Is This The End For Solo Gaming?

Copyright: Activision

With the recent announcement from Activision that Call of Duty: Black Ops 4 was to be multiplayer only with no solo campaign, my final piece of interest in this stale franchise disappeared completely. I have no interest in playing online with other players, hell I play video games to get away from people not to interact with them. But this move towards online multiplayer only gaming seems to be gathering pace and I’m worried that the 1-Player game will die out.

I used to play a lot of driving games and I was pretty good at them, or at least I thought I was until I made the mistake of racing against others online. My arse was handed to me and I was so far behind in one race, that the session actually timed out before I’d even crossed the finish line. I felt so embarrassed and ashamed. It was all a myth, yes I could beat the AI, but actual fellow gamers? No chance. I was less Alonso and more Alonslow.

I also attempted to play Fifa online one year and I have to admit, I was that player whose connection was ‘lost’ during the game. In truth the only thing lost was my temper as I bicycle kicked my joypad into controller heaven.

Whilst I love playing games, I’m not particularly good at them. But I’m absolutely cool with that as for me it’s about the escapism, the experience, the emotions and not about uploading my speed run onto YouTube and claiming what a bloody good bloke I am.

I’ve recently been playing the Unchartered series and I have absolutely loved them. I’ve escaped to places I will never visit, I’ve been on the edge of my seat and I feel I’ve developed a man crush over the charismatic Nathan Drake. The thing I’ve loved most, however, is that the 40 or so hours I’ve spent playing the series has just been about me and a digital world I can lose myself in.

I don’t feel I would have got the same experience if some snotty tosspot from the other side of the world is shouting at me to ‘find cover, find cover, pick up the gun, oh come on you *bleeping* idiot, I thought you said you was good at this’ in my ear.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not anti-multiplayer and I understand there is a need for games like PUBG, H1Z1 or Fortnite and that gamers have a lot of fun with their friends playing these games; but it’s just not for me. My worry is that studios, who seem to be on a mission these days to milk every last penny out of gamers, seem to be abandoning the solo playing, unprofitable games for more of these open world battle royale money spinners.

With the heavy rumour that another one of my favourite series, Fallout, will be online multiplayer only with the next game, Fallout76, I really worry. I guess we’ll found out at E3 whether or not it is true, but if it is, then my time in the wasteland is over.

So this is a plea to studios; please don’t abandon the solo player, some of us play games for the experience, to be wowed, entertained, to be immersed in a gripping storyline or beautiful world with no-one else around. We don’t want to stay in cover for 30 minutes until some git snipes us in the head or to be 7-0 down in 5 minutes or to be shouted at by someone half our age because we forgot to pick up an RPG and now we’ve accidentally fallen off the roof, or because we can’t remember the bloody dance we supposed to do because we’ve won a chicken dinner or something…

So please, I beg you, don’t make The Last of Us, The Last one for Us.

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Greatest Royal Rumble? (Part 2)

GRRSo I’ve just realised I owe you a part 2 to my review of WWE’s Greatest Royal Rumble.  Oops, it feels like forever now, but here goes:

Brock Lesnar beat Roman Reigns in a Steel Cage Match and there was more that a whiff of ‘botched’ as the men crashed through the cage and quite clearly Reigns feet touched the ground first.  This would mean, under the rules of a Steel Cage match, that Reigns should have won.  Quite why WWE have decided to bury Reigns after building him up as the next big thing for 3 years, I don’t know, but keeping the belt with a part-timer, just doesn’t sit right with me.

If I was to tell my boss that I wanted a pay rise, employee of the year, but I’d only pop my head in when I could be arsed, he’d rightly show me out the door with a size 10 up my rear end.

Then we had the Rumble itself.  Strowman won, which makes sense as he is being built up as this indestructible machine, so why not have him beat 49 other guys?  It was largely uneventful, with not many surprises and the only real excitement was Titus O’Neil tripping over during his entrance and sliding under the ring.  Seriously track it down on YouTube, it’s hilarious!

So was it the Greatest Royal Rumble?  N’ah, not by a long chalk really.  The whole event just felt like a house show, with a little more razzle and dazzle as they tried to impress a new market.  It was enjoyable but not memorable.

I must say though, my choice of lager and maize based snacks was first class and I look forward to revisiting them at the next PPV.

