Wednesday, 22 June 2016

Don't Let What Defines You Cripple You

Certain artists are known for certain things. Chuck Palahniuk is known for his transgressive fiction, pushing the boundaries of what people expect and often shocking or disgusting his readers. Cannibal Corpse are known for fast paced, heavy music and gory, disgusting lyrics and imagery. Green Day were known for simple pop punk and then more elaborate concept albums. These are just a few examples to give you the gist of what I'm saying.
Sometimes artists seem happy with what they are known for, they seem to gain satisfaction from what they create and are happy to carry on much in the same vein. You can see this reflected in the work of bands like Cannibal Corpse and AC/DC, who release very similar sounding albums but, when you listen to them and watch them perform, you can hear that this satisfies them creatively because you can really hear the emotion and the integrity in what they play.
Other bands, like Green Day, are not satisfied by what they are known for and so they try different things; you can hear this in Warning, American Idiot and 21st Century Breakdown. If you looked at them and listened to them during this period you can see and hear their enjoyment, their emotion, their satisfaction. A chunk of their fans however - I've honestly never been able to figure out if its the majority or a vocal minority - were not happy and pressured them to return to their simplistic pop punk roots. This resulted in Uno, Dos and Tre. You can hear the apathy in each of these albums, bar the odd exception like Kill the DJ. Put simply a group of artistic people who wanted to branch out artistically put themselves in an artistic vacuum and you can hear it. The songs are delivered without conviction, without meaning, without integrity.
For a while I suspected the same was true of Chuck Palahniuk, his earlier works: Fight Club, Survivor, Invisible Monsters, were all delivered with such genuine passion, brimming with nihilism, humour, anger. His heart was in them. Some of his other work, for example Snuff and the latter half of Haunted, seems to be bereft of this emotion. You have to wonder if he had started to feel trapped writing in the style he was known for. He seems to have recovered though, with Damned, Doomed and Beautiful You representing a remarkable return to form.
Artistic people are undoubtedly at their best when they are allowed to express themselves with freedom. Art must be art first and a commodity second. When people lose sight of that you get things like Green Day’s Uno, Dos and Tre or Dream Theater’s Falling Into Infinity or things like One Direction, Rihanna and so on. Art that is a commodity first and art second isn't actually art, in most cases it is entertainment but, in most cases, it would be better if it was art.

Saturday, 18 June 2016

Turning Into a Grumpy Old Git

My dad always signs off emails to me as being from ‘the old git’ and sometimes he refers to himself as being grumpy or going on rants, or sometimes even sermons. I’ve never really thought about it before but it seems it is far from unique to him, it seems with age comes a certain amount of grumpiness, of ‘Gittitude’ if you’ll pardon my newly invented word.

When I was 16 I was in a band writing songs and I used to love playing the latest Call of Duty, or Battlefield or whatever. I didn’t take time to questions things, be they politics, art, culture, relationships or whatever.

Now I’m 23, I gave up being in a band because drummers are temperamental tub thumping cry babies (Sorry to my dad and brother, Mike Portnoy, Manu Katche et al). I’m sick of games constantly regurgitating the same nonsense over and over again and have shrank my group of friends down due to a simple lack of time and patience for people I deem to be nobs. I have views on culture, on politics, on ethics, on philosophy. I sometimes rant, I sometimes get grumpy with people who don’t see things my way (the right way!). Simply put I am turning, slowly but surely, into a bitter, grumpy old git.

Take the time to look at people in your family, look at the greying hair, tiring eyes, furrowing brows, think about them - do they rant? Can they be ‘holier than thou’? Are they right and you, young whipper snapper that you are, wrong? One day that will be you - I can feel the change happening slowly, one that will likely take a couple of decades.

Don’t fight it. Have fun with it. Embrace it.

Wednesday, 15 June 2016

Mad Max PS4 Review

The barren desert lies before me, the clang of metal on metal rings in my ears as Chumbucket desperately fixes the car. I lock eyes with the driver in front of me, he smiles, his scarred face contorting into a twisted grin. He revs his engine, rushes forward, his car lurching like a waking beast, charging at me, gnashing, angry. At the last second I dive to the left, he misses me, barely. The rush of air washing over me as he speeds past. Speeds, brakes, spins in the sand, out of control. Mad. I rush over to The Magnum Opus, Chumbucket leaps into the back, me into the driver's seat. I lock eyes with the driver, smile and rev, firing nitrous oxide to fly forward whilst Chumbucket impales him on a harpoon and drags him, screaming, through the air, crashing face down, dead, in the sand.

