PriceSpy’s tips for Black Friday

So Black Friday is upon us (well, Black Friday week, it appears), and PriceSpy, the fully impartial price and product comparison site, has some tips for getting the best deals – and what it thinks will be the top game selling on one of the biggest sales days around.

Before gamers rush to the malls to snap up the deals being offered by retailers, the pricing watchdog is encouraging shoppers to carry out pricing research ahead of people buying and to look out for products that increase in price across the big sale days.

First off, here’s the top games PriceSpy things will be most popular in the Black Friday sales:

According to new pricing insights released within PriceSpy’s new Black Friday Report, almost a fifth (18 per cent) of all products listed on PriceSpy reduced in price by at least 10 per cent or more on Black Friday last year. But, 12 per cent of products also received a price hike on the sales day (Black Friday vs to 1 November 2020).

And if you’re tempted to shop early this year, especially with shipping delays affecting product
availability and customer demand skyrocketing for items like graphic cards, consumers should be wary that not everything is necessarily cheaper.

Liisa Matinvesi-Bassett, New Zealand country manager for PriceSpy, says: “Our pricing data found almost one in 10 (eight per cent) of products listed on our website increased in price before Black Week last year, to then get discounted on Black Friday, making the sale appear better than what it was.”

So, how can shoppers seek out the best deals around? Here’s PriceSpy’s top sale shopping tips:

Check out the competition
First things first – take time to check if an offer really is as good as it sounds by sussing out the
competition. Is the same game, console or controller available at an even better price elsewhere? Using the PriceSpy app will help you do this, as it provides access to thousands of prices and products instantly.

Don’t get confused by the big discounts
Even if the product you are looking to buy is being advertised with a price drop, don’t take the
retailers word for it. Use a price comparison site or app, like PriceSpy to check out the product’s price history. If the deal isn’t as good as what it should be, we encourage people to be prepared to walk away.

Preparation is key
The best chance of finding a good bargain comes from preparation. If shoppers know in advance what they are interested in and have a rough idea of the price, they’re less likely to get carried away and buy the wrong thing during the sales event. Matinvesi-Bassett says: “When it comes to making the most of Black Friday, preparation is key. Whether shopping in-store, or bargain hunting online, shoppers should research items they want to buy well in advance rather than splashing out on a whim.

“The PriceSpy app and website is designed to help consumers conduct research quickly and easily. They can even check out delivery costs, delivery times, whether products are in stock and for online shopping, whether click and collect is available. It couldn’t be easier.”

Guardians of the Galaxy review: A surprise that came out of Knowhere

I didn’t expect to enjoy SquareEnix’s Guardians of the Galaxy game as much as I did.

Hell, I didn’t just enjoy it, I loved it – and that surprised me for a game that, quite frankly, I hadn’t really paid that much attention to until it was released and I saw other people playing it: Then I became interested.

You play as Peter Quill, or Star Lord as he likes to be called, the leader of the self-proclaimed Guardians of the Galaxy. Based on the Guardians of the Galaxy comic book series and not the Marvel Universe movies,l I have to admit it took a few moments for me to get used to the characters not looking like their movie counterparts – and you know what? I actually think I now actually prefer the game’s versions of Star Lord and Gamora!

The video game opens – which is single player only: There’s no multiplayer – with the Guardians visiting the Quarantine Zone and Quill and Rocket inadvertently freeing an evil entity that kicks off a chain of events which leads to it wanting to consume the galaxy, working through a religious cult known as the the Universal Church of Truth and its leader Grand Unifier Raker. It’s up to the Guardians to, well, save the galaxy.

Visually, the game looks excllent [I played it on Xbox Series X], with planets bursting with colour and detailed locations like the Quarantine Zone, Knowhere, Seknarf 9. The soundtrack deserves special mention, too, and is frankly kick-arse with some truly outstanding 80s hits, including Rick Astley’s Never Gonna Give You Up, Turn Me Loose by Loverboy, Don’t Fear The Reaper by Blue Oyster Cult, Relax by Frankie Goes to Hollywood and, personal favourite, I Ran by Flock of Seagulls. It’s Peter Quill’s ultimate mixtape!

Guardians of the Galaxy (the game) also has great writing and a narrative that is both engaging and humourous, with some truly laugh-out loud moments, much of that thanks to the outstanding voice work that really brings life to the characters. [It also has some of the cutest video game labrador puppies I have ever seen.]

As you’d expect with a game featuring heroes, there’s plenty of combat, with Star Lord and fellow Guardians Gamora, Rocket, Groot and Drax the Destroyer (and Kimmy the Llama) each possessing special abilities and talents. During combat, Quill can order his team mates to perform specific moves or abilities mid-combat, which can often prove incredibly helpful in turning the tide in frantic battles, especially against larger foes [all the abilities have a cooldown timers, so keep that in mind].

