Monthly Archives: June 2016

The Witcher 3: Blood & Wine DLC: Geralt goes out in style

Well, Geralt of Rivea, it’s been quite a ride.

Through three games on a variety of formats, the mutated monster hunter from developer CD Projekt Red has carved a name for himself as a hero and likeable character. Yes, a likeable character as well as a bit of a rogue.

CD Projekt Red have made no secret that this is the last adventure of Geralt of Rivea, and if this indeed the case, it’ll go down as one of the most satisfying and wonderful final appearances ever.

Pwooar, look at all those bright colours. And sunflowers. And Geralt. It's lovely!!

Pwooar, look at all those bright colours. And sunflowers. And Geralt. It’s lovely!!

Where The Witcher 3 was quite dark, both in colour and theme, Blood & Wine is bursting with colour, especially in the opening moments as Geralt rides into Toussaint, a region based on the south of France that is bursting with vibrant colour: Yellows, greens, blues – and that’s just in the armour worn by some of the region’s military. Geralt even gets his own vineyard to chill out in between slaying monsters and chasing beasts.

But make no mistake, this is a Witcher game as Geralt must use all his weapons skill and magic to defeat a foul beast that is terrorising Toussaint and leaving slaughtered corpses in its wake (essentially vampires). Here’s the trailer to give you an idea what to expect:

CD Projekt Red suggests players be at least level 34 to tackle Blood & Wine – and they’re right. It’s a challenge that will keep you on your toes but if you haven’t reached level 34, and you’re happy to discard the character you spent countless hours to craft and refine,  you can use a pre-created character that starts the game at level 34.

Like The Witcher 3, I opted to play Blood & Wine on PC using my ageing but still capable (it seems) nVidia Geforce GTX660Ti. It does an admirable job but I lock the frame rate at 30 and play at a resolution of 1080p. It seemed to be rock solid, with perhaps only the odd frame rate drop from time to time.

Blood & Wine opens, pretty much, with what is a fairly easy battle against an angry troll but it seems to wonderful taking place in a brightly coloured paddock, with blue sky ahead and sunflowers nearby. It almost seems un-Witcher like but things soon take a turn to familiar territory with all manner of foul creatures wanting to rip Geralt a new one.

As if was a while since I’d played The Witcher 3, it took a bit for me to get to grips with the controllers again but soon enough it all felt familiar. I liked that some of the boss fights were far removed from the original game, meaning things felt fresh.

Knights. With brightly coloured armour. And armoured horses. Huzzah!

Knights. With brightly coloured armour. And armoured horses. Huzzah!

There are new weapons, armour, equipment, mutations and even Gwent cards. There’s even the ability to dye pieces of armour to add a bit of individuality to Geralt’s armour (if it’s worn). If this is the final time we’ll see Geralt, I actually think I’m going to miss his dry wit and charm and with Blood & Wine then the developers have gone out all singing and all dancing, which is a great thing.

If you’re a fan of The Witcher and the deep world that CD Projekt Red have created, Blood & Wine is a no brainer. Really, it is. It’s a fitting send off to a magnificent world and a memorable character.  Hopefully, though, this isn’t the last we’ll see of Geralt of Rivea.

 

 

Dark Days is a VR game I will never play – and it’s not why you think

Dark Days is a new game from relatively new developer Parallel Studios, based in France, that released on Samsung’s GearVR headset earlier this week  – and I’ll never play it. It’s probably not for the reason you think, either.

DarkDays-gear-vr-1024x576Dark Days describes itself as a mix between the X-Files and Twin Peaks and has players in the shoes of Jade Lacroix, who checks into a Death Valley motel and suddenly finds things going all crazy when she learns that local residents are going missing.

It all sounds too creepy for me, but friend and fellow GearVR owner Ross McDougall, mentioned he’d downloaded the game so I messaged him, telling him to let me know how it was as I was thinking about picking it up. Depending on what Ross thought, I might download it and play it myself.

So, Ross DM’d me over Twitter on Friday night and his experience helped me make the decision that, yeah, I wasn’t going to entertain the thought of even playing Dark Days. It sounds just too freaken scary for me.

Here’s the conversation that Ross sent through in all its glory. Oh, there are some spoilers about the opening couple of minutes so if you plan to play Dark Days, perhaps stop reading from here.

“First section is you driving in a car.

