No blog for a while: I’m on holiday

Morning.

I was hoping to have a review of Spider-Man for you before I left for four weeks holiday in Canada – but, alas, the review code has not appeared. If it does, it’ll after I get back in mid-October, before I kick into Red Dead Redemption 2 (which I’ve pre-ordered).

As the title says, I’m on holiday for four weeks, touring around Canada and its locales. I won’t be updating the blog during that time.

Thanks to those of you that still stick around: I do appreciate your loyalty.

If you follow me on Twitter, I’ll post photos of my Canadian adventures.

See ya.

Good on ‘ya, mate: Australian gaming site Player 2 streaming for charity

Despite our Trans-Tasman rivalries, I’m very fond of the game writing chums in Australia that I know and interact with, so I’m always happy to help out when one of my fellow game writers across the ditch is doing something that benefits those less fortunate.

So, read on for a press release from Player 2’s Matt Hewson about the site’s upcoming gaming marathon for the Terry Campese Foundation in Australia. There’s the chance to win quite a few game-related prizes if you’re watching the live stream, too.

After a successful charity event last year, the Player 2 team are coming back once again to raise money for the Terry Campese Foundation. Last year the team raised over $3700 for the charity, every cent of which went to helping sick and underprivileged families from the Canberra and Southern NSW regions. This year the crew aim to beat that mark and are looking at the possibility of reaching $4000.

The 24-hour gaming marathon will occur on the 15th of September, kicking off at 10am and running for a full day. The team will be playing one game every hour, including titles such as The Halo Master Chief Collection, Rock Band, Street Fighter Anniversary Collection and the ever-popular NBA Jam, all in the name of this great cause.

To encourage people to donate the Player 2 team has gotten together an impressive list of prizes that includes over 200 items. Games such as Spider-Man, Far Cry 5 and Nier Automata are up for grabs along with great books, soundtracks, merchandise and even a working Pip-Boy 3000! All of these prizes will be given out to people that donate $2 or more to the event.

“The chance to help out a charity such as Terry’s is an honour and a privilege” said Player 2 Editor, Matt Hewson.

“At Player 2, we often lament the lack of positive coverage our favourite hobby receives from mainstream media, so we feel it is our responsibility to lead by example. We are a small site in the grand scheme of things, but as we have shown previously our size doesn’t stop us from helping out in a meaningful way. The Terry Campese Foundation is a charity that aims to help those who are struggling in life, be it from illness or poverty, and that is something I feel we can all get behind”

The whole event will be live streamed on the Player 2 twitch channel and will covered extensively on Player 2’s social media channels, with on-the-spot giveaways for viewers and followers. For more information about the Player 2 Charity Marathon Supporting The Terry Campese Foundation head to http://www.player2.net.au

It’s a Sunday night, I’ve had a busy week (including attending a work conference all day today) , my brain is tired, so here’s a press release prepared earlier by PriceSpy. Normal service will resume this coming week. Perhaps.

According to data insights  from PriceSpy, the fully impartial price and product comparison service, Sony PlayStation is dominating the New Zealand gaming world.

Based on historical clicks, the most popular game right now is God of War, claiming the top spot for four consecutive months.  Following closely behind is Detroit: Become Human.  Since its release in May 2018, it has quickly become the second most-popular game of the moment.

 Top Games for July 2018

  1. God of War (PS4)
  2. Detroit: Become Human (PS4)
  3. The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild (Switch)
  4. Octopath Traveler (Switch)
  5. Gran Turismo: Sport (VR) (PS4)

Top Games for June 2018

  1. God of War (PS4)
  2. Detroit: Become Human (PS4)
  3. Horizon: Zero Dawn Complete Edition (PS4)
  4. Far Cry 5 (PS4)
  5. The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild (Switch)

Top Games for May 2018

  1. God of War (PS4)
  2. Detroit: Become Human (PS4)
  3. Far Cry 5 (PS4)
  4. Gran Turismo: Sport (VR) (PS4)
  5. The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild (Switch)

 Top Games for April 2018

  1. God of War (PS4)
  2. Far Cry 5 (PS4)
  3. The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild (Switch)
  4. Destiny 2 (PS4)
  5. Grand Theft Auto V (PC)

Halo Fireteam Raven: A pictoral essay

As I mentioned earlier this week, I was in Auckland for work so was able to head along to the New Zealand launch of the Halo Fireteam Raven arcade machine at Timezone in Auckland’s Wairau Valley.

It was nice event, with like-minded individuals chatting, eating delicious nibbles, imbibing fluids and, of course, being among the first in NZ to play the dual-screen, four-player Halo Fireteam Raven arcade machine.

