Monthly Archives: August 2017

Uncharted The Lost Legacy: Life without Nathan Drake

The guys and gals at developer Naughty Dog must be sorcerers of some kind because they keep creating magic with the PlayStation when it comes to the Uncharted games.

I mean, man, is there any other game on a console out there right now that looks as good as Uncharted The Lost Legacy? I seriously mean it. It’s as if Naughty Dog has turned up Uncharted to 11 on the visuals scale then added another few notches to the dial just for good measure. Just look at these images captured from the game. See what I mean?

The Lost Legacy is the first Uncharted game not to feature Nathan Drake, the main character of the previous games in the series – and I think it’s all the better for it. This time Chloe Frazer (who you control) and Nadine Ross are front and centre as they explore temples, caverns and ruins in jungle India to find the legendary Tusk of Ganesh. Oh, course, it’s not plan sailing: There’s a fellow treasure hunter and bad guy out to get them – and the Tusk of Ganesh – at the same time!

Gamers familiar with the Uncharted games will feel right at home with the game play, which is a mix of combat, traversal and environmental puzzles, with many of the ones in The Lost Legacy requiring a little bit of thought to crack them. They’re not impossible but with a couple I had to work through things one step at a time before things clicked. That said, a couple of puzzles did frustrate the hell out of me, requiring me to take a break, take a deep breath and come to it later with a clear head. That seemed to work.

Combat is generally solid, although I was frustrated at times when the game seemed to throw loads of enemies at you all at once, often meaning I’d die in quick succession before overcoming the odds. As you’d expect with an Uncharted games, you’ll be guiding Chloe through some jaw-droppingly gorgeous environments that made me second guess that I was playing the game on a standard PlayStation 4. It really does look that impressive.

The story is pretty solid, the motion capture and voice acting outstanding, and there’s a good relationship developing between Nadine and Chloe as they explore deeper and deeper into the jungles, trading one-liners and quips. Naughty Dog seems to be masters at those little things that make their virtual characters seems so real: The way Chloe cocks her head to the side as she plucks a bobby pin from her hair before she picks a log, the way a character brushes their hand along a rock face as they squeeze through a gap, the way they get covered in grime and scratches as the adventure unfolds. Magicians, I tell you, magicians!

At times in the combat I thought enemy numbers seemed to overwhelming (I was playing on normal difficulty) and I died a few times, mainly after I’d mistime a jumps (something that happened quite frequently when it involved rappelling over gaping chasms using a rope), sending Chloe plummeting metres to her death. There are plenty of treasure to collect for those who like to be a completionist when it comes to finding all there is to offer, as well as spots where you can take photos of your adventures that Chloe can view on her smart phone later.

The Lost Legacy was originally slated as downloadable content for Uncharted 4 but Naughty Dog decided it deserved to stand on its own feet rather than become DLC: I’m glad it made that decision. I didn’t miss Nathan Drake once in this Uncharted adventure and it shows that an entertaining romp in the Uncharted universe is possible without the wise-cracking Indiana-Jones like Drake.

Here’s hoping more adventuring from Nadine and Chloe is on the cards. Sorry, Nathan Drake, but I think your days are numbered.

Competition Time:  Thanks to the kind folks at PlayStation NZ, I have one (1) copy of Uncharted The Lost Legacy to give away. The game is PlayStation 4 only so you must own a PlayStation 4 to play the game. I’m not providing a PlayStation 4 for you to play it on.

To enter, simply tell me what legendary treasure you’d love to go on an adventure to find. Post your answer below or post your answer on the Game JunkieNZ Facebook page. The winner will be contacted via email or FB message and the prize delivered to them by PlayStation NZ. The competition closes next Friday, September 1.

Conditions: The competition is only open to New Zealand residents (the disc will be mailed to a New Zealand delivery address); One entry per email entry or Facebook post; The judge’s decision is final.

Uncharted: The Lost Legacy media kit

Uncharted 4 (PlayStation 4) was one of my favourite games of last year: I always like the action that Naughty Dog crafted into the games featuring the likeable rogue Nathan Drake and its Indiana Jones-style of adventuring.

One of the new characters introduced in Uncharted 2,  was Chloe Frazer, a fellow treasure hunter.

