MOST WANTED 2017/18

Detroit

As we head into the final stretch of 2017 I thought it might be worth taking a look at some of the titles that will be coming to the PlayStation 4 in the next year. Have a look below to watch some footage of the games I’d recommend keeping an eye on in the next 12 months (and beyond!).

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Star Wars: Battlefront II

I liked the first Battlefront game, it certainly looked the part but eventually the lack of content killed off my interest. This time out DICE are not messing around, with triple the maps, heroes and vehicles that the first game had. There are also more game modes and a nice bump in the graphics (see above video). The game now encompasses the locations of all the Star Wars films, not just the most recent and the addition of heroes like Chewbacca and Rey mean everyone’s favourites should be in here. As well as all that there is also a full story mode (missing from the first game) which gives you even more value for your money.

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Detroit: Become Human

There is something wonderful about finishing a David Cage game like Heavy Rain and then discussing with friends to see whether they had a similar experience and if you both had the same characters alive at the end. Detroit: Become Human looks set to continue this tradition, with you playing as three androids in a futuristic vision of Detroit. Androids are starting to go rogue and demanding independence, you’ll be able to see the story from three viewpoints: Connor hunts down ‘deviant’ androids, Kara is a ‘deviant’ who has escaped from the factory she was built in and Markus, who wants to free all androids. Hopefully the game can build on the interesting questions raised around androids and AI in last years TV series Westworld.

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Forgotten Anne

Forgotten Anne had slipped under my radar but I was lucky enough to get to play it briefly recently and found myself enraptured. If you have an interest in animation or anime I’d recommend checking this out, it’s a beautiful game and is like playing a cartoon. Here’s the blurb from their website, which describes it better than I could: “Imagine a place where everything that is lost and forgotten goes; old toys, letters, single socks. The Forgotten Lands is a magical world inhabited by Forgotlings; creatures composed of mislaid objects longing to be remembered again.” Sounds like a perfect title to delve into and forget your troubles.

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Red Dead Redemption 2

Recently pushed back to early 2018, Red Dead Redemption 2 will be Rockstar’s first release since juggernaut GTA V. After playing that I can’t wait to see what they deliver in a western setting. The first Red Dead was fantastic and no doubt the power of the PS4 will be at full stretch for this one. In this game we’ll be playing as Arthur Morgan and the Van der Linde gang as they travel the old West getting up to no good. In addition to the single player mode I’m really excited to see what they do with the multiplayer. In the previous game multiplayer was a really fun experience but after GTA Online I’m expecting them to really step it up and give us something special to get our teeth into.

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The Last Of Us: Part II

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Probably one of my favourite ever games, The Last Of Us was phenomenal. The story was excellent, with one of the best cast performances in gaming history. So no pressure on the sequel, right? The question was asked almost as soon as the last game arrived. Would you play a sequel? Do we need a sequel? The answer to the first was yes and the second could only be answered by the creators of the game – luckily for us they have obliged and hopefully they can repeat the magic of the first title. I’m not going to talk plot or characters just in case anyone reading this hasn’t played the first one… and if you haven’t go play it now!

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Cyberpunk 2077

No list of upcoming games would be complete without Cyberpunk 2077. Originally announced in 2012 we’re on course for a late 2018/early 2019 release and having played their other recent title, The Witcher 3, I can say that Cyberpunk 2077 is definitely one to look forward to. It looks set to be a deep RPG with plenty of customisable options for your character. There is always a danger when a game is in development for so long that it might disappoint but all the signs point to this one living up to the hype and it’s cyberpunk, so what’s not to like 🙂

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God Of War

I wasn’t sure whether I needed another God Of War game, I enjoyed the first couple but with the handheld games, and a few extra spin offs, my appetite waned for Kratos’ brand of hack ‘n’ slash. Then they showed the trailer of an older Kratos with his son and I was sold. Maybe they could tell a decent story in amongst the violent carnage and switching from Greek mythology to Norse will also help freshen things up. Add to that the game is Kratos first real trip out on the PS4 and I’m hopeful we could have a great game on our hands.


