[Review] Need for Speed Rivals – Safe, But Not Dull

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“Are you a cop? Or a racer?” This is the choice that’s presented to me shortly after a cutscene in which two equally edgy drivers bump their egos against each other for two minutes. The basic premise is that the cops enjoy the thrill of going fast in their cars, and they’re tough guys because they’re the law, whereas the racers enjoy the thrill of going fast in their cars, and they’re tough guys because they break the law. With little to differentiate them, then, I choose racer, a choice which is quickly rendered meaningless ten minutes later when the game forces me to also learn how to race as a cop.

The more I think about what I’m going to put into this review, the more I realise how scathing it’s going to come across. I have some gripes. I have a lot of gripes! So I think it’s important to first of all mention that the game is fun. It’s solid. It’s a good racer, and a decent Need for Speed game. I do not regret my purchase. I am, in fact, considering aiming for the Platinum trophy, which looks to be a bit of a grind. I want to pursue as much gameplay as Rivals has to offer. I’m just not a huge advocate for how that gameplay is delivered to you.

When you begin your career as either a cop or a racer, you’re thrust into the open world of Redview County, a name so generic I had to look it up before finishing this sentence. Redview County is a fairly island-shaped map with four distinct biomes – town, forest, desert, and snow – with very little space to transition between them. There’s literally an area on the map where you drive from snow to desert in about twenty seconds. The visuals also leave something to be desired, but given that this is a game from 2013, I can forgive it a little for being a product of its time; it’s dark, gritty, and grainy, clearly an outlier from the PS3/Xbox 360 era where this aesthetic was commonplace. That being said, I didn’t like the aesthetic any more in 2010 than I do in 2020.

Redview County is not Paradise City. Sure, it has jumps, and speed cameras, and an autolog system which pits your score against your friends and those in your lobby, but they’re almost an afterthought. Jumps are clustered together in areas like the city or the airport, and nowhere to be found on the longer stretches of road between. This can make certain objectives a pain in that you have to seek out these locations, rather than achieve them as you make your way around the island. These objectives are grouped together and presented to you by way of “speedlists”, and each one you complete nets you a level, and a new car unlock. As a racer, you can personalise them (though that system is somewhat limited), upgrade their performance and outfit them with pursuit tech; as a cop, you’re limited to choosing your pursuit tech only.

The pursuit tech, while not new to the Need for Speed series, is a welcome inclusion. There have been countless occasions where I’ve been surrounded by cops, at risk of losing my session’s SpeedPoints – this game’s currency – and let off a shockwave that propelled my pursuers into barriers, trees, and other unfortunate passersby. Racers have access to Turbo boosts, stun mines and more, while the police are offered more traditional spike strips, road blocks and helicopter backup. I’ve not played around with all of these, but I’m yet to find one I don’t like, as utilising them effectively almost always yields satisfying results. Interestingly, I’ve also found that using a shockwave on a racer who’s ahead of me is often to my own detriment, as it boosts their speed, or laying a mine when a car is directly behind me will catch me in the stun range too. All this adds an additional layer of tactical thinking to your races.

It must be said, though, this game feels disjointed, and not just because I’ve been skipping the awful cutscenes. You level up by completing arbitrary sets of objectives, some of which don’t even include races, and there’s very little to persuade you to try one of your new car unlocks. There’s not much discernible difference between the performance of a Ford Mustang and a Lamborghini Gallardo; the latter is obviously faster and more agile, but you’d expect the difference between the two to be much more extreme than it actually is. The only time I felt like I had to think about which car I brought to an event was the very last Racer speedlist, a 15-minute Hot Pursuit race around the island, which my Gallardo wasn’t durable enough to survive.

So, is this the best Need for Speed? Of course not. And yet, there’s a reason I’ve been playing it for hours at a time. The structure may be awkward, the story virtually nonexistent, and the progression unsatisfying, but the moment-to-moment racing sells it all the same. If I’d read the review I just gave this I’d be inclined to give Rivals a pass, but at the end of the day, I’m happy I didn’t. Not every Need for Speed game has to be on par with Underground or Most Wanted, and while I’d not recommend picking this up for £30, acquiring it as a bundle of three with the reboot and Payback for £15 is more than good enough value for me.

