Gaming, review

Dangerous Driving

I recently discussed my love of racing games when I did a #ThrowBackThursday for OutRun 2006 and I’ve done some race reports for my attempts at racing online in GTSport. Now I have a brand new racing game to discuss, Three Field Entertainments Dangerous Driving which released earlier this week on PlayStation 4, PC and XBox One.

Dangerous Driving is one of those games thats not shy about its influences, its a pure arcade racer where racing lines and braking points are further down the list than just being outrageously fun. For those that know nothing about it, Dangerous Driving is the latest racing game by Burnout creator Alex Ward, and the pedigree shows. This is Burnout in all but name, albeit it pre-Paradise. Which isn’t a bad thing, not that Burnout Paradise was bad, it was anything but. But like Burnout was prior to Paradise, Dangerous Driving is an incredibly focused piece of adrenaline fueled gaming.

You’ll notice from the very start there’s little in the way of menu’s and options, theres a number of different events ranging from standard races, through takedown events to, my personal favourite, Heatwave mode wherein you chain boosts by using up the full boost bar up without letting go of the controller button. Whilst there’s also a number of different racing class, from Sedans,  SUV’s, Coupe’s and ultimately “Formula DD” or F1 to you and I.

The reason for this stripped back approach is that Three Fields are a tiny team of seven and they’ve put this together in a similar small space of time. Even so, ignoring the lack of polish on the front end, not to mention that theres a distinct lack of in-game music, you can see where all their efforts have gone as the gameplay is pure “in the zone” gaming, and when you are managing to dodge traffic and the persistent wrecks (every Takedown you perform leaves your opponents carcass on the road waiting to take you out on the following lap) you’ll be right on the edge of your seat, not daring to blink as chaos ensues around you.

Things aren’t perfect though. It’ll take a while to get used to the camera position and the sun glare, apparently the team had a discussion over what construes as “dangerous driving” and driving fast whilst blinded by the sun was one of the things that came up which they’ve seen fit to include here. And for what its worth, their goal of making the driving dangerous by including it has been achieved, whether or not it was a good idea is open to debate, after a while its easy to ignore most of the time but sometimes wrecking feels a little unfair due to being blinded. Likewise the chase camera is low to the ground and close to your rear bumper, it does pull back a bit when you’re boosting but its still closer than most games, again, this is a design choice based upon giving the player that sensation of speed. The front bumper cam is even lower. Cars can feel a little unpredictable at times, in particular the SUV’s. Now I’m not a rage gamer, I’ll generally turn a game off through frustration before I’m swearing at it, but Dangerous Driving has driven me close a number of times, especially when in the SUV’s and unfortunately you can progress to a different class without completing the prior one first. Which, whilst being standard progression for this sort of game historically, I can see it frustrating some. Lastly the steering sensitivity is a little high, you can turn it down in the options but at the time of writing the game doesn’t save these changes so you have to change it every time you start the game up.

These are only minor niggles though, and some are definetly done on purpose to provide a challenge for the player and set Dangerous Driving aside from the faux-arcade racers like Forza Horizon. What we have here is an excellent addition to the genre, it may or may not be the case that I’ve given it an easier time due to a lack of anything similar on current hardware, its pedigree and the developers cashing in on nostalgia, but provided this leads to Three Fields bringing us more Dangerous Driving in the future, I’m really happy to recommend that anyone looking for some balls out fun gives this a go.

 

Formats: PlayStation 4 (Version Tested), PC, XBox One
Release Date: 9th April 2019
Publisher: Three Fields Entertainment
Developer: Three Fields Entertainment

Gaming, review

RICO

Buddy Cop movies are great right? All that comedy and action thrown into one roller coaster of a movie! Who doesn’t love Lethal Weapon (well, apart from 3 and 4), 21 Jump Street, Rush Hour and The Other Guys? And now you can play a part in that too thanks to RICO. Because here is a game that takes half of what we love about those movies, the action, and encourages you and a buddy to take on the “Wunza” roles as you bust down doors and burst open some perps heads. Sounds great, right?