So there you go, there are plenty of other great games coming as well but these are the ones that really resonate with me. It’s been another amazing year for gaming, with Horizon: Zero Dawn, Destiny 2 and Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice, among others, giving us a real treat in terms of gameplay and story.

I can’t wait to see what else is announced as we move into 2018!

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Playing Games Like You Watch TV Or: Why It Took Me Over Two Years To Finish Dragon Age: Inquisition

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I’ve spoken about my gaming habits plenty in the past but I’ve noticed another shift in the last year or so. If I have an hour spare now in the evening I’m much more likely to play an online game, not something single player based.

While it sounds contrary to the above, I feel like I want to invest more time in single player game sessions than ever and really lose myself in that world, which conflicts with my gaming schedule – essentially the odd hour here and there in the evening. I’m finding that I don’t want to play something story based for 45 minutes or an hour. Or at least that’s how I feel about open world games, I’m certainly still happy to play an hour long session to complete a chapter of Uncharted or a main mission in Tomb Raider. More linear games still lend themselves to that style of play. I’ve always played those kind of games like TV shows anyway, a chapter or two at a time over the course of weeks rather than days. I’ve never been a gamer who will rush through a 15-20 hour game in a weekend.

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Horizon: Zero Dawn is a good example of this new play style, a game I likely would’ve rushed through before is now a title I’m planning to play over the course of months rather than weeks. Crucially, I also feel like I’m getting more enjoyment out of the game by taking the time to explore and discover smaller content along the way.

I think there is an accompanying parallel change in multiplayer games, which are doing a much better job of getting you to come back and play more often. There has been a positive change in a huge amount of games whereby new content (new levels/maps or characters) is being added free of charge for all players. This is important because, firstly, it means the player base isn’t split (some that paid have the new content but others don’t and they can’t all play together) and secondly it gives people a strong reason to come back to games they might not have ever returned to before this trend. In addition a lot of games are rewarding players for logging in and playing, which keeps people interested for longer.  I also feel like there are a ton of pick up and play online experiences that last 5-10 minutes per game, which align perfectly with the time I have available.

If I only have 30-45 mins spare why waste my time on an open world title and have to turn it off just as I’m getting into the rhythm of the game? I’d rather play a few rounds Overwatch and a game of Rocket League. It’s also occasionally quite nice to play something that has a set beginning, middle and end. I guess it’s similar to watching a really good eight episode TV show knowing it only has one season and tells a complete story within that.

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Big, sprawling open world titles are definitely still attractive to me, Horizon is one of the best games I’ve played in the last 4 or 5 years, but I just need more time to play and invest in them. Dragon Age: Inquisition took me over two years to finish. Why? I suspect the TV season-like structure helped, along with the change in my own gaming habits. What I loved about the structure of Dragon Age in particular was that your main hub in the game was your ‘War Table’, where you and your colleagues/advisors would plan your next tactical move and which mission to take on. On this table you had a selection of smaller missions, including favours for your colleagues that would reveal more about them and strengthen your relationship with them, but also one bigger mission that moved the main story on considerably. So for me, the game became like a TV show in so far as I would spend a few weeks playing side missions, levelling up and getting some character development for my team before doing the big, climatic ‘end of season’ mission and then putting the game down for a month or two.

Another huge title in terms of scale is Fallout 4, which I’m still playing 18 months after I started. Why? Well for similar reasons to Dragon Age but with the added decision from the outset not to follow the direct path for ‘character reasons’. I decided to make my character more selfish than my usual created characters, for example my elf Inquisitor from Dragon Age or Commander Shepherd from Mass Effect. In Fallout, Bella would be a character that was, for the most part, more interested in her own current affairs than any grander goal – which has been great fun and I’d recommend everyone to try playing a character like it at some stage!

