Kiwi Scores Big With Rubbish Collection Game On PlayStation

That’s exactly the vision of 25-year old school administrator Stacey Bartlett in her creation that utilses the DREAMS platform on PlayStation 4.

Pick It Up Quick! Is a fairly simple concept where the player is tasked with trying to collect as much rubbish as possible in 45-seconds, all in a beautifully reconstructed versions of two popular New Zealand beaches.

Tokahaki Point, Kapiti Island and Tāhunanui Beach, Nelson are both featured in the title which aims to tackle the real life problem of litter on New Zealand beaches, encouraging players to become citizen scientists of their own.

Since release, the game has been played more than 3000 times across 50 countries with over 100,000 people tuning in on Twitch.

But behind the early success comes a simple and important message that encourages players to relate to what they see in the game and look at ways to reduce their own impact on the environment.

For Bartlett, it will be especially impactful for those who have visited either Tokahaki Point or Tāhunanui Beach in the real world.

“I want people who have visited Tāhunanui Beach in Nelson to play the game and recognise the beach”, Bartlett said, “hopefully they can then understand the scale of the problem and take action to stop the litter getting there in the first place.”

Officially launched by Sustainable Coastlines as part of its Litter Intelligence project, the partnership is one of the first of its kind with UK-based gaming developer Media Molecule approaching Bartlett to publish the game on DREAMS.

“I’ve always loved creating things and I’d been experimenting with DREAMS for a while when Media Molecule approached me”, Bartlett said, “I’ve been playing PlayStation since I was eight so it was exciting and nerve wracking to be asked but I worked closely with the Sustainable Coastlines team to try and make the coastlines as realistic as possible.”

Bartlett’s enthusiasm and skill on the development side caught the attention of Media Molecule early on, receiving praise from the highest desk at the developer.

“What Stacey has achieved is incredible and she’s a talented creator,” says Siobhan Reddy, studio director at Media Molecule.

“We’ve seen some pretty wonderful creations within DREAMS and this is right up there, the community aspect of gameplay that encourages education and understanding is really impressive.”

Pick It Up Quick! Is available on DREAMS for PlayStation 4

GTA Online Summer Update 2020 Adds Just Enough To Make It Great

Before I knew it, hours had completely passed by me on a day that originally had been set aside as a day strictly for work.

Perhaps the joys of being a freelancer, you’re often able to make your own schedule, and when I realized that the latest project wasn’t in need of dire attention, I figured a quick pick up game of something on the PS4 would suffice.

GTA V, and its ever-popular online mode (aptly named GTA Online), never ceases to amaze me in how busy it keeps itself. Given that the Summer 2020 update has just dropped, I thought I’d quickly jump in and see what was new.

There is a lot that’s new here… and most of it is great.

I particularly like the Open Wheel racing addition, it’s a far more grounded way to race others in comparison to the often crazy Transform series for example. Perhaps I liked this particular addition because it’s somewhat more ‘normal’, if anything in the world of GTA Online can be labeled such, but what it also did is make me appreciate what Rockstar has continued to deliver with their service.

Sure, the pay-to-be-flashy model is tiresome, but that’s the only way Rockstar is making money on GTA Online at this point.

The originally promised single-player DLC add-on has basically been a non-event, in fact, remind me, did they ever get round to releasing that? I could swear that they haven’t.

GTA Online, as it has from the very start, caters to just about everyone by way of its variety.

Shooter fan? Ok, the mechanics are average, but you’ve got some seriously diverse options here. Today I jumped into a King of the Hill match and totally enjoyed capturing and defending zones.

Then I had a go at the tried and tested Survival suite of matches, and let me tell you, there is nothing more satisfying (at least as a long time fan of the GTA franchise with a deep love for San Andreas in particular) than returning to Grove Street for a Survival shootout against the purple-wearing ballers.

Bounty missions are fun, and thanks to them being spread out right across the map, traveling to the next poor soul in line to meet the wrath of my shotgun gave me time to truly soak in the world that Rockstar has created here. Of course, in 2020, everyone has an open-world game to their name but trips around Mount Chilliad show me that various little additions to the environment, from new gang sites and freshly built buildings, have all been crafted with the detail you’d come to expect.

For as tiresome as some gamers may label GTA Online, there is no doubt that it remains a constantly built upon project by Rockstar.

In comparison to Red Dead Redemption and that particular online offering, the playability in GTA Online has always been bounds ahead, and it remains so with this particular update, one which again brings just enough new additions, however small, to make it worth taking a look at.