Gaming Memories #1 – RC Revenge

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Whenever I think of the phrase “favourite childhood games”, my brain immediately goes to RC Revenge. Not necessarily because it’s number one on my list of games I grew up with, but because it’s not the kind of game that exists today. It hasn’t been remade or remastered, not since the Playstation 2’s RC Revenge Pro, in any case. If I want to play it, I have to dust off an old console or figure out an emulator. It’s truly a relic of the past.

So… what is it? Well, it’s an arcade racer based on RC cars. You’d start with a number of options to race with – I always chose RC Action, the car on the box art – and as you went through the Championship cups, you’d always race against one car you didn’t have the option to select. Jungle Ranger, Yella, Sarge, Skull Duggery, these cars had a special presence in races, and unlocking them at the end of each championship felt highly rewarding. Two cars I never figured out how to unlock, one of which was a UFO, always remained a mystery to me, though I later found out you were supposed to unlock them by completing Time Trials. Hilariously, the thought had crossed my kid brain, but I figured they’d never force anyone to unlock them through boring Time Trials and they must have been unlocked in other ways instead, like beating championships without losing a single race or taking a single hit. Ah, the days before the internet.

My favourite thing about this game was the varied tracks and the structure of their championships. To start with, you have five themed worlds – a horror theme, a jungle theme, a space theme, a monster theme and a wacky theme – each of which had two main tracks. Those two main tracks also had two longer variations for the Gold and Platinum cups, which means that tracks you were once familiar with suddenly had new pathways which opened up and let you see another perspective to the world. This may not sound particularly crazy now, but it blew my little 5 year old mind.

I vaguely remember spotting RC Revenge Pro on the shelf of a completely non-game related store on a trip to town on day (I want to say it was in a shoe store?), and my dad rolling his eyes, knowing it was an essential purchase. RC Revenge Pro brought the game to PS2 with enhanced graphics – and they really did look enhanced to me then – alongside a new pirate themed world and more unlockable vehicles with special abilities. I remember thinking that the pirate tracks were somewhat boring to play, and I never fell in love with any of the new cars, but I certainly got something out of seeing the game on PS2 with better graphics. It was truly ahead of its time in this way.

With old games like this, I often wonder how many hours I put into it. Did I play for hundreds of hours over the years, as a kid with little else to do? Or does it simply feel that way because I have a lot of fondness for those memories? If it was released today, would I give a crap about it? It’s worth noting that the PS1 version received average reviews and the PS2 version did worse, which is an argument against taking review scores too seriously, as I clearly enjoyed it plenty. I’ve revisited the game in my adult years too, and still had a good time.

One last thing I’ll mention is that I only recently discovered that RC Revenge is actually a sequel to a far more popular RC Racing game named Re-Volt. Some years back, Re-Volt launched as an iOS game, and the entire time I played it I couldn’t shake the sense of familiarity I felt. Much later, I looked up RC Revenge on Wikipedia out of interest and found the link there. Curiously, I don’t find Re-Volt nearly as enjoyable as RC Revenge, which is super interesting given that the general consensus is that people prefer the first. In this way, I feel I’m able to conclude that if I discovered RC Revenge for the first time as an adult, I probably wouldn’t get much more enjoyment out of it than I did out of Re-Volt, which is something to think about.

Either way, if somebody were to come out with a spiritual successor to the series, I’d be on it in a heartbeat.

Platinum Watch – Assassin’s Creed Series – Part 3 – A Platinum and a Trip Back In Time

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The cultists are all dead. My loading screen is littered with the hearts of each and every one of them, but my work was not yet done. After slaughtering anyone and everyone who had anything to do with her family’s fate, Kassandra had to take care of some mythical beasties hanging around the place for reasons I won’t divulge due to spoilers. These were a handful of boss fights which challenged you in different ways, and set against an otherwise historically accurate world, each mythical creature and the story leading up to them stood out as something remarkable. Finishing this task also wrapped up more storylines in a way that gave me more fulfilling closure than the main story did by itself.