Short verdict? It’s good. It’s very, very, very good. Actually, it’s a helluva lotta fun, letting you fill the combat boots of a Halo spartan taking on the covenant hordes – with some mates along for the ride.

Feast your eyes on these images of some obligatory Spartans controlling Spartans in Halo Fireteam Raven & some video of the game in action.

Sadly, the machine was too big to to fit in my carry on luggage for the flight home a couple of days later.

 

Halo Fireteam Raven launches in NZ tomorrow night

There’s a new Halo game launching in New Zealand tomorrow night – but you can’t buy it at your local retailer or play it on your Xbox One (or One X console).

Halo: Fireteam Raven is the first arcade edition of Microsoft’s much-loved FPS game Halo to come to New Zealand – and it’s getting its first outing at Timezone Xtreme Entertainment Wairau in Auckland tomorrow night (August 28)

The arcade game lets  four players either play cooperatively, or compete against each other in the Halo universe, and boasts a 130-inch, 4K  widescreen and 5.1 surround sound. Halo: Fireteam Raven lets fans of the Halo franchise play alongside Master Chief in the battle to ward off the enemy forces of the Covenant and the Flood infestation.

Here’s the official trailer for the game:

As luck would have it, I’m actually in Auckland tomorrow night for work so I’ll be popping along to Timezone Wairau to check out the Fireteam Raven and the festivities I’ll  post images to my twitter feed (@GamejunkieNZ) during the night, too,  if you want to see what the arcade machine looks like.

Also, if you attending the event and see me, come say hi!

 

 

 

 

Huawei nova 3i: A budget priced phone with a high-end presence

Huawei’s nova3i smart phone is a budget handset with flagship features that’s  missing one thing that a flagship smartphone does: The hefty price tag.

The last Huawei phone I reviewed was the P20, which I thought was a good phone but it just didn’t wow me, especially given the flagship P20 Pro wasn’t much more price-wise. The nova 3i has impressed me no end.

For starters, I love the iridium purple (Huawei calls it iris purple) on the glass/metal back: It looks classy and high-end, and makes the phone look more expensive than it is. It’s nice to see a budge phone that is a little different from the usual gold/white we so often see on smart phones. Some one said to me it looks kind of like an iPhone X, too, and it does – but without the eye-watering price point.

 

The nova 3i has a 6.3-inch IPS screen  ( FHD at  2340 x 1080), an impressive 4Gb of memory, is running Android 8.0 (with Huawei’s Emotion UI 8.2) and its 128Gb of storage is expandable to 256Gb via MicroSD. It also lets users set Te Reo as a language, which is a great touch for those of us in Aeotearoa. The battery life was damn good, too.

The nova3i has four camera lenses (two front-facing, two rear-facing) like Huawei’s flagship P20 Pro but – and here’s where saving would have been made – not from renowned company Leica. The nova 3i takes pretty damn good photos, which I’ve posted here, and camera software uses AI to enhance where it sees necessary. Sometimes it makes the original image look better, other times, though, it makes the original image look a little over-saturated, overall I was really impressed with the camera and the images.

Before: The original image with the Huawei nova3i’s AI mode disabled.

After: The image with the AI mode enabled. Note how the blue sky looks brighter, as does the sand.

Before: Another shot from the same beach with the AI mode disabled.

After: Again, note how much brighter the same and blue sky is thanks to the AI mode.

I think one of the main reasons I’m so taken with the nova 3i, though, is the price point: This is a phone with Rolls Royce looks but with at a Datsun 180B price. At $499, I’m more likely to upgrade my ageing Samsung Galaxy S7 with the nova 3i than I am Samsung’s recently released Galaxy Note 9, which may kick the Huawei’s arse when it comes to specs and performance, but these days, I’m not that keen on spending $1700 to $2000 on a phone, not matter how impressive it is (Nor would I want to, actually.)

The Huawei nova 3i does everything I need it to in a smartphone, and at a far more affordable price. As a budge conscious tech-head, that’s a win in my book.

Thanks to Huawei for providing a nova 3i hanset for this review.

Figment review: Battling the thoughts in your head

Figment, a puzzle/platformer for Finish indie developer Bedtime Digital Games for the Nintendo Switch, reminds me a lot of a children’s story book, with its whimsical artwork and fairy tale locations, except it’s set within the human mind with all sorts of weird shit going on.

Seriously, though, for most of the game the environments are like something you’d find in Alice in Wonderland, with teapots for houses, flowers made out of stringed instruments and white fluffy clouds providing a peaceful backdrop, things are more sinister than they seem at first in this fairy tale land, populated with memories, thoughts and urges and home to the voices in our head.

