Author Archives: MrLiamMills

Game Review: Mad Max

Some of you may be familiar with Mad Max, but some of you won’t. So what is Mad Max? In one word: glorious.Image result for mad max

I mean that in the truest sense of the word. It feels out of this world. At first glance, one might think it’s they are over-the-top movies, but they’re much, much more than that.

Everything in this world feels painfully real. The suffering, the tragedies, the characters, the wasteland, … The films have a very distinct style that has influenced pop culture more than you might think: it launched Mel Gibson’s career, the raiders in Fallout are heavily inspired by those in Mad Max and it spawned countless rip-offs by Italian and Turkish directors, as well as American ones. I feel like I need to discuss the films briefly before getting to the game. After all, that is what inspired its creators to make the game.

The great thing about the Mad Max films – and the game – is that they all feel different. The first film was very grounded in reality and quite slow-paced, though that is not a bad thing. The second film, The Road Warrior, was generally considered to be the best one. It established the character as he is still known and loved. He’s deeply flawed and haunted by his past, but that makes him feel very real. The third film, Beyond Thunderdome, has its problems; most of them caused by Hollywood mingling. And then there’re last year’s Fury Road, now regarded as the best of all four films. Tom Hardy plays Mad Max, not Mel Gibson, and his performance is excellent.

Now Max is a bit of a difficult character to talk about, because he is both simple and complex at the same time. He’s simple, because most of his actions throughout the films and game are selfish. Even helping people is often because it makes things more convenient for him, but at the same time he won’t harm the innocent. He doesn’t really care about who lives or dies, as this is a harsh world and survival is key, but he won’t just kill anyone for the sake of killing or just for fun. It is a very hard thing to explain. It’s almost instinctive. You just understand him on an emotional level, not an intellectual one. You just know if something is in-character for him to do or not, but you can’t really explain why. I say this, because there’s something I want to discuss at the end of this article after the SPOILERS warning.

Now onto the game! I’m not exactly sure when the game is set in the timeline, but it feels like it takes place right before the events of the fourth film: Fury Road. But, like with the entire Mad Max saga, the exact time has never been important. You start off the game losing the famous Interceptor, the car Max drives, and battling Lord Scrotus. You put a chainsaw through his skull, but he survives and throws you off a fast moving truck. You then set out on a very simple quest: get your car back and kill Lord Scrotus. This is very much in theme with the films, where the story is often quite simple and just a structure for strong characters.

And strong characters is what this game has. The portrayal of Max is pretty much spot-on (except for a little thing that bugs me in the ending). You find a hunchback named Chumbucket who is a car nut and believes you are some sort of Saint sent by the Angel to clear the wasteland. He offers you a car that you can upgrade and change the appearance of during the game. He is a fantastic character, obsessed with cars and fixing cars and thinking you’re some sort of deity. And of course, Max goes along with it, because it helps him. Where in other games having a companion around can be frustrating, Chumbucket is nothing but helpful. He brings you the car when you signal him with a flare gun, fixes the car when it’s damaged and most of his dialogue is really entertaining.

Visually, the game encapsulates the look and feel of the films very well. It’s a gorgeous game with a wonderful art style. The graphics won’t blow you away, but it’s not trying to either. It’s aiming for aesthetics rather the latest and greatest in graphical settings.

The story is very simple, as I mentioned before. There isn’t that much to talk about here, other than that it’s very much in theme with the films. The end goal is to get your car back and kill Lord Scrotus, but it can take you a while to get there. You can choose to just follow the main quests and do the bare minimum to unlock new upgrades for your car, so you can continue with the missions, but that will make the game a lot more difficult. Still, you’ll probably have to put in twelve to fifteen hours to beat this game in a hurry.

As a sort of side story, you can try to loosen the grip that Lord Scrotus has on the different regions by doing certain mini missions. You can clear out camps, destroy their totems and sniping towers, clear minefields, et cetera. Lowering the threat levels in regions unlocks more upgrades for Max and his car. This is where the game really shines in my eyes, as it makes the gameplay more varied. Clearing the camps requires more combat, destroying the totems and sniping towers is mostly done from inside the car and you need a special buggy that can carry the mine-sniffing dog to clear out minefields. Some camps have difficult bosses or certain things you have to destroy. Having done almost everything there is to do in this game, I racked up a very respectable 54 hours in this game. Not bad at all for having paid less than €15 for it in a Steam sale.

