Monthly Archives: December 2017

PUBG: Early Access shenannagins on Xbox One

Player Unknown’s Battlegrounds has been on PC for a year, I think, so it comes as no surprise that it has now come to Xbox One, thanks to the financial backing of Microsoft.

The idea behind PUBG is simple: 100 players parachute onto the battleground and every few minutes the play area shrinks, reducing the active zone. If you’re outside the active play area when it’s shrunk, you’re health starts dropping rapidly unless you can get back inside the play area. PUBG is last man standing. Kill or be killed. Shoot someone in the back or be shot in the back yourself. You know the drill, soldiers.

I finished my first game 33rd, despite not having any idea on how to reload my weapon (hold X, I found out after bothering to read the control scheme details). I didn’t do much better subsequent games. I just tended to skulk around, picking up weapons, clothes and ammunition until someone would eventually creep up behind me and shoot me.

As I played more games, I could see why people like it: The Xbox One port is a bit rough around the edges but it has a quality about it that I can see why certain gamers find it appealing. I’ve played the odd game but it’s not my go-to game and it’s not a game I’ll see myself playing regularly. At the moment, there’s not really a lot to do in the game itself: You pretty much just run around a lot, shooting people, picking up supplies and, if you’re me, hope for the best. It doesn’t have an on-screen mini-map, which means you can see where the other players are, which makes things more tense.

I talked earlier about the game intriguing me and mostly that’s because it is quite tactical in that right from the start you have to decide where you will land on the game map: Will you jump out of the plane and land in an area with lots of buildings, where there is likely to be lots of weapons and gear – but also, perhaps, other players – or do you land on the outskirts of the map, where there isn’t much and hope you’ve landed inside the play area? It’s things like that that make PUBG interesting.

PUBG is in Early Access on the Xbox One and it has a long way to go until it’s finished but it’s good to see that an effort is being made to update it and make it more playable. When I first played it, the frame rates were a mess, especially when the plane flies over the island before you jump out, with textures suddenly appearing on objects after you’ve approached them. It may just be me, but I think the control scheme leaves a lot to be desired, too.  I see some video game outlets have given it Game of the Year: personally,  I can’t see it myself but each to their own, right?

It’s glitchy as hell, too, but that is to be expected being Early Access: My son spawned inside a storage area, trapped between two boxes. Another player spawned beside him and pummelled him to death. I’ve heard stories of stairs materialising behind players, trapping them inside. I can’t see myself playing it for months but at least it’s being updated regularly to iron out the bugs.

I’m sure PUBG will do well on Microsoft’s console, but if you’re looking for a more polished Battle Royale game, if that’s your game of choice, I’d take a gander at Fortnite as well: It’s got a really neat aesthetic, is much more solid, I haven’t heard of anyone being stuck behind stairs so far and, it’s free.

I can see PUBG improving over time but I can’t see it being a game that I’ll play a lot of. I suck at online games to start with but mainly because at the moment there’s just not a heck of a lot to do except run around fields and search through buildings. That’s not my kind of game.

This will be the last post for 2017. Thank you so much to all the loyal readers who have stuck with me and read my ramblings. I really do appreciate it, especially when there are so many other blogs out there clammering for your attention and likely do a better job than I do. So, thank you for your support and see you in the New Year. Happy gaming!!!

Drum roll please … the GamejunkieNZ Games I Liked A Lot (this year) awards

It’s about this time of year, video game writers put pen to paper (or digital ink to digital paper) and come up with their “Best of the Year” awards.

Being a small fish in a big games writing sea, I don’t get the publisher support or heaps of games to review but I like to think I’m doing a good job (you likely agree, seeing as you visit this blog)  so I don’t have dozens and dozens of games to pick from. I tend to just round-up the games that I’ve enjoyed the most this year, from the publisers/developers that have supported me,  then decide which ones gave me the most fun.

Before I present my list, I want to thank Nintendo Australia, PlayStation NZ, Xbox NZ, Activision, Bethesda, FiveEight Distribution, PeadPr, and any other company in Australia and New Zealand who has supported me with product/hardware to write about on the blog. I really, really, appreciate it.

So, without further ado, here is The GameJunkieNZ Games That I Liked A Lot awards.

PlayStation exclusive game that I liked the most (two winners): Horizon Zero Dawn/Uncharted The Lost Legacy

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Guerilla Games and Naughty Dog absolutely nailed it this year with their open-world adventures on the PlayStation 4. HZD was a hit with me because of the strong lead character Aloy (and the new DLC was particularly satisfying), while The Lost Legacy proved that you don’t need Nathan Drake to make a great Uncharted game.

