Destiny beta hands-on

Note: So, the Destiny beta ended earlier this week. And the end date snuck up on me sooner than I expected so this preview isn’t as in-dept as I’d have liked. I didn’t really get much online play done but did do a fair few of the story missions. Read on …

Destiny-screenshotBefore the Destiny beta I had little interest in playing the new game from Bungie, the game development studio known best for its Halo series. It just seemed like it was Borderlands but prettied up for the new console generation.

After playing the beta for the past few days on PS4 (it ended today, it seems),  though, I’m now more interested in the game. Perhaps not interested enough to buy the full version when it’s released in September, but my interest is piqued. I was pleasantly surprised at what I played.

Those that know me, know that I like single player campaigns first, online component second. And Destiny’s story mode doesn’t come across as anything special: An alien race called The Fallen have invaded Earth, bringing with them some other alien forced called The Darkness, and humanity has only one stronghold left. It’s up to you – Yes, you – to defeat the Fallen and save humanity. Frankly, the story is ho-hum and little more than an excuse to drop the player on a decimated Earth, face off against a powerful alien race and save the galaxy.

I played as a Titan, which is sort of a run-and-gun soldier by the end of the Beta I was a level 5 Titan, but had I had more time I’m sure I would have made it to the Beta’s level cap (which I think was level 8)

Destiny has a central hub called The Tower, where players can wander around, dance, emote, sit down and generally just hang out. I saw players dancing in front of each other and saluting each other. I also saw players trying to jump over a barrier fence onto what seemed like outstretched aerials. They failed, plummeting to the depths below. I tried it – and failed. I plummeted to the depths below, re-spawning back in The Tower.

You can make your avatar sit down. So I did. Several times. Generally, I sat down every time I arrived at a new location – during the weekend Bungie opened up a story mission set on the Moon – and took a photo of it using the PS4’s share function (then posted it on my Twitter feed).

The beta had four story which were relatively straightforward: follow markers to your objective, defeat the enemy, move on but an interesting thing about Destiny is that when you tackled a mission there could be any number of players there with you. Those players might help you take out the Fallen as you complete your objective or just bounce around doing their own thing (as some of them did when I played). Apparently, Destiny isn’t an MMO but it’s an interesting world where you’re single player game can be populated by other players from around the world.

The game’s tutorial opens with the player lying dead on Old Russia cosmodrome on Earth, and being revived by your Ghost, a flying AI voiced by Game of Thrones star Peter Dinklage. Apparently, Dinklage’s voice work is better than it was in the Alpha. I didn’t play the Alpha so I can vouch for that but at times I still thought the voice work was a bit lacklustre.

The story missions weren’t long – I think one mission took me around 9 minutes to complete  – and you can ride a vehicle called a Sparrow about the world and explore, but the story missions didn’t blow me away and tended to follow tried-and-true shooter conventions, which was a little disappointing.  One mission even had a  “hold off the advancing enemies until your Ghost hacks an alien computer” scenario. I really hope that Bungie are able to create a deep and engaging narrative that rivals that they achieved with the Halo series.

The Destiny beta has a lot of great things going for, one of them being how great it looks visually (remember it’s in beta so it’s still going to get some polish), but I still have some questions before I’ll commit to buying it when it comes out, especially in relation to the story missions.

Did you play the Beta? What did you think?

 

 

 

Gadget review: Magellan Cyclo 505 cycle computer

 

Bar mounted: Using the out-front bar mount, riders can push the Magellan cycle computer out a bit further (I've used the current out-front from my existing cycle computer).

Bar mounted: Using the out-front bar mount, riders can push the Magellan cycle computer out a bit further (I’ve used the current out-front from my existing cycle computer).

 

 

 

Magellan Cyclo 505 Cycle Computer ($479)

[This review is a work in progress. Magellan's PR company has been kind enough to let me test the company's Cyclo 505 cycle computer for a few weeks so now that I've two days off from work, I'm going to test it out some more]

Chances are you haven’t heard of Magellan cycle computers (the brand is known as Mio in Europe) but I’ve long  been a fan of the company’s range of cycle computers.