There aren’t a whole lot of negative to this game, I feel. The driving controls could’ve been tighter, but most of the time they’re just fine. Two locations in the game are locked off after the mission is over, which means that if you didn’t pick up the collectables or scrap, they’ll be lost forever. This is odd, since none of the other locations become inaccessible. Lastly (and I’ll get into more detail in a bit) there’s one thing that happens right at the end that I feel is out of character for Max, which makes the ending a bit less enjoyable for me.

So overall I highly recommend it if you like the Mad Max films, but even as a general gamer, it’s a very fun game. The combat is fun, modding the car gives you lots of options and the characters are very enjoyable. The highest praise I could possibly give it is that if  I were to rank this game alongside the films, the order would be (from best to “worst”): Fury Road – THIS GAME – Road Warrior – Original Mad Max – Beyond Thunderdome. So yeah, very close second 🙂

 

 

–SPOILERS FOR THE END OF THE GAME BELOW–

 

 

This is what happens at the end of the game that bothers me a bit. After the final boss battle, we see the truck that Lord Scrotus is driving close to the edge of a cliff. Max decides to ram it with his car and Chumbucket, still believing the car is the sacred tool, sent by the Angel to be used by you, doesn’t want you to destroy it. While charging at the truck, he climbs on the bonnet of the car, trying to convince you to stop. Max tells him to jump of and Chumbucket says he’s willing to die with the car. Max then proceeds to jump out of the car, right before it hits the truck and both vehicles fall off the cliff. I know Max is a character who will do pretty much anything to achieve his goal, but I feel like killing Chumbucket was very much out of character. Max doesn’t hurt people, unless he feels it’s absolutely necessary and I feel like killing Chumbucket was not. You may disagree with that, but it’s how I feel about it.

Quick announcement: Upcoming article and Twitch

Hi everyone!

I’ve got two quick updates for you that may be of interest.

First and foremost: I’m writing a new article for this blog. It’s been a long time since I posted anything on this site, excluding this thing I wrote a while back, but more on that later.
It’ll be a fairly straightforward review of a game, but I felt the urge to write about it.

—-

The second thing I’d like to do is talk a bit more about the previously mentioned post that I wrote a while back. In reply to someone’s comment, I said that we were considering making some videos or streams in English and, well… That’s what we’ve done!

I try to stream multiple times per week, but I don’t really have a set schedule. I highlight most of the streams, meaning that anyone can watch them later. If you’re interested, you can always check out our Twitch channel.

After that, I also upload them to YouTube, where you can watch them as well. Some content is still in Dutch, though, but you can usually tell by the title.

And if you want to stay up to date, you can always check out our Twitter. Every upload to YouTube is posted there, as well as updates to when we stream.

That’s all for now.

Cheers

I’m Back! Sort of…

Hi everyone! It’s been a long time since I’ve posted anything on this blog. It’s been over half a year… The last post I made was THIS ONE in which I was talking  about the next step forward for me. So if you’re interested in what I’ve been up to, read on!

I’ll be honest in saying that my reasons for writing this are twofold. Firstly it’s because I think some of you might be interested. Recently, when talking to NekoJonez, he told me some of my articles are still being read, so that’s what drove me to write about this. The second reason, though, is a little bit of self-promotion, I guess. It’s something I’m not a big fan of doing, but I understand that it is hard to attract people to a starting YouTube and Twitch channel, so I’d like to take advantage of that, so I hope some of you are willing to at least check us out.

My cousin and me have been gaming together for the better part of a decade now and we always knew we wanted to do something online, but never really knew what. Last year, I went over to his home to play some games together, as he had jus bought an NES and SNES with a whole bunch of games. We had so much fun, we figured it was time to actually go online and do something with games.