Best independent game I played this year (two winners): Hellblade & Thimbleweed Park

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

With Hellblade, developer Ninja Theory – the studio behind the enjoyable but slightly flawed Enslaved: Odyssey to the West – took a risk self-publishing this game – and it was a risk that paid off. It’s a harrowing tale that explores psychosis and the main character Senua’s internal struggles.

Thimbleweed Park, on the other hand, is a classic point-and-click adventure game from famed game developers Ron Gilbert and Gary Winnick, and a game that I backed on Kickstarter and own on two platforms: PC and the Nintendo Switch. It is a love story to games of old with low-res pixel graphics and puzzles that make you think.

Open world game that I liked more than I expected: Assassin’s Creed Origins

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Assassin’s Creed Origins was the first AC game I’d played since the enjoyable Black Flag and it’s a game that didn’t adhere to Ubisoft’s yearly release cycle: A decision that has paid off for the publisher. It doesn’t stray that much from the tried-and-true formula but Origin’s is a game that really grew on me the more I played it, much of that thanks to likeable lead character Bayek and the setting of ancient Egypt. Plus you could climb the pyramids of Giza: What’s not to like about that?

First Mario game I’ve ever finished: Super Mario Odyssey

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sure, I’ve played other Mario games in the past but Super Mario Odyssey was the only one that captured me hook, line and sinker and made we want to play until I defeated Bowser and collected as many power moons as I could. Super Mario Odyssey is absolutely stunning on the Switch, especially in portable mode, and it an addictive and captivating game that proves what a great piece of hardware the Switch is.

Best Early Access game I’ve played this year: Astroneer

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I took a punt with Astroneer a year ago and am glad I did. Set on procedurally generated planets, you land an astronaut on a barren planet then mine for resources to help build a variety of vehicles, contraptions and machines. The game has just entered the Alpha stage and the developers are promising new content every month. It’s a game that’s going from strength to strength.

Best gaming hardware: Nintendo Switch

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Woefully underpowered against the Xbox One and PlayStation 4, the Nintendo Switch is the console that took the gaming world by the scruff of the neck and gave it a good shakeup. It helps that the Switch is supported by an amazing library of games, too (Zelda, Splatoon, Deathsquared, Doom, Poly Bridge, just to name a few). Big name publishers have also supported the console, which is good to see, and Nintendo selling 10 millions consoles in nine months is proof that it is a truly remarkable games machine.

The most enjoyable You Tube gaming documentaries I watched this year: Danny O’Dwyer’s No Clip The Witcher/Horizon Zero Dawn/Doom series

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I hadn’t really heard of Irishman Danny O’Dwyer when he started his Noclip crowd-funded video game documentaries on YouTube. A year on, and I can’t get enough of him and his indepth documentaries that tell the tales behind the hit video games. His Doom serious was superb but his The Witcher 3 six-part series was outstanding, giving an insight into aspects of game development that most other websites either gloss over or forget about completely. O’Dwyer is a bright light in a crowded game journalist sea.

 

This is likely the second to last post for 2017 before I head off for a two-week break (I can’t wait) a few days after January 1. Thank you for visiting, I’ve really appreciated it. Have a safe and Happy Christmas, dear readers!

 

Nintendo Switch reaches 10 million sales in nine months & Shu coming to Switch, too

I’m putting this out here right now: The Nintendo Switch is my console of the year, despite being woefully under-powered when compared to the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One (and their Pro and X variants).

With games like Super Mario Odyssey, Death Squared, Doom and Thimbleweed Park on Nintendo’s hybrid console, it really has been one of my gaming highlights of the year. So it’s no surprise to me (or anyone, possibly) that Nintendo has told 10 million Switch consoles in just nine months (the console launched in March this year). The console is a sure-fire success, pure and simple.

Congratulations, Nintendo: You’ve knocked it out of the park with this one!

Sticking with the Switch for a little bit longer, British developer Coatsink (which I have covered here before) is bringing its platformer Shu to the Switch in January, 2018.

Here’s a little about the game: Set across 6 different worlds, Shu combines gorgeous hand-drawn characters and fast-paced action as Shu and companions battle to save their friends from the mysterious and unrelenting storm. Can you outrun the end of the world?

Featuring an original soundtrack, 10 recruitable characters and a plethora of secrets to discover, the Nintendo Switch version of Shu will also include the Caverns of The Nightjars add-on content.