*Update* At Backlash the quality of beverage and snacks outweighed the quality of the event yet again.  Here’s hoping Money in the Bank is better…

Greatest Royal Rumble? (Part 1)

GRR

Another small change I want to make to this blog is occasionally blogging about other things which I enjoy. Having been a wrestling fan most of my life and with WWE’s recent Greatest Royal Rumble event, I thought now might be a good time to switch gears and talk about rasslin’!

I was going to write this last weekend, but as this blog contains spoilers, I thought I’d leave it a while. If you haven’t watched it yet then please stop reading *Spoilers Ahead*.

So here we are, a few days removed from WWE’s Greatest Royal Rumble and rumour has it that Jinder Mahal has still not reacted to Jeff Hardy’s whisper in the wind, (rumour also has it that Ronda Rousey is still pointing at the Wrestlemania sign). So what did I make of it?

Well one of the things that stood out for me was just how much space there was on the arena floor. I have no idea what the capacity of the stadium is but there seemed very few seats at ring level and enough room to put a second ring, a third ring and Braun Strowman’s lunch. I’m guessing it was because of security as the Saudi royal family occupied the ring level seating, but it just created no atmosphere. Next year they can host it in our local library if they wish to have more noise.

The event kicked off with Triple H vs John Cena in a paint by numbers exhibition match, (that wasn’t the stipulation, btw, no-one had to finish a watercolour paint by numbers picture to be the eventual winner, although that might have been more exciting than the match). With no storyline, this was just 2 veterans putting on a match and it was largely forgettable. In fact if I hadn’t gone to Wikipedia to get a list of the matches, I would not have remebered they were there at all!

Coincedentally I’d completely forgotten about the next match, Cedric Alexander vs Kalisto for the Crusierweight Championship. So at this point, I will review my lager. I chugged on Coors Light throughout the event, a crisp drink that refreshes and the modest 4.0%ABV ensures that the headache in the morning is kind and the stomach cramps minimal.

Matt Hardy and Bray Wyatt vs Cesaro and Sheamus was the next match and I really like Matt Hardy and his Woken, (previously Broken), universe. However, for me it only really works when in the Hardy compound and when they are allowed creative freedom. When it comes to the wrestling it’s quite pedestrian and flat and unfortunately this match continued that theme. Hardy and Wyatt would go onto win the belts, which I have no problem with and I hope they are allowed to build on the fantastically weird Ultimate Deletion from earlier in the year.

Jeff Hardy vs Jinder Mahal match was next and actually, apart from the very late reaction to the Whisper in the Wind, Mahal actually had a good match. Hardy seems to bring out the best in Mahal and actually makes him watchable. I absolutely hated Mahal’s title run last year and it resulted in some of the worst PPV matches I have ever seen. He’s mid-card, at best and to be pushed by WWE for business reasons just sucked. Anyway, Hardy won and overall a solid match.

Apparently the Blugeon Brothers vs The Usos for the Smackdown Tag Team Championship was next?! Completely forgot about that as well, (might have been my ‘comfort break’ time). So all I will say is Lidl’s Bacon Fries are excellent value at 85p and in a blind taste test, would be hard to distinguish from Frazzles. Low in saturated fat, you can shovel these into your piehole safe in the knowledge that your arteries will not get too much of a kicking.

Next, Seth Rollins retained the Intercontinental Championship, defeating Samoa Joe, the Miz and accidentally smacking Finn Balor in the eye with the belt. I like Joe and it’s good to see him back in the ring, but surely it’s time for Balor to get a push. He’s was massively hyped a few months back and yet I’ve won as many belts as Balor this year.

AJ Styles vs Nakamura was next and after, in my opinion, a solid but ultimately disappointing performance at Wrestlemania, we got a solid, but ultimately disappointing performance. Is the low blow really the only move Nakamura can do now? Seriously, AJ just has to wear a cricketer’s box and Nakamura’s master plan goes out the window. This is getting dull fast, I hope there is gear change soon.

Then we had the Undertaker vs Rusev in a casket match. I love the Undertaker, he has given so much to pro-wrestling and WWE, but I really think it’s time for him to hang up his hat, gloves and rather heavy looking coat. He looked slow, lumbered around a bit and actually nearly fell over for absolutely no reason. He ultimately won, but it was clear Rusev and indeed Aiden English kinda got themselves into the casket under their own steam. The big man is a legend, let’s keep it that way.