If Red Dead Online is a grind, GTA Online is built for immediate fun. If you can get past how damn expensive all the in-game items are, and you can tolerate some at times terrible frame rate performance, the Summer Update keeps on giving.

Again, try the Open Wheel racing mode! It truly is a gas (if you can get the pun?).

Secretlab Gaming Chairs Now Available In New Zealand

With a growing base of passionate gamers playing on PC in New Zealand, Secretlab has noticed a high uptake in orders from the Australian and Singapore distribution centres, often costing gamers a premium in import costs. 

Secretlab CEO Ian Alexander Ang says that setting up a local store would allow gamers to purchase the specialised chairs at a lower cost. 

“We’ve consistently seen customers in New Zealand pay extra for shipping from our Australia store, with some early adopters even going out of their way to ship their chairs from Singapore. As a result, we wanted to set up a local store so they could get our chairs more readily, at a lower cost, and with quicker warranty support”, Ang said. 

New Zealand’s growing game development market was also another reason Secretlab felt the expansion would be a good on the back of continued growth in gaming during the COVID-19 lockdown. 

“New Zealand is a country of avid gamers, and it boasts a thriving game development market. It is also home to Grinding Gear Games, the developer of Path of Exile, one of the most popular action role-playing games in the world.” 

Customers will be able to order the OMEGA and TITAN versions of the chair starting on Thursday July 16 from www.secretlab.co.nz 

Secretlab is the top choice of the world’s most successful esports teams and the biggest gaming tournaments, including Dota 2’s The International and the League of Legends World Championship. 

The world’s winningest teams and esports athletes across the largest and most popular esports titles choose Secretlab to equip them with the extra performance edge they need to bring home even more trophies, from back-to-back The International winners OG to esports legacy powerhouse Team Liquid.

Ghost of Tsushima Review: Breaking New Ground

Please note – this review is also available on https://dashgamer.com/

In all my years as a gamer, playing as a samurai has never been at the top of my list of to do’s. Thanks to my lack of knowledge of modern or historic Japanese culture, plus a total obliviousness to the Mongol invasions back in the 1200’s, this could easily have been a title to overlook in the already impressive lineup of excellent PlayStation exclusives. 

As it turns out – I’m glad I didn’t sleep on Ghost of Tsushima – because it’s an excellent game and a new personal best for Sucker Punch Productions who have taken an almighty risk by leaving Infamous in the shadows. 

Taking the role of Jin Sakai, a young samurai, you’re immediately propelled into a cross-country mission in search of justice. Sure, that’s nothing new for an action-adventure game, nor is a vast open-world full of areas to explore and regions to liberate from enemy forces.

But a yawn fest this game is not. 

From the beginning, it’s clear that Sucker Punch are true to their word in how the original development for their latest title took inspiration from the likes of Red Dead Redemption and Zelda Breath of the Wild, but there is also a decent hint of Assassins Creed about some the game that players should notice quickly. 

Like in Breath of the Wild, the world in Ghost of Tsushima encourages the “if you can see it, chances are you can get to it” mantra to its exploration. The biggest difference to Zelda and other well-done open worlds is how the environment itself can be your guiding compass to the next destination. If you’ve selected a location on the map, a simple swipe up on the Dualshock’s touchpad will trigger a ‘guiding wind’ where the breeze points you into the direction you need to be going. 

It doesn’t ever get old and I personally found myself using the feature more and more, preferring this cool (albeit slightly tokenistic) mechanic to find my way around rather than just going from the traditional ‘point A to B’ with an ugly guiding line in the middle of your screen. 

Sucker Punch hasn’t tried to rewrite the rulebook of an open-world adventure title, they’ve just added their own spin to it, and it works. 

Visuals That Will Make Your Jaw Drop 

Speaking of the world itself, Ghost of Tsushima is one of the most visually stunning gaming experiences ever made. Period. 

During the over six-year development, Sucker Punch devs took regular trips to real-world Japan and the Island of Tsushima (located between mainland Japan and the Korean Peninsula) to get a true sense of the world they wanted to capture in the game. 

Work included taking hundreds of photo scanned leaves, tree models, grass, and bush in their bid to develop as realistic a world as possible based on the real thing. From an audio perspective, Sucker Punch also took the time to record various nature sounds, such as birds and the sound of wind rustling through trees in forests. 

It all works in the final product, but it’s the visuals that truly stand out, the cool atmospheric sounds are just a bonus. 

