The Whirlwind That Was E3 2018

E3 week is over for another year! The conferences have come and gone, the show floor has closed, the Youtubers and game journos have pieced together their wrap-ups and are now piecing together their minds with some well-earned rest. So it’s time once again for me to pick out the trends of the show and throw forward my own general thoughts on the delirious highs and confusing lows of the 2018 Electronic Entertainment Expo.

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Samurai Spirit Abounds

Every year at E3 there’s always a videogame feature or aesthetic concept that seems to rear its head suspiciously frequently. Examples from past years that come to mind include the neck-snapping animations of 2013, the dog companion focus of 2015 and of course the piracy outbreak of last year. This year pundits were ready for the deluge of “battle royale” mode additions to both existing major franchises and new projects, but aside from the very first game of E3, Battlefield V, that would-be trend was nowhere to be found. Instead, the feudal Japanese period stepped up into the thematic void with considerable style. Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice, the much-discussed next game from Dark Souls developer From Software, led the charge and evoked imagery from last year’s runaway success Nioh. It was fitting, then, that Nioh 2 also brought the samurai goodness later on in the week. However the decidedly AAA polish of Sucker Punch’s Ghost of Tsushima probably took the greatest share of the conceptual spotlight, presenting an absolutely jaw-dropping interpretation of a painterly Japanese countryside soaked in blood and fire.

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Live Music, Live Music Everywhere

What do you do when some of your colleagues and competitors are putting forth pristine, pre-curated, glitch-free video presentations? You leverage the unique strengths of the live platform and you leverage them hard. Bethesda, Ubisoft and especially Sony really went in on the idea of live music performances during their 2018 shows. The former even performed an entire song at the top of proceedings courtesy of Andrew W.K. and a live band. Ubisoft’s almost-annual Just Dance series medley was moved to the top of the French giant’s own spectacle, which was odd but arguably a smart move given how previous instances have affected pacing. Sony packed two separate instrumental performances with tonal ties to two of the company’s biggest games, while the entirety of its Dreams footage consisted of adorable/unsettling animated creatures blaring their own musical creations. Your mileage may vary on the value of these interludes but if you ask me they added just the right amount of E3 zaniness. Continue reading

Ten 2018 Movies Summarised in Ten Words Each

Hey hey, it’s that time of year again! I’ve just hit ten new-release movies seen this year and so it’s time to smash out some ultra-quick, ultra-digestible, ultra-colourful reviews and get on with the next ten. It’s been an extraordinarily dense six month period for big-name films so you won’t see any real surprises here. These ten are pretty much all blockbusters.

Very mild spoilers may follow.
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Black Panther

Welltimed, sick tech, great music, poor action, good movie.”

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Annihilation

A positively monumental mindscrewGina Rodriguez steals the show.”

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Movie Review: Avengers – Infinity War

Yep, spinning up the old template for my first movie review in almost two years (My last one was Suicide Squad – ew). I got sick of people asking.
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Starring:
Just a lot of people
Director:
Anthony & Joe Russo (Captain America: The Winter Soldier, Captain America: Civil War)
Rating: M
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Hi. Yes, I’m reviewing this Big Deal of a movie thanks to the requests of some lovely people who read my older stuff back in the day and I’m really quite flattered but it’s been a long time since I’ve put a score on something and the functional purpose of this blog has changed and I’ve changed and to be honest I feel like I can’t really put enough of my own spin on a review format like this enough to justify using my limited free time to do in-depth film reviews that will become out-of-date extremely quickly anymore but alas, I ignored enough people by not reviewing Star Wars: The Last Jedi last year and well, here we are.

Now why open a review like that? After all, if you’re reading this in the far-flung future you probably don’t care about my state of mind regarding reviews circa early May 2018. No sir. However, it seems quite apt to talk about the futility of following the structure of a scored review (which I’m doing anyway) when talking about this movie in particular, because Joe and Anthony Russo‘s Avengers: Infinity War is not concerned in the slightest with sticking to a recognisable blockbuster narrative structure. Also, no matter the score, it’s clear people will go see it anyway (Hello biggest worldwide opening weekend ever).

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Replaying Conker’s Bad Fur Day on Xbox One X in One Day – A Reloaded Report

That’s a mouthful.

I come to you on this day, in this year where I seem unable to play anything but old games, with another old game. This time, in an attempt to force some words onto the keyboard, I do so in the form of a self-imposed challenge.

The day? April 23rd. I’ve given myself 24 hours, knowing that I have another day off afterwards to sleep in if this gets out of hand.

The idea? To play the Nintendo 64’s Conker’s Bad Fur Day – one of my all-time favourite videogames – in a format I have never experienced before and under a time limit in keeping with the game’s theme.

The inspiration? The release of original Xbox remake Conker: Live & Reloaded on the Xbox One family of systems in mid-April this year, meaning I finally get to play it after fifteen years of unresolved jealousy at original Xbox owners and the odd serving of sour grapes.

The goal? To see how it holds up, naturally, but also to try my hand at a stream-of-consciousness style of writing.

Let’s do this.


Pre-Challenge The download size of the game was a little heftier than I was expecting at roughly 5GB, but I really have no point of reference for original Xbox stuff. Those fancy character fur shaders must have been mighty space-heavy back in 2005. There is the matter of all the recently-released backwards compatible Xbox games running at 16x their original pixel count on Xbox One X, but to my knowledge there wasn’t a lot of texture replacing going on, so the file size wouldn’t have been inflated all that much. Anyway, I had to wait more than I had initially budgeted time for. Alas.

