Northlanders Monthly Vita/PS4 Gaming Ramblings

First off I need to pause and think about what I’ve done to deserve a crack at writing about something I’m very passionate about, on a real gaming website that shares that same passion. I was, as we say up here, “Owa the Moon”, what an absolute pleasure to be given this opportunity. I must have done something good in another life, although maybe not because my T300RS decided to burn out the week before Le Mans 24h… karma eh! Bloody wheel.

Anyway, moving on, so why am I here? Well I was invited by the man himself, the one and only Lizard, to summarise my monthly Vita and PS4 gaming exploits. This got me thinking, should I approach it like every other review, or should I look at my gaming experiences as actual experiences, rather than the usual pros and cons. If there’s one thing with me and gaming, I’m pretty confident these days when a game ‘grips’ me that my purchase isn’t a wasted one, and believe me I’ve been there. I’m guessing it comes with the fact I’ve been gaming since they came on cassette tapes. Yeah those. Games on MAGNETIC TAPE. Ah the joys of waiting ten minutes for an eight coloured title-screen to load; you had time to watch the latest episode of Thundercats and have your tea before you even got a sniff of those glorious chip tunes (stay with me on this, it’s going somewhere, and not in the bin hopefully) Basically what I’m getting at is, think of this as more of a point of view from an unashamed 100% PlayStation FaNbOi. (I think that’s how the trolls say it) rather than all out reviews paid for by the nefarious megacorps for metacritic ratings or something. These are my experiences, if you will.

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So, what have I been up to this month? Well on the PS4 front we’ve finally started motoring, and not just in terms of more gaming goodness to suck yet more time than my backlog will allow. But as a die-hard (vest not included) Gran Turismo fan, the obvious lack of something that can reach those parts other driving games can only dream of, we finally get Project CARS, and what an awe-inspiring game Slightly Mad have created. It definitely ticks the motor racing boxes for me. It’s almost too good when you look at how they have presented it. Think motor sport ‘open-world’. Yes it has a rather robust career mode, but you are not penalised, nor are you hand held. So no grinding for money to buy upgrades and nothing is locked apart from off-road motor sport. Every other major discipline is covered, and you have the freedom to start anywhere you like. Perfect for those who have limited seat time and want to either emulate their favourite driver for an hour or so, or have a weekend free and wish to take part in a season at the top of their chosen class of motorsport. Anything from Touring to Prototypes, and everything in between. Outside of the career mode is where it comes alive for me. Not only can you set up online race weekends, which is the norm for any online racer (PCars does this better than GT5 or 6) but the stroke of genius on Slightly’s part was allowing you to also have the same level of control over setting an offline single player race weekend with AI cars.

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This effectively allows for almost unlimited variations of races you can create, and as it’s not based in an economy simulator, it gets you back to pure motor racing. Your time isn’t spent upgrading your car, but tweaking actual car set ups, and the set up options are staggeringly detailed for a console racer. Add to this the finite detail in the Force Feedback setting per car and you’re in petrol head heaven, or at least I was. Bloody wheel!

If there was one thing I’d recommend though, you need to experience the game with a wheel. As a console exclusive racer since the PS2 era, I’ve always had a wheel, end of. There is no comparison when you first use a wheel in a decent driving game, and if you have any interest in motor sport, cars, driving, simulation, it’s a must … just be aware of what wheel you choose. Bloody wheel!

Project CARS – The best PlayStation driving game to date. It balances content with visuals and the all-important sounds to make it a pack leader. The ball’s in your court GT7.

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Destiny has ruined my life…

Six months gone, yet I still needed to play. Help I’m addicted to the grind. It’s like having an unlimited supply of Cheesy Poofs (other maize cheese snacks are available) I … COULD’NT … STOP… Thankfully Bungie helped by delaying House of Wolves, effectively killing off the game, and with a raft of other new titles inbound, that umbilical cord was severed. Phew, lucky escape! It’s almost gaming suicide to get sucked into a world so rich with content (however it’s presented) if it gets you addicted, as time with other games can suffer. I never want that to happen again. I love gaming too much. So, The Witcher….

AAARRRRGGGHHHHH.

The difference here though, The Witcher offers ‘proper’ content, STORY content, and the only grinding here is another fifteen minutes of enhanced weaponry, thank you very much. Diablo III, yes brilliant, Lord of the Rings….hmmmm not my cup of tea, so my sights for my first PS4 RPG was always going to be The Wild Hunt. There’s something appealing as an adult gamer these days when you have something that speaks to you and not down to you. So here I stand at the beginning of what could be 200 hours of gaming. The world is massive, honest, MASSIVE. Even if you feel let down by the world map when you first see it. You only have 4 ‘areas’ that you can adventure within, but each one gets larger than the first. If you want to make it even bigger, stay away from those signposts and let poor Roach do all the work.