Shu will costs around $NZ15, if my calculations are correct.

 

 

Wacom Cintiq Pro tablet review

Wacom is one of the leaders when it comes to graphic tablets and with the Cintiq Pro 16, it has brought a 4K display to the table.

I have to admit I mistakenly thought that the Cintiq Pro 16-inch graphic tablet was a standalone drawing tablet, meaning I thought it was like, say, an iPad that I could draw onto directly and didn’t need to be connected to a computer. Boy, How wrong I was.

The first problem I encountered was that the Cintiq Pro needs a thunderbolt connection to work, which means I couldn’t use it on my desktop PC, which I had wanted to do. Luckily, my 2014 MacBook Pro had the required connection so I used that instead.

I was really surprised at how many cables there were, to be honest: It looked like spaghetti junction between the tablet and the MacBook as I had to use the supplied mini-display/USB adapter as my MacBook didn’t have any USB type C connections, which is something the Cintiq Pro 16 relies on heavily. Once everything was connected, I downloaded some drawing software and got stuck in. The Cintiq Pro 16 is a high-definition display with a touch sensitive screen, letting you draw directly onto the screening using either your finger or the supplied stylus. Shut the lid of your computer, and your desktop appears on the tablet, letting you open apps and programs.

I was really impressed with the build quality of the Cintiq Pro 16: It’s solidly built from high-quality materials and has a high-end feel to it. The glass screen has a resolution of 3840 x 2160, so it means it’s capable of display a 4K image so for digital artists, that means this is a top-notch screen. The Wacom comes with two metal “feet” that pop out, letting your rest it upright at, oh, about 20 degrees. It’s way more comfortable to use in that position than lying flat on a table or counter.

At the top of the screen are four buttons, which let you change the functions of the stylus/pen. Talking of the pen, I found it really responsive and accurate. It has two buttons which you can use as right or left click when you’re using it in mouse mode.

Overall, the Wacom Cintiq Pro 16 is a great tablet if you’re a digital artists but one downside is the reliance on USB-C for its connection: If you don’t have USB-C connections then you’ll have to put up with a mess of cables between tablet and computer. Priced between $2050 and $26100 in NZ (depending on where you shop), the Cintiq Pro 16 isn’t cheap so it’s  not something you’re going to buy just to doddle on from time to time. This is for serious artists and professional creatives.

For those people, the Cintiq Pro 16 is going to be a welcome addition to your digital workspace. I can see this aimed at professional workspaces rather than budding artists just starting out.

COD World War II review: He ain’t a fan no more

 

This review comes courtesy of my longtime collaborator over the years – and my son – Mitchell. He’s done a few reviews for this site before so here he is with his take on Activision’s COD: WW2. Hold onto your hats, it’s going to get a little bumpy …

 

I have been a fan of the Call of Duty series for a number of years.

2010 brought us the release of Treyarch’s first installment into the franchise, Call of Duty Black Ops. Black Ops was received incredibly well by the gaming community and to this day, remains at the sixth best selling Xbox 360 game of all time.

Black Ops was the first Call of Duty game that caught my attention from the get go and was what ultimately turned me into a COD fan. I had played the earlier games such as MW2 and WAW, but they never really got me into the series as a fan.

A few years later, Treyarch studios released Black Ops 2. The sequel to the game that kickstarted my obsession with the FPS genre and is still my favourite game in the series. There isn’t a single game that I have played that comes close to touching the amount of hours I clocked up playing Black Ops 2. I couldn’t even tell you how many hours I spent on that game. I was addicted: Spending hours on end, hurling abuse at the TV when someone got a “lucky shot” on me or spammed grenades across the map.

Call of Duty has changed a lot throughout the years, though. What was once considered to be a realistic war sim, in which a serious fan base was a part of, has turned into a “twelvie shit show” with jetpacks and laser guns. But hey! That seems to be all Call of Duty is nowadays right? Pre pubescent teens screaming down their mic’s, playing obnoxious music and telling you that they’ve slept with your mum. Welcome to the modern Call of Duty fan base.

The past few iterations of the Call of Duty series have been a severe disappointment, to put it bluntly. The developers stemmed too far from the original premise. Once a realistic war simulator that was somewhat representative of past and present warfare, became an entirely different style of game that was almost Halo-esk, with jetpacks, space warfare and laser guns. Don’t get me wrong, I’m a massive Halo fan and always have been, but when these additions come to a game which was once a realistic war FPS, my mindset changes.

