A video of me playing God of War on PlayStation 4 Pro for several minutes

The new God of War is out now on PS4 and if you’re sitting on the fence on whether you should buy it for your PlayStation 4, let this 13-minute or so video of me playing the game help you out.

You can also read my review here (but I was assuming you’d read it already, anyway) if you want more convincing God of War is a great game.

The video doesn’t spoil anything as it’s from the opening hour of the game so enjoy.

God of War: All hail to the king

At its heart, God of War on the PlayStation 4 is a road trip featuring an angry God trying to bond with his son and forget his past, and a son who wants to be a warrior like his father but doesn’t know how.

As road trips go, this is a helluva ride, as Kratos and his young son Atreus trek to a formidable mountain to bury the ashes of the warrior’s recently deceased wife, but as fathers go, Kratos has a bit to learn and is, quite frankly, a bit of a dick to Atreus.

During an early hunting trip when Atreus misses a shot at a deer and tells Kratos he’s sorry, the bearded God simply replies: “Don’t be sorry. Be better.” Several times, Atreus frequently calls Kratos “Sir”, rather than father or dad.

Not that Kratos doesn’t try to work on his relationship with Atreus: There are  moments when Kratos wants to connect with his son – a comforting hand on the boy’s shoulder, a word of encouragement – but Kratos is clearly unsure of what it means to be a good, caring father so those fleeting moments are brief and his gruffness returns.

As the journey to the highest mountain in the realm progresses, Kratos tries to be a father by telling (rather bad) stories to Atreus as they row a canoe across a giant lake and it’s clear that the relationship between the two evolves and ever changes (Kratos becomes a little softer at times, Atreus pushes back a little) .

Kratos and the relationship with Atreus isn’t the only major change here: The scenery, too, is different, moving from Ancient Greece to Midgard, home of Norse mythos and the mighty vikings. The change in location is welcome and it’s littered with lush forests, ice-covered mountains and deep caverns and, of course, it’s all steeped in Norse legend.

Combat is dramatically changed from previous games in the series but, in my opinion, for the better. Kratos no longer has the blades of chaos that he swings from chains wrapped around his bandaged forearms (although, as if a nod to the past, he still wears the bloodied bandages) , instead he has the leviathan axe, a mystical weapon forged by two dwarfs who also created the mighty hammer of Thor. The axe can be hurled at enemies  then snapped back to Kratos like a boomerang, adding a new dimension to the combat.

The combat is still as bloody as ever, with brutal finishing moves that will cleave an enemy in half, and Atreus is  on hand to unleashing a barrage of arrows on foes as well as choke them with his bow’s string.. The combat feels satisfying and visceral although, at times it seems like it takes cheap shots by throwing in smaller enemies to the mix as you battle larger foes.  I’m not really that keen on being attacked from behind while I’m trying to avoid the fiery breath of a soul eater!

Beginning its life on the PlayStation 2,  the God of War series has always been about spectacle and Kratos’ place in the world, and this new GOW has spectacle aplenty but in previous games, Kratos was often dwarfed by his surroundings (remember the opening fight in GOW3 on the earth mother Gaia? The camera pulls back and you see Kratos is miniscule compared to his surroundings), now, Kratos is given real stature in the world,  real gravitas.

He’s now no longer dwarfed by the world as dramatically. Shifting the camera to behind Kratos’ shoulders as he moves, too, helps with this scale and shows you just how big he is. He dwarfs Atreus, who is wiry and small.

Kratos can upgrade everything from his armour and skills  to his weapons  using items found in the game world and a currency called hacksilver, and you can also upgrade Atreus’ kit as well. Quick time button presses are here but they don’t overstay their welcome, and now when you open chests you do’t have to mash buttons furiously like you used to do. The environmental puzzles won’t have you scratching your head and have you stumped for ages, either, but are clever enough that you’ll murmur a quiet “Ahhh …” when you solve one.

If you’re playing on a PS4 Pro, like I am, you’re in for a treat: God of War looks fantastic, even on my 1080p HD 55-inch TV, with amazing attention to detail and jaw-dropping vistas, and the game is bursting with colour and vibrancy.

The game world is filled with small details: Glowing particles float in the air from fires, muscles twitch underneath Krato’s skin as he moves, his beard is flecked with grey hairs, bark hangs from tree trunks. This is the best looking God of War ever without a doubt.