In fact, I’ve used a Magellan Cyclo 100 on my road bike for the past few years and have been thoroughly impressed with its accuracy and reliability, despite its monochrome screen.

Magellan isn’t as well-known as the Garmin brand (Garmin also sponsors a professional cycling team), but they should be: Magellan offers a range of cycle computers that offer incredible value for money and from my experience are amazingly reliable and resilient.

So I was more than a little excited when I got the chance to test out one of Magellan’s newest cycle computers, the Cyclo 505, which is aimed squarely at those cyclists looking for a top-of-the-range device.

This is not a complete review, yet, though: I want to use it a few more times just so I really get to know it but I thought I’d give my impressions so far.

Sporting a colour 3-inch, 240×400 resolution screen, the 505 is a sizable unit (as the photos show) and it offers, among other things,  turn-by-turn GPS navigation, New Zealand and Australia maps, ANT+ and bluetooth connectivity and the ability to upload workout stats and ride data to Mac and PC, as well as cloud-based applications such as Strava. It also lets you connect to your smart phone using Bluetooth 4.0 so it will display incoming text messages, let you answer phone calls and let you control your music playlist.

Installation was a breeze, thanks to the easy-to-fit  out-front bar mount (I actually used the bar mount I had already fitted to my bike) and within minutes I was ready to test out the Cyclo 505. 

Colour screen: The Magellan 505 sports a 3-inch colour screen that is easy to read and responsive.

Colour screen: The Magellan 505 sports a 3-inch colour screen that is easy to read and responsive.

I tested the 505 around a variety of local routes that I like to ride around (ranging in distance from 30km to 60km) and it did what it says on the box, providing all the information I needed as a cyclist: Speed, average speed, maximum speed, distance, calories burned, active time and gradient. It’s also compatible with Shimano’s electronic shifting system the Di2, but as I don’t have that groupset on my Colnago road bike, I couldn’t test it out.

I also had a field that displayed my active heart rate as I was also using a heart rate sensor.

The 505’s touch screen was responsive, even when I was wearing thin gloves, and easy to read, and I found that the few data fields on-screen meant that things were even easier to read. Less fields also made the screen less cluttered.

There’s a Surprise Me feature which will calculate a route based on a specific distance or a specific time limit. Surprise Me is a nice enough feature to have – although a couple of times it threw a little hissy fit when I turned when I wasn’t supposed to (probably due to the rabbit warren of streets around us)- but it’s not a necessity.

Update number 1: Surprise Me – and it did!

I was pressed for time for a ride today so I used the Cyclo 505’s Surprise Me feature, which let me enter a specific distance or time into the unit then it calculates three routes that fit the criteria. With a route selected for a easy 30km, I cycled off, following the navigation prompts on the 505.

The Cyclo 505 had determined that the start point for the ride would be about 3km away – it was denoted with a green and black checked flag icon – and throughout the ride the unit gave me advanced warning of upcoming turns, just like a GPS unit does for a car.

All was going well until the unit told me to continue down a straight road that connected with a main road. The trouble was that 1.7km of the connecting road was coarse chip – and I had thin road tyres, susceptible to punctures on the rough stone surface. I contemplated turning around and following another road but then decided to risk it and go where the Cyclo 505 was telling me. It was a slow trip – I  didn’t want to go full speed across the stones – and I stayed in the smooth areas created  by cars that had traveled down the road.

To be fair, this wasn’t the Cyclo 505’s fault: It wasn’t to know that the section of road was under repair – as many of the roads in Christchurch are at the moment!

Apart from a short period when the unit seemed to have trouble determining which road to take me down as I neared home, the Surprise Me feature is a nice one to have when perhaps you’re in an unfamiliar area and want to do a short ride around the local roads.

 

Magellan’s Cyclo 505 is a feature-packed unit but it’s annoying  that I have to use Internet Explorer if I want to upload data to Magellan’s Cyclo Portal. Support for Chrome and Firefox is coming late this year.

