I think I’ve finally lost all sense of time. So far I’ve been wrong about what day it is for five days running, and was baffled to discover that it’s apparently June. And according to the newest information from the Scottish government they are advising that I carry on shielding to the end of July, meaning I’m meant to stay indoors as much as humanly possible. So…just life as normal, really.
Before I dive into this Weekend Whammy I need to address something, which is the pressure that everybody seems under at the moment to put up some pointless black image with white text that lists a bunch of platitudes about racism. Maybe that seems harsh, but frankly I thought the various companies and media outlets doing that were being stupid. They weren’t supporting anything, all they did was post a hollow message that that tried to simplify an incredibly complex topic. They put up messages saying they didn’t want to take away attention, implying that we’re too damn dumb to be able to keep track of more than one thing at a time. If you want some of my brief thoughts on George Floyd and the ensuing mayhem you can read a Facebook post I made about it, but other than that, it’s too complicated, too nuanced and to in-depth for to even begin to tackle, and this just isn’t the place for it. I’ll warn you now, though, my thought process that I lay out on my Facebook post might be controversial. But I’m more than happy to discuss it with you.
With that out of the way, here we go.
Since we last talked, oh stunningly beautiful reader, I managed to stick up three reviews, kicking off with the brilliant Huntdown. After Streets of Rage 4 delivered som classic beat ’em up action executed to the highest degree, Huntdown did pretty much the same thing for side-scrolling shooting. Only with more pixels.
From the seedy underworld of Huntdown we then plunged into the seedy underworld of crime in Mafia 2: The Definitive Edition, a weak remaster of an excellent game. Somehow this remaster seems to have kept most of the bugs and glitches while introducing a bunch of new ones, which is actually kind of impressive in all the wrong ways. Still, I’m really looking forward to the complete rebuild of the original Mafia. Hell, I might even give Mafia 3 another go since it got upgraded to its definitive edition for free.
And then the last review was of the pleasant Minecraft Dungeons, which did not contain any mining or crafting. And only a few dungeons. Maybe it should have been called A Few Dungeons? Weird naming aside, it was a pretty solid dungeon-crawler and aside from failing to bring much of the actual Minecraft gameplay into the mix it still ended up being fun for the whole family.
The big game I’ve been playing at the moment is Desperados 3, the real-time tactics western that’s due to launch on June 16th. I’ve got to commend the publisher and developer for being willing to send out review code so early. It’s a sign of confidence in their game, and while I can’t say a lot due to the embargo I think it’s safe for me to say that their confidence is well-founded. Let’s just hope that as everyone rushes to play The Last of Us 2, Desperados 3 doesn’t get forgotten about.
Speaking of which, I’m planning on playing through The Last of Us Remastered before the sequel launches on June 19th because I’ve never actually played it. I know, I know, you can all calm down. If you can recall I only fairly recently got a PS4 (when Marvel’s Spider-Man launched) and I’ve not managed to make the time to play through the extensive and impressive catalogue of games available on the system. Right now the plan is just to play through it in preparation for covering The Last of Us 2, but if I have the time and manage to write at a reasonable pace (I’m crap at that part) then I might do a review for The Last of Us just before part 2 hits stores.
At this point I’ve only played an hour or two of The Last of Us, but I have to say that it has one of the strongest opening sequences in a videogame. The quality of the acting (big props to Troy Baker and Sarah) is simply staggering, and it manages to make you take an emotional gut punch despite only knowing the characters for a short space of time.
I did fire up Streets of Rage 4 again, this time on the Xbox One courtesy of Gamepass. Man, it can be such a frustrating game to play when you can’t get yourself in the groove. I got my ass beat numerous times and eventually gave up. I’ll go back to it again over the course of the week and see if I can’t train myself back up into fighting shape.
The folks over at Gamereactor are putting up some very interesting rumours about upcoming game announcements, a few of which have got me rather excited. First, the long-awaited Mass Effect trilogy remaster is supposedly going to launch this year in place of EA’s usual blockbuster titles. Could it potentially appear at the upcoming EA Play event on June 19th? I hope so because I’ve been hyped for a Mass Effect trilogy collection for years.
Then there’s the Warner Bros. Montreal Batman game which has been teased numerous times and appears to involve the Court of Owls, who originated in Scott Snyder’s awesome Batman run. According to Gamereactor the game is due to be revealed in the next few months, and its “slated to release sooner than you might think.”