Whether it be tall mountains in the distance, smoke pouring out of a building on another horizon, a shrine on a hilltop, or the several wonderfully detailed Japanese temples, Ghost of Tsushima feels like a world that is alive and well. 

Of course, the game is based (albeit loosely) on the first Mongol Invasion of Japan in 1274. To build an experience around a real-life historic event and not put in the detail to do it justice would’ve been easily noticeable to gamers, and what Sucker Punch achieve in this area could be a lesson other developers could learn. 

It’s all very well and good to have solid gameplay, but if the environments fail to deliver, the title as a whole suffers. Ghost of Tsushima refuses to let any detail in its world slip past the quality test. 

Thankfully, the moment-to-moment gameplay in Ghost of Tsushima is on par with its amazing visuals. This is no more true than when in combat. 

Fights feel great and require a decent amount of concentration and timing on the pad to get right. Early on, Ghost of Tsushima gives a combat tutorial that will serve gamers well moving forward, covering the basic striking and defence mechanics as well as some tricks that help give a slight advantage. 

As the game goes on and you enter more battles, you’ll only ever have a slight advantage depending on the approach taken to combat and the various upgrades and skill points earned. Making use of the skill tree, constantly upgrading abilities and utilising armour is crucial in Ghost of Tsushima as you’ll take on several different types of enemies. 

There are also different battle stance options to be learned and mastered. These stances are critical to giving yourself the best chance against the different enemies, most of which require different stances in order to beat. 

As an example – the stone stance is ideal for taking on other swordsmen whereas the water stance is best for Mongols with shields. Light and heavy attacks with the Katana (your main weapon) are used best in variation, plus there is simply nothing more satisfying than an accurate headshot using your upgradable bow. 

Combat just feels great, every battle feels exciting, and the audio/visual cues Sucker Punch have implemented into the fight system should keep even the most unreliable of players feeling like they’re always capable of getting the win. 

Yes, Ghost of Tsushima is a samurai game and its combat reflects this in large part, but you’d be hard stretched to find more fun in moment to moment fights in any other game. 

A Sloggy Story 

But despite its brilliant visuals, addicting gameplay in battles, Ghost of Tsushima does have issues in its storytelling. Jin Sakai is pretty one-dimensional in his motives, and as such, the main story feels like a chore at times despite some fun missions that push the plot forward. 

But unlike The Last of Us Part II or Red Dead Redemption 2, characters in Ghost of Tsushima just don’t have the conviction that made me care about their fortunes. I just wanted to get to the next mission to enjoy the fantastic combat and see how many Mongol enemies I could stealth until getting caught. What happened to Jin, or his various well-acted sidekicks, didn’t really phase me a whole lot. 

As for the antagonists, without giving too much away, they didn’t really do a whole lot for me either and their motivations seemed fairly run of the mill. 

All that being said, at the time of writing this review I am approaching on 20-hours of game time and I do sense there is still a lot more to come from the story itself. So far it hasn’t grabbed me, but the brilliance of other areas mentioned in this monologue will keep me coming back for multiple playthroughs I’m sure. 

Also, I am fairly new to the samurai genre, so much of the underpinning “swordy stuff” behind the plot could well be over my head. 

Sucker Punch Has Found Its Next Big Franchise 

Ghost of Tsushima is an utterly beautiful game that features an open world you should explore and take a lot of time with. To not do so defeats the purpose. 

On top of its seemingly endless discovery, the battle system provides one of the best and most intense gaming experiences I’ve had that equal everything that was great about the combat systems in games like The Last of Us Part II, Red Dead Redemption 2, and even some of the better Assassins Creed games. 

The combat does what it does exceptionally well, and it’s that wider game within the game during these moments that provide the biggest highlight throughout all the well-designed missions. 

What Ghost of Tsushima lacks is a great story. Everything else is on par with some of the best title on PS4, and it’s a fitting farewell to a simply outstanding lineup of AAA+ single-player experiences that make this generation a winner for PlayStation.

Ghost of Tsushima might be the last big gun on the PS4, but it’s also one of the best, albeit for a slightly disengaging main plot.  

FINAL RATING: 9/10

The review code for Ghost of Tsushima was provided by PlayStation NZ/AU. Thanks heaps once again!

The Last of Us Part II Review: The Best Game On PlayStation

It’s been seven long years since Ellie and Joel’s epic journey across America catapulted Naughty Dog to the very top of storytelling in gaming. The brave move into more mature themes paid off in spades with some of the best moment to moment combat and tense presentation gamers had ever experienced.

