Monday, 6 July 2015

Spotify on PS4: Don't just dismiss it like I did.

Spotify has been available on PS4 for quite a while now. But, if you're anything like me, you may have dismissed it like I did.
Music streaming services don't exactly excite me as a gamer. I've tried a few too. Google, music unlimited and blinkbox music spring to mind. I have nothing against them as such - they're just not very exciting. They do what they what they were intended to do. Some better than others but that's besides the point.

I'm seeing things differently now though. Last Saturday I was on the couch trying to watch the tennis in peace with a good stack of cold drinks and the patio doors open wide to the garden. It was Bloody hot wasn't it? Anyway to cut a long story short; I couldn't hear the tennis all that way because the teenager next door had her music blaring out to the whole neighbourhood all afternoon. Eminem fan it seems. I think I heard his entire repertoire at least twice that afternoon.
So anyhow; it wasnt until about the 7th Eminem track that I heard a Spotify advert and I twigged she was streaming the music. From the advert I guessed she was using the free version, because of the ad, which seemed to work exactly the same way as blinkbox etc.
Like I said earlier; Im not that into music streaming but I did remember that there was a Spotify app for ps4. I didn't exactly go sprinting for my console to download it but I did so that evening before having some time with Batman Arkham knight.

So the app finished downloading and I gave it a bash. I wasn't expecting much but I was blown away. It really turned out to be quite fantastic in fact.
I was basically expecting a music app that plays tracks while you're gaming. End of. But its more than that. What it actually does is replace any in game music by telling the game you're playing to play your chosen Spotify track playlists instead of its own music files. It doesn't sound a lot but it makes a hell of a difference in most games of tried. Take the Witcher 3 for example. It comes with a great default score. Some really nice tunes. But truth told, when you're 100 + hrs in, that get respective.
Step forward Spotify. The app replaces the music with whatever you want to hear. And the best bit is that because the game treats it as in game music no other sound effects are dulled or muted at all. (The volume of music can be adjusted in app on the fly too).

Another great feature is if you use a mobile or tablet, you don't even have to navigate the ps4" Spotify app at all. Connection from Spotify on tablet to ps4 is just one button press away. It's great being able to just add new tracks to play without even needing to pause your game. And its all really solidly coded too. It just works.

Best feature I've saved to last though. Can't think of anything to listen to during play. Search Spotify for the game your playing and try a user created playlist put together for just that game. I tried a Witcher 3 one the other night and I was soon slaying hordes of Necrophages whilst headbanging to this truly fantastically apt Nordic heavy metal rock. Genius.

I could go on about how good this app is all night but I just wrap it up by reminding you that it's free. The quality is restricted supposedly on the free version and you get the occasional advert too. But to be honest I haven't been annoyed by the odd advert and I can't tell any difference in sound quality either so I'll stick to the fee version. The option for higher quality and no adverts is provided though but it comes at the price of a steep £10 a month. I'd recommend trying the free version first though.

Get on your PS4 and try it now. I doubt you'll regret it and you have nothing to lose. I really feel it brings yet another next generation experience to the Sony machine that might even equal the impact of the share button. It's that good.

What are you waiting for?

Wednesday, 24 June 2015

I loved my PC. But I don't regret ditching it for consoles.

I loved gaming on PC. My rig was never monstrous in the spec dept, amd CPU + gtx 770, but it gave me a good year or so playing most AAA games. Games that ran far better and far more beautiful than they did on the consoles I was used to. In most cases the step up to native 1080p was enough to put my Xbox one games to shame and, for framerate, it was always just too buttery smooth for even my ps4.

But they were the well optimised games. The best case scenario if you will.

Then there were games that came along , less well optimised, from lazy developers unwilling to shape code sufficient to make a PC rig sing. Games like Assassins creed Unity. A game so horridly ported, so slapped together with no regard for quality, that it's only equal in example was astonishingly the same Publishers prior game.

Both Watch dogs and Assassins creed do not, by any means, stand alone as far as terrible PC ports go, but they are great flag bearers for the cause. We have two games from the same publisher that stutter and chug so much that framerate on most rigs are reduced to mere slideshows. Games that send even the most PC elitest sprinting for the lowest setting like Usain Bolt for Virgin media cash. No, these games are truly hideous and borked to such degree that even slinging the world's only true proven saviours fix all for PC problems at it, the wallet, is not enough to drag these games much north of a steady 30fps +.

It was because of games like that, I packed in PC gaming a while ago and headed back to the welcoming bussoms of Microsoft and Sony -  Companies that both only want me for my cash but are at least willing to offer me the allure of a steady fps to get it.

I miss 'good' PC gaming. I miss the money I saved on cheaper Steam games. I especially miss those little graphical extras you get in games. Like fur on the animals in far cry 4 or the great tessellation in GTA v. And especially envious of the way PC Geralts ponytails bobs and weaves in the wind.

