Crackdown 3 (Campaign) Review

For a moment Crackdown 3 had me. Even after a very short time running around the city, I was quickly addicted to collecting orbs and taking out locations on the map. However what quickly set-in was the realisation I was playing the same game again and despite 12-years passing nothing had really changed. Still immense fun though.

I have fond memories of the original 2007 Crackdown videogame. It’s one of the first times I remember watching friends virtually jump from new release to new release every Friday. Something that was quite new with the Xbox 360 as you could seeing what your friends were playing via the dashboard. Although I never played Crackdown in multiplayer I did progress the campaign through to the end and enjoyed the nice twist as part of the story. And hunting down agility orbs never got old.

That said a lot of open world games have come and been in the last 12-years. And Crackdown 3 has left a quick impression on me no matter how long I’ll play this game for. I don’t personally believe a reviewer or critic needs to complete a game or have played it for hours on end. Whilst games can often change mid-way of fall off a cliff after the first few missions I generally feel that you get a good feeling for a game early on, depending on the game type of course. That said I haven’t played this game for long at all barely totalling three hours but I feel that’s enough.

Crackdown 3 is, well…Crackdown. Again. Essentially the same game as the 2007 original but with a new lick of paint. Nothing has really changed. As you jump around you slowly level-up various aspects of your character unlocking new abilities and moves. So you can jump higher, move in mid-air, fire with more precision etc. Just like the original game. You still fight enemies with weapons or melee combat and feel like a superhero jumping around in a comic book town. The sense of progression is both addictive and memorising as you watch, literally in front of your eyes, your foot soldier transform into a superhuman law enforcer.

‘Time to collect those orbs agent!’

The game does look quite nice in 4K on Xbox One X (Crackdowngrade 3 aside) although very bland and sparse with a lack of detail about its futuristic city setting. Much in the same style as the original. Cutscenes are relatively short and the game has the feel of a limited budget production rather than triple AAA videogame with lots of comic book style, 2D style cutscenes. What ever they had though was certainly spent on the intro and the rendition of Terry Crews. As it is superbly accurate.

I haven’t tried or played any of the multiplayer as this doesn’t interest me, although I love the fact you can choose whether to download the campaign or multiplayer parts of the game separately. Bravo Microsoft on this Xbox One feature.

If I’m honest I probably wouldn’t have tried this game if it wasn’t on Xbox Game Pass and again is a great example of the strength of the subscription service. Although still a fun game it might actually be better for those that missed the original. This is a simple update of the first game but without adding anything to really improve or change it. And it that sense as more of the same, it can feel like a disappointment. Which is a massive shame.

Played on Xbox One X via Xbox Game Pass.

Abzû Review

I’m not sure if I really wanted to write about Abzû from Giant Squid Studios. A 2016 game that I knew nothing about and tried following a recommendation. It is one of those games that it is best to know little about beforehand. I said something similar in my recent review of Dear Esther and it definitely applies with this videogame too.

However after playing through this game over a few hours I realised that Abzû had me wanted to acknowledge it. It felt like something I enjoyed and really think it is worth playing. Although it is a difficult game to put into words, so bare with me if I flounder at this. Like the aforementioned review of Dear Esther, I don’t want to go into too much detail but essentially an underwater adventure game. Although I would be inclined to describe it as more of an ‘experience’ or a ‘ride’.

It is beautiful, stylised and vibrant as it is simple. Abzû reminded me of certain Legend of Zelda games, which is a massive compliment. And it definitely had further parts that made me recall other popular games and films. I think that it does very well at providing some unique atmosphere and moments that are noteworthy or memorable.

The audio is standout and as good as the visuals. Whether it be the powerful and epic soundtrack, or the simple sound effects, which are matched to the game brilliantly. Either at individual level or as a package the whole game is executed very well.

Yes, it could be criticised for being shallow or way too short, but I think it’s best to just accept Abzû for what it is. Whilst the game might be very short it can be breathtaking, endearing and unique. And that makes it worth trying out if you like this style of game. It is very well made and rarely puts a foot wrong. I enjoyed this one.

Played on Xbox One X via Xbox Game Pass.

February 2019 Update

Weather getting warmer again another solid month of progress on videogames I own. Should be easier now the NFL American Football season is over and Sunday nights are free again.