In The Lost Legacy, the standalone campaign (which, I’m guessing, means you don’t need Uncharted 4 to play it – but it’ll certainly help with back story), Chloe is on a quest for a famed Indian artifact: The Golden Tusk of Ganesh. In order to find it – and keep it out of the hands of a ruthless war profiteer – she enlist the help of former paramilitary leader turned gun-for-hire Nadine Ross. The pair venture deep into the mountains of India’s Western Ghats to find the ruins of the Hoysala Empire and recover the legendary Golden Tusk of Ganesh.

The Lost Legacy is out next Wednesday (August 23) and will set you back $NZ69.95 (It’s PlayStation 4 only). Any impressions of the game are embargoed until tomorrow but I’m allowed to share photos of the media kit that PlayStation NZ sent me. PlayStation have always excelled at media kits when it comes to its marquee titles – and the one for The Lost Legacy doesn’t disappoint.

Look out for some impressions on The Lost Legacy next week – and details on how to win a copy of the game, thanks to PlayStation NZ.

 

Three cheers for the older gamer!! Hip, hip, hooray … hip, hip, hooray … hip, hip, hooray …

The latest Digital New Zealand 2018 study, conducted by Dr Jeff Brand from Bond University and the Interactive Games & Entertainment Association (IGEA), indicates that 67% of Kiwis play video games, with close to half that number females; 44% of over 65s play video games and average age of the New Zealand gamer is 34.

The study canvassed 807 New Zealand households and 2288 individuals and Dr Brand, lead author of the report and Professor of Communication and Media at Bond University, said mainstream acceptance of video games and an increase in devices has translated to a ‘broad church’ of players.

“Interactive games have become a huge part of our culture and while the key reasons remain playing for fun and to pass time, games increasingly serve other uses. New Zealanders are playing for social connectedness, whether that be with family or friends. They’re playing to reduce stress, to be challenged, to learn, to keep the mind active, or for physical and mental health benefits.”

Many long time readers will know that I’m no longer classed as an average gamer (I’m a fair bit older than 34, I’m sad to say) but it’s pleasing to see that the over 65s make up the largest and fastest growing segment of people new to video games: 44% of those aged 65 and over play video games. I might not still be writing about video games when I’m over 65 but I still hope I’ve got the ability to play!

Ron Curry, CEO of IGEA, said that the sale of digital games in New Zealand grew by a 20 per cent compound annual growth rate in the last three years.

“Digital New Zealand 2018 shows how the state of game play in New Zealand has progressed. Everyone plays, and they consume games just like any other media with 85 minutes the average daily total of all game play. More than that, Kiwis recognise the value of games, beyond entertainment, in the family home, schools, workplaces, health care settings and socially.”

Other findings from Digital New Zealand 2018 included New Zealanders value play for better health and positive ageing, whether that be to improve thinking skills (85%), improve dexterity (76%) or manage pain (52%). Almost ninety per cent say they play to increase mental stimulation, 76 per cent state video games help fight dementia, and 46 per cent agreed playing games can help increase mobility and Half of parents play video games together with their children in the same room. One in four play video games together with their children online, and most parents (86%) have talked with a child about playing safely online.

You can find more about the report and IGEA here.

Hellblade Senua’s Sacrifice in pictures

Update: I’ve added two more images that I took tonight. I set up the images using the game’s in-built photo mode but capture the images in Geforce Experience’s Ansel capture mode.

I’m about three hours into Hellblade Senua’s Sacrifice & I’m really liking it. A lot. I don’t regret taking the plunge and pre-ordering it.

The combat is visceral and solid,  and the audio is outstanding: Wear headphones if you play it.  Your ears will thank me.

I took some images while I was playing it tonight using Geforce Experience, rather than the game’s in-built photo mode. I didn’t tweak with the settings: Just capture them with the default settings. I’ll take more as I play.

Enjoy

Hellblade Senua’s Sacrifice: A trip into the mind

I took the plunge over the weekend and pre-ordered Ninja Theory’s Hellblade Senua’s Sacrifice from Steam (it’s also available on PS4). It cost me $35.99, not unreasonable for a game from a studio known for games like Enslaved Odyssey to the West,  Heavenly Sword and the DmC (Devil may Cry).

While I’m not usually a fan of pre-ordering games – I don’t think it’s a practice we should encourage – I was OK with this one. It was from a developer whose games I have enjoyed in the past and with Hellblade, Ninja Theory is trying something different by tackling the difficult subject of mental health.