PlayStation 4 Pro can also chose either performance mode, which will give a better frame rate, or resolution mode, which will output at a resolution of 2160p checkerboarded. I played most of the game on the resolution mode as I like things to look purdy and the frame rate stays pretty rock solid. You’ll can also select a less intrusive UI (user interface), which means less screen clutter but personally, I like to see how much health my enemies have left.

The PS4 might not be the most powerful console in the world, but you know what? God of War is proof of what can be done when a publisher establishes a development studio like Santa Monica Studio then backs it and allows it the creative freedom to go wild and do what it does best. God of War is the result.

Ultimately, Santa Monica Studio has brought us a tale featuring a boy and a man trying to get to know each other in some pretty trying circumstances but, my word, what an adventure it is.

Simply put, God of War is one of the best games I’ve played this generation. Pure and simple.

Thanks to PlayStation NZ for an advanced copy of God of War, which is out on PlayStation 4 on April 20.

 

Tuesday Teaser: God of War media kit

Let’s not beat about the bush, eh: Chances are you knew this was coming, given I’ve talked about media kits before.

It’s no secret that PlayStation does some of the best media kits in the business and I’ve been lucky enough in my writing career to have received a few PlayStation media kits in the past.

So, without further ado, I present to you, the God of War (PS4)  media kit in all its glory. It’s another stunner from PlayStation.

There’s a review embargo on God of War until 7.01pm on Thursday, April 12 so who knows I might post some impressions when the embargo lifts. I might even capture some video footage if you’re keen to see what it looks like running on the PS4 Pro.

Feast your eyes!

Far Cry 5 review: Open-world shennanigans

Far Cry 5 is the game that has made me realise that perhaps my reflexes aren’t up to scratch when it comes to modern first person shooters.

I’m fine with the shooting. In fact, I’m a dab hand with the game’s hunting bow, a weapon that lets me pick off enemies silently and one-by-one. It’s a great feeling to sneak into an enemy encampment and clear it out without setting off an alarm.

No, the part of FC5 that is causing me issues is the driving. Once I put the pedal to the metal, things become all slippery and slidey and I tend to get up close and personal with trees. During one optional mission, where I had to drive a race car through a circuit of flaming checkpoints, I lost control so many times  on tight corners and hit so many trees that I gave up.

Far Cry 5: It seems your driving may be the death of me (and yes, I realise admitting this will open me up to criticisms of “You suck, at games!)

My journey with the Far Cry series started way back when the original Far Cry came out on PC from developer Crytek (and Ubisoft wasn’t even in the picture). Set on a lush, tropical island, it was a PC-destroying game that was great fun, despite losing its way a little when the mutant monsters appeared. The Far Cry series has seen it visit Africa and Nepal and this time we’re in Hope County, Montana, where cult leader Joseph Seed – named The Father by his followers  – reigns and doesn’t take kindly to outsiders.

Like the most recent Far Cry games, Number is open-world, meaning there is a plethora of stuff to do when you’re not dealing with the main story mission. Sometimes, like Ubisoft’s Assassin’s Creed series, I feel as if the series suffers from too much bloat at times, with almost too much to do.

Narrative-wise, Far Cry 5 is perhaps more relevant for the modern age – a religious Middle American zealot named Joseph Seed is preaching the end of the world for sinners  – but it’s nothing original: Bad guy out to rule the world, good guy has to stop him (but must first stop Seed’s crazed siblings as well.

The game play in numero 5 feels familiar and while Joseph Seed maybe not as memorable as say,  Vaas Montenegro, from FC3, or Pagan Min, from FC4, he’s suitably crazy. One early mission, though, summed up for me all that’s  frustrating with open-world games from time to time.

In it, you have to retrieve the Death Wish, a souped-up and heavily armed off-roader owned by Merle and which has been hijacked by the resident cult. The Death Wish is being driven around by a VIP cult member, so he is a little tougher than your run-of-the-mill cultists.

Stop and retrieve sounds easy, right? Well, yeah, but what seems like a simple mission is hindered by the fact that the cultist is driving the Death Wish on a road, which means that as you wait in ambush to capture it or grab a vehicle to try and ram it off its pre-programmed route, you’re spotted by other cultists as they drive past, meaning the mission is continually punctuated by chaotic fire fights as more and more vehicles drive past and more and more cultists join the fight.