But closure aside, Kassandra’s work was still not done! She had bounties to do, quests to undertake on various islands, and, burning deep in her heart, a project more important than dismantling the cult which wronged her family and saving the Greek world, more so than even that… was her desire to visit forty separate underwater objectives and grab all of the treasures within.

Good. God.

WHY.

Whoever implemented that trophy, who hurt you??

Anyway… that took me about 7 straight hours, but to finish off, I took Kassandra on a light jog around the places she had yet to visit in Greece. Have I mentioned it’s a massive place? After landing on a tiny island in the middle of nowhere, I finally completed every trophy there was to grab in Assassin’s Creed: Odyssey.

PLAT
This could have been a fantastic Platinum pic if she wasn’t mid-jog. Ah, next time.

Well, the pre-DLC trophies that is, anyway. I’ve got three episodes of Legacy of the First Blade and three episodes of Fate of Atlantis to get through! I’m pretty excited to take these on, especially the latter, and see where Kassandra’s story goes after the events of the main game. In fact, I’ve already played through (and perfected) the first episode of the First Blade stuff, and it was a pretty decently sized third of an expansion, I must say. I like how it’s set in underused areas of the main game, though I do hope the Atlantis stuff is set in Atlantis itself, as I’d love to see more of that.

There’s also “Lost Tales of Greece” quests to do (or something like that) which are nice little stories featuring some of the main characters in the game, or just unique little stories by themselves. So far, I’ve helped Herodotos come to terms with his parents deaths, stopped Sokrates being wrongfully imprisoned, and completed a few arbitrary tasks for a woman who thinks she’s Athena. There’s plenty more of these to do and each as their own bronze trophy, and I’m not going to rush them. They’ll probably be the last trophies I acquire in Odyssey, and I’ll chase them whenever I feel like going back and spending some time in Ancient Greece again.

Alongside Odyssey completion, I’ve been playing through Assassin’s Creed II again. Ezio Auditore’s journey is one which popularised the series, and which many people lament the end of. He’s basically the David Tenant’s Doctor of the franchise, in that many people stopped playing after Revelations and refuse to try any of the just-as-good content of later games because it’s a little different. But I digress.

I originally played through AC2 and Brotherhood on PS3 in 2013, after seeing a Youtuber play through Brotherhood. It was my introduction to the series, and in 2016 I went back and played through the complete trilogy on PC. I was about to remark that it’s not been that long since I played through this trilogy, but then I noticed that the time between my first and second playthroughs was shorter than between the second and third. What even is time? Well, I’m playing a game which is set around 2000 years after the game that came out 10 years after it, so you can hardly blame me.

Anyway, Ezio’s story is always a delight to relive, even if the faces have become a little… dated. I’ve mentioned this before, but Ezio’s character development over a long period of time is what sparked my love of fiction which follows characters from a young age to their oldest, latest days. There’s something fascinating about watching someone’s experiences shape them over the entirety of their life. The trilogy opens with Ezio’s idealistic childhood, which swiftly gives way to betrayal, changing him from a naive and typical teenager to a raging, vengeful assassin. The cutscene after he makes his first assassination is breathtaking; the graphics may have aged, but the acting still comes across brilliantly. Then, slowly over the course of AC2, we watch him mature into a more calm, driven assassin. In Brotherhood he becomes a leader, and in Revelations he becomes old. I’d have more to say on those games if I’d reached them yet, but alas, I have not.

Playing AC2 alongside Odyssey has had some interesting consequences. Sometimes, I’ll go back to Odyssey for some DLC quests, try to sprint and immediately unleash a heavy attack on an unsuspecting passerby. Alternatively, I’ll load up AC2 and immediately jump merrily to my death, forgetting that Ezio lacks Kassandra’s shins of steel. In all honesty though, adapting hasn’t been as difficult as I feared, and it’s actually quite fascinating to compare the two side by side. One’s a far greater game for cohesive narrative and atmosphere, while the other excels in scope, choice and longevity.

