GregHorrorShow’s Non Gaming 2020 Round Up

I’m kicking off my round up of the year that was 2020 with a look at all things non-gaming, the gaming round up will land early in the new year!

I was lucky enough to use some of my extra time at home from not commuting to plough through lots of books, mainly over the summer months. In terms of fiction I particularly enjoyed Before The Coffee Gets Cold by Toshikazu Kawaguchi, a wonderful time travel story, Call For The Dead by John le Carre, an old school mystery thriller and Kitchen by Banana Yoshimoto, a touching tale of loss and grief. The second Black Prism book, The Blinding Knife by Brent Weeks was also a novel I enjoyed – coming in at over 700 pages meant it was a hefty read though!

On the graphic novel front I really liked the 4th instalment of Lumberjanes by Noelle Stevenson, The Last Of Us: American Dreams by Druckmann/Hicks and Vox Machina: Origins by Mercer/Colville. However my absolute highlight was Paper Girls (Vol. 2 & 3), which might be one of my favourite graphic novel series ever. The story continues as the four paper girls meet future selves and travel through time – I imagine it won’t be long until this gets made into a TV show.

I read a lot of factual books as well in 2020. Spotify Teardown was an interesting, if dry, look at what makes the streaming giant tick and I really liked Ed Catmull’s Creativity Inc, a look inside how Pixar works and the best ways to work in a creative environment. Rockonomics by Alan Krueger was a brilliant look at the music industry and everything in it while my favourite book this year, EMI: Selling The Pig by Eamonn Forde, focuses solely on the troubled times of the legendary record label EMI before it was acquired a few years back. Fascinating stuff for music buffs.

As usual I have a playlist of some of my favourite tracks from the year, embedded below:

In terms of big artists it was hard to avoid Dua Lipa or Billie Eilish during 2020, with both delivering a great run of singles. Blackpink continued their dominance of the pop scene with tracks that included duets with Lady Gaga and Selena Gomez. Taylor Swift dropped two excellent albums within months of each other to remind everyone why she is one of the biggest, and best, pop stars in the world.

It was brilliant to see Haim back with another superb album and very early in the year The Big Moon released a fantastic album after some really great singles last year. Celeste was everywhere and for good reason, she is an amazing artist with a wonderful voice and we also saw a new album from Disclosure that had a host of bangers on, along with some brilliant vocal guests.

I discovered some awesome new artists in 2020 – Baby Rose, Gracey, Bree Runway and Tiana Blake all had a big impact and Chelsea Cutler‘s debut album was a huge highlight during a tough year. However my album of the year goes to Kelly Lee Owens for ‘Inner Song.’ What an amazing collection of songs, On, Melt!, Re-Wild – I could probably just list them all as high points. It sounds familiar but fresh, a most enjoyable listen!

I didn’t see a huge amount of new films this year, as we spent a lot of time as a family rewatching old classics (Bill & Ted, Sister Act, The Goonies etc.), but I loved The Go-Go’s and Motown Records documentaries. Both were brilliant looks at legendary performers and the Motown one was packed with stories about famous songs and artists. A great watch. One film that really had an impact was the excellent Rocks, the story of a young girl and her brother surviving in London after their mother leaves them alone. Trolls 2, Onward, Jumanji 2 and Spies In Disguise were all fun kids films and for the festive season we found some new holiday classics in the shape of Christmas Chronicles 2, Noelle and Jingle Jangle. My film of the year though was one that I actually didn’t have high expectations for – Enola Holmes came highly recommended via Netflix and ended up being a really smart, well written film that all the family enjoyed.

There was so much new TV arriving during the year that I feel bad about the amount of programmes I started but didn’t get through the season – I really liked The Comey Rule, The Mandolorian, The Pale Horse, The Queen’s Gambit and Devs but never made it all the way through. I’m sure I’ll return to them at some stage. We enjoyed Glitch Techs and Fast & Furious: Spy Racers with the kids but it was the Netflix trinity of She Ra, Carmen Sandiego and Kipo & The Age Of Wonderbeasts that really got the majority of family view time. All three of those are excellent, which work on various levels for both the adults and the kids.