New game pickups

  • Divinity Original Sin: Enhanced Edition (PS4)

I already have the original Divinity Original Sin on PC, but for less than £8 I’d prefer to play this on console. Otherwise I just purchased an Xbox One Controller Wireless Controller (Blue).

Not game related but purchased the Beyerdynamic DT 990 Pro headphones. I’ve always wanted to try some Beyerdynamic headphones and whilst yet another pair of open, wide soundstage headphones I think these might be brighter and more lively than my existing AKG K702 and Sennheiser HD598 headphones. More thoughts here.

Been playing (Grouvee)

  • Abzu (Xbox One)
  • Wolfenstein: The New Order (PS4)
  • Anthem (Demo) (PS4)
  • The Division 2 Private Beta (Xbox One)
  • Mutant Year Zero: Road to Eden (Xbox One)
  • World of Warcraft Battle for Azeroth
  • Rocket League (PS4)
  • Hammerwatch (PC)

I made some more progress with the Wolfenstein: The New Order – maybe about two thirds through the game. I tried Anthem (Demo) and The Division 2 Private Beta earlier in the month and wasn’t particularly taken with either, although for different reasons in each case.

Some games started on Xbox Game Pass; Mutant Year Zero: Road to Eden and Abzu. Other than that it’s been playing games I’d already started, such as World of Warcraft Battle for Azeroth, Rocket League and Hammerwatch.

Completed, Abandoned & Shelved

Completed FTL, Unreal Tournament and Hammerwatch. Although in reality you never complete a game like FTL the fact is I’ve done a few runs through the game now and feel like I’ve seen enough of it. Unreal Tournament was something I played with for a few hours and was great fun but unless it somehow miraculously rises from the ashes I can’t see me playing this again in the near future. After completing one playthrough I published my thoughts on Hammerwatch recently.

So completed 3 games this month.

Updates

A number of articles and posts written and published on the site, including a few long term hardware reviews.

Up next

To try and get further or complete Wolfenstein. There are the few Xbox Game Pass games I’ve recently started that I need to play further. I also want to check out Crackdown 3 as I loved the original game.

And finally I have a couple of new accessories arriving soon which I will likely draft my thoughts on over the next few weeks.

A few next generation hopes

Recently Digital Foundry released a wonderful video suggesting six relatively realistic upgrades they would like to see on any future Nintendo Switch hardware revision. Which got me thinking what is it I would love to see on the next generation Xbox and PlayStation. Particularly changes that are realistic and within the realms of possible.

Whilst I love gaming on PC, I’ve made no secret of the fact that I’m fed up with high-end PC pricing. Sure you don’t have to have the best components, and I often don’t, but even low and mid-range parts have increased in price. And if you’re buying less powerful parts then the advantages over consoles when gaming become less. Over the last 12-months I’ve spent more time on my Xbox One X and PlayStation 4 Pro as I’ve moved away from gaming as much on my PC.

Whilst hardware is definitely going to be more powerful in the next Xbox and PlayStation I’ve realised that it isn’t just hardware that I would like to see improve when new machines arrive in the next 1 to 2 years. Actually software and services are just as important. Therefore I’m not going to list improvements like a faster CPU or more RAM as realistically these things improving are a given, particularly as we know AMD Zen CPU and Navi GPU components are extremely likely to be in these new machines. Anyway here is my small wishlist for each machine and manufacturer:

Microsoft Xbox

More exclusives. Microsoft announced at E3 a load of studios that it had acquired. And whilst some of these are likely to be working on their new cloud streaming services and content, there is hopefully a chance they are also working on new IP for Microsoft machines. Microsoft has fallen well short of the mark when it has come to new games this generation and is in the shadow of Sony’s incredible first party studios content since 2013.

Xbox Game Pass merged with Xbox Live Gold as a single premium subscription. Probably unlikely but I did see someone on ResetEra thinking along the same lines. The consumer charges for online multiplayer are ‘snake oil’. The cost that the consumer pays a platform holder in the 30% fees they charge are enough for server maintenance for first-party games. If Microsoft got rid of fees for multiplayer and built around their Game Pass initiative they would give Sony a real problem and offer something unique. It becomes less about charging something the consumer resents paying and making the consumer more positively see the service so they want to subscribe.