Now, depsite the fact that I’m loving playing through Ezio’s story again, I must admit to a bit of fatigue. This is my third go-around, after all, and I’m all-too aware of the massive gap in my games played between Revelations and Origins. 3 is downloaded and 4 is currently on sale for like £6. Infuriatingly I had to buy a new controller this month so this is the only Assassin’s Creed on sale that I’ll be able to take advantage of. Either way, though, to avoid burnout, I have a plan:

I’m allowing myself up to two concurrent Assassin’s Creed playthroughs, one which focuses on story, and one which focuses on trophies. So, for example, my Assassin’s Creed Odyssey playthrough is currently focused on story, as I’ve platinumed the game and am on to the DLC now, whereas I plan to 100% Assassin’s Creed II before moving on to Brotherhood, as I’m already familiar with the story and am in no rush. Therefore, if I want to get started on AC3, I need only finish the Odyssey DLC. This also leaves me free to jump from AC3 to AC4 when I finish the story, and go back to do completion at a later date.

Will this work? Hopefully. Am I overthinking things? Absolutely. But with an attention span like mine, you’ve gotta order things somehow. Ooh look, Watch Dogs 2 is on PSNow!

Platinum Watch: Assassin’s Creed Series – Part 2 – These Titles Just Get Worse

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It’s been a long road. I first started this game a year ago, and after a hefty reinstall, a few days getting to grips with the true nature of the game, and a many hours traversing it’s huge open world for one arduous trophy, I finally got there.

I finally Platinumed The Crew 2.

Oh, you thought I was- no, no you silly goose, that would be way too fast! Have you seen the size of ancient Greece? I haven’t even begun to wrap my head around what still needs doing in that game yet! No, no, I’m far from done. I did finish the main story last night, though. And boy, did I get a bad ending. I won’t spoil anything, suffice to say I ended Kassandra’s odyssey at a very terse dinner with characters who weren’t exactly my best choice of company. The thing is, I thought I was making the right decisions; I researched the choice tree, too, and it turns out that by making one dialogue choice, I doomed myself to this ending halfway through the game. Annoyingly, I actually opted for the correct choice, but I didn’t think it’d be right for Kassandra to be so… forgiving… after what had immediately just happened.

That being said, it’s been a long time since I felt less… accomplished at the end of a long RPG story. It wasn’t lacking, but with the combination of my bad choices, the many other avenues of completion still awaiting me, and the DLCs resting in my quest log, I feel like I’ve just crested another chapter in Kassandra’s odyssey. And I suppose, in a way, I have. And I’m completely fine with that – if a little antsy to get started on one of the other titles, too. But I’ll hold off.

Trophies, then. I’m currently sitting at 31/94 trophies, but after mentioning that trophy number in the last blog post, I realised that this also accounts for all DLC trophies – as far as Platinum is concerned, I have 29/50 trophies, which sounds far better. I’ve obviously collected all the trophies for the chapters in the game, culminating in a silver and gold for the last two. I’ve also begun to tick off some of the periphery achievements regarding certain questlines and special assassination targets. In fact, I’m looking at the contents of the hidden trophies for the first time and it’s giving me a much more complete sense of the road I have before me, and it’s perhaps not as long as I once feared.

That being said, I am at a crossroads. I feel like I could go into full trophy hunting mode and clean up a lot of these final trophies before heading into the DLC, but I’m also not patient enough to wait that long before continuing the story. Kassandra is just before Ezio in my list of favourite assassins, and I’m eager to continue / complete her story. I may just work on trophies as a way of levelling to 50, and continue story-wise from there. As for the DLC, I can’t see those trophies being too difficult to obtain, so I’ll be sure to pick them up as I go. I’ve already got two on my travels!

Hilariously, after declaring my intent to purchase the Ezio Collection if it ever went down to £15 in my last blog post, the game has now done just that. I sit here staring at it, wondering if I really need to play through the trilogy from scratch, when new Assassin’s Creed adventures could await me. I did also pick up Origins for £12, after watching some clips of my 2018 self playing it on PC, and determining that I did originally buy it on sale, too. I feel less weird about buying it twice when I know that both purchases don’t add up to the full price. Plus, Origins is rad.