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Another issue with mainlining games is burnout, doing the same thing over and over again is certainly not fun and can severely lessen your enjoyment of a game. However, I think there is a huge difference between repetitive gameplay over a longer period of time in hour sized chunks and repetitive gameplay experienced in bigger 3 or 4 hour time slots.  I genuinely believe that the reason I still enjoy long running game series like Assassin’s Creed, where you are essentially doing the same thing in every iteration of the game in a different setting, is because I’ve never really sat down and played them for 4 or 5 hours at a time.

Episodic gaming kind of solves this play style problem, although it doesn’t always necessarily do the best job. Titles like The Walking Dead and Life Is Strange are great games, although each episode usually runs the length of a film which runs into the same problem for me time-wise. Hitman, which is perfectly suited to the episodic format, is another title with lengthy levels (a positive when I have the time to invest) although the inclusion of smaller one off assassinations does mean that is a game you can also dip into here and there.

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Some people are quick to mainline these huge games and I just don’t get it. Why would you want to rush through these big titles? Where Uncharted is like a film, games like Skyrim, Mass Effect or Dragon Age are like having 10 seasons of a TV show in front of you. Finishing these open world games as quickly as possible by doing just main quests would be like having a cut down version of the TV show that just focuses on the main character and no-one else. Sure you’d get to experience the story at the centre of the show but without any focus on other characters. Imagine a Buffy The Vampire Slayer without any development of Willow or Xander? Or an Orphan Black with no focus on Donny or anyone except Sarah? Indeed, imagine a Mass Effect that didn’t bother to flesh out your crew but just double downed on the main story.

I’m as guilty as the next person of binge-watching TV shows but I do feel that for games it is a little different – as I mentioned above my confusion isn’t really based on people playing games quickly, it’s what you might be missing along the way. Even if I binge something like Jessica Jones I am still seeing all the story the creators put in there and want us to see. If you mainline a game you could be missing a wealth of interesting content and potentially things that might be integral to the wider plot of the game.

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Even in this age of on demand binge watching it can be nice to watch a TV show week by week – one of the biggest luxuries of the ‘old’ approach to watching TV or playing games is that you have time to think about and appreciate the content you’re consuming. I’ve found that in games but also in TV. Recently, Legion was a delight to watch week by week and I actually think I needed that time between episodes to process what I’d seen. Sure, there is a rush from getting through something you’re enjoying – it can exhilarating knowing that you are just a click away from another episode or main mission but I’d recommend giving slower paced gaming a shot. It’s definitely a different experience and one, for me personally, that means I’ve gotten more enjoyment out of open world games.

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Rise Of The Tomb Raider – Review (PS4)

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I was quietly confident that Crystal Dynamics would be able to deliver a strong follow up to their 2013 reboot of Square Enix’s beloved franchise. The sequel arrived on XBox One a year previously as a console exclusive and it got great reviews so I was excited to get a chance to play it. The initial reboot provided a good story paired with familiar but fun gameplay. So did they manage to better this with Rise Of The Tomb Raider?

Graphically the game is stunning and while it can’t match Uncharted 4 it certainly has some sections I thought were beautiful to look at. The level design and more open ended areas give the game some nice spaces to explore, although it suffers from that age old open-world issue of giving you ludicrously low stakes side quests while the end of the world approaches.

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In this instance Lara is chasing an artifact that can grant immortality but the supernatural side of things doesn’t really come into play before the final third. Until then you are taking out an army of mercenaries and trying to beat their leaders to the artifact. The story is so-so to be honest and I saw the main twist coming a mile off but overall it’s an enjoyable campaign to play through.

In addition to the main missions there are also bigger open world parts of the game which contain the optional side missions I mentioned above. The return of puzzle based Tombs is welcome as the ones I completed were a nice distraction from the main path but didn’t take too long to finish.

There are robust skill and crafting trees, which is cool and lets you build your own version of Lara that can play to your own gameplay strengths. Likewise Lara has a selection of different outfits that each come with a stat boost, 10% more melee damage for example, so you can really shape the character to your playstyle.