Frankly, there is little doubt that 2013’s blockbuster was the very best single-player experience ever released on PlayStation.

Following on from the original, Naughty Dog hasn’t just beaten all expectations with The Last of Us Part II (TLOU2), it’s taken the story in a bold, perhaps even divisive direction that consistently surprises throughout its roughly 20-hour campaign.

It’s also a gruesome, uncomfortable and thought-provoking experience that pushes adult themes rarely seen to this degree in videogames. Culminating in one final moment that made me question certain aspects of characters I had grown to love, TLOU2 delivers a narrative that few will expect (spoilers aside).  

Ellie Is Older But Further Emotionally Flawed…  

Five years have passed since the events of the original game. Ellie, now 19, is the same complicated yet loveable character you remember but you quickly notice the signs of her emotional instability.

Joel is back and carries the weight of his decisions from the end of the last game but remains unchanged in it being the right thing to do.

There is a high degree of tension between Ellie and Joel from the outset, unanswered questions from the ending of the last game linger in Ellie’s mind while Joel remains the typical protector at all costs, refusing to even talk about why he didn’t leave her in that hospital last time round.

Tommy is also back for another stint, standing by his brother Joel and also maintaining a key sense of duty to protect Ellie.

The safe surroundings of Jackson introduce us to several new characters early in the game. Namely, new friend and growing love interest Dina who rides alongside Ellie on a day of patrol in the snow. The connection between the two is noticeable from the outset, presenting a truly innocent fledgling love story that is frequent during the early events in the game.

There is also Jesse, former boyfriend of Dina who in almost every way is one of the most chilled out characters despite the challenging moments he finds himself in along the way.

We then meet Abby. And yes, as it turns out, Abby is that female character fans first saw during the second teaser trailer for the game back in 2017.

Abby’s part in the story emerges very early on, and without giving spoilers away, she becomes an integral part of the overall campaign. Abby’s motivations are complicated and she is far from the typical one-dimensional part of the story to serve Ellie’s wider journey that many may want.

Alongside Abby, there is Owen and several other characters connected to the Washington Liberation Front (WLF), otherwise known as the Wolfs, who form one of the core groups of adversaries Ellie faces throughout TLOU2.

A Bloodbath In Seattle…

Day one in Jackson ends in a shocking moment that sets in motion an uncomfortable story of revenge. Chasing vengeance, you arrive in Seattle which serves as the major backdrop for the game.

Seattle really is a beautiful and detailed world that Naughty Dog wants you to get lost in, gameplay actively encourages exploration in between its incredible combat. My only complaint is the rain… it honestly never stops raining in this city!  

There are large open areas with tall grass to hide in, abandoned houses to ransack, moss overgrown skyscrapers, broken highways, rivers with floating bits of old cardboard, and the occasional human remains rotting away in corners with an infected nearby makes for the most vividly grim and detailed world Naughty Dog has ever created.

Resources are everywhere and there are also more collectables in TLOU2, including old magazines and letters which tell informative stories about the lives, interests and challenges of people who lived in this world prior to everything falling apart.

The infected are back roaming the land with new incarnations, all of which more terrifying than the next. Runners, clickers, stalkers, bloaters and the new shambler present infected enemies that are smarter, faster and more of a handful to deal with than the last game.

Like in the original, killing infected in TLOU2 always feels like a painful but necessary experience in order to survive. The gargles, screams and howling when you shoot dead a clicker for instance never failed to send a great deal of both dread and fear down my spine during gameplay.

The third major group of enemies are the Seraphites, known by the WLF as Scars. A religious cult who communicate primarily through whistling, the Seraphites primarily use bows and melee weapons in combat and believe that the terrible events that impact the world of TLOU2 are a result of human sin.

In between the horror, a tactical stealth approach is always required to mastering infected enemies and another real strength of combat in TLOU2 is how the same approach applies to human enemies. As a player, you’ve got to make decisions before getting into combat about the best way of going about it. Taking your time and working down singular enemies through stealth rather than going in all guns blazing is almost always the better approach, and toward the latter end of the game, that also becomes a real but important challenge because many waves of enemies are often lurking just out of site.

Couple that with minimal amounts of ammo at all times, combat in TLOU2 is full of the same tension and tactical thinking that made the original so good and every aspect of this is improved.

Whether it be just a handful of enemies or several groups, I found myself coming out of every moment of combat in TLOU2 feeling that I’d had to call on all my skills as a gamer which provided an immense sense of satisfaction that left me feeling excited and equally terrified about the next encounter.