After dying for the umpteenth time because things just got too chaotic and my AI-companion managed to get himself pinned between a truck and a power pole, I re-spawned in a field, not far from the main road the Death Wish was driving on. Unfortunately, I had spawned next to a group of rather pissed off wild boar, which proceeded to gore me  to death. Oh, at one point, a cougar suddenly appeared, mauling my AI companion while a gun fight was going on. Madness!

Eventually, I managed to hijack enough cultist vehicles (including a tractor) that I was able to block the road, cornering the Death Wish and its rather hardy driver. Mission accomplished, I proceeded to drive the Death Wish back to Merle, after which we proceeded to attack a cult compound.

I’d actually like to travel from point A to point B in my car, on a road,  without every few moments turning into a gunfight because the enemy AI in every car that drives past spots me and opens fire. Friends told me to drive off-road to avoid that but, really, should I have to drive off-road just to avoid other AI?

I think, too, sometimes in FC5 there is so much going on, it’s almost a distraction. There are Hope County residents to liberate, animals to hunt and skins to sell, compounds to seize, stashes to raid, things to explode but at times I almost wish it was a bit more linear and wasn’t so “go where ever you want, do what ever you want, when you want”.

At the end of the day, Far Cry 5 is competent at what it does without setting the world on fire, which isn’t a bad thing if you like playing open-world games that throw you onto the landscape and say “Go to it, lad”.It’s a lot of fun at times.

Oh, and if I can offer one piece of advice, it’s this: Watch out for the turkeys.

Yakuza 6: The Song of Life: Farewell, Kiryu-san, my old friend

My love of Sega’s Yakuza series has been well-documented on this site. If you haven’t read my last blog post on why I think the series is so great  (and, for goodness sake, why not?), you can find it here but the Yakuza games hold a special place in my heart.

First appearing on the PlayStation 2, the Yakuza games chronicle the life of former (but now disgraced) Yakuza, Kazuma Kiryu. I’ve seen Kiryu grow as a character through the series and while in Yakuza 6, he might be a little older (younger foes constantly refer to him as old man before they inevitably get their arses handed to them on a plate), he might have a little more grey around the temples, but he still carries the presence of a Yakuza  (he was Fourth Chairman, after all), despite insisting to people he is just a civilian.

Yakuza 6 (PlayStation 4 only) focuses on Kiryu returning to Kamurocho after spending time in prison for past crimes, hoping to live out the rest of his days in peace in the orphanage he founded,  with Haruka, the young girl he fostered it’s kind of complicated). On his return, he finds that Haruka is missing and while searching for her in Kamurocho, learns she is in a coma after a hit and run – and she has a new born son. Kiryu return to Onomichi Jingaicho in Hiroshima to find out what happened to Haruka.

While it’s not crucial to have played previous Yakuza games before (there is a good video run down in the main menu that will get you up to date) and Yakuza 6 is probably the most accessible of the series, I feel for a series like this it’s always good to have played at least one other game as you’ll be aware of the backstory and have been introduced to keyl characters such as like Makoto Date, Kiryu’s arch-nemesis Goro Majima, and Kiryu’s once best friend Nishikiyama.

While previous Yakuza games tended to stick to the one location, Kamurocho, Yakuza 6 ventures forth to Onomichi Jingaicho in Hiroshima. Having a new location really adds depth to the game’s narrative, and there’s an interesting dynamic on display as a big city Yakuza gets to grips with how things are in the provinces. Like previous Yakuza games, the towns are jammed pack with restaurants, entertainment venues, convenience stores and bars. As is common throughout Japan, there are lots and lots of vending machines in Yakuza 6, too.

 

Combat has always been an important part of the Yakuza series. In earlier games, Kiryu could mix between four different styles, each one different to the other . Things are slightly different in Yakuza 6 (gone are the variety of fighting styles), but ultimately, combat centres around Kiryu building up his  “heat” meter, which he can then activate (with the R2 button) and unleash a variety of punches and kicks with delivers powerful finishing moves. I thought some of the finishes in Yakuza 0 and Kiwami were over-the-top but in Yakuza 6 they take things to a whole new level.