DC’s Legends Of Tomorrow and Umbrella Academy provided some much needed superhero escapism, while The Inbetween and Evil brought the scares. Evil has been great so far and while The Inbetween isn’t up to that standard it does have my favourite scenery chewer Paul Blackthorne (Laurel!) so it’s not all bad. I really enjoyed Small Axe: Mangrove, an important show and a difficult watch but much needed during these times.

Blood and Treasure was continent hopping nonsense but good fun and Stumptown showed us the life of a struggling P.I, unfortunately the show was renewed but then cancelled due to the pandemic. I enjoyed Miss Scarlet & The Duke, a sort of historical Murder She Wrote with a new crime each week. The Rookie was back again and delivered some tense thrills and lots of warm hearted fun. Looking forward to seeing where they take things in the next season.

My favourite show of the year though, was Blindspot. Something I could sit and watch with a smile on my face and just enjoy. Is it a ridiculous premise? Even more so as time has gone on but the writing is fun and it’s fast paced with enough action and laughs to sustain every episode. And that’s exactly what I needed during this year. (Also can we get some sort of a Patterson/Rich DotCom spin off please?!)

So there we go, a weird and wild year in the rear view – hopefully better times ahead in 2021.

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GregHorrorShow’s Non Gaming 2019 Round Up

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2019 was a big year for music, with the continued explosion of streaming and further disruption to how we discover and consume music. As time goes on I think curation, especially from friends, will have a strong focus – without guidance there is simply too much music being released to process. My favourite gigs from the year were Sophie and The Giants (Camden Assembly) and Carly Rae Jepsen (XOYO), both delivering fantastic sets and the chance to see a huge pop artist like Carly Rae Jepsen in a smaller venue was pretty awesome.

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I have a playlist of the year’s music, which I’ll embed below, but in amongst that I’d love to highlight a few favourites – Michael Kiwanuka delivered, for me, the album of the year along with excellent LP’s for Lewis Capaldi and Sam Fender. Fieh got their debut album out the door, most definitely worth a spin. Billie Eilish was everywhere but for good reason and The Big Moon continue to develop into a really strong band – looking forward to their album shortly. If you need pop then look no further than the immense trio of Halsey, Julia Michaels and Sigrid. Julia Michaels is one of the most underrated pop stars of the last few years, in my opinion. On a slightly more indie focus I’d also recommend checking out Palace and Liz Lawrence’s latest efforts – beautiful. And a quick shout out to the game Forgotton Anne, whose soundtrack was absolutely stunning.

 

Highlights from the year’s films for me were Zombieland 2 (more of the same but still enjoyable), Eternal Beauty (a tough watch but very rewarding) and The Aeronauts (a well made and interesting story of exploration and adventure). However my favourites were Frozen II, somehow just as good if not better than the first, and Knives Out, a stunning murder mystery that is excellently written and delivered with aplomb.

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Books-wise I read a few great titles this year – 84 Charing Cross Road by Helene Hanff, Heartburn by Nora Ephron and The Psychology Of Time Travel by Kate Mascarenhas were all really enjoyable. On the graphic novel front Lumberjanes by Noelle Stevenson was cool but the stand out for me was Paper Girls (Vol 1) by Brian K. Vaughan. Brilliant and I look forward to reading the next volume that I got for Christmas 😊 I’m still making my way through the lengthy tome that is Yeah Yeah Yeah by Bob Stanley but it is a fantastic look back at the history of pop music. My book of the year though is Journey Into Fear by Eric Ambler, a thriller set on a boat as the protagonist attempts to stay alive for the duration of the voyage. I found it really gripping and would heartily recommend.