All this is presented with a minimal UI not too dissimilar from the original, new weapons and crafting abilities, plus stunning its visuals that push the PS4 Pro to its absolute limits with open world environments built into a traditional linear level design that packs some of the best audio in gaming.

The Last of Us Part II Is Not What You Expect… Or Is It?

Many might have the expectation of coming into this game and continuing the adventures of Ellie and Joel. At least, if you’ve managed to avoid any of the leaks at least.

Nothing could be further than the truth. TLOU2 takes itself in a direction that not many will expect.

This is a game about tribalism, love, the inability to let go of hate and revenge going too far.

TLOU2 shows the characters that fans of this franchise have come to love in a different, imperfect, and at times, deeply unlikeable way. Everything is more mature this time round, except for the motivations of some of the key characters.

When I finished the game the night before writing this review, my thoughts and feelings toward Ellie, Joel and all the other characters had changed so much from when I first started that a few of them were barely recognizable.

I totally got why Ellie, as an example, is the vengeful 19-year old she is, I just questioned her ability to see past it at any moment for the greater good of those around her. Ellie is incapable of listening to reason for a lot of this game, and as you’re forced to take her through that journey, you’ll often wonder what she expects to get out of it all.

I sense that this was a very deliberate tactic by the storytellers at Naughty Dog. Back in the day, game director Neil Druckmman was very clear that TLOU2 acts as the second part, not altogether a sequel, and I know why now.

TLOU2 is an experience that feels like the second part of its original. Within that is the unexpected. Is this person really who I thought they were? Is the group I am fighting alongside capable of any empathy? Are the enemies in our way truly all bad and worthy of the slaughter?

Those were just some of the questions I had myself when playing through, and not all of them were answered by the end either.

Simply put, TLOU2 is all about tension and different gamers will react differently to the events taking place when they finally get their hands on it. It should be a game that is talked about, it’s graphic and deliberate violence coupled with a primarily female cast will surely divide opinion about the bigger messages behind the story.

What cannot be denied is that TLOU2 wraps all this up in an utterly fantastic gaming experience that can, and should, be played in a multitude of different ways. By far the best PS4 exclusive, TLOU2 is a memorable and uncomfortable adventure that you simply must play to understand why it’s so annoyingly good.

MY RATING: 10/10

Dualshock 4 Back Button Attachment Review: Not Really Accessible For Disabled Gamers

The Dualshock 4 Back Button Attachment adds a little more functionality to the PS4 controller and the wider gaming experience, but it doesn’t do much for accessibility.

Before we begin this review – two quick disclaimers.

I am a disabled gamer and I have a muscle-wasting condition called Spinal Muscular Atrophy. As you’ll see in the video embedded to this review, to say my hands are quirky would be an understatement.

With this in mind, I reached out to my friends at Sony to see if I could review the Dualshock 4 Back Button Attachment because I wanted to see if it will allow physically disabled gamers, like me, to better access gaming. They kindly agreed and shipped the product to my front door.

With that out of the way, let’s get into the review.

Almost from the get-go, you realize that the back button was not designed with disabled gamers in mind. The attachment is fiddly and tight when trying to connect and it took me several attempts to even get the connectors lined up correctly.

To connect, you need to hold down the latch (either with your thumb or another finger) in order to connect the attachment via the microphone in and extension ports. Once lined up, a firm push is required, using both hands, before the attachment clicks into place.

Whilst it is hard to judge exactly, as different people have varying levels of function in their hands and fingers, I would guess that many disabled gamers won’t have much independence when it comes to actually getting the back button connected and working.

Once connected, for me anyway, I noticed the controller was that much heavier in the hand. Not a lot heavier, but certainly noticeable.

But what of the gaming experience? I played the likes of Fortnite, Apex Legends, Project Cars 2, FIFA 19, and Crash Team Racing all at varying lengths during my time with the back-button attachment.

The tact-tile buttons are an easy press but don’t have much in terms of height, making it difficult for those who may not have good extension in either the ring or middle finger. What’s good about the attachment is that you can program it to map whichever button on the existing Dualshock 4 controller that you’d like, including the often-difficult press of the analogue sticks for parts of gameplay like sprinting or melee.

Using the back button for shooting and aiming in games like Fortnite or Destiny 2 will feel foreign at first but quickly became quite natural, however, the issue again is that this is dependent on the variable functionality in the hands of disabled gamers.

For shooters especially, many disabled gamers are already struggling to keep up the pace of gameplay.  