New to Yakuza 6, is the clan battles, which has Kiryu ordering fighters he has recruited to help fight other street gangs. It’s view from the top-down perspective with Kiryu (you) ordering colleagues who to attack. It has a very strategy game feel to it, with different strength units.

Another thing the series has always been known for is its off-the-wall side missions and Yakuza 6 does not disappoint. To be honest,  they’re the type of quests that you’d only find in a Japanese game. Many of them are just head-scratchingly bonkers but they make you smile and don’t feel out-of-place.

One, for example, sees Kiryu dressing up as Onomichi Jingaicho’s  mascot Ono (which has a head of an orange with a bowl of ramen noodles as a hat) because the normal person who played the mascot just didn’t turn up. Another mission sees him having to stop and sing lullabies to Haruka’s baby son – who he is carrying around with him at times  – while he scours Onomichi Jingaicho after hours in search of baby formula. Speaking of babies, a nice touch is that when Kiryu encounters rivals on the street and it initiates a random fight, if he’s holding the baby, there’s a cut scene showing him handing the infant to a bystander before he launches into the fight. It’s those little details that are reasons why I just can’t get enough of Kazuma Kiryu and the Yakuza games.

There will be some who are put off by the off-the-wall side quests and the countless cut scenes with lines of dialogue that help move the story forward, but for me, that’s all part of what makes the series so great. Visually and technically, Yakuza 6 is  the best of the lot with amazing attention to detail when it comes to facial features of characters and the details of the environments. I also like the fat that (apart from the original Yakuza) the audio is Japanese with English subtitles: It just adds even more atmosphere to the game.

Yakuza 6 is said to be the last game of the series featuring Kazuma Kiryu, w hich will be a shame, but what is also a shame is that the Yakuza series isn’t as popular as it should be in the West: It’s a series that deserves more attention from gamers thanks to its deep narrative and strong character development. I can’t recommend the series highly enough but if you’re still on the fence, Sega has released a timed demo of Yakuza 6 that might whet your appetite.

Sayonara, Kiryu-san, it’s been a pleasure knowing you.

Thanks to Five Eight Distribution for the review copy of Yakuza 6: The Song of Life which was redeemed via digital distribution. 

 

 

AKG N60NC noise cancelling headphones: When you want some peace & quiet

 

I have to admit that until I was offered a set of AKG’s N60NC wireless noise cancelling headphones for review, I hadn’t heard of the Austrian manufacturer before. Now, I’m a convert.

Thanks to Mr Google, I now know that AKG is an Austrian acoustics company and manufacturer founded in 1927 by Dr. Rudolf Görike and Ernest Plass, has its headquartered in Vienna, Austria and is now owned by Samsung Electronics through its Harman division (lightbulb moment: Now I know why the earbuds that come with the Samsung Galaxy S9 are “tuned by AKG”)

Comfort is important to me when it comes to headphones (hell, I’m sure I’m not alone in that) and the on-ear N60NCs are comfortable, thanks to a nice amount of foam on the ear cups. They really do cancel out noise, too, handy for when you want to listen to something and not hear the family chattering in the background, or you want to block out office noise (which it does brilliantly).

Pairing to a Bluetooth device, be it laptop or phone, is quick enough thanks to the switch on the right ear cup, and they paired to my MacBook Pro and Samsung’s Galaxy S9 easily. The N60NC build quality oozes quality, right down to the chrome edging around the ear cups and the nice braided 3.5mm audio cable if you like to go old-school and go for wired headphones. There’s also a nice braided USB charge cable.

The N60s folds in on itself to create a tight package and there’s a nice foam carry bag that also houses the USB cable and the audio cable. I think I only used the 3.5mm audio cable once as the headset offers hours of battery life on one charge.

But what is the sound like? Do the AKG N60NCs deliver incredible sound? According to my ears, yes they do. I tested the N60s watching movies off Netflix, playing Yakuza 6 and listening to my Hits of the 80s playlist on Spotify, and the N60NCs delivered every time, throwing back strong bass notes, while handling the mid range with aplomb. Everything just sounded crisp and was a delight. Look, I tried to find something wrong with them but I just couldn’t. I just couldn’t.

