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God of War Reviews – Are They All Relevant?

Yo.

Hey.

How you doin’?

It’s been a while, huh? Well… tough.

So today, kiddies, let’s talk about reviews. More specifically, game reviews. Even more specifically (specificallier? Maybe not), game reviews for the new God of War by Santa Monica Studio on the Sony PS4.

GOW-OG-imageThere are plenty of them out there. No doubt you’ve seen your fair share if you’re into that kind of thing. There are the usual over the top, inane gushings of the fanatical fans. There are the more considered, thoughtful and detailed descriptions (both positive and negative) from those who are more interested in the actual game than the IP, developing studio or platform.

And then there are the reviews from people who just seem to want to jump on the reviewing bandwagon for a much publicised triple-A game in order to up their view count.

Gotta get them YouTube views up, even if you are talking shit, amirite? Right!

The first two types are to be expected and welcomed. The fawning, fan-boying reviews are a good benchmark to judge the independent ones by. As in all reviews, you should pay just as much attention to how the reviewer has arrived at their final conclusion as to the actual conclusion itself.

Which brings us to the subject of today’s little rant – those who do reviews because it’s a big name title just for the exposure, even if it’s a game or genre they’re not that interested in.

Now, don’t get me wrong, God of War isn’t the only game this happens to, it just happens to be the most relevant right now as it has only just been released, and I’m still playing it.

Yes, I like the game a lot, but no, I haven’t got a bee in my bonnet because of negative reviews. In fact, some of the bandwagon reviews are completely positive. They’re still talking bullshit though.

As a side note – I happen to write game reviews for an online publication (under a pseudonym), so I do have a vested interest in all of this. No, I’m not going to let you know who I write for, I value my privacy, and I’m not here to advertise for anybody (though if you pay me lots I might consider it). Occasionally I’ll write a personal opinion piece on this blog, which won’t differ too much, it’ll just be a bit more, well, personal.

Anyway, back to it. The game was released last Friday, and the first review I saw for it (not including the journalistic reviews written pre-release after playing advance copies) was an hour after the release. An hour! It happened to be a good review but still, how much playing of the game was done in that hour, bearing in mind the review itself needed to be written in that time too?

A few things from some of these bandwagon reviews that bugged me include –

  • A positive review waxed lyrical about the obvious love and affection between the main character, Kratos, and his son, Atreus, right from the beginning of the game. This isn’t the case at all.
  • One reviewer remarked how they liked the blue paint Kratos wore. The colour is, in fact, red (which is almost blue, I guess, in a certain light. Like total darkness). It’s also a tattoo, not paint.
  • A reviewer stated that their biggest problem with the game was the fact that they had changed the voice actor for Kratos, and he didn’t sound the same as he did in the previous games. This was the main reason for their 6 out of 10 mark.
  • Another reviewer disliked the main attack buttons being the controller’s trigger buttons. A quick look at the game settings reveals this can be changed. The same reviewer also heavily disliked the motion blur and film graining. These can also be lowered or turned off completely in the settings. As a result the reviewer stated that the controls were “ass” (obviously an advanced technical term), and the game made him feel nauseous (nit-picking: nauseated would have been the correct term) because of the blur.
  • A reviewer complained that the game’s map was too cluttered with icons. Yep, you guessed it, these can be altered to suit.
  • Another reviewer commented that while the game looks really good graphically, it would look a whole lot better on a high end PC. Well yes, no shit, Sherlock.
  • The best complaint of all, and a main reason for the reviewer marking the game down, was the fact the game didn’t tell you where the hidden things were, you had to go and look for them. You actually have to go out and search for the hidden items? Damn, no wonder it’s a bad game!

So what’s the point of all this, you may ask? Well, not much, to be honest, just a bit of a rant on my part. But also it stands as a piece of advice to be wary about a lot of “reviews”. Make sure you understand why the reviewer came to their conclusions, and that those reasons make sense to you. The best thing to do is find a reviewer who holds most of the same opinions as yourself, likes most of the same games and game genres as you, and keeps you entertained. Stick with their reviews and take others with a pinch of salt.

And of course, the best review of all – play the game yourself, whatever it may be, and make up your own mind.

As stated earlier, I’m currently playing the new God of War, and enjoying it immensely, though I can appreciate why some people might not like it as much, if at all. I’ll write a personal opinion piece and post it on here once I’ve completed it.

Maybe.

As always, that shallot.

Laters…

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Posted by on April 24, 2018 in Gaming, Rant

 

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Horizon: Zero Dawn – Opinion

HZD

Horizon: Zero Dawn, by Guerrilla Games, has been available to buy and play since March 1st, here in the UK. It’s been touted as one of the best games ever, with mainstream reviewers awarding it, on average, a little over 9 out of 10, which in gaming terms does indeed make it seem like HZD could well be the game to have.

But does the game deserve such a high review score?