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While Rise of The Tomb Raider doesn’t have the impact of the original, it builds on what came before and delivers a really good experience with amazing graphics. Unfortunately it suffers a little from hitting the PS4 after Uncharted 4 and can’t quite match the heights of Nathan Drake and co. Nevertheless it’s a strong title which I’d recommend checking out.

Rating 8/10

GregHorrorShow: Game Awards 2016

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So another stellar year done and a lot of games played, there have been some great releases and so many that I simply didn’t have time to get to them all. So apologies to Doom, Watch Dogs 2, Mafia III and Dishonored 2 (among others)… I will get around to playing you soon I promise!

Anyway, for 2016 – here we go:

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MISSED GEM OF 2015

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WINNER: Telltale’s ‘Tales From The Borderlands’

I’m seriously considering changing the name of this award to ‘Telltale’s Missed Gem’ because once again they take this with ‘Tales From The Borderlands’, an episodic adventure set in the Borderlands universe with a (mainly) new cast of characters. Telling the story of Rhys and Fiona from both viewpoints and with what can only be described as unreliable narration of both sides, it’s good fun. Great writing and some awesome set up in terms of vibe and atmosphere made this a whole lot better than I expected – heartily recommended.

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BEST DLC (CONTENT)

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WINNER: Assassin’s Creed Syndicate

Assassin’s Creed: Syndicate didn’t get the props it deserved in last year’s awards as I hadn’t finished it. So let the record state I thought it was the best AC game since Brotherhood. In addition to that we also got a great chunk of DLC based around the mythology of Jack The Ripper in which, playing as an older version of Evie, you have to track down London’s most notorious serial killer. Good fun and a rare chance to play as an older incarnation of a character, its well worth checking out. In terms of online DLC support both Uncharted 4 and Overwatch provided their players with free maps and new modes along with, in the case of the latter, new characters. Great stuff.

RUNNERS UP:

  • Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End
  • Destiny
  • Overwatch

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THE JOE DANGER AWARD

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WINNER: Skullgirls – 2nd Encore

I put a whole host of, unexpected, time into Skullgirls upon it’s release for Vita in April. I had been looking for a fighter to get into and while I did consider the latest Street Fighter and Mortal Kombat, in the end Skullgirls cartoon style won me over. What I wasn’t prepared for was how enjoyable the game would be to a newcomer. Playing through the character stories was great fun, though I did get repeatedly beaten online!

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MOST ANTICIPATED GAME OF 2017

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WINNER: Mass Effect Andromeda

This was a pretty close run thing, truth be told and Mass Effect ends up taking it by virtue of the fact I’m confident it’ll actually come out this year, unlike Red Dead Redemption 2! Both are highly desired though and I can’t wait to get my hands on them. I loved the original Gravity Rush so it makes sense the sequel is up there and Horizon: Zero Dawn looks set to be the most exciting new IP of 2017. I did want to put Persona 5 on here but I’m a bit nervous about it, just in terms of having had a connection with the characters of the previous game. New characters, new location… same magic? Fingers crossed.

RUNNERS UP:

  • Red Dead Redemption 2
  • Gravity Rush 2
  • Horizon: Zero Dawn

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BEST GAME TRAILER

WINNER: Red Dead Redemption 2

What can you say about Red Dead Redemption 2? Rockstar dropped a logo on Twitter and the world went crazy. When they dropped the trailer the gaming world pretty much unanimously stopped for 1 minute and 8 seconds. The piano, the graphics, the feel of the Wild West. It’s all there and showed us a brief glimpse of what might be on the horizon. Battlefield 1 dazzled us with amazing graphics and Gravity Rush 2 maintained the awesome style of the first game. Meanwhile Blizzard delivered a near Pixar-quality short as a trailer for Overwatch.

RUNNERS UP:

  • Battlefield 1
  • Overwatch
  • Gravity Rush 2

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BEST VITA GAME

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WINNER: Skullgirls – 2nd Encore

As noted above I hadn’t thought Skullgirls would grab me the way it did, especially as someone that doesn’t really play many fighting games. But it definitely did and the game does a great job of teaching you as much as you want to learn with a really in depth tutorial system. The characters and art style are cool and the music is fantastic. The Vita port is solid as well and the game controlled really well. I’d definitely say to pick this up if you’re interested in getting into a fighting game.