Well, it is. It works like this, there are three game modes, Quick, Case Mode and Daily which all sort of intertwine with each other. Case mode is where you will be spending most of your time, here RICO takes on a Rogue-like quality, you’re assigned missions from a mission tree that are progressively harder, you always start in the games Killhouse with only a handgun in your arsenal, as you progress you can purchase better guns, attachments, grenades or heal. However, once you die its game over and you’re back to the Killhouse to start a new case with only your starting handgun available. I’ll admit it took me a while to figure out that you do get to keep your equipment, but not for this mode, it’s all there, waiting to be selected in Quick mode. Which leaves you with the headache of “do I buy that gun again or do I spend money on health”. What does carry over however is the Traits that you unlock by earning experience and leveling up, these cover abilities like quicker reloads or damage multipliers and are assigned to your chosen character where you can pick up to three unlocked Traits depending on your play style. The latter mode is Daily, here the developers upload a handful of different scenario’s, one for each difficulty, with set equipment where the aim is to post a fast completion time to the online leaderboards. Once each scenario is completed your given credits to unlock skins for your guns.

Now like I said, the concept of the game is that you and a mate play this cooperatively, bursting into rooms and shooting the bad guys, There are other mission completion elements too, sometimes you’ll be tasked with collecting evidence, which is just discovering a randomised number of green brief cases, or diffusing bombs. These tasks can be assigned to you from the outset or appear as you work your way through a level and are much of a muchness. The fun ones are when the game asks you to complete a set amount of sliding kills, or clearing a number of rooms whilst still in slow motion, and here is where the co-op play really excels as you are often in a position where you can approach certain rooms from two different entry points, allowing you or your partner to provide a distraction whilst the other applies the skill. However here there’s also the risk that your partner could get in the way which was a situation my eldest daughter and I found ourselves in a few times when we were playing couch co-op.

Whilst all of this sounds great, and when it all works, RICO is genuinely great fun to play in co-op, it definitely doesn’t really work as a single player game as there’s very little meat on the bone here. There’s also a few minor niggles too, for a start it’s really weird playing a first-person shooter that doesn’t have any rumble feature, it makes you feel disconnected from the onscreen action and is a genuine shame when you get your hands on one of the games shotguns as they’re really satisfying to use within the games claustrophobic environments, adding a kick from the pad would have accentuated that further and made them great fun to play with. The sensitivity is also a little off, it feels too twitchy on its default setting, and whilst you can alter this, it initially put me off the game a little to begin with. However one thing that did spoil RICO more than I would normally like to admit was that due to its procedurally generated levels furniture can sometimes get in the way, I got stuck on more than a few chairs and on more than one occasion when tasked with finding piles of money or collecting evidence I was blocked from reaching the item I was searching for by an office desk or changing blind that had been placed in my way.

These are minor gripes though because like I’ve already said, when played the way RICO wants you to play it: sliding through doors, breaking them down and unleashing lead into the heads of bad guys, RICO is gloriously good fun.

Formats: PlayStation 4 (Version Tested), PC, Switch, XBox One
Release Date: 12th March 2019 on PS4, 13th March 2019 on XBox One and 14th March 2019 on PC and Switch
Publisher: Rising Star Games
Developer: Ground Shatter
Key provided via Keymailer

Gaming, review

Drowning

Drowning is a game that is about a school boy (its never expressed that the narrator is a boy, but the games creator has stated in its synopsis), moving from Year 7 to Year 8 and ultimately Year 12 (so the game starts with the narrator being 11 years old) who is suffering from depression and how he deals with having depression during his school years.

It’s a strong subject, and the manner in which the tale is told suggests its a deeply personal matter to Polygonal Wolf. As you slowly walk through the games different locations, following a strict path, text appears suggesting a conversation between the narrator and their own mind. It’s all sensitively done and at times genuinely moving and cathartic, and aside from the occasional grammatical and spelling error (for which I’m not one  to judge!) its down to Polygonal Wolf’s talent to get, what I presume, are his own thoughts and feelings down in a manner that the player can relate to.