Well, in my opinion (and please bear in mind, this is just my opinion, it doesn’t really mean anything in the grand scheme of things), no, it does not deserve such a high mark. I don’t generally rate games out of 10, as that is all subjective, but in order to bring my opinion in line with the reviewers’ way of rating a game I will, in this case, award the game a score.

After playing Horizon: Zero Dawn from start to finish (on hard), completing the storyline, completing all side missions and errands, destroying all bandit camps, clearing all corrupted zones, and collecting all collectables, I would give this game a solid 8 out of 10.

Cue the outrage. The gasps of horror. “But Alen, how could you be so mean to such an outstanding video game?”

The answer is simple: I’m not being “mean”, I’m just voicing my honest opinion. So, let’s get to it, shall we. Just why am I going against the accepted grain? Well, firstly, let’s look at what Horizon: Zero Dawn has going for it.

The Pros

Horizon: Zero Dawn, without a doubt, looks amazing. The picture at the start of this piece was taken from my playthrough, and as good as that image looks, it still does not do justice to how exceptional the visuals in this game are. The first region you explore after leaving the tutorial is dominated by the ruins of a large city. Skeletal skyscrapers lean at drunken angles, rivers flow where bustling streets once would have run. As you explore you begin to feel the tragic history of this land, and it bodes well for what you expect to find and explore later on.

As well as the sweeping vistas, the main antagonists in the game – the Machines – also look fantastic. They are exceedingly well created, move with the grace of real, living creatures, and certainly look as if they belong in the landscape.

The sense of peril and danger you feel as you wander around this post-apocalyptic land is very prevalent. Each one of those finely crafted Machines can, and will, kill you. They have good sight lines and will spot you at a distance. None of them are friendly, and even the small ones, the ones you can kill in one or two hits, will gang up and take you out. Running away is, as always, an option, but you’ll quickly discover that quite a few of your mechanical adversaries come furnished with lasers, grenade launchers, flamethrowers, and a number of other just as lethal armaments.

And… well, that’s about it for the pros. A depressingly short list.

The Cons

Referring back to the ruined city in the first region, and what it promises for the rest of the game… well, it fails to deliver. Apart from a very few isolated areas, ruins of ‘the Ancients’ are non-existent, and that, for me, was a big let down. It meant the map for Horizon: Zero Dawn was far too similar to many other games of the same genre. Yes, you have glorious sweeping vista, but you lose all sense of wonder, all sense of the tragedy that befell ‘the Ancients’, simply because you lose all sight of them.

The sense of peril and danger you feel as you wander around this post-apocalyptic land is prevalent… yes, it is, but that feeling soon evaporates when you realise that you can fast travel to any previously discovered bonfire. These bonfires are far too numerous, and being able to warp to them from anywhere on the map, at any time – well, where’s the fun in that? That dangerous expedition you’re thinking of taking to the far corner of the map, just to see what’s there? Well, how dangerous is it really when you can just fast travel back to safety whenever things start looking a bit dicey?

On top of losing the sense of danger, this system also breaks your immersion in this world. If Aloy can purchase fast travel packs from merchants, including the Golden Fast Travel Pack for unlimited travel, it stands to reason that anybody in the game can also do this. So why aren’t they?

I’m not saying fast travel is a bad idea, but if it’s going to be included in a game then it should be an integral part of that game. There should be a valid reason for this magical ability to exist for characters. For example – Aloy learns the ability to override Machines in order to ride them or make them non-hostile to her. So why not have her also ‘learn’ the ability to fast travel, using teleport hubs located at relevant points (bonfires). A small detail, but it keeps the immersion going.

The storyline of Horizon:Zero Dawn is interesting, but far from gripping, and I found it very difficult to care about what happened to the majority of characters Aloy met on her travels. There were even a few occasions where I found myself thinking why I was bothering to help any of the tribes, and if there had been the option to obtain a ‘bad’ ending where Aloy failed and everything was obliterated I would’ve definitely aimed for that.

The only crafting in the game is ammunition for your limited array of weapons, and various potions. You can’t craft your own weapons or armour, you can only use what you find or buy. You can upgrade weapons and armour by using one, two or three upgrade components on them, depending on the item’s level. You can’t, though, put your own stamp on weapons and armour, you can’t customise anything visually.

You have no choice what items are on your ‘fast use’ bar. If it can go on there, and you’re carrying it, then on the bar it will be. This makes for some very clunky mechanics as you’re trying to find your health potions in the middle of a battle. Coupled with the ‘fast use’ bar’s habit of resetting itself to one particular item after a cut scene, even if you’d left it set to the said health potions, and it becomes a very frustrating experience.

Later in the game you will be given a new lance, and, if you’ve been exploring everything as you go, you’ll be able to unlock the Shield Weaver Outfit. The lance is very, very powerful as a weapon, and the outfit absorbs something like 98% of damage, with a very fast recharge time. Using these two items makes the rest of the game somewhat of a joke. Of course, you don’t have to use them, but by the time I had realised just how powerful and overpowered they were, it was too late.