Your team mates can also help during navigation of the game world: Groot, for example, can use his branches to create a path across chasms; Drax can lift heavy objects and smash through walls; Gamora can slice through obstacles and boost Quill to hard-to-reach places; and Rocket can hack control panels and crawl into confined spaces.

An interesting mechanic during battles is the team huddle, where Quill can potentially grant each team member temporary invincibility if he is successful in delivering a rousing speech to spur the team on. At key points during the game, decision that Quill makes, can impact on the narrative further down the line and determine how the team will feel about him at certain points.

I really enjoyed played Guardians of the Galaxy and if I had any gripes it would be that the combat becomes a chore near the end of the game, especially during the lead up to the finale.

The lead-up to the game’s final boss fight was drawn out a little too long for my liking, with a constant stream of enemies to fight and one boss who was a veritable bullet sponge.

I also wasn’t a fan of the space combat sections: I found controlling the Milano incredibly frustrating but thankfully those segments are short and far and few between.

Guardians of the Galaxy came out of – excuse the pun – Knowhere for me and I’m truly glad I played it: It has a narrative that has some truly heart-felt moments, despite getting repetitive near the end. Definitely one of the best games I’ve played all year.

All I need now is for the team behind the game – Eidos Montreal – to get started on the Deus Ex game featuring Adam Jensen that we’re all waiting for.

C’mon, you know you want to.

Thanks to BandaiNamco’s New Zealand/Australia PR team for the game code [Xbox Series X, finished the main campaign, collected lots of stuff, contemplating New Game +].

Riders Republic: Extreme open-world mayhem

Riders Republic scratches the itch left from extreme sports games of yore like Ubisoft’s Steep and EA’s SSX.

In fact, Riders Republic comes from developer Ubisoft Annecy, the same studio behind Steep so they share a lot of commonalities but whereas Steep focused on winter sports with snowboarding and extreme skiing, Riders Republic adds a variety of extreme sports to the mix, such as mountain biking and rocket backpacks, creating a world full of unbridled craziness and it’s the perfect pick-up-and-play for a little bit game.

Set in a sprawling American landscape full of snowy mountains, woodland trails and clear blue skies, Riders Republic drops you in an extreme sports paradise with a central hub area that acts as a base. The tutorial is close to an hour but stick with it as the game opens up once that is out of the way and you get much more freedom.

Like all open world games, you complete events to unlock more events and progress through the ranks and performing tricks and stunts earn more experience points which helps unlock more equipment and gear.

As a cycling fan, I tended to take part in a lot of biking events – both downhill mountain biking and road – and there are a lot of nice well-known brand mountain bikes to unlock (the vast majority from brands I’ll never afford) and the events are a lot of fun, although quite unforgiving at first as you get to grips with the trails and the control scheme, which proves a little unwieldy at times.

Probably the biggest draw card for Riders Republic, though, is once you’ve gained access to several sports and get to the real meat of the game, you can switch disciples on the fly.

It works like this: You’re bombing it down down a mountain trail on your mountain bike. You back flip off a cliff face – then mid-free fall bring up the sports menu, select the rocket pack then bammo, roar off through a nearby canyon.

That’s where the real fun in Riders Republic lies and it’s seamless (the game also has a rewind function that will let you correct mistakes as you an see from the video below after I initially crashed into the ground while trying to transition from jet pack to mountain bike).

Being able to change disciplines instantly brings a new dimension to the game and it means you can mix up the game play, keeping things fresh. You can also race around a track riding an ice cream bike as well, if you like!

There are also things called mass events where the online avatars of other players all take part in one event and I can’t say I am a fan. I’d describe them as chaotic and messy. It’s you and the avatars of 63 other competitors (think ghosts rather than real-life people) battling it out for position as you compete a variety of disciplines.

I got frustrated most times I took part in a mass event as my rider was jostled and bumped from the middle of the pack to the end because there were just so many participants in such a tight space. I really didn’t have a lot of fun with them so generally stuck to the solo play

Look, Riders Republic isn’t perfect but it’s sure to scratch that itch for those extreme sports fans looking for something to fill the void left by Steep and SSX.

How the COVID pandemic reignited my love for Bandai Star Wars models

Last year, before New Zealand went into lock down due to the COVID 19 pandemic sweeping the world, I bought a Bandai kitset model of Boba Fett’s Slave 1. My intention was to build it during lockdown. For those unfamiliar with Bandai’s kitsets, they are meticulously detailed and snap together – no glue required – and really are top-notch replicas of Star Wars vehicles.