I love the Magellan Cyclo 505 and if I have any gripe it’s the annoying beeping that sounds by default every time you touch the unit’s screen. Turning off the beeping was one of the first things I did.

I’m impressed with the Cyclo 505 so far but hope to test it out for another few rides this week. Look out for an update in a few days.

It’s been a few weeks of change – and change is good, right?

Apologies for the lack of updates in the last month: I’ve been busy with my new job – and a lack of game playing, to be honest. Now that I’m not writing regularly for any one publication, I’m not in the mind of gaming PR people much anymore.

So, yeah, I’ve stared a new job – and it’s a complete departure from the generally desk-bound career I had as a newspaper journalist. In fact, it’s as far removed as desk-dependent as you can get – and frankly, it’s a refreshing change.

I’m working as a loader for Air New Zealand at its Christchurch operations, which means that the bulk of my duties are loading aircraft (737s, ATRs, that sort of thing) and handling baggage. And you know what? I’m enjoying it. It’s different and it’s challenging me in a new way, the people I get to work with are friendly and awesome  – and I get to wear hi-vis during the day!

At the moment, I’m doing 7am to 3.30pm shifts but come the middle of this month, I start the shift work – and that’ll be a shock to the system of a worker who’s been used to the cushy 9am to 5pm work day.

So if you happen to see me from the airport departure lounge, give me a wave – chances are I’ll wave back! (of course, that assumes you know what I look like and can identify me amongst all the other hi-vis Air NZ ramp staff!)

Anyway, in terms of gaming, I have to admit I haven’t done a helluva lot in the past few weeks. I’ve played some Sniper Elite V2 after I downloaded it for free during some Steam promotion a few weeks ago. It’s fun but to be honest, for a game that has the work Sniper in it, there’s more stealth and wandering around than there is sniping!

I’m also trying to find time to play Grid Autosport, thanks to Codemaster’s Aussie PR man Kerrin kindly sending me a PC code. I’ll get around to it soon, Kerrin, I promise!

I’m also testing out a Magellan Cyclo 505 cycle computer at the moment (I usually use a Cyclo 100 on my road bike) so I’ll have a review of that in the next couple of weeks, too. I used it yesterday on a short ride and it’s impressed me so far.

Oh, and a couple of weeks ago, I dropped some money on the collector’s edition of The Witcher 3. Granted, I had a lot of store credit at EB Games to cover the cost of the CE but I’m still amazed that I was prepared to drop a not inconsiderable amount on something gaming related.

 

 

Murdered Soul Suspect: A flawed, but likeable, detective game

Murdered Soul Suspect (SquareEnix, multiplatform. Reviewed on PlayStation 4)


Find the killer: Murdered detective Ronan O'Connor must find out who killed him.

Find the killer: Murdered detective Ronan O’Connor must find out who killed him.

One of the more interesting aspects to SquareEnix’s detective game where you play the ghost of a murdered police trying to solve his own murder is that sometimes you get to possess cats.

Set in the town of Salem – well-known in American lore for being the home of witches and witchcraft – Murdered Soul Suspect opens with detective-with-a-shady-past Ronan O’Connor being thrown out of a house window then brutally murdered by a masked serial killer nicknamed the Bell Killer by Salem’s local police department. O’Connor’s ghost wears the five glowing bullet holes in his torso like a badge of honour and before he can join his murdered wife Julia in heaven, he must uncover who the Bell Killer is.

As O’Connor explores the town of Salem, he uncovers a tale steeped in witchcraft and with the help of the daughter of a missing clairvoyant tries to find out why the Bell Killer is  doing what he’s doing (murdering people).

For a game based on witches and rituals, Murdered Soul Suspect wasn’t as scary as I was expecting and it doesn’t feature a lot of combat, either.

Actually, it isn’t scary at all as the only real threat to O’Connor’s ghostly form are demons that appear from time to time – usually when he has to exit a building he’s just explored or a building he’s about to investigate. The demons – tormented souls trapped on earth – are more of a nuisance than anything, although they can’t be taken head on: O’Connor must approach them stealthily, from behind, often hiding in conveniently placed spirits dotted around environments.