But I can't go back. I can't because of games like Arkham knight.
If there'd been any game that brought me back it would have been that one. I was tempted. I'm a big Batman fan and I was as impressed by Nvidias touted gamesworks visual feature as the next guy. But I stuck with my PS4 preorder. I'm glad I did. Buying Arkham knight at launch for PC would have been a gamble. It could have been a really good port. In which case the added graphics features would have made the definitive place to experience Rocksteady's swansong.

But it wasn't a good port and that makes me sad. Sad for people out there who still have a that passion for PC gaming. I know what it's like to look forward to a new release just end up bitterly disappointed and I feel for those gamers who waited up till midnight to play there new game the moment it unlocked on Steam just to find a yet another lazy half hearted 5fps port.

I don't regret going back to consoles. I'm enjoying Arkham knight on PS4 and even though it may not run at 60fps or have Nvidias enhanced rain drops, its still clear that it was the focus of Rocksteady's attention and as such is a really solid experience.

So in summery, yeah I miss my PC. But not that much. As long as there are PC Ports like Arkham or creed in the world - I'm better off where I am.

Tuesday, 23 June 2015

The Batmobile is AMAZING!!

Omg. The batmobile is amazing in Arkham knight. Rarely have I ever encountered a gameplay mechanic added to an existing series that has had such a profound effect. Just to say the addition of vehicle combat and traversal freshens the usual Arkham gameplay is a whopping understatement. No, the inclusion of the Batmobile shakes up the whole damn game.

One thing that has me perplexed at the moment however, is I can't seem to find the brake for the Batmobile and I'm starting to think there isn't one. Which is a bit weird at first. But I'm getting used to it.

Have to say the quick transform to battle tank mode, L2, is a joy. You can literally go from blazing down the street at unholy speed before shrieking to halt and seamlessly entering combat in seconds.
Even now I'm itching to get back to the game. So that's exactly what I'm going to do.
I'll leave you with this Batmobile gameplay footage captured direct from my Ps4. Enjoy and remember to like or subscribe if you do.

I am THE gwent master!

No seriously I am because I have the trophy to prove it.

Why this trophy is just a bronze I have no idea because it isn't all that easy. Worthy of a silver at least in my opinion.

Ok, so to get this trophy I needed to win a Gwent tournament held at the passiflora in Novigrad, during the sidequest mission 'High stakes'.
The tournament consisted of 4 rounds featuring increasingly more advanced opponents in each round. Oh and 1 punch up. Elves are poor losers it seems.

I have to say that I really love the Gwent mini game in Witcher 3, so going for this particular trophy, though difficult, wasn't at all a chore. In fact, I thought sticking a Gwent tournament into the game as a mission was a great idea and I genuinely wish they'd been more than just the one. A separate tournament for each territory, Velen-Novigrad-Skellige, would have been great. Oh well, perhaps they'll drop a few more tournaments into this winters dlc expansions. I'm hoping for loads more new cards too.

I included a gameplay video covering the Gwent tournament for you guys to check out, so I hope you enjoy that. If you do, please consider giving my blog a sub or my YouTube account. I'm only doing this for fun but every bit of of support I get is really appreciated.

Monday, 22 June 2015

Fathers day 2015

Okay not strictly gaming related but I couldn't let father's day go by without mentioning the rather excellent prezzies I got from my loving kids.

First up, we have a lovely painting of Toby, the family hound, by my eldest daughter Megan 14.


Next up, this custom Death note card is from my anime mad daughter Molly 12. The card has ALL the death notes rules written (BY HAND!) Inside and mounted to the front is a oven fired clay Shimigami. Awesome.


Finally we have a mini masterpiece of a card designed by my son Harry 8. Depicted here is the family dog Toby dreaming of me and I'm dreaming of apples. *
*It's not an apple. It's a heart and I'm dreaming if love 

Sunday, 21 June 2015

Trophy guide: Environmentally unfriendly (The Witcher 3)

Kill 50 opponents using the environment (e.g swamp gas, insect or objects)

Okay; really straight forward trophy this one. The game requires you to defeat 50 enemies using the environment, which, in this case, means things like bees, exploding barrels e.t.c.
Now I can't vouch for this 100% because I haven't reached this point in the game, but I hear that a lot of these type of environment kills occur naturally in a battle somewhere near the games finale. Apparently the battlefield is bombarded with meteors that kill loads of enemies and that each one counts as an environment kill.
But, if you want to get this minor trophy done and out of the way before that, there's a number of ways to proceed. The best ways I found are;
Swamp gas.
Basically, if you're fighting necrophages in a swamp, (hey that's like a quarter of the game, right?), then you'll no doubt spot areas coated in a yellow gas. Lure the enemies over to these spots and then simply light the gases with your igni sign.

Nice and easy. Ever see an enemy anywhere near a barrel, blow the barrel up using igni.