Anyway, best laid plans and all, I ended up working all through lock down so didn’t find the time to build the model. It sat in my study, forlornly until July this year when I decided to build it and it has rekindled my love of building kitset models.

I’ve always been fond of Star Wars models: As a teenager who grew up on Star Wars I built a kitset X-Wing, Snowspeeder and All Terrain Armoured Transport (AT-AT), the Imperial army’s tank-like troop transporters used on the snow planet of Hoth. With my father’s help, I constructed a plywood base and we shaped plaster of paris into snowy hills, positioning the walker and the scale sized snowspeeder that came with the kit into a diorama.

I adored that kitset but, sadly, when we moved from Wellington to Christchurch, the less-than-careful removal company managed to damage it, meaning it had to be tossed out.

I’ve also always been a long time fan of Boba Fett, the galaxy’s most feared bounty hunter, despite his scant few minutes across the entire original Star Wars trilogy. It seemed fitting then to buy a Slave 1 kitset and set about building it.

This is my journey of the build using pictures I took as I progressed. As I mentioned earlier, it has rekindled my love of kitset models and my dear wife, seeing the enjoyment I had from building Slave 1, bought me my cherished AT-AT for my recent birthday, along with Lando Carlrissian’s Millennium Falcon from the movie Solo.

I’m watching YouTube videos to learning better weathering techniques and I’ve already started the AT-AT – but I’ll show that (if you’re interested) in a future post.

So, here we go …

The build

A tiny Boba Fett inside the main cockpit. I decided not to paint the figure as frankly my eyesight wasn’t good enough to do it. I also didn’t paint the interior of the cockpit. I have since bought a hobby magnifying set that will make painting fine details much easier.
The underside coming together nicely. Bandai’s kits are incredibly detailed with intricate pieces. I had to glue a couple of pieces on as they wouldn’t snap in place properly.
The underside complete, with the stabilisers in place.
I wasn’t entirely happy with the “weathering” effect here, so I eventually ended up covering it with Tamiya nato brown to hide the grey. My weather is improving but still has a long way to go.
The final model painted and weathered so it appears battered and worn after years of hardship.
My painting needs improvement but I’m generally happy with it as a first crack after so many years of not building kitset models.
I used a mixture of Tamiya cockpit green & olive green for the paint weathering, with Tamiya nato brown for the underside. I used Tamiya yellow green for the stabilisers. I dirtied up the paint work using Mig Ammo’s starship streaking wash.

Gamejunkie chats … Far Cry 6

It’s time for another Gamejunkie chats, a fairly regular series where I chat about a game I’ve been playing with a fellow gamer colleague and see what each of us thinks of it.

My co-reviewer this time is writer and reviewer Dylan Burns, who is no stranger to the site having written reviews for me before.

Our game of discussion this time was Far Cry 6, Ubisoft’s latest in the long-running open-world series. Read on to find out what we thought of it.

Gerard: I have to say I haven’t played a Far Cry game for some time, perhaps since Far Cry 3. I kind of bounced off the series’ “Do all the things” game play where it just seemed to overload you with things to do. I’ve found that with previous Ubisoft games, too, so I wasn’t really sure what to expect this time around.

This one, from what I’ve played at time of writing, seems to have all the hallmarks that a Far Cry game should: complete missions, collect items, clear out security posts/camps to earn rewards and gain resources, upgrade weapons via workbenches, climb towers to … survey locations for an assault. So far, so Far Cry, really. 

Something different is that you do have a pet alligator called Gaupo, though, that you can order to specific points and harass people. That was quite neat. There also seem to be random events where rebels will be taking on republican troops and I really wasn’t sure what to do with those: Was I supposed to help the rebels or do I just carry on? I wasn’t sure whether there was any material reward for getting involved. What were your initial thoughts, Dylan?

Dylan: I couldn’t help but laugh at the over-the-top, crazy shit that happens as I just try to walk across the world. The player is constantly the moving eye of a storm around which rabid animals attack, factions battle metres away and all other manner of busy, distracting events. In a way, this is a signature, but it’s a rough one that is clearly modelled on the Rockstar open world.

However, Rockstar worlds have one fundamental difference in that they exist for the player to engage with, whereas Far Cry 6’s world engages with the player, whether they want it or not. It becomes a question of whether you are okay with engaging with action for action’s sake or if, like me, you realise that there is little meaning to all the mayhem. Without any discernible benefit to engaging with these fights, I simply ignored them. Loot comes in boxes and there’s no XP or skill tree, therefore there is no point beyond action itself.