Support for USB DACs, AMPs and Microphones. One of the great things about the PlayStation 4 is being able to use USB audio devices like the Fiio E10K or Creative SoundBlaster X7. Microsoft’s proprietary audio chip and solution isn’t just a barrier to great audio on Xbox but a real pain for those of us with more than one format.

Completely redesign the dashboard operating system. Even though the Xbox dash has improved in recent years it still pales in comparison to Sony’s clear and simple OS design. Like Microsoft’s convoluted vision for the Xbox One, the operating system was clearly designed around Metro, Kinect and selling services. Metro and Kinect were failures and adverts on dashboards aren’t consumer friendly. Although Sony’s design is far from perfect you are never more than one click away from your games.

Sony PlayStation

Better acoustic profile. Even though my PlayStation 4 Pro is generally silent or quiet with PS4 games, once any enhanced game is loaded the whole thing becomes very loud. The original launch PS4 was too loud when compared with the original Xbox One as well.

Backwards compatibility with PS1 and PS2 games. Microsoft has been more innovative on the services and software front in many ways. Game Pass, Backwards Compatibility and Xbox One X enhanced 4K Xbox 360 and Xbox games are things Sony simply has little response to. However there should be no reason for why Sony can’t offer PS1 or PS2 emulation on its new hardware. Maybe even bundling up some of its old library as a PlayStation Plus freebies rather than trying to sell as ROMS. Either way Sony needs a way to allow its consumers to access old content that is more compelling than the expensive PS Now service. Talking of which…

Make PS Now cheaper. £12.99 feels too much per month for what the service is, but worse still compares very badly with Microsoft’s Xbox Game Pass which is nearly 40% cheaper per month and includes brand new releases. Whilst PS Now has around 750 games available (most streaming only) there are barely any PS2 games on the service and there are no new day and date releases as per Xbox Game Pass.

Greater cross-play support. Again this isn’t dependant on new hardware, but new Live Services need to think about the consumer over their potentially long lifetime. And almost in the same way Xbox One and PlayStation 4 heralded a new age of console free-to-play games, by the time new machines arrive we should be able to play with friends and access our accounts and purchases irrespective of format. Although given the confusion recently it’s clear the scale of the challenge facing developers and publishers working with Sony.

Summary

So there we go, eight things I would personally like to see these new Sony and Microsoft console incorporate. There is arguably a policy change that Sony should and could make sooner with regards to cross-play, although this is also on Publishers as well. However these all feel like solid suggestions that could improve the new consoles from each manufacturer.

What would you like to see implemented or change with new consoles?

Rage Review

The great thing about Xbox Game Pass is that it has a mix of new, recent and old games on its service. And for whatever reason I never got around to playing Rage (id Software & Bethesda) that released in 2011. Even though I always was tempted and it is often cheap on any format, I just never got around to buying it. And that is where Game Pass excels. You start playing games you might not have otherwise played. And whilst the Xbox 360 version is weaker graphically than the PC version it was a trade-off I was happy to make.

In Rage you are an non-descript survivor that has to very quickly learn to stay alive and get use to shooting lots of bad guys. There is a story which I thought was reasonably well setup and told although nothing particularly original or standout. The game is mostly an FPS but has driving sections which are used as a means of getting across the world although there is vehicle combat and racing. The game has what looks like an open world(ish) map although in reality the game is fairly linear with the expansive maps are really used for the vehicle sections. There are also some mini-games such as card games although these didn’t have huge depth to hold my attention for long.

Rage screenshot

Where Rage really stands out, is its 60fps gameplay, which is very smooth, fast and responsive. More of an arcadey FPS that resembles the other ‘arcadey’ Bethesda shooters in a way. 60fps was much rarer in the seventh generation of consoles so it is a pleasant surprise. Of course the trade-off is that the graphics can be fairly bland, lacking in texture detail and flat in comparison to some of its peers. Indeed Rage set in a futuristic wasteland is often a mostly brown, bland looking game with a few variations but nothing that stand-outs as much as the high frame rate. The game doesn’t have much colour and the locations can blend into each other as well. Although it is far from a bad looking game.