 

The tale is told as you walk through some beautiful settings, all created in a low polygon and pastel effect with the tone changing, alongside the music, as the narrator gets older and their depression becoming deeper. What starts off as an almost innocent walk through some woods, full of bright sunshine and bold colours, later develops into dark, cold atmospheres that it would be easy to say are cliche but perfectly fit with the words that appear on screen.

However, whilst Drowning is great at getting all of these feelings down, when the narrators mental health begins to find its own voice, and begins to challenge what it is being told, be it positively or otherwise, the dialog can feel a little clumsy and forced, as though the writer knew what they wanted to aim towards and just headed straight for it, much like the linear path that the player is forced to walk along. It never really feels like you are part of the conversation, nor that there is any room for discussion to go beyond a certain path, which ties into the way the game handles its multiple endings.

The initial ending is easy to unlock, its literally following the path laid out in front of you until the game reaches its conclusion and the credits roll. But there are three other endings to walk through, all of which involve convoluted exploration that, due to the linear nature of the path (there’s nothing to suggest you can leave the intended path at any point unless your literally pushing against the walls on either side at all times) I can’t see how anyone would figure out how to unlock them. I personally only experienced them after following a guide to see if they offered anything different.

That being said, an initial run through for one ending only takes about half an hour, personally speaking as someone who has received treatment and is still undergoing treatment for depression, Drowning is a title that I’d urge anyone to play through in order to either maybe understand their own inner monologue and realise that, actually, this happens to an awful lot of us, or if you care for someone you know to be struggling, it could help give you a better insight into why they act the way they do.

Formats: PlayStation 4 (Version Tested), PC, Switch, Vita, Linux, Mac
Release Date: 31st January 2019
Publisher: Sometimes You
Developer: Polygonal Wolf
Key provided by Sometimes You via Keymailer

Gaming, GT Sport

GT Sport: 2019 FIA Manufacturers Exhibition Series. Round 5: Fuji International Speedway

https://youtu.be/cX3tvX_xcPk

Qualifying position: 11th

I went into this race having rage quit out of Rounds 3 and 4, mostly due to issues with my control pad that I’m only experiencing on GT Sport where the car will suddenly refuse to turn, especially going into left handers. For Round 5 I decided to switch to using the d-pad and it wasn’t anyway near as bad as I thought it would be. There was some difficulty getting the car to turn in or be stable during long fast corners but I’m sure in time I’ll adjust.

I managed to put my Mercedes in 11th on the grid which I was fine with, there were points during Qualifying where I was placed 6th and 7th but faster laps went in at the end and I couldn’t improve.

I always find the opening lap/s to be a case of just staying out of trouble, which in the replay footage above you can see I more than managed until I was punted by the VW going into the hairpin at the start of the second lap, I then cut the following corner trying to keep my speed and got hit with a penalty to be served at the end of the lap. Fair enough, problem being though that I kept struggling to keep the car on the track in the second to last corner, and did so for a few laps.

Short penalty served I was part of the mid-pack and there was jostling and bumping all over the place. At one point two in front of me, including Eusebiosomethingorother (who I found was involved in most of the jostling), were serving their penalties in the appointed area, Eusebio moved off the line, the other guy didnt but I knew that he’d Ghost so I could go through him, the game forced us to clip and threw me onto the grass so an easy pass ended with my being the second car in a very close pack of four going into a 1st gear hairpin corner.

As we were coming up to the pit window I had another penalty to serve, I think I took a corner too close or rubbed someone a little too hard, its difficult to recall, but it was near the end of the lap so it was set to be served at the end of the following. My medium tyres had gone at this point, I could barely get any grip going into corners and the car was running too straight so I chucked it down the pit lane, missed the chicane but didnt get punished for it (and flew in front of the VW who’d punted me off earlier as we entered the pit limiter area), quickly changed to Softs, no extra fuel and left the pits where I started.