Plus, it’s only available digitally, meaning no manufacturing costs and it it was only $35. I would have been less sure of taking the risk on it if it had been $60. Or $100 (and to show how tight I am about how much I spend on games: I went with PC because it was cheaper than on PlayStation 4, despite the fact that my PC’s graphics card fell under the recommended specs).

The game unlocked on Steam this morning and I started downloading it before I left for work.

This isn’t a review: I’ve only played it for about 1/2 an hour and haven’t even touched the sides of what the game is but so far it’s a harrowing tale into the mind of Senua, a young warrior battling with her inner demons in a game steeped in Nordic and Celtic mythology. It’s game world is dark and gritty, with a real sense of uncertainty about what is going on, and the game play is a mix of combat (with fast and heavy strikes), with Senua squaring off against the manifestations (and voices) in her head, and simple environmental puzzles that shouldn’t stump you if you know what you’re looking for.

Early on in the game, Senua fights a battle that is unwinnable but is infected by black tendrills on one of her arms from that point players are told that the tendrills will spread with each failure (I take that to mean with each in game death) and once the tendrills reach her head, it’s game over and the game starts you from the beginning, wiping your save game. I take that to mean if you die too many times, the game imposes permadeath on you, forcing you back to the beginning. It’s a bold move by Ninja Theory but one that was perhaps done to make Senua’s fight with her demons that more real and permanent.

Graphically, the game looks really nice with a moody atmosphere and harrowing sound design. I needn’t have worried about my GPU, either: Using the high graphics presets, I’m getting a stable 35 to 40 frames per second. The game actually started the game with the graphics presets at Very High by default, which still game me a pretty solid 30FPS, with the odd dip here and there. I’m happy with that performance given the age of my GPU.

Ninja Theory reckons Hellblade is between six to eight hours in length: Suits me. My time for gaming these days is precious so experiences that are short and sweet are just what I’m after.

I’m intrigued by Hellblade and what Ninja Theory are doing. I’ll let you know how I find it once I’ve gone deeper into the rabbit hole.

 

Splatoon 2: Ink-splatting squids

I never imagined that being a squid that splats ink on everything around it would be entertaining. It is.

Caveat: I didn’t play the original Splatoon on the Wii U (I don’t own a Wii U) so I have no opinion on how it compares to the original game (I’ve read some reviews say it’s essentially the same game with a few tweaks). I went into Splatoon 2 fresh – and I liked what I saw.

It’s bright aesthetic and quirkiness just makes you smile when you start it up and splatting things with different colours of squid ink proves strangely cathartic in a gaming landscape littered with shooters that dismember limbs and spill buckets of claret in fast-paced arenas. Online matches are also less than five minutes in length so the game is perfect for pick-up-and-play sessions when you’ve got a limited amount of time.

The game’s Turf Wars mode has you use a variety of ink-splatting weapons to try to cover as much territory on the map with your ink before the timer runs out. It’s fast paced and frantic, with players wielding dual pistols, giant paint rollers and sniper rifles as battle to ink as much of the play area as they can. With battles less than five minutes, you’ll be splatting, running and jumping as you try to gain ground against the enemy.

A nice game play mechanic is that you can sink into your ink colour, transforming into a squid. Not only does this let you move faster around the map (provided you stay in the ink) it also refills your back-pack mounted ink reservoir – and makes it harder for enemies to spot you.

The single player mode is a good taster for the online play, teaching you the game play mechanics as you test out a variety of weapons and environments in a mission to rescue imprisoned zapfish from the evil Octo-whatevers. Single player missions take anything from 10 minutes to 20 minutes to work though, again just perfect if you want t few minutes of ink action.

There’s a new online mode called Salmon Run, where players team up to “defeat hordes of salmon and collect their eggs”: So it’s Horde mode like in Gears of War but with bright colours.

The online maps are rotated every two hours so maps you played at 10am won’t be available at 2pm and I guess Nintendo have done it this way to keep things fresh and players interested. Time will tell if it works. I’ve also heard that it’s a nightmare (to say the least) to use chat while playing the game, forcing players to jump through hardware hoops just to get the feature working. I didn’t even bother, to be honest.

For me, Splatoon 2 is a hit on the Nintendo Switch. It’s just another indicator that Nintendo is killing it this generation with games despite not having the most powerful console.