It took a few months before these plans came to fruition, but they eventually did and so far I’m pleased with the results. A mutual friend of ours has also joined us for some of the videos, mostly our Twitch streams, so there’s three of us at the moment. We chose the name Dos Cosinos, which is sort of fake Spanish for “two cousins”. I think it’s even funnier now there are three of us and he’s not related ^^

Now for those who might be interested in what we created, I’ll put links to our YouTube and Twitch channels below, but mind you: everything is in Dutch. This is a deliberate choice. We know this limits our audience tremendously, but it’s a concious decision. We are also aware that some of the material we created is still pretty rough, but we’re constantly trying to improve, so forgive us for now.

As I said at the beginning of this article, it is very hard to get your content noticed, but I hope that some of you will be interested. We’re trying to do a few things differently and we are well aware that some of the choices we make, make it harder for us to get attention. We’re not fans of the quick-cut editing some vloggers and Let’s Players use, so our videos are usually longer and less “cut”. We also don’t like how most people beg for likes, comments and subscriptions in their video (usually at the end). It’s an effective strategy, I know, but we want people to do those things of their own volition and not because we told them to.

So, if you’re interested, you can find us on YouTube & TWITCH. Also on TWITTER.
We recently did an E3 podcast, for example.

Thanks if you do, don’t worry if you don’t.

Cheers

 

MrLiamMills

Quick Announcement – The Next Step Forward

Hi everyone, I’d like to make an announcement.

Half a year ago, I joined NekoJonez in writing articles on his channel, something I very much enjoyed. A few months back, we announced some changes to our pages, but with both of us being rather busy, talks between us didn’t happen as often as they should have. Thus, not nearly as much as we hoped would change, has actually changed (especially on my end) as of now.

In the meantime, life has gone on and I have found a new outlet for my creativity, in which my cousin will join me. As such, I feel like my involvement with NekoJonez’ work is not as it should be. So because of that, and also because I’d like to focus on other endeavors, I have decided to leave this page and discontinue my writing.

The friendship between NekoJonez and I will continue behind the scenes.

I wish him the best of luck on this channel and to you all.

Cheers

MrLiamMills

First Impressions: Metal Gear Solid V – The Phantom Pain

Due to delivery issues in my country, I had to wait until the ninth of September before I could get my hands on the PC version of MGS V. I’m someone who prefers physical media, so even though I could’ve bought it earlier on Steam, I wanted the actual disc. The wait was worth it. Something really great happened in the first fifteen minutes of the game that just got me hooked. It may be the greatest thing I have ever seen in a game. Beware: SPOILERS FOR THE FIRST THREE HOURS OR SO AHEAD.

As some of you may know, I am a big fan of the series. I’ve been waiting for this game for a long time. Years even. It’s almost as if the setting of this game has been perfectly altered to my preferences. It’s set in 1984, my favourite year in history, also in my favourite decade. The year that in my eyes epitomises the ’80s. You also play with my favourite character of the series: Big Boss.

After the events of the previous prologue game (that was only about 90 minutes long), MGS V: Ground Zeroes, Big Boss wakes up in a hospital from a coma he’d been in for nine years. This is where something great happens. I don’t know if people have been picking up on this and I haven’t been looking around on the Internet, since I am trying to avoid any and all spoilers. Any content whatsoever.

MIRROR

About fifteen minutes into the game, the doctor tells you people are still looking for you, wanting to kill you. For your own safety, you should change your appearance. This is when we get a very well done character creation screen where we get to change our face. There are a hell of a lot of options, almost as if you are creating your own Sim in the Sims.

Now here’s what makes this great. I was worried about this. I wanted to play with Big Boss as I knew him, so I tried to create a character that kind of looked like the older, grey haired Big Boss. After I was done, though, I was pleasantly surprised. The doctor gets killed before he can carry out the operations. You are still Big Boss.

I really hope this never gets brought up, ever again in the game. Not because I don’t want to change Big Boss’s appearance (which is also true), but because this would make it the single greatest joke I have ever seen in a game. If this is never mentioned again, the creators of the game spent a great deal of time coding a character creation screen that works really well, and all of that for a joke. Possibly it’s a tool they created in-engine to make their own characters to make development easier, but still. I’m a little afraid it’s going to be brought up again, but I remain hopeful.