This is Mad Max and this is why it’s a shame the game is held back from realising its full potential. The world and characters of Mad Max are superbly realised by developer Avalanche. The cutscenes, environments and characters all feel like they belong in the movie universe without ever feeling like a cheap rip off.

Give 'im the old one two!
The moment to moment gameplay of the game is filled with exploration of one of the most vast, desolate and enjoyable sandboxes in all of gaming. Amazing car chases, fist fights, sniper duels and more await you. The game feels desperate, you feel desperate. Everyone is an animal and everyone wants you dead. Max just wants to leave and, after having his car destroyed, works with the deranged mechanic named Chumbucket to rebuild and leave.

It’s a decent premise built upon a solid foundation of great core gameplay, amazing visuals and world design, fantastic script writing and great acting. The problem is the story missions and side missions are diabolically uninspired. Each time Max needs to upgrade his car he needs to do a favour for one of the power players in the region. This boils down to liberating camps (by blowing up oil pumps etc.) tearing down enemy towers, going there, fetching that. Wash, rinse, repeat ad nauseam. It’s such a shame, if the side missions and story could match the great foundations they are built on then this would have been one of the finest open world games ever made.

The car chases are awesome.
Each mission feels like a mission from a game like Grand Theft Auto or Watch Dogs that was cut from the game. They are tedious chores built into a fun day off. I would rather watch Batman Vs. Superman than play another Mad Max story mission. I would rather crawl through broken glass than watch Batman Vs. Superman.

Get my point?

For every breathtaking view, every action packed cutscene, every random car chase there is an uninspired mission to trudge through and the game just isn't worth it.

If you’re able to pick it up cheaply then Mad Max is worth purchasing for its world, cutscenes, and the gameplay that occurs between missions - use it as a sandbox to play in but don’t expect anything more, it can’t deliver.

Have you played this game? If so what did you think? Let me know in the comments and don't forget to pester me on Twitter and subscribe to my YouTube channel!

Tuesday, 14 June 2016

A Video Everybody Should Watch, Think About and Understand

This is a video about Veganism - don't run away! - it's utterly brilliant and I would urge anyone and everyone to watch it and think about it. This video does contain some graphic imagery however it used purely for educational purposes. 

This is a video from Bite Size Vegan, a very informed, educational YouTuber. 

Thursday, 9 June 2016

Why I'm Voting Remain in the EU Referendum

This is a post for my UK readers out there. 

- Guarantee of workers rights, human rights etc. 

- Guarantee of trade as opposed to the gamble that voting leave requires. 

- We can work with other nations to keep immigration a good and healthy thing for all nations. The statistics and facts actually show immigration to be a good thing for the UK as the majority of immigrants are well educated, hard working and help contribute to our economy. Rather than blaming benefit scrounging and lack of jobs on scapegoated immigrants, why not actually address the problem that is the fact our system needs improving?

- We work with other nations in the EU to aid in helping victims of war like those fleeing Syria. 

- The EU has contributed to the first century in history where European nations have not been at war with each other. 

- The EU  prevents corporations monopolising vital services, like the recently blocked merger of Three and O2. 

- History shows isolationism has a negative impact on culture, economy and politics. E.G USSR, North Korea.

- It is a fact that the world is becoming increasingly global, in trade, culture, politics and entertainment - those who aren't involved will be left behind. 

- The EU is made up of some of the most influential and powerful nations in the world, if we are in the EU we can influence their decisions, if we are out of the EU we will not be able to influence their decisions but will still be impacted by them. 

- Even if the maths of the Leave campaign is correct and financially we are better off do you really believe a government like David Cameron's is going to pump that spare money into education, public health and welfare? No chance. 

People voting leave aren't bad people, they are doing what they think is best. Sadly they have been misinformed and so see Britain as the Britain from 150 years ago - a superpower capable of thriving alone. We are not this, we are a great nation but we need to work with other great nations. Yes the EU costs but the benefits are undeniable. No the EU is not perfect but we must not run from its problems, we must work to solve them. The EU is a useful tool that could be a great one if people worked to iron out its kinks – so lets help do that.

What about you? Are you in or out? Let me know in the comments.  