Unfortunately I was thrown off by the increased grip of my new tyres and cut two corners heavily and was given a 6.5 second penalty. But my increased speed and others pitting too late pushed me up to sixth and in clear air. I couldn’t close the gap to Eusebio so just continued running my own race but felt my tyres pretty much go two laps from the end and the gap between myself and seventh closed really rather quickly. If I hadn’t have cut those corners earlier and recieved the larger penalty I could maybe have hung on to the position, but as it stood once the Honda (I believe) caught up to me there was no fight left in my tyres and getting the car slowed enough to get it through the corners and point the front end where I wanted it to go was proving too difficult and I just let him through, cut my losses and watched the gap to 8th, trying to manage it and ultimately succeeding.

I’m aware this is the first raced I’ve blogged on, I’ll try and continue to do the rest of the races, I didnt think of recording previous races here.

Gaming

Apex Legends

Lets get this out of the way, I’m not much of an FPS player, I mean I did used to play them a fair bit, but we’re talking TimeSplitters, Rainbow Six 3 Black Arrow and Rainbow Six Vegas as titles that I played a hell of alot of, oh and Overwatch (on which I used to play either Lucio or Zenyatta). Anything that had a more serious lone wolf style element to it and, well I was useless, so I never put in the time to get better because quite frankly I’m not of the disposition to spend time doing something I’m not enjoying to just get better and be part of the “in” crowd.

A week ago, EA and Respawn surprised everybody (well, nearly everybody, those at EA and Respawn and a select few “influencers” knew what was going on) and released a new FPS with a Battle Royale theme as a free-to-play title, set in the Titanfall universe (a series I’ve heard great things about and I do own the second one, but have never actually played) but not featuring some of the elements that make Titanfall Titanfall, to which everyone (again, except those at EA, Respawn and said “Influencers”) collectively said “Say Whaaa?” (including crossing our arms across our chests) before downloading it and collectively becoming hooked.

It’s totally surprised me that 1. EA have released this in the manner in which they have, and being honest? I’m waiting for the catch, waiting for that mistake thats just round the corner that will send everyone back to Fortnite. 2. That I’m enjoying it as much as I am, dont get me wrong, I’m monumentally shit at it, I think I have over 30 games (not alot compared to some) but only have 8 kills. My accuracy is ridiciulously poor, I panic under pressure and I hang back and am usually the first in my squad to be taken out. So why am I enjoying it so much?

Well, the squad based element would be enough to put me off, its not like Overwatch in that you can blend in to a team, do the job your chosen Hero/Legend/Whatever is designed to do and get by, here you HAVE to be good at FPS games AND be a useful member of the squad using your Hero/Legend/Whatevers abilities properly and not being a burden on the other two members of your squad as the three of you fight to be the last team standing out of 19 others. However, there does seem to be an element of camaraderie amongst the community, and those of us who dont know which end of our weapon is which are (so-far, it has only been a week afterall) accepted.

I think also, that the games ping (you can point at stuff/in a direction and hit a button to alert your squadmates), revival and respawn systems encourage you to stick as a team and after all, if theres three of you versus two of them then the odds are in your favour even if one of you cant hit a barn door even if you’re stood right in front of it, at least that person (me) can act as a distraction to your opponent (or thats how I justify not receiving a slew of abuse through my TV’s speakers, not that many people verbally communicate anyway). I’m assured it gets even better when you’re playing with people you know or have opportunity to play with regularly, but as I find socialising a bit of a challenge and feel really awkward talking over a headset I’m yet to experience that side of the game.

Monster Hunter World

I’ve had Monster Hunter World for a few days now and am enjoying it immensely. I’ve not actually played an entry in the series since Monster Hunter Tri on the Wii which I played mostly in single player (until an old school friend picked it up and even then sessions were sporadic). I’m currently HR 4 an am rocking the Switch-Axe (which I grew to love in Tri).