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On the TV front it was a good year for returning shows – Barry, The Good Place and Stranger Things all came back with enjoyable seasons. Matt Berry is always a joy and Year Of The Rabbit, his Victorian cop show was great fun. Temple was intense but mostly thrilling and I really enjoyed Giri/Haji. For some light relief I found The Rookie to be a good slice of easy watching fun. Nathan Fillion continues his run as the good hearted, but out of his depth, leading man. Initially both Carmen Sandiego and She-Ra were intended to be shows to watch with the kids but I found myself enjoying them just as much, if not more! The animation on both are excellent and there are some interesting character arcs developing in both. Watchmen is brutal but brilliant, a different take on the universe which lays to rest concerns that the show couldn’t be made for TV. By, mainly, steering away directly from the comic the creators delivered a dark look at vigilante justice. My show of the year though came early in 2019 with Netflix’s Russian Doll. What a concept, what a story, what a soundtrack. The acting all round was great and Natasha Lyonne was amazing in the title role. It also didn’t outstay it’s welcome, a most refreshing change of pace from some of the bloated shows hitting our streaming services.

So there you go, a little look at the stuff I’ve been enjoying over the last twelve months. Gaming round up to follow!

The Everything Else of 2018

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I’ve decided to mix things up a little bit with my end of year round ups, for a start I’m moving away from the ‘award’ format itself but also I’ll be splitting things in a more simple way. One round-up for games and another for ‘Everything Else’.

So without further ado, let’s get into The Everything Else of 2018!

Musically it’s been a phenomenal year – full of big beats, guitars and wonderful pop. My Spotify round-up playlist is embedded below but some highlights were: Jade Bird, who continues her rise as one of the UK’s most under-rated female singer/songwriters, Billie Eilish, who delivers material well beyond what you’d expect from a 16-year-old, Sigrid, who is currently one of the best pop stars out there, Greta Van Fleet, who are on a mission to bring fun guitar music back, Robyn, who returns with another stunning single, Bobby Sessions, who brings a sense of levity and some political musings to proceedings and Carly Rae Jepsen, back again with a huge slice of pop goodness in ‘Party For One’.

I managed to do quite a bit of reading last year, a mix of fiction, fact and some great graphic novels. Of course the Overwatch graphic novel series continued with some really fun moments that help to flesh out the back story of the world and characters. The first volume of Lumberjanes was super fun, a nice collection of characters, it’s all about a group of girls at a summer scout camp. Everything is not as it seems though as strange creatures and otherworldly events transpire.

My favourite graphic novel this year though was Reborn from Mark Millar. Telling the story of Bonnie Black, an elderly lady who passes away on a stroke ward and suddenly finds herself in a new, younger body in a weird place called Adystria. Not only is this world some sort of limbo, it looks like she is the chosen one – here to save the world. It’s a standard fantasy set up but the art is lovely and its a clever idea. Word in the Summer was that Netflix have optioned Reborn as a TV series/film, should be an interesting watch!

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In terms of factual books, I thoroughly enjoyed Blood, Sweat and Pixels by Jason Schreier – a fascinating look behind the scenes on some of the industries biggest and most interesting titles. If you’re into games, this is definitely worth your time. But it’s hard to look past the epic tome that is Sapiens by Yuval Noah Harari. It’s a big read but this look at how the world has been shaped by Humans is in equal measure spellbinding and horrifying.

Once I got past the heavy cockney accents in Gaie Sebold’s Shanghai Sparrow I found it be a really great read and look forward to exploring more titles in the series soon. I managed a double-header of Lee Child books in 2018; Night School and The Midnight Line, both of which I thought were good. It’s nice to see Child has diversified slightly from his well-worn (if enjoyable) formula to mix things up a bit. Another double was parts 2 (Authority) and 3 (Acceptance) in Jeff VanderMeer’s fantastically creepy trilogy that had started with Annihilation. I loved these and would recommend to anyone looking for something a little bit different. Probably my favourite books of the year, despite their unsettling nature.