The gunplay is solid and there is a nice variety of weapons including variation of ammo types for each weapon which can change their behaviour. There is some variety in the enemies and a few boss fights in the game. The vehicle sections work well and compare to something like the Warthog in the Halo games. And the game does a good job of limited your ammo to begin with to make it feel like you have to scavenge for things. Although by the end of the game In was probably ‘over tooled’ with too much ammo.

One complaint that is often raised is how the game ends. I didn’t even realise I was in the very final moment of the game before the end sequence and achievements popped. So there is some truth to this.

Rage screenshot of a driving section from the game.

Although I can’t be precise it took somewhere around 25-30 hours to complete Rage on normal difficulty and it was a pretty fun experience. Although it is easily a game I could have abandoned with little regret. And I think that’s a fair way to summarise my time with Rage. It feels greater than the sum of its parts. Neither a bad game, but also not a classic. Merely a ‘good’ game. It is worth a playthrough it you like FPS games or would like to see the first game before its sequel arrives later this year. I just wouldn’t say it is essential.

One noteworthy fact is that this game was the first outing for the id Tech Engine 5 which would also go on to power Wolfenstein: The New Order and Dishonored 2 amongst other games. Newer versions of the engine have powered Doom (2016) and its upcoming sequel. You can definitely feel the similarities in some of the newer games, like Wolfenstein.

And finally the game is another great advert for Microsoft’s backward compatibility. Whilst unfortunately not Xbox One X enhanced, it is still great to be able to play Xbox 360 (and original Xbox) games on your Xbox One. The game only crashed once when I tried capturing a screenshot. Bravo Microsoft.

Played on Xbox One X via Xbox Game Pass.

Don’t Pass on Game Pass

A while ago I wrote a piece stating that I was thinking about not renewing Xbox Game Pass. Apart from being annoyed at not having received a free month as part of an offer (something that Microsoft’s Customer Services never resolved), I was also not fully convinced of the benefits of the £7.99 a month service given I had played only a few games in my time with the service.

Since I got my second Xbox One earlier this year I had managed to use the free months included with the console along with offers and renewal offers to stack six months of Game Pass for less than £15. It had made the decision a no-brainer to try out the service and I enjoyed playing and complete a few games. However I was never 100% convinced the service was for me.

That said I often change my thoughts on things and this Christmas I think Microsoft have hit it out of the park with their subscription service. Ashen, Mutant Year Zero and Below are brand new releases that have debuted on Game Pass at the same time as being release on Xbox One and other formats. Indeed Ashen is exclusive to the new Epic PC Store. This is on top of other games like Life is Strange 1 & 2 and Ori and the Blind Forest all recently being added to the service. Whilst Game Pass has had day one first party titles on there, seeing independent games like Ashen and Mutant Year Zero launching day one is a very encouraging precedent.

Either way as noted in my December update the above along with some cheap prices on 12 and 6-month subscriptions was enough to convince me to stock up on my Game Pass subscription. As mentioned before there are still issues with the service, such as games leaving too soon (i.e. Fallout 4) and the lack of DLC. And whilst Game Pass is still likely to be the bane of my backlog having the opportunity to play a game like Ashen far earlier than I might have otherwise is enough to convince me that Game Pass might just become as mandatory as other services like Netflix or Spotify in the future.

Indeed Game Pass reminds me of the good vibe PlayStation Plus first launched to on the PlayStation 3 with it’s ‘Instant Game Collection’ in 2010. PlayStation Plus arguably changed the game when it came to adding value to mandatory online subscriptions which meant Microsoft had to adapt and offer free games as well. And whilst I don’t necessarily want individual publisher subscriptions (i.e. EA Access) Game Pass is a massive advantage for Microsoft right now.

2018 Review: In numbers (not that many!)

As we are coming up for the end of year I wanted to have a look at my progress against my backlog since I set this website up around five months ago. Originally my intention was to setup up a WordPress site from scratch, learn new skills, as well as being able to track how many games I own, or have access to. Sites like Grouvee are very good at logging games but generally very bad at a timeline view.