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BEST GRAPHICS

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WINNER: Battlefield 1

DICE have a history of nabbing this award with previous wins for Battlefield 3 (2013) and Star Wars: Battlefront (2015) and this year the competition was even fiercer with both Uncharted 4 and The Division delivering awe inspiring worlds and Overwatch bringing a stylised vibe to the party as well. Having said that, Battlefield 1 is a stunning looking game – one of those games you’ll show to people on the edge about buying a new console… ‘But look at this!’

RUNNERS UP:

  • Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End
  • The Division
  • Overwatch

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BEST STORYLINE

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WINNER: Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End

I expect this one will come as no surprise to anyone as my love for Uncharted is well documented on these pages but after the departure of Amy Hennig I wasn’t entirely convinced that the heart of the game would still be there but thankfully Naughty Dog delivered everything we wanted story-wise. Sure, Nathan Drake now has a brother we’ve never heard about previously but the story here is well paced, enjoyable and uses the characters to great effect. Titanfall 2 has a claim on best level of 2016 with one mid level (pleasant) surprise and I thought the Infinite Warfare campaign was one of the best in Call Of Duty history. While Battlefield 1 tailed off in the last couple of story missions it started really strongly and Black Bess in particular was fantastic.

RUNNERS UP:

  • Call Of Duty: Infinite Warfare
  • Titanfall 2
  • Battlefield 1

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BEST MUSIC (SCORE)

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WINNER: Overwatch

Skullgirls has a wonderful score that compliments it’s crazy outlandish aesthetic perfectly. Uncharted 4 and Battlefield 1 have amazing, soaring scores that do a great job to match the on-screen action throughout. But Overwatch… That theme when you load the game up, the swell as it reaches a crescendo. The ‘Play Of The Game’ theme is such a cool, heroic riff that does a super job of conveying that sense of heroism. Even the smaller parts like the music that accompanies the end of a round hit the mark. Really impressive stuff.

RUNNERS UP:

  • Battlefield 1
  • Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End
  • Skullgirls – 2nd Encore

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BEST MUSIC (LICENSED)

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WINNER: Gone Home

Despite some misgivings over the game itself there is no doubt that Gone Home had a killer soundtrack, with songs from Heavens to Betsy, Bratmobile and The Youngins (as GirlScout). With the game set in 1995 the developer did a great job of nailing that feel with the music. FIFA 17, as usual, delivered an eclectic mix of new artists for players to discover like Bishop Briggs and Barns Courtney alongside heavy hitters like Beck and Two Door Cinema Club. Special shout out to Tales From The Borderlands as well, I know it came out last year but as it wasn’t featured I felt a mention was in order for first class use of stuff like James Blake, The Rapture and First Aid Kit. Also apologies again to Watch Dogs 2 and Mafia III, who I suspect may have featured here if I’d played them.

RUNNERS UP:

  • FIFA 17
  • Tales From The Borderlands

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BEST VOICE ACTING

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WINNER: Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End

Uncharted once againtakes home the best voice acting award – adding the irrepressible Troy Baker (Sam) and amazing Laura Bailey (Nadine) to the already stellar cast of Nolan North, Emily Rose and Richard McGonagle. The game itself is so full of graphical prowess and little touches that give the characters personality that it’s easy to forget the stunning job the cast of Uncharted consistently delivered. Unparalleled in gaming. I enjoyed the cast’s performance in Call Of Duty: Infinite Warfare as well, with Ethan the robot shining alongside David Harewood as Sgt. Usef Omar. Camilla Luddington was spot on as Lara Croft in Rise Of The Tomb Raider and while I loved the voices in Overwatch I didn’t feel there was enough voiced content in the game for it to take the award.