“”You look at these things to interact with them.

“Horn, glovebox, radio etc

“The character narrating.

“Eventually.

“(And I’m not sure what triggers it).

“There’s a black shadow shaman looking guy with long fingers and a white mask standing on the passenger seat.

“Reaching out to you.

“You only see him once you’re looking the total opposite direction and moving your head back to that area.

I nearly f…… screamed hahaha”.

That’s probably how’d I’d react as well, to be fair. In fact, I’d probably be too scared to turn my head. As soon as I saw the shaman dude I’d probably lose the plot complete. Ross said his wife played the same section – and laughed at it!

Sceenshots_04-1200x630I’ve got no problem with mild horror films and I loved X-Files and Twin Peaks back in the day (I didn’t think much of the recent new X-Files episodes) and while I don’t  go out of my way to watch a horror film, if one’s playing in the background on TV I don’t get freaked.

I think my issue with VR horror games is that because with VR you’re actually inside what is going on, my mind just checks out and tells my body “Nah, mate. I’m outta here.” There’s no way I want to even entertain a  horror game in VR. I’ll stick to space sims or puzzle games, thanks.

Dark Days seems to be getting positive feedback from people who have played it and it’s probably a really good game with jump scares but sorry, Parallel Studios, I won’t be one of the people playing it as I don’t get on with jump scares.

Frankly, I’m just not going to give myself a heart attack in the name of an immersive VR experience.

Here’s the trailer. Who’s with me?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

VR has me hook, line & sinker

20160526_220240When I bought a Samsung GearVR headset, I didn’t really expect that I’d get sucked into the world of VR so much. How wrong I was.

If I’m being completely honest, I thought I’d play around with the VR for a little bit then get bored and move onto something else. Well, I haven’t. VR has me hook, line & sinker.  I don’t even care how silly I look sitting in my lounge room, on my computer desk chair, wearing the headset. I’m just really digging the VR experience.

I’ve got a handful of games for my GearVR: Minecraft (which makes me a little motion sick, to be honest, if I play it for too long), Eve Gunjack, Land’s End, Darket, Esper 2, and End Space, as well as the Netflix app, Samsung’s Internet app and Oculus Video.

I’ve done videos of Eve Gunjack, Land’s End and Esper 2 on this site already (sadly, without audio as the Galaxy S7’s in-built capture utility doesn’t capture audio: I hope this gets sorted soon. In the meanwhile, I’ll have to come up with a solution) and End Space is quickly becoming my favourite space sim. I’ll get footage of that up when I can. I’ve only had Darknet for a couple of days (it’s a hacking game where you have to infiltrate a computer network by hacking nodes with viruses) so I haven’t made up my mind on it yet but I’m liking what I’ve played so far.

I also bought a Bluetooth controller. A controller isn’t a necessity for a lot of  VR games (Land’s End for example) but for some games, Minecraft and End Space tell you a controller is required. It’s good advice. I wouldn’t even attempt to play either of those without a controller (in fact, I’m not even sure you can?).  You don’t have to spend a fortune on a Bluetooth controller, though: I bought a Nyko Cygnus controller based on a recommendation by an online friend for less than $40 from Amazon. It works like a charm and connects to my Samsung Galaxy S7 every time.

I never thought I’d like the VR experience as much as I do. I don’t think VR is a fad unlike 3D. My smart TV can do 3D and I’ve never used that feature once (the two pairs of 3D glasses that came with the TV are still actually in the box they came with). 3D was a fad whereas VR is actually something that I really think will gain more momentum as it becomes more mainstream. Sure, there’s that slight anti-social aspect to it and the weird aspect with you wearing a screen on your face, but as it becomes more mainstream, it’ll seem less weird and less anti-social.

I’ve found that my eyes don’t always play ball when I put on my VR headset: Sometimes things are blurry so I know it’s not the time to go VR but other nights, I can plonk on the headset, fire up Esper 2 or End Space and complete a mission or puzzle or two then be done for the night. I’m happy.

The thing I like about my GearVR is its portability. I can take it with me anywhere and the VR experience is amazing. It’s really hard to tell people what it’s like without them actually experiencing it. Videos give a far better impression but you really need to experience it for yourself to understand what I’m talking about.