I also stepped up my reading of some classics: Old Man and The Sea – Ernest Hemingway, The Trial – Franz Kafka, Chess – Stefan Zweig, Ethan Frome – Edith Wharton and Chronicle of a Death Foretold – Gabriel García Márquez. These were all great (they are classics for a reason!) but for me Ethan Frome by Edith Wharton was my favourite. I also really liked Chess and The Trial but the ending of Kafka’s story was just too much of a let down for me personally.

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On the TV front it was another great year. I enjoyed Erased, a Japanese show about time travel but wasn’t sure about A Discovery of Witches, which I just struggled to get into. There were plenty of shows that continued to be a good watch – Jessica Jones, iZombie, Legends Of Tomorrow and Blindspot all veered between the sublime and the ridiculous but kept me entertained. While I enjoyed Legion it definitely felt like a hard watch at times, the confusion from the first season continued but this season was even darker than the last. I caught up on seasons 3 through 5 of Marvel’s Agents Of Shield which, while still enjoyable, has got weaker as time goes on. The flip to space lost me but (as usual!) it is the time travel stuff that keeps me on board.

My favourites from the year though were The Chilling Adventures Of Sabrina, The Bodyguard, Glow, The Good Place, Howard’s End and Dark. Sabrina had the right amount of camp and scares for me, The Bodyguard was intense and full of twists, Glow was depressing and hilarious in equal measure, The Good Place continued to be a highlight, Howard’s End was a completely unexpected delight and Dark was a German language sci-fi show that crossed genres in different and strange ways.

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Film-wise I saw lots of interesting things this year. I loved the book so was really excited for the film version of Annihilation. While it was definitely a visual spectacle I really felt that perhaps Netflix might’ve been better to do the whole trilogy as a TV series. The Aftermath was a brilliant film, with great performances from Keira Knightly and Alexander Skarsgard. I thought Lean On Pete, the story of a young kid who gets into horse training but can’t let his horse go, was heartwarming. The London set musical Been So Long was a vivid, vibrant look at life in the capital. Meanwhile, Blue Iguana was a crime thriller with a more grounded trip to London.

I was also fortunate enough to see a couple of films that will be out in 2019 but were screened at festivals in 2018. Driven, the true story of DeLorean creator John DeLorean and Wild Rose, the fictional story of a country singer from Glasgow who dreams of visiting Nashville. I thought both of these were great but I did work on them music-wise so take that as you will 🙂

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I loved Bohemian Rhapsody, it was a really uplifting look at one of the world’s biggest bands. Just before Christmas I saw The Grinch, which I thought was a fun festive film and The Christmas Chronicles, in which Kurt Russell delivered the Santa I never knew I needed! I really loved this and suspect it will become an annual viewing experience in my house. My absolute favourites of this year though were The Incredibles 2 and Wreck It Ralph 2, both of which I thought had some great writing, music and (of course) visuals.

So there you have it – 2018 in a (large) nutshell. As always feel free to comment or reach out on socials to let me know what your highlights have been from this year and what I missed but should check out.

 

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 Films Of 2015

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It’s been a busy year on both the big and small screen. There were some fantastic films released in 2015 and while I found myself drifting more and more towards TV content I did still see some quality titles.

In terms of big budget blockbusters I thought Mad Max was a real stand out. This is an example of what I want from a cinema experience – bombastic, over the top and wildly colourful. It was also a wonderful performance from Charlize Theron and Tom Hardy filled the role of Max admirably. I did enjoy Avengers: Age Of Ultron but in the end it was scuppered by my expectations.

 

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Spectre delivered for me, I felt it was the best Bond since Casino Royale and brought a lighter touch than Skyfall, which was too serious for my liking. I absolutely loved The Martian, as I mentioned in my book round up I preferred the film in this instance – the casting makes it, with a stellar ensemble that brings the story to life.

