Monthly Archives: January 2019

Hold your breath, gamers, Metro Exodus is just around the corner

4A Game’s Metro series, which kicked off with Metro 2033 then followed up with Metro Last Night and set in post-apocalyptic Russia, would be one of my favourite FPS series of all time – and two of the most scary, too, with memories of creeping inch by inch forward for fear of something nasty jumping out from the shadows of an abandoned train station or sewer system.

Inspired by the writings of Russian novelist Dmitry Glukhovsky and his Metro 2025 novel, players fill the radiation stained boots of ranger Artyom as he searches for new life in the land laid waste by nuclear war.

In the lead up to the release of the third game in the series, Metro Exodus, Deep Silver and 4A Games have released some three documentaries on the making of Metro Exodus, talking to the development team in Kiev and in Malta. Metro Exodus is out on PlayStation 4, Xbox One and PC on February 15. I can’t wait.

You can watch episode one of the series below:

And as if by magic, you can also watch episode two here, which talks about the 4A graphics engine and the attention to detail in the in-game weapons:

Edifier S2000 Pro active monitor speakers review: Music to my ears

Chinese audio manufacturer Edifier continues to impress with its audio equipment – and it’s done it again with its S2000 Pro active monitor speakers. They’re bloody brilliant.

I was only able to test out the speakers for a week but I was blown away by not only the styling and build quality (that wood finish is just gorgeous but it does make them heavy!) but the speakers blew me away with the sound quality, too.

Edifier says the S2000 Pro speakers are designed for home recording and mixing but you know what: They’re bloody good to play music on if that’s what you want to get them for. Edifier says the speakers are tri-amped at 124watts, and feature 5 1⁄2-inch aluminium diaphragm drivers and a set of planar tweeters which provide “great acoustic range”. Here’s a .pdf about the speakers: s2000proi and here’s a video (without commentary) of the speakers set up at home and me playing Queen’s Bohemian Rhapsody.

I thought a nice attention to detail was that each speaker has four brass feet which means the speakers aren’t resting on a surface (ie table), which in terms means there’s no unnecessary vibrations impacting on the sound quality. Edifier provides a 5m connection cable which means you can place the speakers where they best fit in your entertainment/game console set-up – or wherever you want to place them.

The speakers come with a pretty large, pretty uncomplicated remote which means you can sit back on the couch as you listen to your favourite tunes. You can also change the source using a knob on the left speaker but why bother when you’ve got a fully functional remote? The remote also has four EQ modes: Vocal, Monitor, Classic and Dynamic, which is ideal for gaming and movies (if I’d had the time or thought about it, I would have hooked the speakers up to one of my game consoles and really stirred things up!)

The S2000 Pro speakers can be connected to a sound source either by optical cable, RCA cable or Bluetooth, which is how I tested the speakers out, given the short time I had them. Connecting to the speakers was super easy and I tested the speakers on a variety of songs and soundtracks from my Spotify playlist, which included Paul Leonard-Morgan’s driving soundtrack to the movie Dredd,  a variety of 1979s and ’80s classics,  and one of my standard music testing songs, Queen’s legendary Bohemian Rhapsody. A classic if ever there was one.

The S2000 Pro’s ticked all the boxes when it came to sound quality and cranking them up, especially while playing, Bohemian Rhapsody (to the point of annoying family members who are watching TV in the next room), they fill a room with sound that didn’t distort the louder it got.

To be honest, I’d be happy tossing out our portable speakers and replace them with Edifier’s S2000 units. Sure, they’re not portable so you won’t be able to take them on the boat or on a picnic with your loved one, but around the home, these things punch well above their weight, especially for the price.

Talking of which, the S2000 Pro speakers will set you back around $600-$700, depending on the retailer, which for a set of speakers of this quality and ones that could easily feel at home in your main entertainment set-up, they’re a steal.

Look, if I had one complaint about the S2000 Pro speakers, it would be the plastic covers over the drivers. They just feels cheap, especially at the top. It would be nice to see a more substantial plastic used.