Sneaking up behind a demon without being caught activates a quick time event (on PlayStation you pull the R2 button then have to match the on-screen stick and button combination). If you mess it up – or they spot you before you’ve managed to get it – they’ll chase him until eventually sucking the will from him, and you return to the last check point.  The demons aren’t hard to kill: Just annoying.

Most of Murdered Soul Suspect’s game play involves examining crime scenes and piecing together clues about happened in a particular environment. At certain points, O’Connor will have to determine what order specific events happened, based on the clues he’s uncovered.  Each clue he solves, obviously, leads him closer to the identity of the Bell Killer.

Being a ghost has great advantages, mostly in that O’Connor can pass through most walls in his search for clues, except those that have been consecrated: He can’t pass through those.

But back to the cats. At certain points, controlling a cat is a lot of fun, especially in in the first 1/4 of the game where you guide a possessed cat through the grounds of Salem’s church to reach the attic where Ronan first meets Joy, the daughter of the missing clairvoyant. There are other times you can possess a cat, but often it’s just to be able to climb up scaffolding so you can reveal a collectible.

I played the PS4 version but to be honest I didn’t blow me away graphically. Murdered Soul Suspect looks nice but isn’t the sort of game you’d invite friends around to show off what your PS4 can do.

Sadly, Murdered Soul Suspect turns out to be a pretty average detective game that’s not particular difficult or taxing, but it’s saved by its genuinely intriguing story and the sterling effort done by Jason Brooks and Cassidy Lehrman, who voice  O’Connor and Joy.

Dynamic duo: Ronan and Joy join forces to solve the Bell Killer case.

Dynamic duo: Ronan and Joy join forces to solve the Bell Killer case.

The performances by Brooks and Lehrman lift Murdered Soul Suspect from the “meh”to the interesting, and while it won’t go down as one of gaming’s classics, it’s the type of game that I’ll remember playing, and not want to forget.

[Thanks to SquareEnix Australia for providing a copy of the game for review]

 

See the E3 hype following Sony & Microsoft pre-show conferences

Microsoft and Sony held their pre-E3 press events today. Both had games, games and games. Sony also had a TV device. Microsoft hardly mentioned Kinect at all (I think it’s needed for the Dance Central game).

Instead of prattling on, I’ve just posted some videos. Personally, I’m still super keen on Batman Arkham Knight, the time-lapse trailer for Ubisoft’s The Division, the fact that classic point-and-click adventure game Grim Fandango is heating  to PS Vita and PlayStation 4 and Sunset Overdrive: It looks the bee’s knees. Oh, and Crackdown: I loved the original Crackdown and despite being another bad guy being taken down, it could be interesting.

Watch and enjoy. Happy E3!

Batman Arkham Knight (and the Batmobile blowing shit up):  

The Division:  

Sunset Overdrive

Grim Fandango (featuring DoubleFine developer Tim Schafer pretending to be a small child):

Crackdown:

Far Cry 4: 

 

I’ll post more videos when I can be bothered.

Were you swept away by the hype? Did you get up outrageously early to watch the Microsoft livestream? Thoughts? You know what to do …

 

One game trailer has me contemplating the CE edition – but it’s how much????

 

The latest trailer for The Witcher 3: The Wild Hunt has me wishing it was 2015 now: That’s when CD Projekt Red’s third game featuring Geralt of Rivia is due.

I’ve posted the trailer on this post. Watch it and tell me you’re not impressed. Apparently it’s in-game footage. If that is the case, then the current generation starts with that game (what I call the current generation means Xbox One and PlayStation 4).

The new trailer is also the reason I’m seriously considering getting the Collector’s Edition, even though it’s $300 in New Zealand. Yes, $300 and I think EB Games is the exclusive retailer for it. To be fair, I’ve got $288 credit at EB Games so it’s not really going to cost me much overall, and I’ll likely get the PC version if I get it, but that’s an insane amount to be paying for collector’s edition.