Okay. I’m rambling. Gonna go get some trophies now. Peace.

Platinum Watch – Assassin’s Creed Series – Part 1 – An Ambitious Beginning

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I’m 46 hours into Assassin’s Creed Odyssey and it’s showing no signs of ending. This is my third time visiting the game, by which I mean the two or three weeks I spend playing before I end up giving in to my short attention span and wandering off to have another gander at an Elder Scrolls game or The Witcher 3 instead. And as I stare at my quest log, noting how the game continues to give me quests two levels higher than me and subtly winking towards the store’s timesaver packs, I realise something.

I want to get every Platinum trophy that an Assassin’s Creed game can offer.

This is obviously a terrible idea, not least because I own more than half of the franchise on PC rather than PS4. But the idea grips me before the cold embrace of reality can wrap its clammy fingers around me, and before I know it I’m writing a blog post about the thing, declaring to the world my intent to set out on this task which I surely won’t come close to completing. Platting (which is what the cool kids call 100%ing a game on PS4) Odyssey itself looks to be a monumental task. Still, while I’m giving my fickle attention span the benefit of the doubt, let’s lay out my history with the Assassin’s Creed series and see what kind of task lays ahead of me.

AC1 – Began on PS3, has no trophies but would like to complete in line with the rest sometime
AC2 – Finished the story on PC, plus 33 of 51 trophies on PS3
AC:Brotherhood – Finished the story on PC, only 6 of 61 trophies on PS3
AC:Revelations – Finished the story on PC
AC3: Barely touched on PC, own on PS4
AC: Liberation – Never played, own on PS4
ACIV: Black Flag – Never played, owned for free on PC
AC: Freedom Cry – Never played, I know literally nothing about this one.
AC: Rogue – Never played, might have gotten it free on PC?
AC: Unity – Never played, got it for free on PC
AC: Syndicate – Never played, think I got it for free on PC (they’ve given a few out huh)
AC: Origins – Played a decent chunk of it on PC, but it doesn’t perform great on my rig
AC: Odyssey – 46 hours in on PS4, and only 20 of 94 trophies collected babyyyyy
AC: Valhalla – Aw cmon, that one’s not even out yet.

I’m mostly excited to play through 3 to finish Desmond’s story, 4 to be a pirate, Rogue because I’ve heard good things and Syndicate because it’s apparently an underrated title which is a really cool Victorian outing. By the way, I thought Rogue was to Unity what Freedom Cry is to Rogue; I had no idea it was a mainline title and I’ve always overlooked it for that. I also completely forgot that Freedom Cry exists, but lookie, they brought it over to PS4 and everything.

Ideally, before I begin on 3 and Liberation, which I got with the Odyssey Season Pass, I’d like to go through the Ezio Collection on PS4, just to refresh my memory on Desmond’s story and also because those games are rad as heck. Sadly it seems to never go on sale though, and it would feel like a waste of money at full price considering I own the originals on PC and PS3. That being said, if it dropped to like £15 before I finish Odyssey and begin on 3, then maybe I’ll bite. Maybe during the July Uplay event?

So, place your bets. Will I succeed in this absurd mission? Will I have a digital shelf of Platinum Assassin’s Creed trophies to grace this blog with before the year is out? HELL NO! Ruling that one out. But before the decade is out? Solid maybe. Although there will probably be at least six more games out by 2030. And I did also declare intent to Platinum every Ratchet and Clank game recently…

 

Playstation 5 Event Predictions & Desires

The Playstation 5 has already been revealed in peeks and scraps over the last few months, but on June 4th Sony are hosting an event which I think we can safely assume is analogous to previous console reveal events. And seeing as we’re not having an E3 this year, I figured we’ll focus our yearly predictions thread here instead. Plus, while I may have spread my focus to include PC, Switch, and to a lesser extent Xbox games (via PC Game Pass) in recent years, I was brought up on Playstations and I doubt I’ll ever be able to think of gaming history outside the context of what Playstation console was current at the time.