Pre-Challenge The main selling point of the Bad Fur Day remake when it first launched, apart from the graphical improvements, was the entirely fresh Xbox Live-supported multiplayer. Sadly Microsoft hasn’t re-launched any servers to coincide with these new OG Xbox titles (why would they?) but the game supports a mode against AI bots, so I decided to give it a quick spin before the day of the main run. Scrolling through all the maps and character classes hurt just a tiny bit, because the whole shebang looks like exactly the kind of thing I would have loved to play in its heyday.

Class-based, objective-heavy gameplay in the mid-2000s a la the original Star Wars Battlefront (which is also releasing via backwards compatibility this month) would have been incredible, especially given the artistic similarity to the already excellent and well-worn splitscreen modes of the N64 BFD. This new multiplayer suite even has a story from the looks of things! But I could never justify buying an Xbox just for one game (or two, maybe, counting Halo: Combat Evolved). If I had been five years older, though…

05:49 In the game, Conker starts bleary-eyed and hungover, and while I figured a heavy night of drinking might not be wise before this challenge, starting early was always going to be the way to go. Immersion is one thing, but there’s also the matter of time and its perpetually short supply. Truth be told, I made my brother do this challenge a few years ago with the N64 original, and while he had never finished the game before that day, he also wasn’t pausing frequently to write about his thoughts, and he went rather definitively into the A.M of the following day. I’m not big on binge gaming in general, usually needing to get up and do something else after two or three consecutive hours, so I expect to face some motivation challenges over the course of this day. It’s too early to boil the kettle and wake the house up so I splash my face with some new icy face gel product, grab my brand-relevant Sea of Thieves Xbox controller, and get stuck in.

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Oops, I Finished Pokemon Crystal Again

NOTE: This post is designed as a short follow-on to last year’s revisitation of Pokémon Silver Version via the 3DS virtual console service, so I recommend you read that bit first here first.

Nintendo are a bunch of crafty bastards. Releasing a game like Pokémon Crystal at the end of January 2018, without any big-name new release competition to speak of and a bunch of potential customers in holiday mode, was a bit of a guarantee to ensnare people like me. I picked up Crystal on the 3DS Virtual Console because it was cheap and I figured I’d get to it eventually. In actual fact, I smashed through its main content stream – all the way through Kanto and Red – inside two weeks from launch, almost exclusively in the down time between events over a coastal family holiday. This despite completing – in a manner of speaking – three Pokémon games on 3DS last year (Red, Silver and Ultra Sun) and having the gall to complain about all the great new games I wasn’t playing. This series is my kryptonite.

As luck – or something else – would have it, Crystal is a lot more divergent from Silver than I remember it being, making it just as worth writing about. Yes, it’s still largely the same story, but compared to its prototypical predecessor Yellow, the third Gen 2 game packs quite a bit of extra meat on the bone of Gold and Silver, in both obvious and under-the-hood ways. Also, unlike in my Silver run, I decided to go all the way through Kanto in Crystal this time around, because why not? I was in deep enough. All of this extra gameplay left me with the following quick thoughts.
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Best of 2017 Closer

Happy new year! 2017 is going to be a hard act to follow for entertainment media, what with its great movies – both blockbuster and indie in spirit – and especially its decade-topping lineup of videogames. Big event movies will certainly come in 2018, headed up by the most ambitious Avengers film yet and the second Fantastic Beasts flick, and smaller gems will emerge as they always do. But there’s a fair bit of videogame uncertainty going into the new year. Will Microsoft nail all their proposed releases this year? How close are we to a new Playstation? What can the Nintendo Switch’s second year possibly bring to even hope to match up to its first? Time will tell. In the meantime, here are the links to all ten of my 2017 year-end countdown lists:

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1. Top 5 Disappointments

2. Top 5 Gaming Trends

3. Top 15 K-Pop Singles

4. Top 5 Game Consoles

5. Top 10 Movie Characters

6. Top 10 Gaming Moments

7. Top 10 Movie Scenes

8. Top 10 K-Pop Albums

9. Top 15 Games

10. Top 15 Movies

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Best of 2017: Top 15 Movies

Here we go – Last one of 2017!

This year I hardly hid the fact that I went a little crazy with my movie-watching. With enough 2017 cinema visits under my belt to do a top ten three times over, I figured this was as good a year as ever to expand the list to fifteen. I may have lacked the time to write up full reviews over the last twelve months with enough consistency to make it worthwhile, trying a new approach instead, but right now is the time to get into my favourite films of the year with some actual detail. I happen to think this is a very strong list worth recommending to a wide range of movie fans, with only one or two spicy picks that I seemed to like more than most people. Thank you for reading.

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VR BEST OF 2017 DISCLAIMER

This list represents my opinion only. I am not asserting any kind of superiority or self-importance by presenting it as I have. My opinion is not fact. If you actually agree with me 100%, that’s strange. Intriguing, but strange. Respectful disagreement is most welcome.

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15. Power Rangers

Yes. I know 2017’s Power Rangers isn’t going to win any awards for earth-shaking acting or plotting, but I just had to have it on this list. The original Power Rangers show was one of my absolute favourite things as a kid – I was obsessed with it. I watched this movie with a stupid grin from ear to ear for almost its entire run time, because Dean Israelite manages to nail the important parts of what I loved about the show back in the day, cheesiness well and truly intact. I particularly enjoyed the slow burn of getting to know the main cast Breakfast Club style before the real action kicks off late in the piece. RJ Cyler as a new interpretation of social outcast Billy steals the show in every scene not featuring Elizabeth Banks’ hammy Rita Repulsa, who just seems to be having the time of her life acting opposite Bryan Cranston’s gruff Zordon.

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