Once again, Edifier has impressed the pants off me with its audio equipment.

 

Stars Wars Republic Commando: One of the finest Star Wars games ever made – but we’ll never see a sequel

Trawling through You Tube the other night, I came across an excellent short by YouTube site GVMERS on the history of the superb Star Wars shooter Republic Commando.

After I watched it, I decided to hunt out my original Xbox copy of the game (which I still have, thankfullyl), Googled whether it would work on my Xbox 360 (it does: Apparently it may work on the Xbox One as well?), inserted the disc, applied a small update patch, and fired it up.

I was transported back to Star Wars gaming nirvana.

Along with FPS Dark Forces, space shooter X-Wing vs Tie Fighter and the wonderful Jedi Knight series, Republic Commando is still one of the greatest Star Wars games of all time. It is, believe me.

dd56a48dbf4f8343759e68efedbcaa74Republic Commando is a great game because it came when LucasArts still made Star Wars games and before the franchise was gobbled up by Disney and the game licenses given to EA to squander. I spent countless hours controlling Kyle Katarn (a stormtrooper who became a rebel fighter) as a burgeoning jedi knight and shooting dark troopers in Dark Forces.

Sure, Republic Commando’s graphics don’t stand up to today’s realistic visuals – where talking about a game that launched on the original Xbox around the mid-2000s – but believe me, the narrative and the game play (set around the time of George Lucas’ second trilogy of movies: Episodes one, two and three) still stand the test of time as you lead a rag-tag quartet of Republic Commandos, each with their own personality (something that is intriguing given republic soldiers are all clones), battling separatist forces on the bug-infested planet of Geonosis.

[Look, I’m not wearing rose-coloured glasses, thinking every single Star Wars game was the second-coming of gaming, because I don’t: There were some real stinkers, but games like Knights of the Old Republic, Dark Forces, the Jedi Knight series and Republic Commando are classics.]

But back to Republic Commando. What makes me love Republic Commando so much as an example of a Star Wars game with a single player campaign done right is that players control one of the Republic’s elite soldiers and it feels so damn badass doing it. The game play feels solid and it’s a nice tangent from the Star Wars movies.

Republic Commando is a game that brings me so much joy despite being years old but I know we will never see a sequel to this amazing game because Disney (and, I guess by extension, EA because it has the SW games license) just doesn’t have any idea what make great narrative-driven Star Wars game. Heck, I’d love to see a re-master of Republic Commando for current-generation consoles and PC. How good would that be??

Disney proved in 2013 that it has no idea what makes a good Star Wars game when it cancelled Star Wars 1313, a game that showed massive amounts of promise in a short 15-minute demo. Sadly, I also don’t have a lot of faith in EA’s up coming Star Wars game from Titanfall developer Respawn Entertainment.

Now, don’t get me wrong: I have the utmost faith in Respawn and Vince Zampella – Titanfall 2 was one of my favourite games of 2016 – but I am seriously concerned that EA will pressure Respawn to forgo a solid, narrative-driven single player campaign (like Titanfall 2’s), making it concentrate on a micro-transaction-laden multiplayer campaign. EA doesn’t care about single player games: All it cares about is MP game that can reap it financial rewards.

Look, I’d like to be proven wrong with Respawn’s Star Wars game – and I really, really hope I am – but I just don’t think Disney and EA care about the narrative-driven Star Wars games, and that makes me sad. Very, very, very sad.

Of course, I’m speculating wildly about EA and Disney and they may surprise us with an amazingly good Star Wars game with a worthwhile single player campaign in the coming years, but I’m not holding my breath.

I guess I’ll just have to keep playing the Star Wars games from the past to get my Star Wars video game fix.

Dead Cells: A frustrating, challenging game that has me hook, line & sinker

Happy New Year to you all, dear readers. This, the first post of 2019, is the first of many this year. I hope you enjoy it.

