake. If a game can make you do that, then it is a winner in my eye's.

'Since writing this review I have now played and completed the remake for PS4, which has a fantastic update in graphics.' 
'I am currently attempting to collect all of the trophies whilst having fun with the rewards that can be unlocked for completing certain thing's.'

Uncharted: Drake's Fortune scores an 8 out of 10.
Goes well with a chunk of blue cheese and some homemade plum and ginger chutney.


Fan of Uncharted: Drakes Fortune? Let me know in the comments what are your likes/dislikes.

Thursday, 5 November 2015

Dead Nation/ The Last Guy/ #Killallzombies/ PS4/ Playstation Now



Roll up, Roll up! It's 3 for the price of one on zombies.

Given that all three are games that I don't expect will give me an ending (well maybe Dead Nation), I have decided to review all three of these extremely fun games together.
Let's begin. I will aim to keep it simple with each one.


Dead Nation  (Housemarque)


A top-down shoot 'em up, using twin stick control of the character for movement and aiming of weapons, which took me a while to get to grips with. I have to admit that at first glance the intro to the game had me intrigued; very film like. Before I downloaded this game onto the PS4, I had no prior knowledge of Dead Nation, given that I had only flirted with PS3, whilst pretending that computer games had become the devil's dirt books. I liked the newsreel on the main screen, adding to the impression that a fucked up zombie film was about to begin. There are a few different options from here. Options such as single, co-op and online games. You can play in campaign, challenge or arcade mode and then select a difficulty (of which there are many), plus a character, male or female. Another little piece of this game feeling film like, is the country ranking on the next screen, showing the numbers of infected. Then you begin and the bubble is burst! I didn't know what to expect and they say that expectations lead to disappointment. It isn't a bad game. It's more the case that it's a game that grows on you, especially if like myself you just have a thing about pumping bullets into zombies. I played a little, got pissed off with getting killed a lot, stopped playing for weeks before attempting a more serious sit down and play. Second time around I got used to the controls. I got used to the environment. Then after a while, especially when I found a shop and realised the true potential of modifying weapons, using explosives and increasing ammo, I began to do what I do best....Massacre zombies like my second name is Romero. 

Likes: hordes of zombies, upgradeable weapons and explosives, loads of money and items to be found in the environment, destructible environment, darkness with a flashlight which creates atmosphere.

Dislikes: Twin stick control (at first). There is a plot (why? Just kill zombies).



The Last Guy  (Sony Computer Entertainment Japan)

Can you remember Nokia phones and the game snake? Around about 2001 onwards, everybody was going snake mad...Except me of course. Why? When you have spent the best part of your life striving to play the best of the best when it comes to console games would you lower your standards to play such a pointless game. It didn't make sense..Until now. Now that I have played The Last Guy. 
 I'll admit, that I am a sucker for anything game wise that hints that there may be zombie activity. Sometimes just clicking download without reading any further than the word zombie. This is another game originally for PS3, that I am streaming to PS4 (thanks to Playstation Now). Once again, it is a game that I had no prior knowledge of. I was all about Xbox, after owning the first and then progressing to the 360, before my temporary computer hiatus. So I am currently playing a lot of PS3 titles and having fun catching up. 
 It's another top down game, with a difference in play that I do not recall coming across previously when it comes to zombie horror. You are in control of The Last Guy (a bit of a superman character) and your job is to move quickly around real world cities collecting up human survivors, avoiding zombies (allegedly) before taking them back to the escape zone where they will be flown away; that's it. Simple. Not! It starts off quite easy to run about and avoid whilst dropping people off, but as you progress through the levels, the zombies (none zombies) change. The new zombies that are added with each level have different ways of attacking you. Ranging from running very quickly, to releasing blinding smog, that fills up the TV screen. What was fairly easy in the beginning, becomes a bit of a frustrating affair, as you curse the TV screen each time you lose about 600 survivors just as you were about to drop them off. However though, it is highly addictive, cheesy fun, as you run about each city with your very own human snake (not centipede), winding in and out of streets, buildings and the odd bit of shrubbery. The aim of this ultimately is to achieve the highest score possible at the end of each level.
A shrubbery!

Likes: It's addictive, it's cheesy, the maps are based on real cities of the earth.

Dislikes: No weapons, the zombies are not really zombies, they're monsters.




#Killallzombies  (Beatshapers)



Finally we get to what is for me the pick of the litter. #killallzombies. And that quite frankly is one of the reasons that I was reincarnated (seriously). It's super rock to play. You will swear over and over, inventing a whole new swearing vocabulary. It is also huge amounts of fun and highly addictive. It is the type of game that should be offered to trauma patients as a form of therapy. If your truma doesn't involve hordes of zombies.
 #Killallzombies is another twin stick shooter with that top down approach to how you view it as you play. The aim of the game is to survive horde after horde of zombie attacks, in an arena type environment, that changes as you level up. Sometimes vehicles will drop out of the sky (such as an ambulance or winnebago), landing either onto the ground, a patch of zombies or your own head. There is ample warning that this is about to happen, but when furiously attempting to run through the smallest of gaps between hordes, can sometimes be missed, with the consequence being that you die prematurely. There are many other environmental changes that will keep you panicking and shooting wildly. The floor is made up of hexagonal shapes which will move in such ways as opening up holes and rising up into cliff like structures that can circle around you boxing you and the undead into together. All such changes can be a blessing or a curse, quickly changing the hunter into the hunted in a matter of seconds. It's nuts! There are many different guns to be used in your attempt to continually level up and score as many points as you can. Some of theses guns, as you pick them up, come with little film references, such as 'get to the chopper'. I thought that this could be a lovely little touch of nostalgia, if you happen to be familiar with the films that they are referencing from. Then there are the perks that come with leveling up. Some perks can be handy, like an M60. 'get to the chopper', for mowing down the masses and others not so handy, like trade your health for perks or instantly die for more xp (depends on your score I suppose).
 I figured after a while though that the game is not all about shooting like a madman coked up (it mainly is), that if you want to make any kind of dent in the scoreboard, then the game requires a level of tactics when using perks and choosing weapons.
 After all that if you wish to, you can make the game even crazier, by streaming it through Twitch, where observers of the game can interact and change the course of play with special voice commands and by voting for the next event that takes place. Personally, I haven't gone this far as of yet, for fear that I may smash the TV if some bum is to interfere with my masacre just because they can.

I have recently started to play games whilst streaming via Twitch and it is actually quite fun. If you happen to be on there, I am CarlosJuanWolf.

Likes: massacre of zombies, on the level of, well mass murder and huge weapon and perks choices, winnebagos, film nostalgia.

Dislikes: the game is very difficult to progress in.


Overall, if you are to play all three titles, you will get a little something of everything zombie horror and have great fun doing so or possibly find that maybe you do have a rage problem. ENJOY!

Fan of any of the above games? Let me know your likes/dislikes in the comments.