I did some work on both Listen To Me Marlon and Amy, two of the best documentary films I’ve seen in years. Listen To Me Marlon is the story of legendary actor Marlon Brando, told in his own words via voice recordings he made throughout the years. It’s an interesting look at one of the most well known actors Hollywood ever produced.

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Likewise, Amy Winehouse remains a household name long after her death in 2011. Amy is her story, told after sifting through hundreds of interviews with the people that were there with her. It is one of the most heart breaking films I’ve seen, watching someone slip into addiction and lose themselves. It’s also a fantastic look at the dark side of fame and I’d recommend anyone who wants to be famous to check this out to see a glimpse of what it’s really like.

In the interests of full disclosure I also worked on Man Up and Legend, both of which I really enjoyed. Lake Bell has been in some great films and while Man Up was marketed as a Simon Pegg film, it’s really her vehicle as the main character. A series of crazy events unfold after her character decides to pretend to be Pegg’s blind date. It’s fun film with a good heart. Meanwhile Legend tells the story of Ronnie and Reggie Kray, the infamous East End gangsters that fought for control of London in the middle of last century. Both twins are played, impressively, by Tom Hardy, who really brings everything to the roles. It’s a brutal film and there were aspects to the Kray brothers that I had no idea about, which kept me interested.

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All of my family adored Inside Out, the latest tearjerker dressed as a kids film from Pixar. A memorable cast of characters delivers an interesting look at the thoughts and feelings of children on the cusp of growing up. As a father it certainly hit home and gave me something to think about for in a few years time!

My most pleasant surprise of the year was Brooklyn, the story of a young girl from Ireland getting passage to the New York in the 1950’s. Saoirse Ronan is superb in the main role and there is a nice cast around her, including the ever awesome Julie Waters. I really enjoyed this film and it was a well told story, perhaps I felt it tugging at my Irish roots!

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FILM OF THE YEAR

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As much as I enjoyed Brooklyn, Inside Out and Amy, the best film I saw this year was The Martian. A great cast, a great story and truly stunning visuals meant that it had everything I want in a film.

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So what did you guys watch this year? I know I wanted to see other films like Carol, Ant-Man, Chappie and The Lobster but just didn’t have a chance to. My most anticipated film of 2016 hits early, January in fact, with Tarantino’s ‘The Hateful Eight’ which I can’t wait to see. Let me know below if there are any films you’re especially looking forward to.

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The Order: 1886 – Review (PS4)

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The Order: 1886 had been on my radar since that amazing first trailer reveal – the graphical fidelity of the game coupled with an alternate history plot and Victorian London setting had me hooked. As more trailers arrived it seemed to just get better and better.

And then I played it. Last year’s EGX gave the public the chance to get hands on and I was very keen to do so. It certainly looked great but the animation felt lacking and the gunplay wasn’t what I was looking for. I walked away feeling a little deflated. However two friends that also played the same demo really liked it and came away impressed. I figured maybe when I was playing it at home it might click with me.

So now that I’ve had the full experience of playing the game, did The Order turn out to be a disappointment? Or did Ready At Dawn deliver on the initial promise of the game?

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Well the good news is that the animation problems I had previously with jerky movement of NPCs were almost non-existent so you could lose yourself in the game without being dragged out of the world every time someone would stammer across the screen. The issue with enemies not flinching from gunfire sadly remains, although this too is reduced. For such a film-like experience it does jar to have enemies not respond appropriately when hit by bullets. I mean if you look at games like Killzone 2 and 3 it can make a huge difference and make taking on enemies a lot more enjoyable.

Much was made of the game’s length before it’s release, with some people citing playthrough times of 5 hours. While The Order isn’t a long game, my initial playthrough took around 7 hours which I felt was a decent enough length. Whether or not you feel that sort of campaign length is worth £50 is up to you but it certainly wasn’t quite as short as was reported previously.

