Category Archives: PC

Observation review: “I’m sorry, Emma, I’m afraid I can’t do that” [PC]

It wouldn’t surprise me if the team behind sci-fi thriller Observation – were fans of movies Alien, Event Horizon and 2001 A Space Odyssey.

The game opens aboard the international space station Observation which is above Earth’s orbit after suffering a catastrophic event. The ship’s medical officer Dr Emma Fisher eventually manages to reboot the ship’s AI Sam [System Administration Maintenance] but Sam receives a strange transmission telling him to “BRING HER”. Fast forward a bit and after a second event, the Observation finds itself above Saturn, Sam’s core functions compromised and the rest of Observation’s crew missing. Emma tasks Sam with finding out what has happened.

Sam reminded me a lot of HAL 2000, the ship board AI from Stanley Kubrick and Arthur C Clarke’s 2001 A Space Odyssey [a movie from 1968  that most young gamers, sadly, will know nothing about]. In that movie, HAL 9000 is the sentient AI on a spaceship heading to Jupiter [there’s also a mysterious black monolith discovered by apes, but that’s a story for another day]. HAL turns rogue, responsible for uttering the chilling line “I’m sorry, Dave, I’m afraid I can’t do that”.

Controlling Sam, you’re initially tasked by Fisher to assess any damage the ship has suffered, accessing the on board cameras to survey for problems. Sam opens hatches, when requested, provides feedback on ship-wide alerts and can possess remotely controlled drones which give a rather satisfying degree of movement around the ship’s tight confines.

Hints of Event Horizon started to appear for me early in the game when it became clear that all wasn’t as it seemed and Sam started becoming self-aware. When the words “BRING HER” flashed on the screen and a strange floating artifact appeared, I got chills down my spine. For some reason, the Observation itself reminded me a lot of Alien’s Nostromo and while there are no jump scares and it’s not scary, Observation’s atmosphere is tense enough to keep you on your toes.

I started playing Observation with mouse and keyboard but soon realised it would be easier using a controller, especially when it came to some of the puzzles requiring inputting codes using the left stick. The puzzles tend to be either drawing schematic patterns of the Observation’s old-school wiring so Sam can unlock hatches between the four arms of the space station or are inputting “Simple Simon” type patterns to rectify hardware issues such as jammed external clamps or to activate ship-wide protocols.

Despite being set in a futuristic space ship, Observation actually made me go old school, again, and I found myself falling back to my old trusty red notebook, scribbling down patterns and notes and the schematics needed to unlock and lock hatches [hey, my memory isn’t what it used to be]. I took photos of things I considered important. I scribbled down words like “launch codes”, “strange artifact”, “protocol” and “space station”. I sketched weird symbols and patterns that flashed up throughout the game. Observation is one of those games that you may well find yourself jotting down schematics on a piece of paper.

Look, I loved Observation from start to finish, eager to find out what the strange alien artifact was all about and intrigued to see whether Sam would go full HAL 9000 by the game’s conclusion [I actually stayed up till 1am on a school night to finish the game].

I thought the ending was a little too cliched but a twist about the 3/4 mark was a nice touch that turned things on its head for the better. The ending also leaves the door open for a potential sequel. Maybe.

Observation is a great first effort from a new studio. I’m interested to see where developer No Code goes from here with its next game.

Late in the piece while writing this review I learned that some of the members of developer No Code were actually on the team that made The Creative Assembly’s Alien Isolation so, yeah, I guess they are fans of the movie Alien. 

Thanks to Devolver Digital’s Australian distributor for the review code.

My Friend, Pedro review: bloody acrobatics & a sentient banana [Nintendo Switch]

If I can make one suggestion when you fire up Deadtoast Entertainment’s side-scrolling shooter My Friend Pedro, it’s this: Do so wearing a decent set of headphones as it has a soundtrack that your ears will thank you for.

Based on an Adult Swim Flash game, My Friend, Pedro, the sound track is driving and relentless and fits perfectly into the on-screen carnage as you (our hero) shoot, pirouette and tumble your way through a 2.5D world, goaded on by … a talking banana. Yes, you read that right: A sentient, talking banana. That banana is Pedro and he offers advice on what to do.