Ultimately, though, I want to get a PlayStation VR but, as much as I’d like one Day One, it’s not imperative that I’m one of first adopters. I’m waiting to see if PlayStation announces any bundles for New Zealand that includes a PS Eye camera and a Move controller or two before I commit. [Oh, who am I kidding? Just myself, probably.  I’ll probably buckle in the next few weeks and pre-order a PS VR. Seriously] Hopefully, with its good showing at E3, PlayStation will announce some competitively priced PSVR bundles.

Look, I don’t know how long VR will remain fashionable or whether VR is going to turn us into the passengers on that cruise spaceship in the movie Wall E. You know, where they’re all fat and sitting in automated chairs and always looking at a screen in front of their face rather than looking at what’s around them. Or whether VR will eventually turn into our reality and we never leave the house to go to work or socialise and just live in VR set-ups (was that in the book Ready, Player One. I can’t remember)

Whatever the answers, and where VR will head in future I have no idea but for now, I’m just having fun with the experiences VR is giving me. Even if I do look slightly stupid wearing a VR headset.

 

 

 

E3: The big guns come out to play

Day two of the E3 press conferences before the show proper and Microsoft and PlayStation held their press events. I woke up at 4.25am to watch the Microsoft one and I liked some of the announcements, especially the Project Scorpio console (although I’m tossing up now whether to save for a Project Scorpio console or save for one of the soon-to-be released AMD RX480 graphics cards (and probably a new motherboard to put it in).

Microsoft’s biggest cheers definitely came for the two consoles that had been rumoured but no-one really knew much about. There’s the Xbox One S, which is 40 per cent smaller than the launch Xbox One, has an internal power supply and it supports 4K Ultra HD, there’s the new console called at the moment Project Scorpio which promises “6 Teraflops”of GPU power. There’s a new Elite controller and you can customise your own one-of a kind Xbox One wireless controller but as far as Microsoft’s games went: I thought they were OK but not outstanding. I do like the cross play feature where someone with a game on Xbox One can play someone who is playing the same game on a Windows 10 laptop/PC.

Microsoft had Halo Wars 2 (I loved the first game), Dead Rising 4, Gears of War 4, Rare’s Seas of Thieves (which looks great), Forza Horizon 3 (which is set in Australia!), Recore,  Final Fantasy XV, Minecraft Realms (it was good to see famed developer John Carmack wearing a Samsung GearVR headset for this demo) and The Division Underground. All solid games but nothing really earth-shattering, in my view. That said, indie title We Happy Few looks genuinely interesting as did PlayDead’s Inside (the same developers that created Limbo).

Update: Thinking about things overnight, Xbox has scored a major win in hardware side of things by announcing Project Scorpio.  Yes, it’s 18 months or so until the console will be released (I suspect it’ll be revealed middle of next year sometime) but I’d say announcing Scorpio will really put the heat on Sony and it’s PlayStation Neo console which, I think, is due for release late this year. Microsoft are really gunning to win the console wars and build the “most powerful console ever” and looking at its speaks, it is indeed a powerful machine. It’ll be interesting to see whether Microsoft’s announcement yesterday has PlayStation worried about its Neo.

As far as games go (and let’s face it, that’s why people buy consoles/play PCs), though, for me, Sony won the battle, if there is such a thing. I love both consoles but personally, I felt that PlayStation’s games seemed a little fresher, a little more exciting.

I was pleasantly surprised to see a much older (but a bit of a dick towards his son) Kratos in the God of War reboot, The Last Guardian which seems to have been in development for decades finally got a release date, Horizon Zero Dawn looks incredible, Hideo Kojima’s new game Death Stranding which featured a naked Norman Reedus (from Walking Dead fame) wondering why he’s on a beach,  there was a very Last of Us-esque game called Days Gone which features zombies in an apocalyptic setting, Detroit Become Human (the next game from David Cage) and then there was the PS VR stuff which, frankly, made my eyes pop. I was even enthralled with the Call of Duty VR stuff that I didn’t know was actually Call of Duty until near the end (oh, and I’d easily buy a copy of Infinite Warfare just for the remastered version of Modern Warfare which has, without a doubt, the best COD mission ever in All Ghillied Up). Oh, and there’s a Batman Arkham VR game [breathe, breathe]

PlayStation has a new PS4 coming out called the Neo but nothing was show at its press event. I wonder whether PlayStation will reveal more at the Tokyo Games Show?