In New Zealand, the AKG N60NCs go for between $420 and $499 which, for a decent pair of noise cancelling headphones, doesn’t seem too bad to me, after all you get what you pay for – and with the N60NCs your’re getting top-notch sound and great noise cancelling properties.

Just the ticket for when you want to drown out the world, eh?

Some minutes of me playing Rare’s Sea of Thieves & some initial thoughts

Sea of Thieves is an interesting game.

When it’s played with players that chat amongst themselves so you can co-ordinate who does what in a quest (“Hey, WIbblewobble42*, set the sail angle”,  “Consolegrindr4434*, man the cannons: I see a ship on the horizon!”,  “Oi, F3nd3r B3nD3r3323*, repair the ship!!), it can be super fun and incredibly rewarding, but when players don’t chat amongst themselves and there’s no communication – or you’re taking to the high seas on your own –  it can be a frustrating, often, lonely experience.

Sea of Theives, as it was designed by Rare, is a game that is best played with friends – and friends you know, I’ve decided. If you don’t like MP games and don’t have a good crew with you, it’s a frustrating experience. It looks good, though: I’m playing on my PC via cross-play ( I don’t currently have an active Xbox Live Gold membership which is needed to play Sea of Thieves) and I have to say I’m loving the cartoon-ish art style. The sea, too, is perhaps on of the best looking seas I’ve seen in a video game in a long time, with rolling waves that bounce your ship around.While I’m running an old nVidia GTX660Ti (3Gb of memory) I’m managing a fairly solid 30 frames a second at legendary settings and 1080p. Of course, I could increase the FPS if I drop the resolution.

A couple of times I’ve joined crews and despite me having voice chat – one player confirmed that he could hear me – there was no chat, even though I was talking. I guess not everyone wants to chat in Sea of Thieves but it made for an awkward quest. There was no coordination in what was happening, apart from one guy – the same one who kept on running up to people at the start and saying (in a rather annoying voice) “Do you have a voice box? Do you have a voice box?” – and the in-game chat, which lets you message with generic commands like “Ahoy”, “Man the cannons”, “I’m low on health”, that sort of thing.

Sea of Thieves is best played with a crew because if you’re on your own, when you set sail you have to control everything yourself: You have to check the map, you have to set the sail length and angle, you have to raise the anchor, you have to steer the ship and you have to climb the crow’s nest to get a better view on things. It also means if you’re ship gets damaging or is taking on water, you’ll have to go below decks, grab some planks and plug up the holes before you sink.  If you have several people, it means they can (hopefully) each man one of those stations and co-ordinate a voyage. Sea of Thieves is definitely more fun played with other people.

If you die, you’ll be transported to the Ferry of the Damned, a ghost ship where you’ll stay in limbo (for a few minutes) before you can travel back to your ship. Incidentally, if you get left behind by crew mates or can’t find your ship, a mermaid (seemed to be a merman, actually) will be floating in the sea with a flare: click on him and you’ll be transported back to your ship.

Sea of Thieves has lots of promise and I’ve read online some people compare it to PlayStation’s No Man’s Sky. I think that’s unfair, to be honest. Despite early day hiccups through unexpected demand, Sea of Thieves is doing what it says on the tin: Offering sea-faring adventures to online pirates, even if a lot of the quests seem similar. I’m sure Sea of Thieves will evolve over the coming months, as Rare looks at things and sees how players interact with each other.

Microsoft will be pinning its hopes that Sea of Thieves does well to help bolster its – in my humble opinion – rather light exclusive gaming line-up.

*I had a good play session tonight, with a few online companions. With a good crew, that work together, Sea of Thiives is great fun. I also found that there are more chat options: One guy was giving rather long sentences so I’m guessing you can type using a keyboard if you’re on PC? 

*I made all these names up. I didn’t actually come across anyone with those online names. Any similarities to actual online names is purely coincidental and if they actually exist, wouldn’t that be incredibly amazing on my abilities? Cripes, what  if they were actually playing Sea of Thieves as well? 

Samsung Galaxy S9: Your ears will love you long time

 

A  work colleague proudly proclaimed the other day:  “I’m getting one of those phones that you can unlock by doing this” (she then proceeds to contort her face, screwing up her eyes and mouth)

“I’m just going to do this all day with it,”she said. She pull another funny face, this time screwing her lips up in a bizarre fashion.