Wednesday, 8 June 2016

E3 2016 Predictions

E3 is about to rear its ugly head and the games industry is drowning in hype. What games will be shown? What has been leaked? Will release dates be announced?

Its simple really. There'll be some sequels like Watch Dogs 2, Wolfenstein 2, iteration as opposed to innovation. These will build upon familiar ideas, feel a bit tired but will sell well and keep the industry afloat. Then there'll be new games like Horizon: Zero Dawn, they will look very exciting and genuinely different. I always hesitate with that though because Dishonoured looked different but played like Bioshock, Deus Ex and Hitman (not that it wasn't a good game). AAA games, at the moment, don't really do different.

We're a few years into this generation now, what I want to see is some genuinely fresh and exciting stuff. I want games that wow, like the original Gears of War, like The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion, like Metal Gear Solid 4, like Mirror's Edge, Dark Souls, Uncharted 2, Arkham Asylum. We're at the stage where the capabilities of the new systems are established so, whilst new sequels and familiar ideas have their place - give us something new. Give us something different, something you couldn't imagine on the PS3 or 360. Something to define this generation.

Go on Sony, Microsoft, Bethesda etc., you know you want to.

Saturday, 4 June 2016

R.I.P Muhammad Ali

These days I am not the biggest boxing fan but growing up I loved it, from made up films like the Rocky series to the real life greats like Joe Frasier and Rocky Marciano. Undoubtedly though, Ali was the greatest.

He fought with speed and power, he was a great showman, an incredible talker - an entertainer as much as he was a fighter. He lived a colourful life and was constantly fascinating - he really was the greatest.

My partner woke me this morning with the news of his passing, knowing I'd want to know. Its a real shame and I know many are upset by it, he was a great man and an astounding boxer.

Friday, 3 June 2016

Doom Review

Doom is the most unique First Person Shooter I have played since the original Doom and Doom 2 came out on the PS1. Whilst it is nowhere near as forward thinking as though two games, it actually simply borrows their old ideas, it is unlike anything other AAA shooter that has come out for years.

The game allows you to carry a boatload of guns, relies on you collecting health, armour and ammo, has labyrinthine levels, a key system to open doors, boss fights and is ludicrously fast paced. You run and dodge and can’t aim down the sights. It’s exhilarating.

The single player takes between ten and twenty hours depending on how many secrets you want to uncover. There are Rune Trials which test your skills, hidden levels from the original Doom, collectable action figures and boatloads of ammo dumps and upgrades to find. You see you can improve your weapons and armour with upgrade points and can unlock mods for your weapons, like missiles for your assault rifle or a barrage for your rocket launcher.

Not in it for the long haul and just want to beat the single player swiftly? That’s fine, you can replay missions and get the secrets later and, once unlocked, they can be selected from a menu and played whenever you like.

The weapons are utterly mental, with the classic chainsaw and BFG making glorious and gory returns. The guns all feel amazing and are devastating when used correctly. You can also opt to use your bare hands and carry out glory kills on staggered enemies. These vary depending on what angle and height you can approach them from but are always disgustingly, hilariously brutal.

All of the classic enemies return, Imps, Mancubuses - Mancubi? - Hell Knights. It’s just a joy to see the varied and intimidating foes that you face. Often you are locked in a large arena and left to duke it out with dozens and dozens of foes. It never gets old.

The multiplayer is equally fantastic. It features customisable characters and loadouts, the typical, modern two gun loadout but the weapons are pure Doom. Want a Plasma Rifle and Rocket Launcher? Go for it. The multiplayer is essentially old meets new with standard modes like Team Deathmatch and Zone Control modes - including Warpath which features a constantly moving zone - but things are spiced up by the lack of regenerating health and the fact that you can play as a demon for short bursts of time. It’s fast paced and brutal and the maps are superbly designed, providing a good community develops I’m sure this could become a multiplayer staple for a lot of people.

Multiplayer and single player not enough? Well, to recreate the spirit of the modding community that swelled up around the original Doom, there is Snapmap. Snapmap is a stroke of genius, you can create all manner of levels to support all manner of game modes. Low on patience and skill like me? It’s fine, you literally snap objects together and can whip up a perfectly playable level in about five minutes. The real excitement though comes from browsing and playing maps other people have designed, this is where you can see the astonishing creativity of the Dom community;  someone has even made a Destiny raid!

Doom is an exhilarating and incredibly well rounded offering. All of its gameplay excels, the graphics are stunning and the headbanging soundtrack gets things pumping perfectly. If you’re a fan of first person shooters new or old then I urge you to pick this amazing game up.