Another issue some people had was the amount of cut scenes and time spent not in control of the character. This definitely could be a problem for some, I personally felt ok with the way it was handled and enjoyed the story. Again I was happy just looking around the environment and exploring little pockets of the game world, enjoying the stunning job the developers had done. It almost verges on the ridiculous, with items in the world (like chairs or books) fully fleshed out and gorgeous looking, even when there is a good chance players won’t actively stop to look at them. There is no doubt The Order is a truly stunning looking game and between this and DriveClub you now have a couple of titles that can showcase the difference between PS3 and PS4.

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Unfortunately for all the talk of how wonderful the game looks it simply isn’t that exciting to play. The gunplay, while having a certain heft doesn’t match titles like Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes, Max Payne 3 or even Grand Theft Auto V. It’s such a shame and it means those sections where they are throwing 20 or 30 enemies at you can be a bit of a drag. Of course I did have fun with some of the encounters, it was just those longer ones that tested my patience. There is also a stealth section that drove me mad, wherein you need to kill a set amount of guards but have no indication of where they are. If you are seen it’s insta-fail and right back to the beginning. Not including a checkpoint in there and having to restart every time meant it really broke the flow of the game.

It’s not all bad though, there was a lot of talk about there being too many QTE’s in the game but I thought it was handled ok and the addition of a few new mechanics thrown in for some helped to make some of the encounters feel different. The music is also superb, with Jason Graves delivering once again. Having such a dense, heavy score really helps to colour the game world and give you a sense of the atmosphere and feeling of this alternate London.

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The Order: 1886 certainly won’t be everyone’s cup of tea but I felt that the plot was good and the gameplay was enjoyable enough for the most part. When I got to the end and the credits rolled I thought to myself, ‘I’d play another one of those if they made it’ and I hope Ready At Dawn get a chance to refine this experience and give us a game that delivers on all fronts.

Rating: 7/10

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GregHorrorShow: The Films Of 2014

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I’ve seen some great films this year and finally got around to catching up on some of the films I’ve missed over the last few years.

It’ll probably be no surprise to anyone to hear that Guardians Of The Galaxy was my favourite film this year – with such a great mix of characters and some strong performances to boot, it didn’t matter that I had no knowledge of the comics. James Gunn did a very good job of making sure you cared about the characters but that the tone stayed light for the most part.

Of the films I’d missed previously I really enjoyed Argo, a film that cements Ben Affleck as a really great director. It was tense, well shot and an interesting story. Alongside that, on a more sci-fi tip, I liked Prometheus, Pacific Rim and Avatar. Pacific Rim in particular was an enjoyable mech-filled romp and I thought Prometheus was much better than the critics gave it credit for at the time.

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Obviously having kids means I get to see some films that are aimed at a younger audience. The best two I saw this year were Frozen and Paddington. Paddington is one of the most British films I’ve seen in ages and is really a great watch, regardless of age. Likewise with Frozen, aside from the complete indoctrination imposed on me by my children, it genuinely is a lovely film and it’s nice to see a sibling bond as a central relationship as opposed to a romantic bond. Also the songs *are* great 😉

From the other kids stuff I watched, Mr. Peabody And Sherman was the new generation’s ‘Bill and Ted’, Boxtrolls was good but quite dark and Get Santa was a nice little Christmas film that I’d recommend checking out if you get the chance.

Another of my favourite films this year was the documentary I Am Ali, which was a fascinating look at the world famous sportsman using home recordings and interviews with his family and friends. It was a real insight, not only into the man himself but also into the fever that built up around him. I also saw The Place Beyond The Pines and 47 Ronin, both of which I enjoyed but didn’t really blow me away.

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Two films that did have an impact, albeit for different reasons, were Zero Dark Thirty and Pride. Zero Dark Thirty I found completely compelling and coming to it as someone who watches Homeland, it fitted nicely into that US Black Ops/C.I.A mould. Pride is a great film, showcasing just how rough it was growing up gay in the UK during the 1980’s. It’s a bit of a hard watch at times but retains a light heartedness that is totally charming. Very enjoyable.