I step in, all casual like. “Oh, you mean one of these,?” I say, thrusting the loaner Samsung Galaxy S9 I happened to have with me in the direction of her eyeballs.

“Oh, do the face, do the face!,” she implores.

I look at the phone – with a normal face, mind you –  unlocking the screen with the power of my eyes. I have magical eyes, don’t you know? (Oh, and in fairness, it’s not mandatory that you pull a funny face to unlock the phone: You can just user your normal face. Or a fingerprint. Or an old-fashioned PIN number. It’s up to you)

The Galaxy S9 (RRP $1399. There’s also the S9+ model which adds another two hundy to the price tag) is the latest in the Korean company’s flagship smartphone range – and it’s a beauty, to be honest.

My normal day-to-day phone is a Galaxy S7, and it’s alright, but, sorry S7, the S9 blows it right out of the water – then hoovers up all the charred fragments, popping them in an airtight shoe box before burying said box 50 metres underground, never to see the light of day again.

The S9’s screen is nothing short of breathtaking, at least to me (remember my normal day-to-day phone is an S7), with videos and images vivid and bright, and colours really do pop on the panel. The build quality, as you’d expect from a flagship smart phone, is nothing short of spectacular and it really does look beautiful. As you’d expect with a glossy, metallic back plate, though, you’re going to see those fingerprints so I’d recommend you get a  protective case pretty early on.

Compared to the S8, which came out last year and my teenage son got as a replacement for his Nexus 6P which slowly died, there is little to tell the two handsets apart: From the naked eye the only real cosmetic difference is the placement of rear fingerprint scanner: It’s been shifted across a bit. The S9 isn’t a major revamp of the S8: It’s a refinement of that great phone.

I’m not going to get bogged down by technical specs – you can hunt those down somewhere else – but in terms of features, I’m really liking the People Edge feature (where you swipe from the right to reveal your four favourite phone contacts) and haven’t grown tired of unlocking the phone with my magical eyes. The S9 feels really nice in your hand, too.

Samsung is making a big noise about the camera on the S9, especially the super slo-mo feature, which captures the action at 960 frames a second. The NZ division’s launch that I went to in Auckland a couple of weeks ago had 25 S9s set up in a room to capture 5 seconds of action that was then edited into a video that was played to the crowd. Capture stuff included an S9 dropping into a martini glass, some coloured jellies dropping onto a display with someone dusting it with icing sugar and a dance troop busting some moves. I actually missed most of the 5 seconds shooting so it was good seeing it in short film format.

The S9’s takes great photos (I’ve included some I took here)  but I’m not a professional photographer so I don’t really know a good photo from a better one, to be honest. I m just an average Joe with an average Job  taking photos of average things (the dog, the river near my work building, some sport event I went to last weekend).

The slo-mo is a neat feature, but to be honest, I can’t see myself using it much at all, and the AR Emoji feature (which turns a photo of your into an emoji that you can slap onto photos and the like),  seems a bit of gimmick to me but will probably appeal to the social media generation. 

For me, what it perhaps one of the most impressive features on the S9 that isn’t the most talked about is the audio quality – and the fact that the S9 has two stereo speakers featuring Dolby Atmos sound, something the S7 certainly doesn’t have. That for me – using a word I detest – is a game-changer for the Galaxy S range.

Stereo speakers, obviously, means music sounds fantastic and audio in videos and movies sounds, well, fantastic, too. Just how good?

Phenomenal, actually. Home alone one Thursday night, my teenage son and I blasted out 80s tunes from the likes of Flock of Seagulls, Men at Work, David Bowie, The Clash, Michael Jackson, Billy Joel, Toto, REO Speedwagon – and Venga Boys – from the S9 (and his S8: The S9 sounded better, though) and it just sounded magical. It sounded magical. My ears were in heaven!

[Sidenote: Flicking through the sound settings, I noticed there is an option to adapt the sound for music, calls and video with presets for users aged under 30 years old, 30 to 60 years old and over 60 years old. Thanks for thinking of us oldies with “selective” hearing, Samsung.]