I feel it’s maybe a nod to MGS 2, where you start the game playing as Solid Snake, but the second part (and majority) is played with Raiden, an all-new character. This displeased many gamers, so it would be funny if that is part of why this was put into the game. For a second, it looked like they were pulling a similar kind of trick; making us think we’re going to play with Big Boss, but forcing us to change his appearance. Then they pull the rug out from under us. “Nah, we’d never do that to you again.” It feels like they’re saying with a smile.

But what about the game itself? I played through the entire prologue, the hospital section, in about an hour. Truth be told, it is not the best gameplay ever, and it uses a trope I don’t very much care for. I’d describe it as a playable cutscene, where you take a few dozen steps or perform a few little actions and the game takes over for a few minutes, showing us more of what’s going on with the story.

I remember people complaining that MGS 4 had too many and too lengthy cutscenes. This was something that never bothered me, since I love the story, but I can understand the complaints. The ending cutscene was a little shy of an hour, so I feel like in MGS V, they have made a compromise. Instead of having the first hour be an hour long cutscene, it has some sort of gameplay. All in all, despite not liking this trope in general, I was deeply engrossed in what was going on, making this still very enjoyable.

After that, the game really starts and we are dropped in a very expansive, open world. You wander around Afghanistan looking for a captured friend. How you tackle this mission is all up to you. Will you visit a few outposts first, gathering intel, or will you go to where he’s captured right away? It’s all up to you. This is where the game really comes to life. The amount of player choice and agency is incredible, and perhaps a stark contrast when compared with the first hour, but I understand why that had to be done. It’s like the first act of a movie: you need to establish the world and the situation, so I’m not upset at all.

So gameplay is great and the visuals? They’re stunning. Digital Foundry did an article about the PC version, which is incredibly well optimised. (This is also pretty much the only content on the Internet about MGS V I looked at.) Even low-end CPU’s like an i3 can run this game, no problem, provided you have a decent GPU. The standard graphical settings come very close to the PS4 and XBone settings, but when you bear in mind that most of those are set at “HIGH” or “MEDIUM”, you can imagine how gorgeous this game looks at “ULTRA” settings.

Fortunately, my GPU’s are beefy enough to handle the highest possible settings. A high draw distance, loads of post-processing effects, high quality lighting and textures, and even volumetric clouds. The first three hours seem very promising. I love the visuals, the gameplay is great and the story already has me hooked, so guess what I’ll be doing today?

Review: Papo & Yo – Artsy Fartsy?

A while back, this game I had never heard of came with the monthly games you receive as a PlayStation Plus member. I played it for half an hour then, but I put down the controller and removed it at that time. I decided to give it another try and I just felt like I had to discuss it.

Because it’s good? No. Maybe. Hard to say. It was fun enough that I played through it, but it didn’t need to be much longer. The game wrapped up in just under four hours for me, but then again, I’m a slow gamer. In wanting to write a review about this, I decided to do a second play-through to gather all 25 collectibles and got halfway in just an hour. Knowing how to solve the puzzles makes it incredibly easy.

So what is the game about? You’re a little kid being transported to a slightly peculiar world, where you meet a little girl who taunts you and runs away. You decide to follow her. Later, you encounter a monster that follows you along the way.

It’s a little hard to explain what his part in all this is, but he’s a part of puzzles. You need to use fruit to lure him somewhere in order to progress, or have him fall asleep so you can jump on his belly. It sounds a little ridiculous, and it almost feels that way at times.

The puzzles themselves are okay. They’re not great or even good, but at least they’re not infuriating. The most difficult – and perhaps aggravating – puzzles are those where the monster is angry, because he ate a frog. Then, it will chase you and throw you around. You need rotten fruit to calm him down again. Yes, really. I’m not making this up.

Graphically, what can I say? It’s an Unreal Engine 3 game. It doesn’t look impressive, and is bugged by frame rate dips and tearing, but overall it’s fine. Just that. Fine. Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons uses the same engine and, while plagued by tearing as well at times, looks far more impressive than Papo & Yo does. Especially the worldbuilding and environments.

The controls are good, though. I rarely missed a jump and that’s not always a given in 3D-platforming games, so kudos for that.