My Friend, Pedro is described by publisher Devolver Digital in its marketing as a “violent bloody ballet about friendship and imagination” and it’s the perfect description: A twin-stick shooter, the game delights in slow motion acrobatics (think Max Payne’s bullet time) as you bound off walls and catapult off weighted doors, kicking 10-gallon drums (and eventually body parts) into foes & dodging automated turrets as bullets fly and heads explode in clouds of of red mist – all punctuated by that marvelous soundtrack (notable pieces are being Requium for Rose & Junkyard King).

This is a game that celebrates forward momentum, too, rewarding you with inventive moves and speed – then scoring you at the end. Every now and then an image of Pedro’s face (actually, do banana’s have faces?) will subliminally flash onto the screen: If Pedro’s smiling, he likes what he sees. If he’s frowning, he’s not impressed so you’d better do better.

My Friend, Pedro is also the sort of game that is perfect for the Switch’s portability and one that you can play in bite-sized chunks when you’ve got a bit of spare time in the evenings, thanks to the size of the levels, but the controls did take a bit of getting used to, as I felt I had to contort my fingers at times to do pull off some manouevers.

Devolver Digital is impressing me more and more with its support of quirky, indie titles [another excellent title is BroForce, which also plays perfectly on the Nintendo Switch]  and with My Friend, Pedro, Devolver has another winner on its hands.

‘Tis the season for E3, hear ye, hear ye … trailers & videos incoming!

As my Twitter feed keeps reminding me, the Electronic Entertainment Expo (or E3, for short) is underway in Los Angeles this week, when [most] of vidya game’s biggest  publishers and developers showcase the games they’ve got coming out in the next few months [and over the next year or so].

A notable absence this year is PlayStation: It decided to forgo E3 for reasons.

I suspect they’ll have a strong presence at the Tokyo Game Show later this year and Gamescom in Germany, which makes sense, to be honest, especially focusing on the TGS which is, after all, in Japan.

OK, so all the major players had their pre-show press conferences yesterday and today [Xbox, SquareEnix, Bethesday, Devolver Digital, Ubisoft and EA], but rather than dissect them frame by frame, announcement by announcement, I’ve had links to trailers and conferences emailed to me … so I’m going to let you do the hard work [is that lazy??]

CD Projekt Red, the studio behind The Witcher series, revealed a new trailer for Cyberpunk 2077 & while it didn’t reveal any actual game play [which is a little annoying], the release date [April 16, 2020] was announced at the show by none other than Bill & Ted star himself Keanu Reeves [who seems to be the “it” guy right now]. He’s also featuring in the game. Here’s the trailer. Keanu appears at the end.

Xbox announced it had acquired Tim Schaefer’s Double Fine Productions [you’d still better look after the backers – including me – of the Fig campaign that actually funded the game, Tim!], the beta version of Game Pass for PC, which I signed up for given I’m a born-again PC gamer, and at $NZ6.95 a month, it seems incredibly good value for money, and already hads a pretty good line-up of games so far [Metro Exodus, Wolfenstein 2, Football Manager 2019, Void Bastards], and like its Xbox counterpart, more games will be added as the service grows. It also revealed Project Scarlett, it’s next next-gen console that is apparently going to be “4 x more powerful than the Xbox One X” [and, according to one Xbox Twitter account it would be the most powerful console it had ever designed, but it did say that about the Xbox One X, right?] Details were light on the ground on Project Scarlett, though, given it’s not releasing until the end of 2020. It also showed a cinematic trailer for the next game in the Halo series.

SquareEnix showed off its Final Fantasy 7 remake, and it looks pretty impressive – and I’m not a fan of the series. Here’s the battle system in action:

It also announced Outriders, a new game from development studio People Can Fly [the company behind the very good Bulletstorm], and a Marvel Avenger’s game, which will come out next year. Here’s trailer for those two, too.

Bethesda showed off, among other things, more of Doom Eternal

Wolfenstein Young Blood

Ghostwire Tokyo

Phew, I’m tired after all that. I don’t have anything about EA or Ubisoft but Ubi announced a new Watchdogs game set in London & another entrant in the Ghost Recon franchise, and EA showed off Respawn’s Star Wars game The Force Unleashed 3 Jedi Fallen Order.

Anything catch your eye?

Update, Wednesday, June 12: Ubisoft have sent through a shite load of emails today but here’s some of the key titles it showed.