If I didn’t have the EB Games credit I wouldn’t even be considering the CE edition and frankly, I can’t understand how the NZ version of the same package costs so much more than the Australian version: It’s $AU199 for the PC version  as opposed to $279 in New Zealand. How can EB Games in NZ seriously justify this pricing? It just seems unjustified. If only I could use my NZ EB Game credit on the EB Games AU site!!!

Perhaps someone at EB Games will read this and post a reply.

Pricing aside, if I do get the the CE edition it’s the figurine of Geralt battling a griffin (its in the image below) that has me interested.

CD Projekt’s Red’s head of studio Adam Badowski has this to say about the polystone collectible: “Behold, the Collector’s Edition of The Witcher–over two kilograms of the most badass monster slayer, ready to bring your desktop figure collection to a whole new level.” Here’s what’s in the CE edition: All the contents from the standard edition of the game - A giant, 33 x 24 x26cm (10”), 100% hand painted, Polystone figure of Geralt of Rivia battling a Griffin - An exquisite, collector-grade Witcher medallion - A one-of-a-kind SteelBook™ box - A two-hundred-page artbook, containing breathtaking art from the game - Huge outer and inner Collector’s Boxes you can store your Witcher merchandise in!

That's what I call a collector's edition: a polylstone figurine of Geralt of Rivea slaying a griffin is the centrepiece of The Witcher 3's collector's edition. I want it now.

That’s what I call a collector’s edition: a polylstone figurine of Geralt of Rivea slaying a griffin is the centrepiece of The Witcher 3’s collector’s edition. I want it now.

And if I don’t spring for the collector’s edition, I’ll look at getting a digital version straight from GOG.com. I got an email today telling me I could pre-order the game for $AU80.99 – and while it doesn’t come with a badass polystone figurine it comes with a tonne of extras. I’ll contemplate over the next few days.

I’ve played the previous two Witcher games and while not totally taken with the first, I enjoyed the second but didn’t finish it: I just couldn’t find the time. And I’ve actually just re-downloaded in on Steam in anticipation for The Witcher 3. The Wild Hunt.

It’s out on February next year. Finger’s crossed I can wait that long.

Disappointment alert: Batman Arkham Knight delayed

If there was one game that I really looking forward to this year it was Batman Arkham Knight. I was counting down the days until it’s release on [Xbox One, PlayStation 4, PC] in October (well, I wasn’t actually counting the days physically, you understand).

I was even getting ready to pre-order a collector’s edition (when one was announced) because a) I don’t own a collector’s edition of any game and b) If the collector’s edition had a replica model of the new Batmobile, well, let’s just say that would be awesome (hint, hint Rocksteady and Warner Bros Interactive).

Well, sadly, I’m going to have to put my dreams about pre-ordering a Batman Arkham Knight collector’s edition until probably later this year: Rocksteady has delayed the game until next year. Yep, 2015.

Talking to The Escapist at an Arkham Knight press event recently, Rocksteady’s Guy Perkins said with such as “super ambitious project” in development, more time is needed.

“We just want to make the best experience we possibly can and we need more time to do that,” said Perkins. “I think what we’ve shown so far is a super ambitious project and we just want to make sure we are giving Batman fans and gamers the best Batman experience that we can possibly deliver and that just takes time.

“I think we would be doing fans a disservice if we didn’t spend the time on the title. We just want it to be really great.”

Personally, I’m all for games being delayed so they’re polished within an inch of their lives. I don’t want a buggy, glitchy mess that launches with a 8GB patch (sorry, “update”) that fixes all the stuff that should have been fixed in the first place.

Really, though, does this delay come as any surprise? The game was only officially announced a couple of months ago so I wonder whether the October release date was made after pressure from the publisher. Who knows but if this delay makes the game better, then I’m all for it. Besides, Arkham Knight will be hyped to high heaven until it’s out so best it’s the best it can be. Right?

So, I guess as a means of appeasing the restless and disappointed fans,  Rocksteady has released a new trailer that shows off the Batmobile’s Battle Mode, which apparently is going to be shown in more detail at next week’s E3.

Disappointed like me at the news?