From a purely accessible standpoint, the overarching impression of this nifty addition to the PS4 controller is that it could be worth it for disabled gamers, but the risk of investment is high, because they’re not going to be able to discover that it can even come close to working for them until they’ve paid $70 ($30USD).

Yes, the back-button attachment may be just what they need to have a more level playing field using the controller, but for others, it could also be just the beginning of what they need and the entry to gaming may still be high and this attachment doesn’t address much of the issue.

Sony is already behind Microsoft in terms of developing hardware that is accessible to disabled gamers. They had an opportunity to catch up if a little more thought had been put into what is still a large portion of an ever-growing gaming market.

For me, the setup of it was all but too hard to do independently and I know it will be for many of my disabled gamer friends. That will immediately turn many off because what disabled gamers want more than anything is independence in their gaming.

Sadly, the entry point (in terms of connection) will already put up too barriers for many disabled gamers.

MY RATING: 5/10

Death Stranding Review: A Middle Finger To Convention

Death Stranding won’t be a PlayStation blockbuster for everyone, but for those who enjoy it, none of that really matters in what turns out to be an experience like few others in gaming today. 

Death Stranding is one of the most extraordinary games I’ve ever played. It’s also one of the more slow-paced, repetitive and lifeless gaming experiences I’ve experienced.

From the very get-go, Death Stranding feels and plays out completely different from what you’d want and expect from a modern-day videogame.

I had no idea what was going on or why, but there was something oddly freeing about having a massively open and incredibly lifeless world to step into. On the long treks and delivery missions, I had time to think and ask myself what the game is about. Once I got to my destination and connected the region to something close to a civilization, I felt like I had done something truly good and worthwhile.

Whilst it is far more than a simple trekking simulator, what Hideo Kojima has developed is a game that will divide the opinion of gamers unlike no other in this generation.

Some will love Death Stranding and will call it the breath of fresh air that gaming so desperately needs, whilst others will see Death Stranding as a product of boredom and monotony.

After more than 20 hours spent traversing the world, the meaning behind why you take Sam Bridges on this journey appears to be all about what amounts to doing something for your fellow man or woman. Your job is to deliver cargo, medical supplies and other important equipment across a broken, bare and empty world.

Then, once you get to the various destinations, connect them up to what’s called the Chiral Network to get that area back online.

The world you traverse is the UCA (loosely based on the USA) which has been left utterly decimated in the aftermath of a Death Stranding, causing creatures called “Beached Things” or BT’s to form some sort of realm between life and death. The game helps you discover what is behind this phenomenon, but players can’t simply fight these creatures as Death Stranding really forces an approach of working around rather than forcing the issue.

Most encounters with BTs result in you walking slowly, holding breath (the closer you get to a BT the more it hears your breath) and gently getting by a potentially dangerous encounter.

If you do trigger a BT, the ground turns to tar and you are forced to fight your way free before the demons wrap themselves around you and pull you down. Fail to do this, you’ll enter a “fight” of sorts with a single BT creature that is much bigger and obvious than the ghost-like figures that can be found in the first instance, and all you’ve got to do is kill it with a grenade to complete the challenge.

Once escaped, the tar disappears and you’re back on the trek again towards the delivery destination seemingly unharmed. I wish I could tell you what happens if you were to lose a battle with a BT, but after 20+ hours, the challenge in Death Stranding has been next to non-existent and I haven’t died a single time.

With me so far? It is all classic Kojima in so many ways, half the time it’s just flat out weird and all these moments of something close to combat all seem to be placed in the game for games sake, all in an aid to somehow further toward the story that is being told in cutscenes by some absolutely brilliant voice acting by the various stars involved.

Norman Reedus Heads A List Of Hit n Miss Characters & Story Telling

Played by Norman Reedus (the dude from Walking Dead), the character of Sam Bridges is one of the more dull protagonists Sony has ever had in its AAA PlayStation list of titles.

Uncharted’s Nathan Drake, Joel from The Last of Us and even Kratos in God of War seem to be far livelier and engaging than the experiences I’ve had with Sam so far.

Even the deeply emotional states Sam gets into (who could forget the first time we saw those tears dripping down his face in time fall) seem unexplained, forced and like the experience with the BT’s, just something Kojima and his team decided to throw into the mix.

The adorable baby strapped to Sam’s chest BB is connected to the BTs in some way and the story progresses forward to answer those questions. Fragile, a woman voiced by Léa Seydoux starts out as something of an unknown but quickly progressed into a character I found myself deeply caring about. You’ve also got the main villain Higgs (voiced by Troy Baker) and the annoyingly mysterious Die-Hardman (voiced by Tommie Earl Jenkins) just to name some of the many characters that play big parts in the game.