2018 in numbers

  • Backlog: Increased by 12 (264 to 278)
  • Played: Increased by 3 (192 to 195)
  • Completed = 2
  • Abandoned = 1
  • Played = 6

So overall not that many games played, or completed although as a whole I think I managed to play a total of 17 games this year. However I only set-up tracking along with this site in July, so there may be a chance that I’ve missed a game or two. However this number excludes retro games like Tetris on the Nintendo Game Boy.

There is a discrepancy in my figures on Grouvee because I’ve realised I have played 6 new games for the first time since setting up the website: Rage, Fortnite: Save the World, World of Warcraft: Battle for Azeroth, Forza Motorsport 7, Dying Light and Starlink. Everything else was either played earlier in the year or I had started playing before. I believe the discrepancy is simply that I am not regarding a game as played on Grouvee until I am done with it (i.e. Rage).

However what is clear is that I have been playing GaaS/Live Services games and when I’m not playing these sort of games I do speed-up considerably at progressing in other games. I’ve written about this before. In addition other projects such as buying a new PC, upgrading my Unraid server, house DIY and work etc. have also played their part in limiting my time playing games.

With regards to purchasing new games it doesn’t appear too bad. However some of this is rebuying games on Xbox Live or Playstation Network which I already owned on PC and therefore hasn’t increased the numbers. Also free games from Games With Gold, PlayStation Plus or Game Pass reduced my new purchasing a little bit. Although I don’t add these onto my backlog figures, overall I nearly acquired 100 new games in the time of setting up the website. Most of these will be free games.

2019: the year ahead

I suspect it going to be hard to ignore The Division 2 in late February although I would like to avoid the launch and see what the game is like first. Partly because of how other similar games like Destiny 2 went, but also to allow time for microtransactions and the overall business model to settle. There are a few games like Anthem and Days Gone that are also intriguing to me.

Beyond that I missed out on a number of big hitters from the second half of this year that are on my Wishlist. Namely Forza Horizon 4, Marvel’s Spiderman and Red Dead Redemption 2. Depending on sales these might be games I pick up sooner than later. I do have access to Forza Horizon 4 via Game Pass but am put off by not having the VIP pack (earn in-game credits 2 times faster).

I would also like to buy a Nintendo Switch but with a hardware revision rumoured in the second half of 2019 this will be put on-hold for now.

And other than that probably continuing to move away from PC gaming. I am still playing many PC games but the fact is with the sharp increase in the cost of PC components (particularly in the UK) I have therefore stopped buying as many games on PC. And this is something I intend to continue with as we see new Sony and Microsoft consoles in the near future. Dying Light, Rage and Inside are all good examples of games I purchased or played on console that previously I would have picked up on PC.

Realistic targets

It would be nice to complete or shelve somewhere in the region of 15 to 25 videogames in 2019. I think that might be hard but achievable. Certainly I would like to have played at least double the number from this year. As the first full calendar year of monitoring this will be interesting to see if I can meet this target.

Anyway an early ‘Happy New Year!’ for everyone who read this far. Thank you.

December 2018 Update

A quick update as I intend to do a more in-depth review of 2018, or at least the first 5 to 6 months I have been running the site, and look at the few games I managed to play this year.

New game pickups

No new games, but a whole bunch of Starlink: Battle for Atlas ships, pilots and weapons. Managed to basically obtain the entire remaining set, as the packs have been reduced by 50% by most retailers in the UK.

In addition I picked up 18-months of Xbox Game Pass (despite saying I wouldn’t!). 12-months was £47.99 from Amazon, and the 6-months was £18 direct from Microsoft (used a £5 voucher).

I also extended Xbox Live Gold by 6-months through the Amazon offer on the 3-month pass (included £10 of Microsoft credit). So most subscriptions until the end of 2020 now.

Been playing (Grouvee)

  • Rage
  • Path of Exile (New Betrayal League)

Not much time to play games this month, so a small amount of progress on Rage (up to the Eastern Wastelands). In addition I’ve been playing the new season on Path of Exile. Again playing with an axe wielding Marauder build.

So no games completed or thrown back onto the shelf (again!).

Up next

Christmas has been fairly busy but hopefully I get a chance to complete Rage. However as the last update before the big day; Merry Christmas everyone!

October 2018 Update

Definitely getting colder and lots of new games coming out. Progress on my backlog slowed down mostly in part due to WoW.