Watchdogs Legion 

Assassin’s Creed story creator mode

and God & Monsters

A Plague Tale: Innocence in pictures

A Plague Tale: Innocence, from French developer Asobo Studio, has come out of nowhere, really, with little fanfare and hype, and so far, it’s the sleeper hit of 2019 for me.

I bought it the other day on PC (true story: I got the conversions wrong so thought I was paying around $NZ45 for a $US37 game but actually ended up paying $58) and I’ve been blown away from the moment I started playing. After about two hours playtime, I’m still blown away by the game.

Set in France during the time of a devastating plague (I’ve no idea what time period), Amicia and her brother Hugo must escape the British Inquisition soldiers hunting down Hugo. To make matters worse, swarms of rats are a crucial element that Amicia and Hugo have to survive against.

This isn’t a review of the game, or even a preview, it’s really just to show just how jaw-droppingly good looking this game is on PC. I get the odd hitch every now and then but I’m playing on Ultra graphics settings with an AMD RX580 GPU and it just looks phenomenal.

Chances are I’ll post some thoughts when I’m done with A Plague Tale: Innocence. So far, all those thoughts are incredibly positive.

 

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Edifier e10BT exclaim multimedia speakers: Funky style with impressive sound

Edifier e10BT exclaim multimedia speakers ($NZ143-$168)

The first thing you notice about Edifier’s e10BT multimedia speakers is that they don’t look like traditional bookcase speakers. They look funky.

Instead of the usual box shape, these speakers look like they’ve been created by a designer, with a vertical speaker jutting out from a cylindrical base. The upper portion has two 1½-inch mid range tweeters and a 1½-inch by 3-inch passive radiators. Each base of the speakers has 3-inch woofer and a 3-inch passive bass radiator.

Edifier claims the speakers produce 36 watts RMS of power, driving a total of six active speakers. It also features Bluetooth connectivity so it’s perfect for watching movies on your iPad or laptop. The volume up/down & power button is on the left side of the right hand speaker and while it was a little fiddly, I was able to control the volume easy enough (to be fair, I tended to use either the device or the dial control on my PC keyboard to adjust volume levels).

They say proof is in the pudding (mmmm, pudding) and as this is primarily a gaming blog, I decided to to connect the e10BTs to my newly built PC and see how some of my favourite games sounded. Games I tested were Batman Arkham Knight and Rise of the Tomb Raider.

Cranking up the opening soundtrack to Batman Arkham Knight, the e10BT’s pretty much impressed the pants off me, with deep, driving bass and clarity in the high notes. Even at low levels, the sound was crisp and clear. Turning the volume up filled my living room with rich sound, much to the annoyance of my wife who was trying to watch her favourite soup opera.

Here’s a short video of the opening music from Arkham Knight:

The same went for Rise of the Tomb Raider, a game that relies on subtle audio cues at times as Lara Croft is skulking around the Siberian wilderness or scampering around a tomb. Simply put, the sound from these puppies was phenomenal.

Keen to test out the Bluetooth connectivity, I played a selection of movies from my iPad (John Wick, The Martian, Antman and Wasp). A nice touch is that the normal red LED on the right-hand speaker illuminates blue when you’re connected via Bluetooth.

Once again, the e10BT’s performed superbly, providing great bass notes and crisp and clear mid and high notes. The speakers just don’t disappoint.

Much like previous Edifier speakers I’ve reviewed, I’ve come away impressed with the e10BTs. They’re stylish, they look different from run of the mill bookcase speakers, they’re an excellent price (between $143 and $163 according to a price comparison site), and importantly, they deliver when it comes to amazing sound, be it for your PC when you’re gaming or you iPad when you’re watching movies.

Once again, Edifier have delivered a killer blow when it comes to desktop speakers.

Thanks to Edifier for providing the e10BT speakers for review.

Edifier e10BT multimedia speakers First look (video)

Thanks to the fine folk at Edifier in Australia, a pair (set?) of its e10BT multimedia speakers arrived on my doorstep this week, just crying out to be reviewed. So that’s what I’m going to do.

I currently have the speakers connected to my desktop PC but they also have Bluetooth connectivity so they can be used for other multimedia use. I’ll use them to play music from my phone and play some movies off my iPad.