 

Dead Cells, from indie developer Motion Twin, is a hard game. In fact, it is a very, very hard game, especially for an old man gamer like me!

Yet, Dead Cells is one of the most enjoyable games I’ve played in a long, long time and it has an element about it that despite you dying many times during each play through  – and you will die many, many, many times – you’ll restart again, trying to go further and further each life into the rogue-lite ever-changing world that Motion Twin have created [each time you die, the dungeons are randomly generated so no two are the same, which means you can’t memorise specific paths].

The developers describe Dead Cells as a “rogue-lite, Castlevania-inspired action platformer” and many people describe Dead Cells as a metroidvania-like game but I’m not sure it is, really. Sure, there is a little bit of back tracking as you find the right path to the exit door that will lead you to the next level but by my understanding, metroidvania-like games limit access to other parts of the world by locked doors or obstacles until the player gathers specific items/tools/abilities.

Sure, there are doors in Dead Cells that are locked but they generally get unlocked by a pressure pad or similar so I’m not really sure you can class this game as a metroidvania-like, can you?

What makes Dead Cells interesting is that it has permadeath, and no in-game checkpoints, which means when you die [and again, you will die and die and die], your character gets re-incarnated at the beginning of the dungeon, fresh and ready to begin again. Let me make that clear: You don’t re-spawn at the last checkpoint, you re-spawn at the beginning. As Motion Twin says, “Kill. Die. Learn. Repeat“.

I thought long and hard before buying Dead Cells for my Nintendo Switch. I’d heard people rave about it, saying it was the best game they’d played all year, but I’d also heard about how insanely difficult it was, how unforgiving it was and how maddeningly frustrating it was at times. It sounds, though, I was wise to wait a bit to pick it up on Switch as it suffered frame rate issues at launch, which seem to have been rectified now thanks to a patch which lets you lock the frame rate.

It was a good few weeks [perhaps months?] between me thinking about buying it to me actually buying it. Ultimately, I didn’t want to buy a game that I would die constantly because, well, I suck at games like this.

I fired it Dead Cells for the first time and was proud of myself that I lasted 25 minutes to reach the second dungeon [The Promenade of the Condemned]. The foes didn’t seem too difficult and I got to grips with the controls easily enough.

“This isn’t too bad,” I said to myself. “What the feck were people talking about saying it was insanely hard?”, I said to myself. I then ran into guys with large swords and spikes that I didn’t realise drained health if I stood on them for too long [I know, right? What was I thinking?]. I died – and was transported back to the opening dungeon, having to find the new route to the next dungeon doorway.

But you know what? I didn’t curse. I didn’t scream. I didn’t turn off Dead Cells and go play Full Throttle. I continued on. I made my way through this newly generated dungeon. I was hooked.

I died within minutes, mind you: These new enemies were more brutal and tougher and smarter – One variant carried large broadswords and could telport about  – but I carried on. Dying, respawning, delving deeper.The further you progress, the more secrets, weapons and abilities you unlocked. Statistically speaking,  I shouldn’t like this game but I do. I like it a lot. Well done, Motion Twin, well done.

I was most pleased with myself when I found myself quite a way into the Promenade of the Condemned, entering a rather strange room that featured what appeared to be a garden variety archer. Sadly, he appeared much stronger than the others and when it seemed I had him on the ropes, he morphed into some sort of super archer and, yes, you guessed it, lopped my head off and sent me back to the start!!!

Despite me not buying Dead Cells until almost the end of 2018 – I can’t believe I waited so long to pick it up – it has turned out to be one of my favourite games of the year. Funny how that works, eh?

I’m loving the art style, too, and the intricately animated characters: Dead Cells is a damn good game that, for me, is a stand  out in a year that had a fair few bloody good games.

Right, enough talk. If you’ll excuse me, I’m off to fire up Dead Cells, collect some cells and have my arse handed to me on a plate. Several times, I’m sure, but like the line in that song by Chumbawumba says, “I’ll get knocked down, but I’ll get up again …”