RUNNERS UP:

  • Overwatch
  • Call Of Duty: Infinite Warfare
  • Rise Of The Tomb Raider

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SINGLE PLAYER GAME OF THE YEAR

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WINNER: Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End

What a way to round out the series! Uncharted 4 excels in so many areas it’s difficult to know where to start. Graphically it’s a powerhouse, with a great story and excellent voice acting. It controls really well and Naughty Dog also managed to keep a more gritty tone while retaining the original trilogy’s sense of swagger and humour. A fantastic achievement and a bench mark for single player campaigns. Rise Of The Tomb Raider continued the series high quality revival, expanding on several elements to give the player a host of customisation to their playthrough. Considering the original Titanfall didn’t have a campaign, it’s surprising that the sequel’s turned out so well. But it did and had lots of memorable moments that set you up nicely for the multiplayer. Hitman was a delight this year, split into episodic chunks that you could consume at leisure, basking in each level’s quirks and areas. Similarly to the excellent Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain, I really felt like if I made a mistake in Hitman I had a chance to recover or at least try something different. A real triumph and I look forward to Season 2.

RUNNERS UP:

  • Rise Of The Tomb Raider
  • Titanfall 2
  • Hitman

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MULTIPLAYER GAME OF THE YEAR

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WINNER: Overwatch

I put quite a bit of time into both The Division and Uncharted 4’s online components this year and really enjoyed both of them. The Division’s cooperative online set up meant it was fun to play with friends and I’ve always enjoyed Nathan Drake’s multiplayer adventures so Uncharted 4 was no different. Probably the best ever offering in my opinion and while I didn’t play as much Titanfall 2 I thought what I did play was great fun. Despite all that only one game captivated me since it’s release back in Spring, of course, it’s Overwatch! With so many characters and classes (and sub classes) on offer (23 at last count with more coming) there is something here for everyone. Not great at shooters? Go with a healer instead, or maybe a defender like Mei, who can pop up ice walls to block off the opposition. Coming across like the best Saturday morning kids show ever, Overwatch might be the best multiplayer game I’ve ever played, and that’s saying something!

RUNNERS UP:

  • The Division
  • Titanfall 2
  • Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End

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GAME OF THE YEAR

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WINNER: Overwatch

I was really looking forward to Overwatch, I thought the Beta was neat and wanted to get my hands on it. It wasn’t even mentioned in my most anticipated games last year but it was the first game in a long time that I actually hit the level cap for. As discussed above there simply isn’t another shooter, or game, like it. The team based nature of it and the positive feedback loop of having good things during the match being the focus of end game round ups is awesome. Add into that the gender, and race, diversity that flows through the cast of colourful characters and you have a winning formula. Yes it can be frustrating, especially in competitive mode, but to win a closely fought match is one of the best feelings in gaming.

RUNNERS UP:

  • Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End
  • The Division
  • Hitman

So there we go, another year down and lots of amazing games on the horizon for 2017!

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GregHorrorShow: The TV Of 2016

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As Netflix’s dominance over TV continues, it was interesting to see traditional TV’s reaction and what type of shows they would bring to the table in response. 2016 saw some great new shows across the formats and I found myself torn between lots of different programmes.

In fact I have to admit I started a lot more shows than I managed to finish! So in this first section I’ll be looking solely at shows that I haven’t seen the whole season of…

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SHOWS TO BE CONTINUED…

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Luke Cage looks set to follow in the steps of the superb Jessica Jones and deliver a gritty, cool superhero story. I’m loving what I’ve seen so far. Glitch is an interesting series about a group of people that come back from the dead in a small Australian town. It seems to be hitting the right notes, even if the acting is a little ‘hammy’ at times. A recording issue halted my run through of Mr Robot halfway through but that has been great and is definitely something I’ll return to, likewise the second season of Wayward Pines – which took an interesting turn after the conclusion of the first season. The second season of Daredevil didn’t really grab me and the introduction of Elektra did not feel like it raised the stakes unfortunately. We are still partway through season 2 of The Librarians and I still find it to be a great ‘popcorn’ show with some cool episode ideas.