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Character development is quite deep too, especially when you realise you have ‘tabs’ to cycle through when applying Ability Points, it’s not just Combat you can upgrade! Mistake avoided thanks to a certain Bounty Hunter… Glorious, awe inspiring, Dystopian in equal measure, from the sunrises to the sunsets, the ominous dark clouds that roll in, to the wind and rain, the world of The Witcher is nothing short of epic, and that you have the freedom to go anywhere is what it’s all about. Play the story and side quests at your own pace. I’ll see you at Christmas.

Vita…

Now how can I put this…INDIE IS AS IMPORTANT AS AAA! Now that’s off my chest, you all know where I stand. It really bugs me that ‘so called’ Vita fans slate the machine because of no AAA, but what do they consider a viable AAA game to be on the Vita? Another CoD?

If there was one reason I bought my Vita, it was because of the amount of indie games that had been announced, mostly by Shaid Kamal Ahmad on Twitter over many months. My only stumbling block was when was the UK going to get the Vita 2000 model. YES, I wanted that one ok. Once it was announced, everything was set. Finally I’d get a companion device for my PS4, and I’d be able to enjoy and support the indie devs who were bringing unique games to the little beast. I was very excited.

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This brings me back to my previous comment. Gaming now covers a massive spectrum, not only in terms of genre’s of games, but also in presentation. Back in the days of cassette gaming, the hardware dictated how a game could look, not what the programmers perhaps wanted it to look like, yet this period still allowed for some iconic games. So was born the 8 bit era of low fi graphics and sound. Fast forward to today’s hardware and developers have a bigger scope on how they can present their games. Just because the hardware allows it, doesn’t mean you need to use it all, all of the time. This is where processing power allows for advanced game mechanics, but visually, a game can look like anything. This goes hand in hand for me with some indie games I’ve been playing this month on my Vita.

Shovel Knight for instance. It’s probably the best NES game you’ve never played. Probably the only game to give me pins and needles in my legs while on the toilet. I was stuck.

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After playing games through the 8 and 16bit era, when you see a pixel-based game now, unlike some, I get it, why the devs have gone that route – because it works, it fits the style of the game. It doesn’t mean the game is any less because it’s not bleeding edge graphics. Too many ‘fans’ put down retro-looking modern games. It’s an art style now, not a limitation. It connects to a time when games were ‘games’. Pure arcade action, mostly 2D, and they prove they still have something captivating, even now. For me this is where the Vita’s strength lies, the perfect platform for Indies to create memorable games that hark back to a happier time, a fun time. It’s a nice change of pace from your intense ‘core’ gaming games. Woah Dave, Rock Boshers DX, Rogue Legacy, La Mulana (with its 4:3 layout) all offer something refreshing, yet remind us where gaming came from.

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Flame Over is another game I’ve been well into, and to think I wasn’t sold on its presentation originally, until I bought it a day after it launched, the same week Hotline Miami 2 launched no less, and as much as I was all over HM2, I found myself suddenly addicted to the crushing ‘Dark Souls’ punishment Flame Over had hidden in its yellow wellies. Presentation doesn’t always tell the whole story.

As my Vita reaches its storage limits, my attention turned back to the PS4 and what non-crossbuy indie games it had. I originally discounted indie games for my PS4 as I figured it was more about retail games, and how wrong I was. Ziggurat! The Escapists! Axiom Verge! Jamestown+, Nom Nom Galaxy, Mercenary Kings! It was like Download Pokemon. Had to get them all. As much as I still say the Vita is a perfect platform for indie games, and not just 8/16 bit style games, there’s something almost ’80’s arcade’ without getting kicked in by the local bully for playing indie games on the big screen.

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Did someone mention Mega Man? Sneaky Capcom, you beauties! The best news I heard this week, what with my love of all things retro, the PS4 is getting the Legacy Collection, all 6 NES Mega Man games. I love this for two reasons: first reason, I’m fully aware of the iconic status this series has, but back when the NES was a ‘thing’ I was gaming on my Amstrad CPC 464. Consoles never factored into my early gaming years, so now I can finally play what is considered classic platform gaming as if it was new. My second reason is for all those haters out there who will be raging on about how they didn’t buy a PS4 to play a game that looks like a ‘PS1’ game (they never even get that right either) No one is forcing you to buy it, it’s not like it’s going to appear on your console overnight like a U2 album…

If you’re reading this bit, many thanks you made it. Don’t worry if you nodded off further up. Once I start, I cannot stop… Hopefully this serves as an introduction, and if I’m asked back I’m thinking I’ll pick a game from both systems and enthuse about those in equal measure, probably. Did I mention my wheel died? Until then gamers, winter’s coming.

 

Check out Northlander’s review of Angus hates Aliens, and find out why he gave it a whopping 9/10!

Northlander

Northlander is a PlayStation gamer from North of the Wall, dedicated beard farmer and cat wrangler. Platinumed the Bald trophy in 2008. Follow him on twitter @northlander74