Conclusion

Horizon:Zero Dawn isn’t a bad game, it’s a long way from being bad. But the storyline, missions, side missions, errands etc. don’t offer anything you wouldn’t find in any of the other games in the same genre. The Machines make for a new and interesting adversary in a video game, but once you’ve figured out their weak spots and the best way to take them down, none of them continue to be scary or a major threat throughout the entirety of the game.

None of the ‘cons’, above, are game breaking, and of course it can be argued that a lot, if not most, are minor complaints. But that’s the point of this opinion piece. There are enough of those minor complaints that, when all of them are put together in the context of the game as a whole, make a score of more than 8 out of 10 out of the question.

All in all, Horizon: Zero Dawn is an agreeable and fun game to play. Take your time, explore the world, and you’ll have a good time, especially if you enjoy games of this genre (which I do). But if you’re looking for something that will blow your mind, leave you gasping and panting for more, then this isn’t the one for you.

There is ample room for improvement, and with the way clearly opened for a sequel, here’s hoping that the next version of Aloy’s Adventures in Machine Land will be the game to completely blow everyone away.

Fingers crossed.

And there you have it. As usual, all of the above is just my opinion, and should be treated as such. You should do your own research, and make up your own mind, before spending any of your own money on a video game.

As always, that shallot.

Laters…

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Posted by on March 15, 2017 in Gaming

 

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Uncharted 4 – My Thoughts.

If you know me, you’ll know it’s very rare for me to post a review about something on here. Not for any other reason than pure laziness, to be honest. But, here we go…

 

uncharted4

So, I finished Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End yesterday. Awesome game. End of review… Ha, not really.

Have to admit, I lowered the difficulty from hard to moderate half way through though. Not because I found it too hard – in fact I liked trying the fight sections over and over to find the best way to get through, it was a challenge and led to a good sense of achievement. But I was so entranced with the actual story I didn’t want it to be interrupted too much. Very well written, a thrill ride from start to finish. Being a bit of an adventurer myself I love adventure stories, and Uncharted 4 fits the bill perfectly, with the action moving smoothly from one situation to the next, one location to another.

The characters are wonderfully written, each with their own unique quirks and flaws. In any story it’s important that the reader/viewer/gamer actually cares about the protagonist. Indeed, if you don’t care about them, why should you worry when they experience difficulties or find themselves in danger? Even the bad dudes are likeable in their own ways. Sure, you’re not supposed to care so much about them as you do about the heroes, but nevertheless, they still have a certain something which I at least could emphasise with.

Best move on to the pros and cons, I suppose…

Pros: 

The visuals. The game looks good, as in stunning. The details are incredible, the vistas are awesome. Add in the included ‘photo mode’ and you can easily waste a great deal of time lining up the perfect snap. And even then, you can waste even more time with the filters, frames and numerous other picture enhancing tools.

The characters. Likeable, entertaining, with a good and easy rapport between themselves.

The story. Exciting adventure. If that’s your kind of thing then you’re on to a winner here. It flows well, drawing you merrily along from one scene to the next, with the (not overly long) cut scenes fleshing out the narrative. The treasure hunting bug is infectious, and I found myself not willing to leave until I had at least set eyes on Avery’s treasure, damn it!

Cons: 

Game mechanics. Sometimes they can be a little clunky. On more than a few occasions my A.I. controlled buddy got in my way. Mostly not a problem, but the few times they prevented me from rolling away from an explosion were a tad annoying. Your character takes its time recovering from action animations – you can’t, for example, roll and then immediately roll again, you have to wait for your dude to stop rolling, stand up and reset. That being said, this is not a first person shooter, where lightning fast reflex actions are required. It’s an interactive adventure story, and so should be treated as such.

Immersion. So there you are, in a long lost cave, trying to solve puzzles set hundreds of years ago by a long dead pirate. You’re tired, cold, aching from a recent fall, and all you want to do is get up onto the next ledge so you can move on. But it’s too high up to reach. If only you had something to stand on. You look around, there must be something… ah yes, over there, that modern crate which is on handy castors so you can easily move it to where it’s needed. And just like that, for a moment, your immersion is lost. Why is that crate there? Just where did it come from? Thankfully these moments are few and far between. But still, a few handy sized rocks would’ve done the trick, don’t you think?

And there you have it. The pros, in my mind, far outweigh the cons, and I really, really, enjoyed the game. There is a multiplayer game included, which I haven’t explored fully, but so far it’s a lot of fun.

Should you get this game? Well, that’s not for me to say, and all of the above is just my humble opinion. Everybody has different tastes, so you must do your own research and make up your own mind before parting with your money.

If you do get it, or indeed already have it, then let me know, I love to hear other people’s opinions.

As always, that shallot.

Laters…

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Posted by on August 31, 2016 in Gaming

 

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