For the purposes of trying to not spoil it for you, the Death Stranding story is engaging, annoying, mysterious and worth seeing through to the end it seems. Classic Kojima again, you’ve got to be really concentrating for any of it to make sense.

Death Stranding Challenges The Status Quo

Yet, for all its flaws (and there are many in terms of challenge and story design), Death Stranding remains a game that attempts to hit on a deeper message and that’s where the strength and controversy of it sits.

How many have the patience to find out why Death Stranding is the enigma it is remains to be seen, and that’s why reviewing this game is difficult.

The aim of the mission structure is all about going at it alone, to help out an effort that is much wider than yourself. Some of the delivery missions, like the one where you’ve got to deliver a pizza, seem so basic that it’s understandable why as the game progresses many will lose patience.

But perhaps that’s what Kojima and his team wanted to challenge gamers on? Maybe gaming isn’t all about instant gratification, maybe gaming can deliver these sorts of Atypical experiences.

In an age where FPS, RPG and games come out all the time, where Battle Royale kings like Fortnite and Apex pit everyone against everyone else, what Death Stranding does is take a step back from the action, the competitiveness and the creativity to deliver a truly different experience.

In Death Stranding, players are all but alone in a massive open world that is on such a scale of emptiness, it makes even the likes of Red Dead Redemption 2 look busy and full of life. How gamers react to that will differ, how they feel about being a deliveryman and little else will divide opinion.

What will also divide opinion is the message this game attempts to send. The importance of coming together and doing something to help a cause bigger than yourself, perhaps even one that doesn’t make sense or benefit you in any obvious way.

Unless this game takes a drastic turn from its formula in the next 10-20 hours, I reflect on my experiences in it with a lot of thanks.

Death Stranding is different and un-apologetic about every aspect of its gameplay, design and storytelling. It’s a game you’ll either get something out of or curse the day you ever spent the time playing.

And yet, Death Stranding really attempts to challenge gamers to find a middle ground.

MY RATING: 7/10  

Google Stadia Signals Potential Shift In Gaming Industry

Google Stadia is set to release in 2019 and could, potentially, be the cloud-based streaming platform for gamers that will change an industry at the peak of its powers.

With eyes transfixed, Google announced ‘Stadia’, a new streaming platform that will provide a revolutionary change to the gaming industry. Stadia isn’t a new piece of hardware to unbox (although Google did show off a controller), but it is a cloud-streaming platform that will allow gamers to play on any device that supports web browsing.

Stadia will feature the ability to play on phones, tablets, computers, and on TV’s, with Chromecast functionality also available.

Stadia is described as a ‘Netflix for gaming’ and requires a fast and reliable internet connection. Users simply open a new tab in Chrome, wait five seconds, and the process is complete. Gamers can use mouse and keyboard or connect the Stadia controller using Wi-Fi.

All the back-end work is done through Google servers, not like traditional gaming platforms where graphics and gameplay works through the internals of the hardware.

This is a big deal for gamers because it doesn’t force them into buying hardware, though Google gave no indication on the cost of games for Stadia nor the official controller.

Expect games to retail for a similar price as digital releases currently, but also, monthly subscriptions to the service are also likely (like Netflix) with varying packages on offer. Upcoming shooter Doom: Eternal is confirmed to be releasing on Stadia, but no other announcements about launch titles were given. 

Google promises 4K resolutions, but interestingly, Stadia features a built-in Google Assistant feature that will allow gamers to seek help in game (for passing a certain level or finding a treasure etc.) without having to switch screens.

Stadia will release in the US, Canada, Europe, and in parts of the UK later this year.

Far Cry 5 Promises to be a Mixed Bag

I’m a little embarrassed to say that I never played either Far Cry 4 or Primal. After completing and absolutely loving my time with Far Cry 3 back toward the latter end of the PS3 generation, somehow I managed to skip the next two instalments in the franchise.

What I remember about FC3 was its large, flush, and vibrant open world where the mixture of story missions and side quests ensured that there was always something worthwhile to do. Ok, climbing the communication towers to unlock different parts of the map became tedious quickly, but the in order to continue your adventure as Jason Brody battling the creepy villain Vaas, it was a rewarding necessity. The other memorable aspect to FC3 was its gunplay, where shooting wave after wave of enemies increasing in difficulty took up a large part of the mission structure. For some, this was fun, but for others, it became tedious.