Did you enjoy Doom, or have you not tried it yet? Let me know in the comments below!

Thursday, 2 June 2016

Xcom: Enemy Unknown Review.

Back when it came out for PC, Mac, 360 and PS3 I totally missed Xcom: Enemy Unknown. Recently however I've been craving some on the go strategy gaming so I'd been looking up the top rated iPhone/iPad strategy games and Xcom came up. I vaguely remembered hearing about it being ported to IOS but was skeptical as to how well it would work out. 

Now I'll admit, for the first few minutes I still had my doubts. The story is very cliché sci-fi and the gameplay quite standard but when the impact of perma-death and the in between mission meta-game opened up I got it. You see Xcom is two games fused expertly together. You control a squad of up to four men, taking out aliens, you level them up and spend money and time giving them good gear and skills. Then your best man dies and doesn't respawn and you realise just how much difference perma-death makes. Hours of work can be washed away and, if you play Iron Man mode which auto saves after every turn, you can't reload the game and get your guy back. Ouch balls. 

Then in between missions you can edit your squad, research upgrades and equipment, launch satellites from the various countries belonging to Xcom and choose which mission to take. Now the interesting part is if you don't do enough with a certain country then they might leave Xcom, taking all their money and resources with them. So you have to try and balance all of the nations, choosing who to please and when. Of course you can't please everybody so some people are going to leave and you're going to have to deal with the consequences. 

The two elements blend together seamlessly and create an experience that is endlessly enjoyable and endlessly replayable. Normally now I'd say how the controls let it down but Xcom uses an intuitive mix of on screen buttons and touch gestures fantastically. It's easy to pick up and almost impossible to get frustrated with. There were a couple of times where moving into buildings was a bit fiddly but that was more due to a stuck camera than poor controls. 

The only place where any real compromise has been made to make this inferior to its console brethren is in the graphics department; it looks more PS2 than PS3 and is clearly a downgrade. Thing is, who cares? It looks good and you can see what's going on well enough to enjoy the gameplay so it's all fine as far as I'm concerned. 

Xcom is a no-brainer, a console quality game for your phone that lives up to its name. This is the best strategy game on IOS and if you're looking for strategy then look no further. 

Wednesday, 1 June 2016

Peter Gabriel - Secret World - Live

One of the finest concerts ever recorded.

Any Peter Gabriel fans among you?

A Few of My Thoughts on Harambe

Hi all,

This is not going to be an essay type post going into full detail about Harambe's death and the issues surrounding it, honestly I have yet to form something that cohesive in my own mind - I like to consider all sides of the argument and all of the factors. Below are just my key thoughts on the issue, let me know if you agree/disagree with any of it and what your thoughts on the matter are.

First of all I'd like to say that this was not the parents' fault. Think about how many times a kid can lose their parent in a supermarket? Of course ideally a parent should always have both eyes on their kids but in reality it is not humanly possible. Kids are small and fast and they will slip away to explore, it happens and sadly we have to deal with it. The fault in this regard lies with the zoo, if a child can get into one of your pens then your security is awful. I know the zoo like to say kids can climb anything so its not our fault but come on, a child should not be able to get into an animal pen at a zoo. 

Whilst it is sad that Harambe was killed and i absolutely wish that he could have been tranquillised, the reality is a decision had to be made about how to get the child out of the pen safely. Blame had to be put aside and actions had to be taken. Though I intrinsically value human and non-human life equally in reality there are other factors, not least the fact its natural for a species - no matter how evolved - to protect its own. This really would need a separate post so I'll leave it at that for now. 

A crucial thought is that if humans didn't exploit animals as commodities for their own gain then Harambe would not have been an attraction in a zoo and this would not have happened. Yes you need to pay for animal care and rehabilitation for certain endangered animals but humanity should be compassionate enough to do it without exploitation.

We must bear in mind that Harambe was only trying to protect the child. Harambe was obviously frightened and confused but ultimately was just trying to keep the child safe. Harambe was not human and so could not be expected to fully understand the human side of the equation, he was doing his best.

Above all let's not sensationalise Harambe's death or harass the parents who were frightened for their son. Let's think about compassion, let's stop exploiting animals. And for Gods sake if you are going to insist on exploiting animals then at least build a zoo with enough sense that a four year old cannot get inside the pens.