Since 2014, the COD fanbase has been rapidly declining, with old fans of the franchise like myself even jumping ship and finding new games to explore, either still in the FPS area like Battlefield and Overwatch, or in my case, switching to an entirely new genre all together. I have moved on from FPS, outgrown it. I just cannot be bothered with the online community and constantly being disappointed by a series that I once loved. I would much rather play a game with a well-developed story and a character that I can bet behind. Games like Dishonored and Horizon Zero Dawn seem to be where all of my attention goes these days. These games excite and immerse me in ways that Call of Duty never could. Sure Black Ops 2 is my most played game in terms of hours clocked, but that was years ago. Even the power of nostalgia cannot reignite my passion for a Call of Duty game.

That being said, new year, new Call of Duty game. This year brought COD back to its roots, with a game set the middle of World War 2. This did initially get me a little bit interested, just as it did years ago. I experienced something that I hadn’t felt since 2012… excitement for a Call of Duty game. Paired with this excitement came a lot, and I mean A LOT of skepticism, which is only natural for someone who has been let down every year since Black Ops 2.

When WWII was released, this skepticism turned into hope. Hope that I wish I never had, because on boot up, I experienced an array of server issues, terrible spawn timing, ridiculously over-powered guns, supply drops (money grabbing pricks) and of course, screaming 13 year olds. I stuck it through, however, just for a while for the sake of this review. I played the multiplayer for around 10 hours, tried a majority of the weapons and classes, played about half of the campaign and the verdict is that WW2 is not surprisingly, a Call of Duty game. There’s nothing quite like getting shot in the back from a player who spawned directly behind you who then proceeds to teabag your corpse.

The main issue I feel like, besides Activision themselves, is the fact that they returned to their world war 2 roots after abandoning it for so long. This past warfare homecoming, wasn’t the greatest idea. The premise of war has been so over developed in video games and other forms of pop culture. If you have good taste in movies, or are a fan of the depiction of war in visual settings, you will most likely have seen Saving Private Ryan and or the series Band of Brothers, which in my opinion are both absolutely fantastic in depicting the catastrophic and devastating nature that war has not just on countries and nations, but an individual’s psyche as well.

One of the newest portrayals of war, Dunkirk, released this year shows and entirely different side of war. It shows war as being less about mindless goons fighting, and more about survival and the genuine terror of the individuals involved. What I’m getting at is that these depictions have set the bar so high in terms of the accurate portrayals of war, that when Activision decided to return to WW2, it was without a doubt a hit or miss situation. Unfortunately but not surprisingly, again, Call of Duty missed the mark.

WW2’s campaign fails to meet the challenge of creating a well received war story that is new. As well as returning to a past setting, it also feels like Sledgehammer Games returned to outdated game mechanics, with a game that feels like it’s on rails and is riddled with quick time events. It brings nothing new to the table and ultimately negates the “heroic” attitude that they were going for. I honestly don’t know how many more times we can see the American perspective of D-Day. Quite frankly, I am sick of seeing it over and over again. That is my biggest gripe with the game:  We weren’t given anything new at all. We were force-fed the same Allies vs Nazi’s scenario, which is something that we have seen countless times, simply because it is an easy story to tell, with definitive good and evil. Despite its lackluster campaign gameplay, Sledgehammer did get one thing right. I did genuinely appreciate the visual effects within the campaign. The gore and emotions shown by the soldiers was a really nice touch that ultimately helped to make it feel more authentic although it followed the same generic cliche.

Call of Duty WW2, as stated earlier, is unmistakably a Call of Duty game through and through. For some people, that is enough. But for me, I was looking for a lot more. If it was any other game in the COD series, I would not have cared for the campaign or let it influence my review because it’s Call of Duty, and Call of Duty’s main focus is multiplayer, which is quite good, don’t get me wrong, but considering that it is based on the biggest war of our time, I was expecting a lot more in terms of the campaign.

Ultimately, I just cannot be bothered dealing with the fan base or spending a ridiculous amount of time playing a FPS anymore. I’ve gotten older, I have other priorities, COD no longer captures my attention as it did a few years ago.

If cliché war stories don’t bother you and all you care about is playing multiplayer, then you’ll be happy with WW2 and I’d recommend picking it up because in my opinion, in terms of multiplayer gameplay, it is probably the best Call of Duty game we’ve gotten from Activision since Black ops. But unless you don’t mind hearing squeaky screaming and inappropriate calls about your mother, I’d recommend muting that headset.

Thanks to Activision for the review copy