On a smaller scale I thought One Crazy Thing was a fun, cheeky look at the cost of internet stardom and how things stay online forever. While Set Fire To The Stars, telling the story of Dylan Thomas’ US tour in the 50’s, was interesting, if a touch depressing at times.

There are also some great films coming down the line including rom com Man Up, with Lake Bell and Simon Pegg; Legend with Tom Hardy and the Wachowski’s Jupiter Ascending, which looks stunning. Add to that Joss Whedon’s second Avengers film Age Of Ultron, Mad Max: Fury Road & Neill Blomkamp’s Chappie and 2015 could be another great year for film.

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And a final shout out for one of my Twitter friends Jaz Moore who is hoping to get her horror comedy funded on Kickstarter. It’s called Ranger Danger and tells the story of a young forest ranger that suddenly realises he is working in a universe swarming with horror cliches! It looks like great fun so check out the trailer below and back it here if you like the look of it:

 

 

So that’s my look back at the films I saw this year and a few projects I’m looking forward to seeing in 2015. How about you guys? What were your favourites from this year and what are you looking forward to in 2015?

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GregHorrorShow: The Films Of 2013

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I have been fortunate enough to see some fantastic films this year, so I have plenty of movies to shout about 🙂

I thoroughly enjoyed Haywire, which I thought was a great action flick with some awesome fight scenes. Hanna and Skyfall also impressed me, although I’m not sure Daniel Craig will ever top Casino Royale as Bond.

I saw some wonderful documentary films, namely Senna, King Of Kong, Indie Game: The Movie and Grounded: The Making Of ‘The Last Of Us’. Senna was a great piece of film-making, I can’t recommend it strongly enough. Of course I love games so the others were always going to be on interest to me but King Of Kong was brilliant. And to see what the actors went through to nail some parts of ‘The Last Of Us‘? Wow!

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Jeff Bridges never lets me down and True Grit was no exception. Along with Matt Damon, Hailee Steinfeld and Josh Brolin he gave a great performance to make this a must watch. I absolutely loved Wreck It Ralph and this is one of my children’s favourite films of the last few years.

Django Unchained was a fun ride and I enjoyed Jack Reacher, despite Tom Cruise being *nothing* like the character from the books. Reacher stands on it’s own two feet though and Child’s writing proves that it can still work without the character’s imposing stature.

My favourite film of the year was a total surprise to me, as I hadn’t really enjoyed any other Richard Curtis films. About Time really struck a chord with me though and I love anything time travel related so that probably helped as well. It’s a great rom-com with a few neat twists on the time travel mechanic.

FilmRush

I finally got around to seeing Super 8 which I thought was great and reminded me of The Goonies, which is never a bad thing. Another contender for film of the year was Rush, which had stellar performances from its cast and an unbelievable (but true) story of two warring F1 drivers back in the 1970’s. Top stuff.

So here is the full list of films that I’d recommend from those I saw in 2013:

  • Haywire
  • True Grit
  • Senna
  • Hanna
  • Wreck It Ralph
  • King Of Kong
  • Indie Game: The Movie
  • The Raid
  • About Time
  • The World’s End
  • 300
  • Dead Space: Downfall
  • Grounded: The Making Of ‘The Last Of Us’
  • The Other Guys
  • Dark Knight Rises
  • Super 8
  • Skyfall
  • Rush
  • Jack Reacher
  • Django Unchained

What have you guys seen that stood out? Anything you’d recommend checking out?

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The Raid – Review (Film)

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I had heard only good things about The Raid from friends and various film blogs. I’d seen the director interviewed about his love of games and it seemed like the kind of film where you can enjoy, switch off and get blown away.

Thankfully The Raid didn’t disappoint, delivering a high octane mix of heavy gunfire and martial arts.