Well that took me a bit longer than planned and I’ve run out of time! So I’ll continue with part 2 in a few days. Still to come, Braun Strowman vs Roman Reigns, the ‘Greatest’ Royal Rumble itself and my overall view…

The Quest is Over

When I started my blog, the idea was that I was trying to find a game which would not, at some point, push me to the point of launching my joypad. Today the quest is over and I’m pleased to announce the winner was… er, well no-one actually.

We’ve all done it, come to a point in a game where it’s harder than Chuck Norris dipped in vinegar, baked in an oven and covered in nail varnish. We rage quit or at the very least we shout at the game and boldly claim it’s cheating.

My problem is I can launch my joypad before the game has started!

When loading Gears of War 4, (a game as deep as a puddle), on my Xbox One X, I got the message we all like to hear, ‘Your game is ready to play’. As Matt Hardy would say “WONDERFUL”, the fact only 30% of the game has loaded is not an issue, I thought, as there must be enough loaded to start the first level.

Wrong!

I could get to the title screen, I could select menus, but as soon as I tried to start, a message along the lines of “please wait, game is still downloading” was displayed. It would be another 2 blooming hours before the game was actually “ready to play”.

It’s fair to say my Xbox One X’s pants were truly on fire and my joypad was launched before the game had even started.

And therein lies the problem. I will never find a game which does not frustrate me because the least little thing can frustrate me at times.

Load times frustrate me. Doors you can’t open frustrate me. Low waist height walls you can’t jump over, frustrate me. Jumpy platform games, frustrate me. Enemies dropping weapons and I can’t pick them up frustrate me. Writing this list frustrates me.

But games excite me, they take me on adventures and journeys which blow my mind, I live to game. All these frustrations, all these quirks, all those broken joypads are just more XP for my gaming CV. I need to stop looking for ones that don’t move me to the point of launching my joypad and embrace the fact that they do.

So I’ve decided to end the quest and I’ve realised that actually talking about them, hell actually deliberately finding them is more fun to write about than a game so perfect it becomes beige.

Vanilla Ice, yes please, Vanilla Nice, no sir!

And so my first small change in order to get me to enjoy my blog, is to stop looking for perfection and talk about the imperfections.

The quest has ended, but Launches Joypad continues…

Continue… Save… Quit…

Continue Save Quit

At some point in a Gamer’s life, they will have to make a decision of whether to carry on getting their arses handed to them by a particularly tricky boss, save their progress and come back to it, or launch the joypad, give up and swear that the game is bloody cheating. The choices are usually summarised as Continue… Save… or Quit. Today I have to choose one of these 3, although it’s nothing to do with a game…

Coming into this, I kind of knew what to expect when writing a gaming blog. In a previous life, I co-wrote a bad movie blog in which me and a friend decided to watch 100 bad movies. Even though we had to endure some absolute dross, (usually starring Paris Hilton or Madonna), it was largely enjoyable. Writing the blogs was the dull bit!

On reflection, we should have just watched the damned movies and that’s it, but a friend of ours suggesting blogging and I thought it could be fun. We are both huge fans of MST3K and so I thought this was a good opportunity to get our inner Joel / Mike’s out and into our reviews. Unfortunately I struggled and was less Tom Servo and more Tom Tit.

Nevertheless we ploughed on and even though we’ve watched the movies, I still have 23 blogs to write. And there’s the problem, I’ve got these to finish and I decided to start another blog. My last blog mentioned I had no time to game, where the heck did I think I’d find the time to do all these blogs!?

Therefore here’s my dilemma, do I continue this blog; save and revisit at a later time or quit? At least if I do walk away it won’t be a rage quit for once and I wouldn’t have launched a joypad! But if I did decide to call it a day, I would be disappointed.

I always thought that the reason why the blogging about bad movies felt like a chore, was because I’m not really into movies. I was into MST3K, sure, as it’s damn funny, but once the riffing is removed it’s just a bad movie and trying to find something interesting to write about, can be hard work.

Now I do like gaming and usually if a conversation moves onto gaming, I have a lot to say. I’ve not got the best knowledge, I’ve played less games than most, but it interests and excites me. Writing a blog about something I love should be easy, right? It isn’t and I’m really struggling to motivate myself. My blog started of as a quest to find a game which didn’t make me want to launch my joypad, however, it quickly became a tepid review blog. So far, so crap in my view. If I don’t enjoy writing it, why would I expect anyone to enjoy reading it?