To give some context for future readers, here’s what we already know about the PS5:

  • It’s got a super duper SSD which loads Marvel’s Spider-Man pretty much instantly
  • The controller is called the DualSense, and it’s an aesthetic nightmare
  • It’s releasing holiday 2020
  • It has a renewed focus on backwards compatibility

And here’s what Sony has to say about their upcoming event:

There are few things as exciting as the launch of a new console. While this road to launch has been a bit…different, we are as thrilled as ever to bring you with us on this journey to redefine the future of videogames.

We’ve shared technical specifications and shown you the new DualSense wireless controller. But what is a launch without games?

This is part of our series of PS5 updates and, rest assured, after next week’s showcase, we will still have much to share with you.

So it’s focused on games, but the promo image shows a DualSense controller which looks to be an all-black version, and if that’s the case: THANK YOU. But also, one prediction on this presentation besides games: there’s no way this ends without us knowing what the damn console looks like. I’m hoping that includes the home screen, too – I love a good home screen reveal!

And now, onto the games, in order of whatever came into my mind first.


A New Ratchet and Clank

Likelihood: Decently likely? Insomniac confirmed the series has a future, and it’s been a while

What’s a Playstation without a Ratchet and Clank game? The Playstation One, that’s what, and we don’t want the Playstation One. We want the Playstation 5! We want to smash open crates and suck up little bundles of bolts and here the little tingle-clanging sound that signals instant gratification. We want to discover, upgrade and fire new absurdly powerful – and just plain absurd – weaponry at a fun array of alien and mechanical baddies. We want to slingshot across oceans of lava and acid and bottomless pits.

I would also accept the ability to play the older titles on the newer system via whatever their backwards compatibility solution is. I’m a little Ratchet and Clank starved right now.


Marvel’s Spider-Man 2

Likelihood: More likely than a new Ratchet and Clank! I would not blame Insomniac for this. Plus, they used the first game to demonstrate the PS5 SSD.

Marvel’s Spider-Man convinced me to buy a PS4. (Alongside Spyro Re-Ignited.) I’ve discussed it here before, but it’s the perfect storm of a fantastic game made by some of my favourite devs in one of my favourite fictional worlds, based on one of my favourite superheroes. I’m still amazed that it exists. It feels like it was made for me! And Insomniac have not been shy in hinting at a sequel. For this one, it’s less a matter of if and more a matter of when. If we don’t see it in this presentation, I have no doubt it’ll be on the way regardless.


A New, Original Crash Bandicoot

Likelihood: There’s demand for it, but I’d be more concerned with the likelihood of it being good

Vicarious Visions developed the fantastic N.Sane trilogy remake of the original Crash Bandicoot games, and then Beenox followed it up with an absolutely superb remake of Crash Team Racing. Crash is more relevant than ever, and Activision love money. The concern is that… well, Activision love money, not Crash Bandicoot. Creating a new Crash Bandicoot game is a considerably larger undertaking than recreating an old one, and Activision is not the company to put your faith in regarding the choice between putting the time in to make a good game or rushing a cash-grab.

Also, this wouldn’t be an exclusive, but I can see them marketing it towards PS5 consumers given the series’ history!


A New, Original Spyro the Dragon

See above.


God of War: Ragnarok

Likelihood: I mean… it’s the poster boy for Sony exclusives, and for good reason. I’d be surprised if this wasn’t present

Without giving spoilers, PS4’s God of War absolutely leads into a sequel. We’re not done with that world or that story. I can say with a decent level of confidence that we’ll be seeing Dad and Boi again on PS5, possibly sooner rather than later, and as someone who has only just played the PS4 game and is now playing the PS2 originals, I say: GIVE IT TO ME.


Horizon: Zero Dawn 2

Likelihood: They recently “continued” the story in external media, so maybe not as likely as everyone thinks?

Then again, maybe it’ll be a time-skip deal; maybe the recent port to PC is a long-play to drive customers towards PS5 for a sequel. I’ve never played the original. I own it, but I try to clear my gaming schedule for a large-scale RPG like this. Either way, a sequel would please a lot of people, and the hype would probably push me towards trying the first game.


Godfall

Likelihood: Almost certain. Yay?