My main problem lies with the story. Mind you, I will go into spoilers here, but if you have half a brain, the intro of the game basically tells you everything you need to know. Now if it were a much simpler story, I’d be fine with it. Perhaps a story of a boy trapped in a fantasy world, trying to escape. Think The Unfinished Swan. It wouldn’t need much rewriting either. Or perhaps the girl took something from you and you need to get it back.

The problem is that, to me, it felt like the creators wanted to make a game with storytelling similar to Shadow of the Colossus, but failed. It’s easy to criticise, I know, but it feels like the kind of story a first year student of film school would come up with.

There’s not much dialogue in the game, and what’s being said does not sound like any language I ever heard. Speech bubbles do appear next to the characters when they say something.

Now brace yourselves, because you will not see this one coming. Especially not after the intro, and the first flashback about an hour into the game where you see yourself sitting in the back of a car being driven by an adult male. Oh, and there’s a quote, from the game director himself, saying: “To my mother, brothers and sisters with whom I survived the monster in my father”, right when you start the game. The monster is your father, the frogs represent his alcohol abuse and the girl was the person you father hit with his car.

I had a suspicion this game was fairly personal, from the director’s own experience. Looking up some information about the game confirms this. I don’t mine a personal story done well, but I just feel like this game is laying it on thick. It feels like they’re trying to be subtle and use metaphors, but it’s so blatant.

I feel like I’m being really harsh on the game, but in all honesty, it’s not terrible. I’m just very sensitive when it comes to metaphors and artsy fartsy storytelling. Would I recommend it?Perhaps. I know of people who have very much enjoyed this game, so who am I to take that away from them?

What does strike me as odd is that most outlets give this a positive review. The only major outlet that gave it a bad one, was IGN. “The on-paper premise of a traumatic childhood brought to life as a playable short story is brilliant, but the wounded execution can’t quite sell the emotional expression.”, is what they had to say and I tend to agree a little.

I guess it’s a decent game if you like that kind of story, but if you’re looking for interesting puzzles, you’d better look elsewhere. It’s also an easy game for completionists and trophy/achievement hunters, as my two playthroughs gave me a lot of trophies in a total playtime of around six hours.

“Quick Thoughts – Unacceptable Remaster” addendum

Just very quickly, in relation to this earlier little article, I’d like to point to a little video on YouTube I’d love for you to watch: Extra Credits

Their channel is great, by the way, if you love the intricacies of gaming.

Cheers

eSports – What’s The Big Deal?

What I’m about to write today will differ from the content I usually write. The reason for this is that I was asked recently what my opinions were on eSports. Hence this article.

This article is inspired by the following image. Link

I usually write about things I like or dislike, which is why it has been so hard for me to write this article. My stance towards eSports is quite… indifferent. That being said, eSports are gaining more and more ground.

It’s well documented that the gaming industry brings in more revenue than the music industry, or even the film industry. Gaming extends beyond your classic triple-A titles and even indie games. It also entails mobile games and social games, like those found on Facebook and other social media.

As such, games reach a wide audience. Somewhat surprising, perhaps, is that in recent years watching people play video games has become so popular. People love watching streams on Twitch or “Let’s Plays” on YouTube, and those numbers grow each passing year.

Maybe, keeping that in mind, it’s no wonder how the world of eSports is booming. We see more and more different kinds of games used in official eSports tournaments, but it is striking that the most popular games are MOBA’s and strategy games.

League of Legends and DOTA 2 are incredibly popular, as is Smite, though perhaps to a lesser extent. Star Craft 1 & 2 are still very popular, especially in Asian markets. Other genres are also represented, but to a far lesser extent than the ones mentioned before.

We still see first person shooters and fighting games being used, but not
as much. It might be because those rely mostly on skill, whereas strategy games and MOBA’s require a blend of skill and logical thinking.

Last year, the DOTA 2 championships had a prize pool of eleven million dollars. These events, which are often sponsored by big-name brands, deal with huge amounts of money. Viewer-ship for eSports is even surpassing the “actual sports” championships. More than double the amount of people that watched the MLB world series, watched the League of Legends World Championship. Even the NBA finals don’t come close to those numbers.

Earlier this year, viewers of ESPN 2 complained about eSports being broadcast. It’s apparent that these kinds of events are gaining a lot of ground, so much so that they’re slowly, but surely becoming part of everyday society. As with all change, opposition is to be expected, but I think it’s a good thing that gaming is becoming part of mainstream culture.