I’m going to do a full-length review when I’ve tested the speakers out for a bit longer but here’s a short video showing what they look like and sound quality (you also hear my Kiwi accent, which is supposedly sexy according to some survey some person/people did. Not sure I hear it, to be honest). I haven’t gone into specifications of the hardware: I’ll leave that for the long-form review.

I selected the opening credits music from Rocksteady’s Batman Arkham Knight to showcase the e10BT’s, which has some of the most impressive bass in any video game’s opening credits music I’ve heard in recent times.

Turn on your ears, enjoy & look out for a review soon.

 

The GamejunkieNZ PC build project: Ah, yeah, I built it this weekend!

Last week, I posted about my plans to build a new PC so that I can rejoin the PC Master Race.

To recap: The week earlier, I’d bought an Asus B365 mATX motherboard, an Intel i5 CPU and 8Gb of RAM but I still needed to pick up an SSD for the operation system and a traditional HDD to install everything. I was planning to buy those in a month or so.

Well, on a whim, I bought a 240Gb Western Digital SSD and a 2Tb Western Digital HDD on Friday last week and, home alone over the weekend, I cracked into building the PC. I recycled the Enermax 500W power supply from my last PC’s case (although, taking apart another PC that’s stored in the garage I noted it had a 700W PSU: I might dropped that into my new PC at some point) and got started …

Surprisingly, it went hassle-free and I encountered no problems, apart from stupidly thinking that the 3-pin connector on the case’s 140mm rear case fan wouldn’t fit the four-pin connector on the Asus mATX motherboard (which only has on chassis fan connector). I tried and tried and it didn’t seem to fit.

So, I made a panicked dash to my local computer store (Dragon PC in Christchurch) and was told, reassuringly, by the nice gentleman behind the counter that a 3-pin connector would, indeed, fit on a 4-pin connection (he’s right: it does). While I was there, I also bought  a $10 adapter which let me connect front case fan via a molex connection.

OK, so the cable management might frustrate the PC purists out there but it’s a mATX board in a full-tower case: There’s plenty of room for air to circulate!

As I said, the installation was easier than I expected. I even managed to connect the power and reset connectors right first time. I always seem to have problems with I’m doing things like this but this build was actually easier than the first PC I built.

Sure, this was the second PC I’d built myself so I wasn’t a complete newb but that was using an ATX motherboard, which is bigger (the mATX case looks tiny in the roomy tower case it is installed in). While it proved difficult at times to read what was stamped on the board, I had plenty of light (and my glasses on) and had no trouble connecting everything to where it was supposed to go.

I had no issues booting it up first time, either: it POSTed perfectly (although I initially wondered why it hadn’t recognised the 2Tb drive then realised I needed to format it). Much of that afternoon was spent installing new drivers for the motherboard and GPU.

Talking of GPU, I know I’ve talked about going with something like a nVidia GTX1060 but I think I need to give the credit card a rest for a few weeks so I’ve installed the GTX950 that I’ve had sitting in my games cupboard since early last year (that I won in a competition held by an Australian YouTuber). It’ll do the job until I can afford a new generation graphics card.

So far I’ve installed Astroneer, Dishonoured, Batman Arkham City, Wolfenstein: The New Colossus and The Sexy Brutale – and the GTXC950 is giving me better frame rates already.

So, Saturday was a successful day all up, and I think, all up, the new PC cost me around $650, which is much, much cheaper than if I had gone with a pre-built system, plus I got the satisfaction of building it myself, too.

The reason for building a new PC was simple enough. I wan’t to get back to playing more games how I started playing them: On PC.

My very first computer was a Sinclair ZX Spectrum and, man, those games blew me away: Knight Lore, Robocop, Maniac Mansion, Ant Attack, Sabre Wulf. I loved them.

My next PC (actually if was my dad’s) was a biege-coloured desktop that was powered by a 486 CPU that had, if my memory serves me correctly, a graphics card that had a whopping 2Mb of video memory. It didn’t stop me from playing shareware Doom or some flight sim that I had to install via about 6000 3.5-inch floppy disks.

So, now that I’ve got a new PC (a better graphics card is still to come), I want to review more games and PC hardware. I’ll still play on console for console exclusives but I want to game on PC for the most part now.

Now, I just need to re-acquaint myself with WASD …

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