Look, if you own an S8, I can’t really see much to gain by upgrading to the S9. Sure you get a better camera and stereo speakers, but the S8 is still a fantastic phone and the differences between the two doesn’t really justify the upgrade. For all intents and purposes, there’s little to differentiate between the S8 & S9. Save it for the S10 (which we all know is already being designed).

However, if you’re upgrading from, say,  an older Galaxy, say an S7, then take the leap, my friend,  without hesitation. It’ll be well worth it – and if  you’re a music lover, your ears will love you long time.

Big thanks to Samsung NZ and its New Zealand PR company Acumen Republic for a loaner of a Samsung Galaxy S9 to review and for flying me up to Auckland (and putting me up in a hotel) for the Galaxy S9 launch. It had blue martinis to drink (not a fan)  and jelly nibbles to munch on. 

Video Wednesday

Note: This was originally planned to be uploaded last night but thanks to some numpty digging through a cable in Sydney, Australia, it impacted on internet in New Zealand, meaning it took hours and hours for the video to actually upload. Things were sorted at 3.30am this morning, apparently.

I’m never going to be a popular YouTuber or Twitch streamer. I’m too old for that sort of thing. I’m an old man, don’t you know?

I don’t have the skills like this young whippersnappers to show-off my gaming chops live to an audience around the world (my ageing old man reflexes means I’d embarrass myself more than anything)  and I don’t have the confidence (or time) to devote to a channel full-time (I have a mortgage to pay off and a trip to Canada with my family later this year to fund).

I’m up with the times, though, and despite having a background in print and online writing, I can foot it with the young players by posting some of my gaming footage on this blog from what I hope will become a regular feature.

The footage will be either console or PC, depending on the game, and it’ll either be something that I’m reviewing at the time or just a game that I’m playing. At the moment I’m making my way through Yakuza 0 (while also playing Yakuza 6: The Song of Life)  but some of the fight finishing moves just lend themselves to videos.

So without further ado, here is a couple of short (ish) videos of Yakuza 0, some hours in where hero Kazuma Kiryu has to take the fight to some enemy yakuza. Enjoy.

Let me know what you think of the video. Is this something you’d be keen to see more of?

NB: I’ll look at posting some Yakuza 6 footage, as well as some of me playing pirate in Rare’s Sea of Thieves (despite not really being a multiplayer gamer and if I can actually find something interesting to do). I’m also hopeful of playing the next God of War game so I’ll definitely post footage of that. If you want me to, of course, dear reader).

Frantics review: Mini-games a plenty

The host of Frantics, The Fox. He cracks a few one-liners but isn’t likely to get a gig on The Chase or Tipping Point anytime soon.

Frantics (PS4),  the latest offering from PlayStation in its Playlink mobile-phone based series, is a selection of 15 mini-games designed to get people who wouldn’t normally play video games – play video games.

You can either play them on your own or – as PlayStation hopes – in party mode, with other people. The games are hosted by The Fox, a game-show styled presenter who will, from time to time, mix things up by calling on a player to do a particular thing. It’s a good way to keep the party atmosphere going and does create some uncertainty on how things will go.

You download the Frantics for PS4 companion app onto your smartphone (either using Google Play or the Apple App Store)  then use it to tilt, swipe, drag and press your way through the mini-games. You use your phone’s camera to take a photo of yourself, which is then displayed in-game.

Winning a mini-game grants you a crown, which becomes one life when you tackled the final mini-game, so the more crowns you have the better your chances of coming out on top as victor. You can also collect coins which can be used to upgrade abilities, which comes in useful.

Most of the mini-games are sports games. In Friendless Runner (an endless running game clone), you use the phone screen to swipe left, right, up and down to avoid obstacles while trying to bump opponents into said obstacles, loosing a heart). It’s fun but might not keep you entertained for too long. A nice touch is when you die during a round (race) you can sabotage a player, lessening their chances of winning.

As a weekend warrior cyclist one of my favourites was Tour de Frantics and there’s a Bomberman-style one and a football/soccer type one and I was impressed by how responsive the phone controls were: They’re simple enough to mean that there’s no confusion while you’re playing the games.

Look, Frantics isn’t going to be for everyone, it’s not ground-breaking and it’s unlikely to hold your attention for long, but it’s a nice addition for people who aren’t into gaming but are keen to game in a party-style environment while using their smartphones.