 


 

In terms of new shows the main highlights were the 80’s inspired Stranger Things and the AI driven Westworld. Stranger Things delivered a brilliant mix of strong acting and a huge dose of nostalgia. Westworld told a great story that asks some interesting questions, especially as a gamer, but ultimately felt like it just took too long to get there. Again the acting was great and the CGI was among the best I’ve seen. The Shannara Chronicles was an interesting idea, mythical creatures roaming the Earth long after current civilizations have been eradicated. It wasn’t the best show I’ve seen but it certainly wasn’t the worst. Similarly, The Magicians (based on the best selling novel series) followed a similar path and while it had a few great moments it just didn’t grab me.

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I adored iZombie, with seasons 1 and 2 arriving on UK Netflix this year. It also takes my award for Episode Of The Year with ‘Astroburger’, an episode that contains, for me, one of the most brutal TV gut punches in recent history. I won’t spoil it but man, that was some jaw dropping stuff. Both Blindspot and The Blacklist returned and they delivered as expected, though the former got off to a rough start with an underwhelming opening episode.

Quantico was a fun show that focused on the FBI training academy and the betrayal of it’s students during a terror attack. 12 Monkeys returned and continued to impress as one of the few shows out there that actually grasps the fundamentals of time travel. I really enjoyed how things developed in the second season and thought it was great to see Jennifer Goines (Emily Hampshire) used to better effect.

Orphan Black‘s fourth season delved deeper into the rabbit hole and what a season it was. It was also great to (finally) see Tatiana Maslany rewarded with an Emmy for her ridiculously amazing work on the show. The second, and as it turns out final, season of Agent Carter dropped off a bit and while I thoroughly enjoyed it, I felt it didn’t quite live up to expectations after the great first season. Still sad to see it cancelled though.

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Best New Show

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This year it has to be Stranger Things. Arriving pretty much out of nowhere to be one of the most talked about TV events of 2016. A wonderful performance from all the cast was spearheaded by Winona Ryder and Millie Bobby Brown. Dustin was also great and the story was well told and enjoyable. The only downside was the poor treatment of Barb  😦

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Best Show

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No doubt here either as iZombie fast became one of my favourite shows of recent years. The mix of pop culture references and fast wit should be expected from the creator of Veronica Mars but the show hits so many high notes that I enjoyed every episode. Great performances and a strong main concept mean I’m really looking forward to season 3 in 2017. Also props for the Millwall mention, never thought my team’s name would be uttered on a big US TV show!

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GregHorrorShow: The Films Of 2016

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For me 2016 was the year that film found it’s groove again. After several years of bemoaning the state of the industry and lauding TV, it’s time to celebrate some great films! For full disclosure I did work on some of these films in the capacity of my day job but that hasn’t affected whether or not I’d recommend them to you fine folks   😉

I’ll start with a short, Pear Cider and Cigarettes, which I was lucky enough to do some work on. This animated film was a real treat, I loved the style and look forward to seeing more from Robert Valley. Keeping things animated was Ethel and Ernest, the true story of Raymond Briggs’ parents, animated by the great man himself. It was a touching, wonderful film. Another touching film was Sing Street, one that I wasn’t sure if I was going to like. It was a brilliant romp through 80’s clichés and the first video their band makes had me in stitches!

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On a darker tip I enjoyed Urban Hymn, the story of a social worker that tries her best to help an under privileged child break out of the negative lifestyle she’s chosen. If I thought that was sad I was under-prepared for I, Daniel Blake – which is all the more tragic for the light it shines on some people’s real life experience with the NHS/Government. A Monster Calls was truly heart-wrenching, the story of a boy dealing with his mother’s terminal illness, but a fantastic watch.

The Hateful Eight was an early year highlight, especially getting to see the 70mm version when they brought it to London! I also really liked The Infiltrator and was surprised it didn’t get more buzz upon release. Bryan Cranston was great and it was a cool, tense flick. American Honey was another revelation, Andrea Arnold delivering an amazing slice of Americana and uncovering a side of US life I had no idea existed.