And a piece of news that caught my attention involves GAME and CEX. GAME are intending on opening their stores soon in England and according to an Email they sent out they’ll be implementing some chances to help keep everyone safe. Specifically, people won’t just be allowed to browse normally to avoid them picking up boxes and putting them back on the shelf, and traded-in items will be cleaned and then quarantined for 72-hours. That seems smart. Meanwhile, CEX have considered this and thought, “Nah, fuck it.” According to staff members who have been contacted regarding the stores reopening on June 15th in England, customers will be allowed to browse as normal, which typically means a very high rate of people picking stuff up and putting it back down. There will be a limit on the number of people in the store and stickers to remind them to keep their distance, but staff are being told not to enforce these rules as they must “Be aware that the public have their own social responsibility, and we’re not here to police customers who are not completely sticking to safe social distancing,” Finally, trade-in stock will not be stored away for 72-hours like GAME will be doing, although apparently stock on the store shelves will be cleaned at the end of every day, which staff say will be nearly impossible as there’re thousands of films and games. Plus, that doesn’t stop all the contamination throughout the day.
As for the most baffling bit of news, Sega have announced that they are jumping on the bandwagon and launching the GameGear Micro! That sounds awesome on paper, but when you actually see the thing you realise that it really is…well, micro. Like, insanely tiny. I don’t know how you’re meant to use it. But the truly insane thing is there’s going to be four colours, and each colours comes with its own four classic games. So basically, they’ve taken a retro console, made it worse and then split up all the games so that if you want to play them you have to buy the microscopic console four times. I don’t even…what!? It looks like even trying to play this thing would hurt your hands. Oh, and each console will cost about $50. *facepalm*
Apart from all that, I’ve really not been doing very much which is why there’s been such a gap between Weekend Whammys. But there is a bit of personally exciting news: I’m getting an electric drum-kit, courtesy of the amazing people at the Leanne Fund who help out folk with Cystic Fibrosis. I used to play the drums a lot and found it to be terrific exercise, but due to having neighbours it became impossible to fit some drumming time in without annoying everyone. I’ve been looking for a way to afford an electric kit for years so that I can stick on headphones and not bother anyone, but I’ve never been able to put aside enough cash. That’s where the Leanne Fund comes in: as part of their exercise scheme they’ve offered to buy me a kit to help keep fit while in lockdown. They are amazing people who do equally amazing work, and I can’t thank them enough for this and for the help they’ve given myself and so many others with CF over the years. I’m uber-pumped to get back to playing.
If you would like to contribute to the Leanne Fund you can do so by visiting this link.
Also, check out this vid of Stephen Taylor playing through 40-years of video game history like a bloody boss.
A friend of mine sent over a few Collector’s Library versions of my favourite book series, Discworld. I own every Terry Pratchett book, but most of them are old paperbacks that have seen better days. These new editions feature amazing art-work printed directly onto their hard covers, open beautifully, come with a bookmark ribbon and are sized more like paperbacks. Best of all they aren’t expensive, so I’m considering slowly replacing my old versions with them, maybe at the pace of a book a month. It’s been great to get back into reading Pratchett’s work. His humour, insight and writing style are all highly unique. Nobody writes like he did.
So I’m re-reading Mort at the moment, and it has possibly one of my favourite bits of writing: “Scientists have calculated that it was a 1 in a million chance. Magicians have calculated that one in a million chances crop up nine times out of ten.”
I also read The Grey Bastards, a fantasy novel by Jonathan French about a half-orc gang (named hoofs in the book) called the Grey Bastards who act as a deterrent of sorts for the full-blooded Orcs. The book follows Jackal, Oats and Fetching as they get caught up a series of crazy events. There’s a whole lot of foul language (what else would you expect from half-orcs?) and insulting each other and amazing world-building. There were a few times I struggled to keep the names, places and lore straight in my head, but Jonathan French has built a fascinating world. There’s so much history to how the hoofs came to exist, the role they serve, their relationship with the humans, elves and centaurs and more. If you like some rough fantasy with a streak of humour and a bunch of badass half-orcs then it’s an easy recommendation from me. I’ve begun reading the second book, and hope it manages to be just as good.
Finally, I checked The Vast of Night on Amazon Prime video. It’s a sci-fi movie set in a small town in the 1950s where two teens discover a strange signal. It’s the directorial debut of Andre Patterson and is made on a tiny budget, but honestly you wouldn’t know it. It’s shot beautifully at times, and there’s some long-takes that are slow paced but really work for the movie, including one that moves through the entire town. The acting is terrific, and the dialogue is just outstanding. The first fifteen minutes are basically just our two lead characters (Fay, the switchboard operator, and Emmet, the local radio DJ) going back and forth and it’s infectiously good fun. Their banter is sharp, funny and sets up their relationship beautifully. Go and give it a watch.
Right, that should do it, I reckon.