Looks, there’s something for fans of both consoles but for me, if I had to pick a console which had the strongest line up of games coming out, I’d put my money on PlayStation. I also liked how most of PlayStation’s press event was game footage and trailers rather than people standing on stage talking.

This is not an exhaustive list of every game announced but just those that caught my attention. Anyway, enough words. Here’s some moving pictures. Enjoy.

 

God of War (PS4):

Horizon Zero Dawn (PS4):

Infinite Warfare (ship assault):

Days Gone (PS4):

Halo Wars 2 (Xbox One):

We Happy Few (Xbox One):

Gears of War 4 (Xbox One):

 

Thoughts on what PlayStation and Xbox showed today?

E3 Day Zero: The day before

E3 (Electronic Entertainment Expo) in Los Angeles has sort of started, with EA and Bethesda holding press conferences today, a day before the big hardware players hold theirs tomorrow.

PlayStation sent through a link for tomorrow’s presser, which starts about 1pm NZ time. You can watch it here (I’d really like it if you did). I’m hoping I can get up for for Microsoft conference but it’s at 4.30am so we’ll see how things go!

I didn’t watch the EA press event (but did watch the Mass Effect Andromeda trailer tonight: I’m impressed and will keep an eye on things) one but did watch some of the Bethesda one (including the cringeworthy opening sequence until the event proper started), and was impressed by what I saw of Dishonoured 2, a game that I’m keeping an eye on.

Here are some trailers of what happened today:

Dishonoured 2:

A reboot of Prey:

EA’s Mass Effect Andromeda:

Titanfall 2:

What are you hyped for from this year’s E3?

Deus Ex Mankind Divided new game play demo

I told myself I wasn’t going to watch anymore game play footage of Deus Ex Mankind Divided until the game’s out later this year,  but, really, I’m only kidding myself: I held off for about six hours then watched it this weekend.

This latest footage shows the city hub area set in Prague, starting in Adam Jensen’s apartment after a terrorist attack that has screwed his augmentations up. Jensen needs to get to Vaclav Koller, an underground augmentation specialist, so that he can have a look at them and help him get back into shape.

It looks the like the game is using the same or a similar engine to Deus Ex Human Revolution so I was a little underwhelmed graphically but it’s not out for two months so plenty of time to go until it’s released.

Deus Ex Mankind Divided is out on PC, Xbox One and PlayStation 3 on August 23.

Navman MiVue 560 dash cam review: Extra eyes on the road

Navman MiVue 560 dash cam ($200)

image001Having a dash cam for my car isn’t something that I’ve really considered having but there will be a segment of the driving fraternity that will find a windscreen mounted dash cam an invaluable item.

Navman have been around for a while and the MiVue 560 packs a lot of features into its small package. It has a 2.5-inch touch screen, can record during both day and night with its 130 degree wide-angle lens that records in 1080p high-definition to a microSD card (which you have to buy separately) and also lets you take snap shots at the press on an on-screen icon. It also has a parking mode that starts recording if your car is hit or damaged while parked. According to Navman, the camera has six glass lens to optimise the quality of the video in all light conditions and attaches to the inside of your windscreen using a suction cup. It held it in place securely.

The dash cam saves videos in H.265 format but it’s not a in-car GPS, though (although it does use GPS tracking) so you can’t plot your route and get it to give you turn-by-turn direction.

Oh, and it also records audio from inside the car so be warned: Playing back a video I heard my voice singing along to a song on the radio!

I used the dash cam quite a bit over the past few weeks and yeah, it does what it says on the box: It records your journey from A to B. It seemed to start recording as soon as I plugged it into the cigarette lighter (that powers it)  and, thankfully,  the videos it recorded were boring and uneventful. Just how it should be. No road rage. No parking mishaps. No irrate horn tooters.

The MiVue 560 is one of those pieces of kit that you don’t have to have and isn’t a necessity for every driver. I don’t see it as a must-have but if you’re professional driver, a travelling sales person or someone who drives a lot for their work, I can really see the benefits of having one of these in your car.

If you rely on driving for your living (ie taxi driver, truck driver, courier), I can see a dash cam like the MiVue 660 being worth its weight in gold, especially if you are involved in an accident or altercation and need video evidence that you weren’t at fault.

I see a dash cam being like the rear camera I have for my bicycle: You hope that they don’t capture an incident but it’s an insurance policy just in case something does happen.