I was initially confused by the new ammo system. Basically, enemies are vulnerable to certain types of ammo – soft rounds, armour-piercing rounds and so on – and you kill enemies faster if you shoot them with those rounds. This requires you to mod your guns so that you ideally have one of each type equipped. You also need to scan enemies in order to discern their weakness. What I found annoying about this is that I would often forget which gun had which type of ammo, although this does get easier the more you play. I still haven’t quite gelled with the system, though. It becomes almost not worth switching to a more powerful gun unless you have enough resources to create the mods at a workbench. The system should allow you to keep all mods and apply them to any weapon you want equipped.

What I did enjoy are the treasure hunts. They were my favourite part of 5 and they highlight how well Ubisoft can create lengthy environmental puzzles. I’d like just a whole game of these, to be honest. It doesn’t seem like there are too many of them in Far Cry 6, though, which is a shame, because otherwise everything feels almost exactly the same, mechanically, to what we have been playing for quite a few iterations now.

Gerard: I thought the new ammo system confused things a little, to be honest. I started equipping specific weapons with the specific ammo required but eventually just used whatever weapon I had available. It was almost putting a realistic bent on a game that is clearly reveling in its over-the-top, comic book action and not meant to be taken seriously. I mean, you can strap a weapon to your back called the Supremo that fires rockets & is great for clearing out large encampments (and burning drug fields). Far Cry 6 has those moments that make you think “Yeah, this is full of crazy!” 

I agree with you on the feeling of the game: It felt like a Far Cry game, to be honest: Nothing less, nothing more. That will please fans who want more of the same but for those gamers who have perhaps left the series and are hoping for something new or innovative to draw them back in, I don’t think they’ll get it with this.

Dylan: It just feels to me like something without any direction. For instance, the game pushes you to try and scout places that you need to enter – look for alarms etc. Stealth is clearly meant to be an option. Then your pet or companion will just charge in, completely stuffing any plans up. That said, I probably had more fun just shooting the crap out of everything than trying for stealth, but the fact remains that the systems in place definitely feel like they’ve been collated from prior games and whacked into a Cuban-esque setting.

Were you confused when the game plonked you into some kind of base camp, in third person? I couldn’t work out which missions were main ones – I kept working through seemingly endless side missions that rewarded me with points to upgrade a camp I had no desire to invest in.

Gerard: I get it that stealth is supposed to be an option – I think that is why they get you to scope out enemy camps beforehand – but as you said, it was often just easier to go in guns blazing than try and Sam Fisher it. I actually found during one mission – and I’m not sure whether it glitched out or what – but I was picking off enemies from a high vantage point (including some particularly tough medics) and as approached the camp’s entrance I suddenly got a black screen – thinking I’d triggered a failed state – only to be greeted with a “Captured” on the screen, telling me I’d succeed. I wonder whether my pet companion had just gone in and dealt with the remaining two enemies? It was strange.   

The third person seems to be used for wandering around larger camps and then when you use the Supremo but, yeah, it did kind of feel jarring, especially when the Supremo one kicks in and you suddenly see a crouched Dani as the rockets fly from the weapon. I would have preferred the third person view while on horseback, to be honest, as I got motion sickness riding a horse in first person – plus it seemed really hard to accurately steer the beast. 

Dylan: Funnily enough, I preferred horses to vehicles as you can use them to go through tracks and trails, thus avoiding the checkpoint-riddled roads. It got to the point for me where it felt like I was mired moving to way points. I did not want to engage, I wanted to travel and enjoy the scenery and not be drawn into pointless conflict.

Overall, I just felt a bit overwhelmed by the size of the map and the knowledge that progression would repeat for each region. Far Cry 6 did not feel like a game for me, but one for someone with enough time to chew all of this content up without desiring depth. The story was okay and Giancarlo Esposito’s bad guy (Anton Castillo) is appropriately villainous. It was just not . . . my cup of tea. Maybe something for when I’ve got a couple weeks’ leave and just want to mess around without consequence …

Far Cry 6 is absolutely a decent modern Far Cry game that leans into its own pedigree. The map is massive, the action relentless, the loot ubiquitous. If you want more Far Cry, this delivers. But it is also very much the same as previous games, just with a Caribbean overlay. It will appeal to many, I just found it personally uninteresting. Given it’s tens of hours of content, however, I am certain that at some point I will crave some popcorn gaming and this is the kind of thing I will turn to.

Gerard: I think you hit the nail on the head, Dylan, when you said “If you want more Far Cry, this delivers” as it’s following the same foundations set out with the previous modern Far Crys. As someone who hasn’t played a Far Cry game in a long, long time, this edition didn’t do anything to convince me that I’m missing out on anything if I don’t embrace the series again.