When Dusty (the game opens with him relaxing in a rocking chair, dreaming of ice for his drink) finds the nasty figments of the imagination have invaded the world, causing chaos, he must save the day. Accompanied by ever-optimistic bird Piper, Dusty must battle his way through a variety of dangers to, well, save the day.

The sumptuous visuals are the first thing that will attract your attention with Figment: They’re said by the developers to be hand-drawn, and by golly, does it look gorgeous, with an art style that belies the undertones of what Bedtime has called a “musical action adventure”.

The second thing that you’ll be captivated with is the wonderful voice acting which at times is delightfully over-the-top, and the musical score: Both are just delightful, with the score supposedly “defined by your exploration of the world”, which means that it adapts to how you react with the world: Move closer to the cello-like flowers and the strings sing, wander closer to a tuba-looking tree and the music takes a more brass band-like tone. It’s delightful and really adds a nice personal touch to the game.

The puzzles won’t cause you to have a brain haemorrhage, ranging from things like tracking down the handle that will turn the windmill that will blow away the nasty black fog and finding the right colour battery that will power the windmill to finding the missing pieces of a brass band bridge that will let you cross to another part of the world. Combat generally involves Dusty whacking unspeakable horrors with his sword or knocking back projectiles from said unspeakable horrors.

Figment is a delight to play, both visually and the way that the sound reacts to the player’s movement through the game world, and it’s further proof that games from small independent developers are a perfect fit for Nintendo’s console.

Remember how I commented last week on the great year that Nintendo was having?  Well, Figment is further proof of that.

Thanks to Bedtime for providing a digital code for Figment

Red Dead Redemption 2: I am ready

Rockstar dropped a game play trailer of the upcoming Red Dead Redemption 2 this morning, and after watching it today, I pity any other game/s that is/are coming out in October because, seriously, RDR2 is going to leave them sniffling wrecks, crying, curled up in the corner of a room.

Here’s 6 minutes and five seconds of RDR2. I pre-ordered this game two months ago. I usually never pre-order video games. In fact, I’ve pre-ordered only two video games in 40 years of playing video games (this and Batman Arkham Knight).

I have no more words. Just watch the trailer.

God, October can’t come fast enough. My PlayStation 4 is ready and waiting.

Element: An RTS game for people who really don’t have time for RTS games

Element (Nintendo Switch)

What a year the Nintendo Switch has had.

Despite being the least powerful console of the big three (Nintendo, Microsoft and PlayStation), I can quite comfortably say that I spent more time playing games on my Switch than I do the other consoles I own.

There are so many great reasons to own a Switch, and Element, from New Zealand developer Flightless, is another one.It’s a perfect fit for the Nintendo Switch.

Element’s narrative involves a space craft fleeing a decaying solar system. Arriving in a new solar system, you must visit each planet (named after elements on the periodic table, ie barium, titanium, silicon, gallium), mining enough crucial resources to ensure your survival. Sounds simple, right? Well, kind of. You see, while you’re mining for resources, enemies are doing the same thing, You’ll have to build attack and defence forces and assault the enemy while mining the planet for all you can.

Early planets like Boron offer very little challenge, with minimal enemy presence, but by the time you get to planets like platinum, the enemy threat starts increasing. Planets like iridium and neon, have well established enemies that pose a dangerous threat.

Element is a really nice fit on the Switch, with an appealing low-poly look to it and intuitive controls. Using the Switch’s touch screen, you can zoom into the action so you can get a good handle on things and strategize accordingly, and rotate around planets using the right analogue stick.  After a while, you’ll find yourself rotating around a planet like an old hand, plonking down mines and defence units as you target enemy mines with missiles.

It feels a little bit Command & Conquer to me sometimes,  making you think strategically before you do something  while also making you think two steps ahead for potential threats.

Flightless has described Element as a real-time space strategy game for those who don’t have time for real-time space strategy games which, let’s be honest, is probably a lot of us these days. It’s the sort of game that is perfect for bite-sized gaming chunks during lunchtime or just before bedtime, letting you play through two or three planets in a session then call it quits for the night but still feel satisfied.

Update: Something that I suddenly thought about after an email exchange with Flightless director John O’Reilly was that Element would really work with a two-player network co-op mode where where each player controlled a faction. I think that would really work well with the game play in Element. 

 

Thanks to Flightless for the Element review code

 

No Man’s Sky Next: Is Hello Games’ space game worth a re-visit?

What a difference two years makes, eh?