Ultimately I don’t want this to be a game review blog, so many out there have done that and they do it far better than I ever will. I want this blog to be interesting, relatable and full of bad puns. So where do I go from here?

Everyone has a wobble from time to time, heck my Playstation Profile is Colhewobbles, and hopefully this is just one of those. In fact I know that’s all it is and just writing this blog has helped me to focus my mind. If you look carefully, I have already made my decision and it’s not all Doom and gloom, (bad pun #1), as I forgot that in gaming there is always a 4th choice… *hits reset button*

Fallout 4

Fallout 4

My quest to find a game which does not frustrate me to the point of launching my joypad continues and this week I finally finished Bethesda’s mahousive game, Fallout 4. Did I find my perfect game or did it make me want to set the world on fire? It’s time to find out…

To paraphrase Douglas Adams; Fallout 4 is big. Really big. You just won’t believe how vastly, hugely, mind-bogglingly big it is. I mean, you may think it’s a long way down the road to the chemist, but that’s just peanuts to Fallout 4.

And I guess that’s half the problem for me…

When you have to do boring adult things, like work for a living, the 100 or so hours needed to fully appreciate a game on the magnitude of Fallout 4 is as hard to find as a helpful traffic warden.

This is a shame because Fallout 4 is brilliant, maybe not as good as Fallout 3, but epic nonetheless.

* Spoilers ahead * Fallout 4 moves it postapocalyptic vision to Boston and you play as a sole-survivor of a cryogenic vault, who during his time ‘on-ice’ witnesses the murder of his wife and the kidnapping of his son. As soon as he is thawed out he sets out on a quest to find his son.

And that is essentially the plot, (War and Peace it is not!).

But don’t worry futuristic and yet strangely set in the 1950’s fans, there is so so much to do, you will not get bored! Immediately you are dropped on the edge of a map spanning a million miles, with tens of thousands of missions, hundreds of thousands of characters and many other statistics I have just made up.

And that’s what I love about this game so much, you’re dropped in a vast map and basically told to go and have some fun. You can just do the storyline if you want, but you will miss out on Fallout’s quirky humour, the joy of finding a comic out of the blue which boosts one of your attributes or the pleasure of winning a persuasion argument and Fallout’s character popping up on-screen, giving you a wink and doing pointy gun hands at you.

The one criticism I do have is that it’s a bit easy. Fallout 3 fans will remember the power armour which, from memory, you don’t get until near the very end of the game. For some reason you are given one really early on and there are several scattered around the map for you to find. The fusion power things are plentiful and so if you ever do have a battle which is a bit tricky, it’s actually not an issue as you just pop back to wherever your power armour is stored and go straight back to battle and kick some mutated creature’s butt.

However, dear reader, this unfortunately is not the game which stopped me from launching my joypad. There are 2 main things which frustrated me to the point when the joypad suddenly levitated above my head.

Firstly there is the crafting system. One of Fallout 4’s new additions is the ability to ‘build’ a settlement. Now this is not a bad idea, but the mechanics feel like trying the hammer treacle to the wall. Also, it turns the game into Farmville, which is all well and good, but when you quickly realise that partaking in the crafting has absolutely no bearing on the game, it does feel like a bloated add-on which is sapping that vital time I do not have.

But the main thing which launches my joypad and I’m afraid it’s a hangover from Fallout 3, are the Pip-Boy controls.

They are so cumbersome and unnecessarily complicated. Menus, sub menus, lists, long bloody lists, another menu, oh dear I’m in the wrong menu, how do I come back out? No don’t come out of Pip-Boy altogether, oh crap here’s a mirelurk, where’s my weapon gone? Ow! you overgrown crabby bastard! *launches joypad*.

I think this is a leftover from the original PC Fallout games and I can imagine the Pip-boy works better on a PC, but for a console it doesn’t work. I will admit though that I didn’t discover the Pip-boy app on the iPad until late on and running this does make life a little easier. A touch screen Pip-boy does make more sense that the button crunching mess Fallout sometimes becomes. I hope they develop this concept further for future Fallout games.

But I do love this game and the 40 or so hours I did manage to find was a worthwhile experience. I love being able to explore vast spaces, with no pressure to follow storylines and the added Fallout humour just makes this a joy to play.

The 4K enhancement for the Xbox One X does make this a beautiful looking game and it’s a pleasure to see all the usual Bethesda bugs in glorious UHD. Dogmeat hovering above a chair, characters getting stuck in walls and the weird rainbow reflections texture glitch have never looked so good!