Aard sign.
I found this one the easiest method for racking up environment kills.
All you need do is knock your enemies flat on his back with Aard and then finish him with with the button.
I was surprised these counted to be honest. But they do.

Lastly, as I point out in the video, its worth mentioning the way I achieved by final environment kill. The last enemy I dispatch prior to the trophy popping seems to go down without any form of environment interaction. What I think happened here is this. I have recently upgraded my Quen sign and unlocked a kind of alternative cast for it. This is done by holding R2 instead of giving it a simple tap. Now I don't know exactly what this does by my guess is that when the enemy attacked he was repelled by the new Quen shield making my next blows environmentally assisted. That's my take on that anyway.
All in all an easy bronze. Go get it.

Check out my video for more.

Saturday, 27 September 2014

Review: The vanishing of Ethan Carter. (Updated)

*OK, Very embarrassing but a major error in my review has been pointed out to me by some kind soul on Twitter. In the review I state that the game uses cryengine but in fact it actually doesnt. It is instead an Unreal engine 3 game. How the dev team at Astronauts achieved the staggering visuals in this game using such an old well worn engine is anybody guess and just speaks further to their skills as coders and artists. Hats off to them. Apologies to them and you the reader for my glaring error in the review. I can't quite remember why I thought it was Cryengine but  I guess the huge unreal engine 3 logo at the start of the game was just to subtle a hint for me to twig my mistake. Somewhere there's a Picard facepalm meme with my name on it.

The vanishing of Ethan Carter is a gorgeous game. I'll get that out of the way right off the bat. Cryengine is responsible for probably the most technically beautiful game on PC, in crysis 3, and this game only really reinforces the reputation of Cryteks engine here.
The thing that is most striking about the visuals is just how natural everything seems. I loved the way the trees and foliage would sway and how leaves would float by on the breeze. Rocks too are a particular high point. Each highly detailed and the ones near the water sport the appropriate amount of moss coverage. A connoisseur of such things like myself can't help but be impressed.
All that isn't to say that the games visuals are ultra realistic though. Developers Astronauts have clearly not gone that route with this title. It would have easy for them to push for a realism in the game, like crysis 3, but an obvious effort has been made to be more stylised in their approach and what they achieve is a look that is technically very beautiful whilst still retaining a hand drawn look - and that suits the game perfectly.

On to the gameplay itself and, all in all, I had a pleasant experience with this game. If you've played the recent Square enix game Beyond soul suspect then you're going to get a familiar feeling from the vanishing of Ethan carter right from the start. Both games are very similar in their approach to solving mysteries, the way you scan for clues is almost identical.
The one area where both games differ though is in the way they introduce the player to the mechanics of the gameplay. Put it this way - The vanishing won't hold your hand in the same way soul suspect did. Or at all in fact. You see no tutorial messages for example. The game is literally just you and the world. Find your own way through it is the order of the day.
On a few occasions, I wondered how other players were coping with the game because I was having a strange experience. I should have been struggling I felt, but I wasn't and I couldn't put my finger on why at first. I was getting zero help from the game as promised, but I found myself whizzing through the games clues at a surprising speed.
Then I twigged what was going on. Astronauts will tell you the game has no tutorial and that you need to discover how to play on your own. But that's not completely true. You see the game does in fact have a tutorial. Its just not part of the main game and its not called the vanishing of Ethan Carter. Its called Beyond soul suspect.
Yep, that was it, I found this game so easy because I felt I'd played it already in soul suspect. The mechanics really are almost identical and , as such, I literally felt right at home with this new game.
That didn't really spoil my enjoyment of the game, but it did shorten the game for me. The trouble comes then from the fact that the vanishing of Ethan Carter is already kind of a short experience. Having said that though, I won't bash Astronauts for that when the length of the game has been addressed in the price. £14.99 is about the right price for this game IMO.

Like titles such as Gone home and dear Esthar, Some will label the vanishing of Ethan Carter as just a pretty walking simulator. But I think that's as unfair to this title as it was to those other games. It offers an experience that stands on its own two feet and doesn't need to pack action in unnecessarily. In fact the only part of the game where I was just ever so slightly disappointed was a section midway through that seemed shoehorned in as a mere grudgingly given nod to the current crop of fashionable horror games on the market. The section had me trying to navigate an underground maze while avoiding monsters in a kind of riff on the hide and seek gameplay of Outlast. It just felt a little weird and out of place in my opinion and was a concession that Astronauts didn't really need to make.

Overall, I enjoyed my time with The vanishing of Ethan Carter. I wouldn't go as far as recommending this game over soul suspect, which I really enjoyed, but there is certainly room for both games in this genre and I'd really recommend both as they really do unintendedly compliment each other rather well.


The vanishing of Ethan Carter is available on Steam for £14.99 and is coming to PlayStation 4 at a later date.