New game pickups
No new games! Videogame related purchases included:

  • 180 Days and Dreadwake Mount gametime offer for WoW.
  • Pre-order for the Sony PlayStation Classic in December.
  • 2 for 1 month offer to extend Xbox Game Pass to February 2019.
  • Welcome card pack for Hearthstone (had £2 Google Play voucher)
  • Blizzcon Virtual Ticket
  • Raspberry Pi 3B+ and other assorted goodies.

Been playing (Grouvee Link)

  • World of Warcraft: Battle for Azeroth
  • The Elder Scrolls Online – Summerfall Event
  • Rage
  • Call of Duty Black Ops III
  • Hearthstone

Mostly World of Warcraft: Battle for Azeroth (again). I’m very, very slowing levelling my main character to max level although I have been playing with alts. I finally managed to experience the Worgen starter zone having created an alt who fit the race (Feral Druid). Loved the starter zone but it is a laggy and buggy mess. Apart from very bad performance and noticeable lag for the whole zone, there are loads of bugs. On a number of quests I would have to log out and back in to complete them (disappearing vehicle UI, and quest items bugged). And unfortunately it appears to have been this way for a very long time.

I also played some The Elder Scrolls Online, for the Summerfall Event where I took a few hours to get the Pathfinder Achievement. Although it wasn’t required in the end! This was for some virtual tat of a pet, mount and player housing.

Also been playing Rage a bit more, maybe coming up on the half-way point of the campaign at a guess.

With all the launch excitement around the new Call of Duty, I decided to try out Call of Duty Black Ops III given away to PlayStation Plus Subscribers last year. I’m not sure how long I’ll stay with it but I’ve tried out Zombies (not sure so far what to think of this) and playing some custom games of Multiplayer. I’d like to try the campaign. Also been playing a bit of Hearthstone.

Updates

On Grouvee I have added an On-hold shelf to temporarily park games that I have played and mean to return to, but haven’t played for a few months. That way I can clear up my ‘Playing’ shelf just to be those few games I am actively playing. All will be kept on the backlog.

With regards to the website I’ve changed the following:
• Created a simple Reviews page for listing out my videogame reviews and impressions
• Renamed ‘The Plan’ page to Rules and improved the content
• Made some improvements to the design
• Minor edits on the About and Main pages

Away from the site I’ve been playing around with RetroPie on my Raspberry Pi 2. It’s been a little while since I last tried in on the Raspberry Pi and have been impressed with how well it’s developed. Will be playing around with some more SoC (System on a Chip) boards soon.

Up next

Same as last month although I’m tempted to try out a couple of games on Xbox Game Pass to maximise it whilst I have it. A few older games I would like to progress and complete still (Rage, Wolfenstein: The New Order and Mass Effect 3). With regards to WoW hoping to get my Death Knight (Blood) to max level 120.

July 2018 Update

After numerous hours typing away at the keyboard, I have finally managed to log every videogame I own on Grouvee. Yay! Took ages but hopefully worth it. And therefore this post is also my first ever monthly progress update against my backlog.

There are some Nintendo Virtual Console games on Wii and Wii U unaccounted for, but I’m not going to list them as these online services are either gone or probably won’t be around much longer.

So that’s 1035 games in total, of which 275 are on my backlog. I’m currently playing through 7 games and actually have already completed nearly a fifth of all games I own. Time to start playing some games.

Xbox Ultimate Game Sale/PSN Summer Sale – new game pickups

Just because you can clearly never buy enough games to play, I have also purchased the following in the summer sales;

  • Prey – fancy playing this, not worried about Mooncrash DLC atm.
  • Doom/Wolfenstein 2 Bundle – good price for two!
  • Dishonored The Complete Collection – Dishonored 2 is Xbox One X enhanced, and only £1 more than the complete sequel bundle so it includes the original game as well.
  • Everybody’s Golf

I also purchased Fallout 4/Dying Light: The Following – Enhanced Edition digitally in these sales so I can own sell the boxed disc versions.

Ps. Picked up 3-months of GamePass for £7.99, plus a month through MS Rewards, so that’s 4-months taken care of. Seems a good deal. That’s Forza Horizon 4 taken care of at least.