I think gaming as an art form, and a form of entertainment, still has a long way to go. But we’re getting there. I firmly believe one day it’ll be as prevalent and universally accepted as film is today.

Most people watching and playing games today are young people. Approximately 80% of people involved in gaming are male and under 35, but that is slowly changing. People who started gaming in the ’80’s are getting older and having children of their own, who in turn might be interested in video games.

And perhaps the ubiquity of games available on mobile and social platforms is a new gateway for people who might not ever have touched a video game otherwise. So while I personally don’t have much interest in eSports, I cannot deny its influence in recent years. As I see it, this will only continue to grow.

Quick Thoughts – Unacceptable Remaster

This will be very quick, as all I want to do is link to a different article. As I mentioned before in my previous posts here and here, part of what I think is wrong with the current generation of consoles, is the over abundance of remastered games.

Fresh of that same line are the Prototype remasters. Frankly, this is utterly unacceptable to be released. Eurogamer explains it in full, but in short, all they did to this “remaster” for the Xbox One is up the resolution from 720p to 1080p. No other visual enhancements. No better textures, lighting or LOD, nothing. And as evident by the videos, framerate is also unacceptable.

Please give it a read.

 

Cheers

First Impressions: The Long Dark

The Long Dark has been a game was aware of for some time. When the last Steam sale came, I decided to check it out, since it seemed so interesting. My actual reaction was “holy crab cakes, this is fun”.

Before I delve into the actual game, allow me to tell you a little bit about myself as a gamer. I don’t really have a particular genre I prefer. I love games, both AAA and indie. Since adulthood, and consequent responsibilities, my actual free time to the game has decreased, so I now tend to only play the games I really want to and leave the “time-fillers”, to call them so crudely, behind.

My first rule: I don’t buy a game at launch unless it’s something I really want. This doesn’t happen very often, but MGS: V and Fallout 4 are two games coming up I will pick up at launch. Otherwise, I wait until some game-of-the-year or complete version is out and discounted on Steam or something since I already have quite the backlog of games I still need and want to play.

My second rule is NO EARLY ACCESS GAMES. I capitalize it because it’s something I have always tried to keep at heart. I don’t like the fact they’re not finished, they can still change drastically, and I always feel like there’s some risk involved. But along comes The Long Dark, which blows me away. I broke my rule and bought it.

I tried it first before I bought it. Many a gamer will gasp at this revelation, but since there was no demo available, I found a not-so-legal version on the internet and tried that. I feel like it’s important for me to admit that, because I really wanted to try this game, but there was no other way I could without paying. In honesty, I barely played the game before I turned it off again. I had to buy it, instantly. Here’s why.

I love survival games. I love just being a nomad in Minecraft, walking around, scrounging for food and resources, and hiding during the night. This game is just that. Surviving. There is a story element, to be added later, but for now it is just survival.

Players can choose between three difficulty levels, though they are not called that, and I don’t see them like that anyway. They’re just catered to what you prefer to play the game like. You can choose an option where there is no wildlife that’ll attack you, or one where it will (which would be the standard mode), or one where things are more challenging and “realistic”.

You, as the player, are stuck in a very cold place, where it’s either incredibly cold or absolutely freezing when a blizzard comes along. You get hungry, thirsty and sleepy, but you also need to keep an eye on how cold you are.

Basically, you scrounge for food and supplies. You look for fuel to burn, food and drinks, new/warmer clothing, weapons, … Anything useful. You can craft items, combine them or use snow on a fire to make water. It’s a very complex, well-thought-out system, but that doesn’t mean it’s hard to use.

Survival is a basic human instinct and this game really makes me feel like I have the survive. It’s a visceral experience I have rarely had. I got immersed in the world very quickly and that’s part of why I like it.

This game has a beautiful aesthetic, and it runs well. Especially for an early access game. Some say the game looks a bit bland and that the textures look washed out, but it feels like a real world to me and I forget I’m playing an actual game two minutes in.

So would I recommend it? Tough to say. This is all based on the roughly two hours I have played this game so, but I think I would. I’m going to keep playing it, that’s for sure.