Taking place in Jakarta (the capital and largest city of Indonesia) it is the story of Rama, a cop in the city and father-to-be. His squad is called to an apartment block being run by a local crime lord and they are tasking with going in and flushing out any criminals that may be inside.

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It’s a great premise and with the squad going up the building floor by floor it allows director Gareth Evans to put a lot of spectacular set pieces into action. A lot of those are gun based battles in corridors and stairwells but there is plenty of fist fighting action to be had as well.

Characters in The Raid use the traditional Indonesian martial art ‘Pencak Silat’ and there are some great fights in the film. If you’re not someone that likes gore it might be best to avoid this one though, as there are gunshot wounds and snapped bones all over the place.

The story itself wasn’t really anything special, unfortunately. And the film appears to have fallen into the same trap many games do in that the action is glorious but there isn’t much behind it to back it up.

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The Raid certainly delivers a popcorn action punch and if you’re looking for some fun fighting/gun action then you could do a lot worse than this. I look forward to seeing what Gareth Evans comes up with next.

Rating: 8/10

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Aliens: Colonial Marines – Review (PS3)

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Aliens: Colonial Marines has been in development for so many years it almost became a running joke. And then over the last 12 months Gearbox and SEGA really got to grips with the game and showed off some pretty stunning demos at trade events.

Set after the Aliens film and before/during the events of Alien 3, Colonial Marines sees you take control of Cpl. Winter as a group of Marines make their way to the ship U.S.S Sulaco and, later in the game, LV-426 (the planet Aliens takes place on). Their mission is to find and rescue the missing Ripley, Hicks, Newt and Bishop.

So the set up is kind of cool and as someone who loves the second Aliens movie I was really looking forward to finally going on another ‘bug hunt’. Sadly, what follows is a 5 hour trudge through a lot of similar looking corridors with a few open sections to break things up.

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Graphically the game just looks like a pale shadow of what was shown before release. Even if that was on a maxed out PC I’d expect the PS3 version to get somewhere close, look at Battlefield 3 for example. Colonial Marines can look good in places but lacks the polish and lighting of the pre-release stuff we saw.

The AI is quite bad and becomes more noticeable in co-op play because on several occasions all the enemies just targeted ‘Player One’, ignoring the other Marines entirely. For a large chunk of the game you’re fighting human soldiers as opposed to Aliens and it’s just not that fun.

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My main complaint with Aliens: Colonial Marines is the hit detection on the shooting. So many times I scored a direct hit with the red dot sight, only for it not to register at all. It makes the shooting so frustrating because I never felt fully in control of the weapons.

Sadly this also makes it way over to multiplayer, which is even more infuriating. The amount of times I was killed by another player while spraying bullets into them was ludicrous and made the online side of things a disappointment.

It’s not all bad, it has to be said. The pulse rifle sound effect is fantastic and the blips of the tracker are cool. I do wish they had used that to better effect though. Just a dash of horror in amongst the shooting would’ve been great. Some of the levels were enjoyable but the least said about the return of a character from the film the better.

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The characterisation and voice acting doesn’t do the game any favours, with more than one character suddenly having an attack of the ‘Cole Phelps‘ and randomly shouting lines when you’re right next to them. Considering how strongly you care about the characters in the Aliens films it’s disappointing to have no connection with the ones from the game.

Unfortunately somewhere along the line (and the events of that ‘line’ are a hot topic – check out Jim Sterling’s recent post) the game has gone backwards since the gameplay we were shown last year. I don’t ever recall seeing a game look so removed from the demos we saw. I know people always say Killzone 2 didn’t quite match up to it’s initial trailer but at least it was close. And the Aliens demos were GAMEPLAY demos, not rendered trailer footage. See below for a comparison video:

Aliens: Colonial Marines is a serviceable first person shooter with some dodgy hit detection. This is not the Aliens game we wanted or even the one were we shown before release. A massive missed opportunity that could’ve started a series of these games.

Rating: 4/10

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