It’s far from perfect but it’s my kind of game and whilst it may make me want to launch my joypad, it doesn’t make me want to go full on nuclear!

Zelda: Breath of the Wild

Zelda

It’s over a year now since Nintendo’s hugely successful Zelda: Breath of the Wild was released to much critical and commercial success.  The game which launched the Switch and was the swan song of the Wii U has generally been regarded as one of the best of all time. It looks great, plays fantastically well and there is so much to see; it’s near perfect……  and I don’t like it!  Here’s why….

I started to play this game on my shiny new Switch and so of course, I was very excited.  The first thing I noticed was just how good the game looked. OK, so it’s a little bit ‘cartoony’ but at the same time the world of Hyrule does feel real and the bright vibrant colours seem to enhance the strange land you find yourself in.

We begin with Link being woken up by a mysterious female voice, finding the Sheikah Slate, some clothes and leaving the Shrine of Resurrection.  A little cinematic sequence showing us Hyrule begins and ends and I remember thinking, ‘Wow! This looks darn good!’.

And then I started to explore this huge world.  Fortunately the first part of the map has relatively easy enemies and simple to find Shrines, in fact the game kinda holds your hand through it.  ‘What a nice gentle introduction to the game’, I thought and indeed it is.

I get the Magnesis Rune, use it, exclaim ‘Wow! That looks good!’ and of I go exploring and killing a lot of Bokogoblins.

I go at a slow pace, exploring every nook and cranny, plodding along with the story until I hit the 5 hour mark and then something occurred to me…..

I’d solved Shrine puzzles, found Runes, killed Bokogoblins / Cursed Bokogoblins, had a good look around, picked up weapons, broke them and picked up some more, but, I noticed, the amount of hearts and stamina I have, is exactly the same as when I started.

Now at this point I have a confession to make, I have never played a Zelda game up until then.  They just did not appeal to me.  Hell I thought Link was actually Zelda, that’s how naive I am about the Zelda games.  The one thing I thought I knew was that Zelda is an RPG game.

Of course I now know this is wrong, massively wrong.

I was playing Zelda at the same time as I was playing Fallout 4 and so I had it in my head that hours of exploration, killing monsters and collecting things would result in health increases, exp points and my stamina increasing.  They do not in Zelda, never have done, never will do.

And so it occurred to me that after 5 hours, apart from moving the story along ever so slightly, I had actually achieved very little.  Link was still this unfit dude who gets killed with a couple of thwacks from Bokogoblins arm.  WTF!?!?

Of course I now know that you collect Spirit Orbs from solving the puzzles in the Shrines and you then exchange them for more hearts or stamina.  This one realisation massively turned me off the game, I mean, what is the point of killing monsters then?  Why go exploring?  What is the payoff?

You can literally walk around exploring and killing for days on end and you would not have levelled Link up one little bit.  Not a sausage.

This led me onto the realisation which would actually take all of the joy out of the game for me, Zelda is actually not a big game, it really isn’t.  It’s 120 Shrines, 4 bosses and 1 big boss.  That is it!

Concentrate on these elements and you can whizz through the game in no time, or that’s my theory anyway, because sadly once I realised exploration achieved little and monster battles produced nothing more than some extra breakable weapons, I gave up.

Now it’s probably not the game’s fault.  I had an assumption and it was wrong.  Zelda is not RPG, you have never levelled up in Zelda games and it’s always been about puzzle solving and boss battles.  But I thought it was and so my level of disappointment was high.

I will go back though and I will complete it, I just need to get over the fact it’s a different game to what I thought it was.  Oh and I do need some time to get over the menu system, OMG it is so clunky and cumbersome.  There is nothing worse than in the middle of a battle, the sword breaking after 2 hits and desperately mashing buttons to try to bring the menu up so that you can select another weapon!  The in-game shortcut seems hit and miss and many a battle has ended with me, weaponless and on my arse!

Sorry, but the menu system really makes me want to launch my joypad.  However, as the joypad in question is a £280 Switch, I decided that was not wise and so had a beer instead!

So there you have it, I am in the minority.  I recognise that this is a great game and richly deserves the praise it gets.  I understand that, I really do.

But as it stands, unfortunately, Zelda: Breath of the Wild is the perfect game I don’t like.