In 2016, Hello Games (with, let’s not forget, considerable marketing support from PlayStation) launched procedurally generated space exploration game No Man’s Sky on the PlayStation 4. Hello Game’s  leader Sean Murray touted all the amazing things players would be able to do in the game and the hype just flowed.

Turns out, though, a lot of the stuff that Murray mentioned you would be able to do, you actually couldn’t. No Man’s Sky was a game that gave me conflicting emotions when it was launched. Here’s a quote from my review:“No Man’s Sky is probably one of the few games that I’ve really been conflicted about it. I like that you can explore a huge galaxy – and Hello Games have done a nice job of making you feel you are in a huge universe – but I’m not really big on the fact that after a few hours the game becomes a grind and, frankly, a little tedious.
Hello Games is an indie studio – despite the fact that PlayStation handled all its PS4 marketing – and should be applauded for trying something risky and ambitious, but I can’t help but think that because of the massive hype heaped upon it by both PlayStation, games media and gamers themselves, it was never going to live up to expectations.”

Looking back at my coverage of No Man’s Sky, it seems I, too, was caught up in the hype surrounding the game. I posted quite a few videos before release, and my review wasn’t overly critical, closing with “I’m sure in a few months No Man’s Sky will be a much different game to the one that it is now (a new patch was released for PC and PS4 on Friday) and chances are I’ll revisit it sometime in the future just to see to see what has changed.

Well, two years [and some other updates] later, and No Man’s Sky is the game it should have been at launch thanks to the recent Next update and it’s a great update (all the images here are captured using the game’s photo mode)   but it begs the question: Should Hello Games have just waited two years to release the game in a more complete state rather than release it when they did, half-finished ?

The answer is, of course, yes. The original game was rightly pilloried by gamers and critics alike because it wasn’t what Sean Murray at Hello Games promised it was. It also wasn’t what Sony hyped it up to be in the flashy trailers it sent to games writers like me. Gamers around the world bought it based on all these promises , and were swept up in the hype that only the games industry seems to be able to generate. Gamers thought they could do all these amazing things but were disappointed  when they found much of what they were promised was untrue.

I think it’s admirable that Sean and Hello Games have stuck with No Man’s Sky, despite all the criticisms and negative press, and kept updating it. I take my hat off to him and the studio. They could have easily said “Ok, game is launched, we’ve got our cash. Let’s jet off to a tropical island somewhere and hunker down” but they did. They stuck it out and supported the game.

I’m making my way through the game again thanks to the Next update and it feels like a completely different game from launch –   planets are more detailed and varied, crafting has been tweaked, there’s a third-person view for ships and your avatar, plus dozens of other tweaks – but the grind is still there. If you weren’t a fan first time around, I doubt new graphics and changed game play features will convince you to stick this out.

Sadly, though,  part of me feels that no matter how impressive the Next update is – and it is impressive, especially compared to the original game  – the damage has already been done for No Man’s Sky and a lot of gamers have already been burned by the launch state of the game.

It’s a sad indictment on the gaming industry that two years later, No Man’s Sky is now the game it should have been. As gamers, we shouldn’t  be content with paying for games then hoping they’ll get fixed into something better sometime down the line but it seems to be a worrying trend that is becoming more and more common these days.

If you haven’t played No Man’s Sky before – and Xbox One players can now see what all the fuss is about – then now is probably the perfect time to do it: It’s the game that it should have been at launch, and newcomers haven’t been burned by what happened before. That said, I’m sure owners of the original game (if they still have it) in their droves are revisiting the game thanks to the Next update, as I have done, but I think No Man’s Sky is a lesson for the entire games industry to take note of:  Don’t ship a game that promises things it will never deliver on.

Here’s some simple advice for game developers and (perhaps, especially, publishers/marketers): Delay the game until it does what you say it does. Don’t bow to publisher pressure to release a game way too early just because it wants the sales revenue.

As a gamer, I’d rather wait a few more months for a better game, and be satisfied, than buy a game that is half-finished and doesn’t let me do what you’ve hyped it up to do, and will never deliver on those lofty expectations.

Gamers will forgive you for a game that’s late but does what it says on the box.They’re  not so forgiving when you promise them the moon and all you hand them is a pebble.

OK, so to answer the question I put in this blog post’s title: Is Hello Games’ space game worth a revisit? Thanks to the Next update, yes, it is. I’ve still had the game crash on me since after a post-update patch (funnily enough, changing my PS4’s internal clock to Pacific Standard Time seemed to fix it), but the game is much improved on the original. It’s just a pity it took two years for that to happen.