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Having kids means that a lot of cinema time is spent watching films aimed at a younger audience and there were some greats in 2016; Secret Life Of Pets was probably my favourite, closely followed by Finding Dory, which did a great job of following up on the original. Trolls was good fun but super fluffy and felt quite light compared to some of the other kids films I’ve seen over the last few years.

Midnight Special was truly awesome, a sci-fi film that left you with more questions than answers – which is always nice. Another, slightly lower budget, sci-fi flick was Netflix’s Arq – the story of a handful of characters reliving the same few hours over and over again. Clever stuff and I thought it was good fun. Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children was quite enjoyable but by the end was pushing the boundaries of how much ‘Tim Burton’ I can take in one film!

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FILM OF THE YEAR

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It’s been a tough year to pick just one film but I have to go with The Hateful Eight. Fantastic performances all round, though Jennifer Jason Leigh as Daisy Domergue and Tim Roth as Oswaldo Mobray pretty much stole the show for me. Shot beautifully and with a masterful soundtrack from Enrico Morricone, if you can stand the violence and bad language you won’t find a better film in 2016.

 


 

 

GregHorrorShow: The Books Of 2016

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I started 2016 with a goal of reading more books than 2015’s thirteen titles but unfortunately an early year back injury meant I wasn’t able to carry a book with me on my commute to work each day and seriously impacted my reading time. I did still read some great titles though and here’s a recap of books I’d recommend.

I can always rely on Lee Child‘s ‘Jack Reacher’ series for a great page-turning read and with his latest novel ‘Make Me‘ I genuinely felt he changed up the formula for the better. As a writer you have to be careful not to alienate your existing fan base but Child straddles the line superbly here. As a bonus, the accompanying ‘behind the scenes’ look at Child’s writing method for the book – ‘Reacher Said Nothing‘ was fascinating to a Reacher nerd like me.

In the non-fiction stakes I found Naomi Klein‘s climate change missive;’This Changes Everything‘ to be an interesting yet thoroughly depressing book, especially now that it seems both the UK and US have people shaping the environmental discussion that don’t seem to have a clue about what is actually going on in, and around, our fragile planet. I’m a big believer in the methodology of Shawn Acher (if you haven’t seen it check out his amazing TED talk here) and his book ‘The Happiness Advantage‘ gives a great insight into the world of positivity and how creating a more positive environment for yourself can really make a difference to your day to day life.

 

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I’ve never really been one for poetry but after hearing this On Being interview with Mary Oliver I took the plunge and ordered one of her books. ‘Selected Poems‘, as the title suggests, is a collection of her work spanning many years. I loved her work on life and nature, it was a pleasure to grab this from the shelf, make a coffee and lose myself for half an hour here and there throughout the year.

Kenneth Calhoun’s ‘Black Moon’ was an interesting take on the post apocalyptic/zombie style genre, with the inability to sleep causing most of the human race to turn into slobbering masses of meat. I really liked the first character we met and was a little disappointed when it turned out we wouldn’t be staying with him throughout. Nevertheless, I liked this one and it’s well worth a read.

Isaac Asimov is world-renowned for a good reason. This year I finally got around to reading ‘Foundation‘ and really enjoyed it. It’s tale of political unrest set far into the future was great fun to get to grips with. Another book I started that I’m approaching the end of is Brent Weeks ‘The Black Prism’. I was a big fan of Weeks’ previous series (The Night Angel Trilogy) and although the characters here don’t quite hit the same heights, it’s an interesting world and the use of colour as magic is certainly something different. This isn’t one for a light read though, clocking in at over 700 pages!

 

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So there you go, hopefully you might pick some of those up at some stage if you think they are of interest. I think my favourite book this year was Lee Child’s ‘Make Me’, mainly because it was such a thrill, as a long time fan, to see Child switch things up and make Reacher unpredictable again. On a more peaceful note the Mary Oliver collection was also a highlight.