Below is IGN’s 2012 review of Far Cry 3:

Far Cry 5 Moves to Hope County, Montana 

With the series moves to Hope County; a fictional setting based in Montana, this marks the first time that a Far Cry game has been set in the United States.

A religious and political thriller will tell the story of Joseph Seed, leader of the Eden’s Gate cult that has taken over Hope County. Your role is to stop Seed and his cult, which is pretty cut and dry for any shooter, but the wider-reaching religious and political elements of this game are sure to stir some controversy after the game launches on March 26.

If nothing else, the Far Cry games are fantastic at story-telling and creating a feeling of both enjoyment and discomfort for the player. This latest instalment promises to be no different. Buckle up and get ready.

Exploring the world of Hope County also promises to be as intriguing as the story mode itself. All the usual Far Cry adventures will be featured, from paragliding to off-road ATV adventures. Furthermore, activities like fishing and stunt racing also make their way to the game. Big rigs (trucks) will be welcome driving additions, but by far the coolest aspect to what FC5 has to offer is the ability to fly planes and helicopters, plus interact and use animals such as dogs and bears to your advantage throughout missions.

Will Far Cry 5 Become a Tedious Experience?

But with all the promise that FC5 has in its offering; some very big concerns remain heading into launch. My first concern is the nature of the missions. Just how many gunfight battles in large compounds are there going to be? Will players simply go from overthrowing one cult compound in Hope County to another? It is crucial that FC5 has variety in its missions, otherwise, the experience will stale quickly and gamers may not be compelled to see it through till the end.

Secondly, my other big concern is microtransactions. Reports have already surfaced that suggest Ubisoft will offer a quicker alternative through FC5’s story mode, with additional weapons, vehicles, and abilities being some of the rewards for real-world money transactions. Assassins Creed Origins, the last big release for Ubisoft, did feature microtransactions but not on the same level that reports surrounding FC5 have suggested. All this remains to be seen but given where the gaming industry has headed over the past couple of years, expect Ubisoft to try and milk as much out of gamers wallets as they can.

Final Thoughts

Far Cry 5 promises to be the best instalment of the famous franchise yet, but it won’t come without its problems and it certainly won’t get perfect reviews. But for one of the big releases in 2018 outside of some noteworthy counterparts, this is a game that will be worth taking a good look at on launch day.

REVIEW: Sonic Forces Wrestles With Differing Ideologies

Sonic Forces is a game that finds itself stuck between to generations and no real commitment to pick its desired pathway. 

The classic side scrolling style of Sonic makes its return during large parts of Sonic Forces. For the most part, it’s fun, but the games’ insistence on taking the more modern 3D approach hinders for half of the experience kept me feeling a sense of constant change. For some games that’s good, but Sonic Forces feels like it’s trying to cater to two seperate styles, the newer of which continues to just not feel like the Sonic we all know and love.

You could argue that Sonic Forces didn’t even need to be released, because what the franchise is known and loved for already released in the form of Sonic Mania earlier this year. So why Sonic Forces? Well, I wish I could tell you, but after sinking many hours into the game, that answer still isn’t clear.

Simple Yet Annoying Changes In Style Hinder Sonic Forces

Simplicity is the name of the game here, despite the constant change happening around you. Enemies are easy to beat, and you take turns between using Sonic and a custom made character, of which you design when first beginning the game. Boss battles can be tricky at times, but after a few goes, you quickly grasp just what it is you need to do in order to beat them. Story wise, Sonic Forces just didn’t do it for me, and I didn’t find myself asking myself what I was actually working toward whilst playing through the missions.

Stop the bad guy, that’s really all I knew throughout. Having said that, Sonic Forces isn’t built to feature a gripping story mode, the story is just an essential part to aid progression, and it’s a rather desperate attempt at that.

Some levels are fun, whilst others are downright annoying. The levels I particularly enjoyed were the side scrollers, but when the game forced me into playing behind the character, I found myself wanting to immediately put the controller down. That’s a shame, because if Sonic Forces just stuck with what it did well, the side scrolling, I’d be happy to keep on going and maybe redo some of the levels.

Sonic Forces Wrestles With Differing Ideologies

Whilst fun in patches, Sonic Forces could’ve been so much better if it stuck to what the franchise has always done well. It had all the tools to be better than it was, but it’s trickery with the formula keeps it from being a must have for fans of the famous hedgehog.

FINAL SCORE: 6/10