The Witcher 3 Hype Blast continues: Gameplay footage incoming …

You’re probably sick to death of me going on about The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt (“Oi, stop going on about The Witcher 3,” you’re probably muttering), and you’d think I was paid by BandaiNamco Games given the amount of information I’m posting about it (I’m not, by the way, but I’m always open to the possibility of receiving mystery bags of cash in the post … joking) but a 35-minute game play video has been posted on The Witcher 3, and it’s left me kind of wishing I hadn’t watched it.

Not because the game looks like it won’t be any good – it looks as though it’s going to be an amazing experience – and not that I won’t enjoy it, but I can’t help but wonder whether I’ve learned a little more than I want to about things before I play the game.

Apparently the video is set several hours into the game, but part of me wonders whether just a little too much information about three witches called The Crones and the ashen-hair woman being sought by Geralt of Rivea is revealed in the video.

I’m sure, though, in a game as large as The Witcher 3 a 35-minute video is nothing, and, of course, things will change depending on the decisions you make, but I’ve decided that from tonight I’m likely going on a Witcher 3-free diet for the next few months until the game is out in February: I don’t want to spoil my enjoyment of what will no doubt be a strong contender for one of 2015’s best games.

Anyway, here’s the video: Let me know what you think in the comments section.

 

The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt hype blast

2D Boxshot Wizard v1.1

I’m excited about CD Projekt Red’s The WItcher 3: Wild Hunt.

Hell, I’m so looking forward to it that I’ve pre-ordered the PS4 Collector’s edition that has a 2kg, 10-inch polystone sculpture of hero Geralt of Rivea slaying a Griffen, one of the many beasts from the game. It’s the first collector’s edition of a game I’ve ever bought since I started gaming 300 years ago. I’ve no idea where I’m going to put the sculpture, though: I doubt my wife will let me put it on the coffee table in the lounge.

In anticipation of the game’s release, BandaiNamco Games have released a couple of new trailers which will no doubt send the hype level through the roof.

Watch them and tell me the game doesn’t look wonderful. Go on.

This first one has CD Projekt Red people talking about the game world:

While this one is a game play trailer, which features werewolves and a ghostly voice: 

Oddword: New ‘n Tasty – the game that confirms my hand/eye co-ordination is waning

My failing hand/eye co-ordination is ruining my enjoyment of Oddworld: New ‘n Tasty.

Seriously, it is. And that’s annoying the hell out of me.

I might be in my mid-40s but come on, I thought I had a few years left in me before my hand/eye co-ordination started heading south, but it seems Oddworld: New ‘n Tasty has other ideas.

Oddworld New 'n Tasty: Abe with a creature called an Elum.

Oddworld New ‘n Tasty: Abe with a creature called an Elum.

A remake of the classic Oddworld game from 1997 featuring a bug-eyed hero called Abe who must escape the dastardly plan hatched by his employer Rupture Farms, New ‘n Tasty is a platformer pure and simple – a game where you’ll often have to jump Abe from platform to platform, often hitting the X button on the PlayStation 4 controller  (New ‘n Tasty is only out on PS4 at the moment) in quick succession so as to avoid causing Abe to plummet to his death.

I’m loving the game – I love its sense of humour, its main character, its gorgeous visuals – and everything was going so well until I got to a level set in a place called Scrabania, a desert landscape punctuated in its latter stages by platforms with massive drops either side of them. And it’s these situations which are causing me problems: And not that I want to admit it, but I’m blaming my hand/eye co-ordination.

The areas which require successive taps of the jump button are ones where Abe is riding a two-legged beast called an Elum, which has a boosted jump useful for clearing large gaps. Often you’ll have to tap the jump in quick succession to clear to clear two or three gaps in a row – sometimes jumping over land mines  – and this is where I struggle.

Time after time, I think I’ve pressed the jump button quick enough but, no, clearly I haven’t, sending Abe plunging to his death, only to re-spawn at the nearest checkpoint (which, thankfully, are nicely placed) where I repeat the process again and again. I’ve lost count how many times I’ve given up in frustration on this level because I just can’t get it sorted, tossing the PS4 controller onto the couch in frustration and walking away, vowing to not try it again. But, I’ll be back soon enough, determined to beat it but don’t – and it’s ruining my enjoyment of the game.

The signs of my waning hand/eye co-ordination have been manifesting themselves for a while, though, but I’ve just ignored them,  hoping it’s just because I’m tired or I’m having an off day. It used to be that my now-less-than perfect hand/eye co-ordination would manifest itself in co-op matches with my son where twitch reflexes and fast reactions make the difference from winning and losing. Sadly, more often than not these days, I’m losing when I play fast reaction games.  I don’t play as many first person shooters as I used to and while much of that is because I think most FPS games are generic and same old-same old, a lot of it is because my reflexes just aren’t up to scratch.

I’m also wondering whether I might need glasses now, too. To  be honest, I vaguely recall a few years back an optometrist telling me that because I was constantly looking at a computer screen I should be wearing glasses. I never heeded his advice then but these days small print is getting harder to read and old age is creeping up on me – but I’m not ready for a retirement home yet.

The harsh reality is that – as much as I don’t like to admit it – I’m getting older and I  don’t have the fast reactions and reflexes when it comes to hand/eye co-ordination that I used to. That likely means that I’m going to get more and more frustrated from time to time when it takes me twice as long to finish a level as it does my teenage son. Or it takes me ages to complete a simple sequence of platform jumps in a game like Oddworld: New ‘n Tasty. Bloody hell, it’s frustrating

I’m not going to give up on Oddworld: New ‘n Tasty, even if it might take me 22 million and 500 thousands hours to finish it at the rate I’m going. I guess the upside to my failing reactions, though, is that if you’re after someone you’re guaranteed to beat in a fast-paced multiplayer game, drop me an email: I’m your man.

 

 

 

 

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. Also, while it’s great fun, I don’t think it’s the great revelation and best gaming experience ever that some gaming sites are saying it is.

So, 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]