What is this game.

The initial trailer at the Game Awards did excite me, but on further reflection it does have the aura of a launch title that has lots of swagger and press, but is hardly talked about a few years from now. Hopefully that’s not the case though, as it looks epic.


The typical iterations.

Likelihood: Crushingly inevitable.

A new FIFA. A new Madden. The next Call of Duty. The next Need for Speed. Assassin’s Creed Valhalla. I don’t know if EA are doing an event this year, but they like to double dip, so I wouldn’t put it past them to show up in the PS5 presentation.

It’s an hour long. There’s going to be a drawn out sports game segment.


Everything likely that I’m not specifically excited for

  • The Last of Us Part II
  • Gran Turismo 7 / Sport 2
  • Ghost of Tsushima
  • Days Gone 2? For some reason?
  • A new Killzone or something that we forgot existed

Everything old is new again

Hey, look at how well all of your PS4 games run on the PS5!! You never have to worry about New Console Game Draught again. It’s all already here! And enhanced! And look at Playstation Now running PS3 games on this system!! Technically it’s no different but we’re going to remind you about this service anyway!!! And hopefully details on improvements for it because it is legitimately exciting, I’ve been trialling it lately.


PSVR2

Likelihood: Confirmed to exist, but is it important enough to be a launch peripheral?

The PSVR2 is going to happen, and it’s going to make use of PS5’s hardware to be better than its predecessor. But is it slated for launch? Either way, I won’t be able to afford it. That being said, I believe they said something about PSVR1 performing better with PS5, too, so that’s exciting.


All this, and more!

Okay, not “all this”. Especially regarding that quote that warns we’ll have more news leading up to launch. This isn’t a one-and-done presentation, much like Xbox’s presentation (although I’m yet to see anything since that first one that’s turned my head). I imagine there will be a new IP or two that are impossible to predict, maybe a surprise port or remake.

Point is, I’m excited to see what they reveal on June 4th. I doubt I’ll own a PS5 within the first year of its existence, but it’s always fun to see what’s coming and where series are going. And… hell, I just love these reveal events. I know there’s a lot of cynicism regarding events like E3, but I always came out of those excited for at least a few games, so I was sad to see it die. Hopefully events like these will be a suitable replacement.

Eggs, Amongst Other Things – Inkwell Week 2, An Animal Crossing Diary

The week began with Resident Services re-opening as a very familiar looking town centre! Not only that, but my old secretary Isabelle had also decided to come and share island life with us, working alongside Tom Nook in the Resident Services centre! The island immediately took on a whole new atmosphere, feeling less like a deserted island and more like a flourishing town. I felt more at home than ever.

I immediately set to designing a town flag (though I mean to improve it before showing it off here) and a familiar sounding town tune. I also began splitting Inkwell’s trees into fruit districts, so that certain fruits grew in certain areas – Nook’s Cranny is in the Cherry District, my house in the Peach District, etc etc. I still have a ways to go on that front but my most prolific foreign fruit so far is oranges, and they’re my main source of income besides tarantula hunting at the moment. It’s been a fairly fulfilling experience, though I expect I’ll be shuffling some trees around before I’m fully happy with my town layout.

Oh, and how could I forget – the Able Sisters set up shop! I recommended that they set up next to Timmy and Tommy, as they’ve done in the past. I’ve typically been against sticking buildings side-by-side in an overly planned way, but they just seem to go together, you know?

Last week I’d steadily been upgrading the size of my house, but this week that’s mostly been paused so that I can focus on improving the quality of life for all of us here on Inkwell by funding bridges and inclines. Gone are the days of constantly swapping tools to get from A to B, gone are the days of Norma having to brave sheer drops and rushing water just to make her way to the town centre. Thanks to my everyone on Inkwell’s hard work, two bridges and two inclines have been established, though I’d still like to add another bridge between the orange and cherry districts, and between Canberra and Tammi’s houses.

Speaking of Tammi, yesterday was her birthday! I got her a Red Biker Jacket as I think it’d look classy on her, and it seemed to go down well. Zucker was there too! I wasn’t aware that octopuses were such fans of cake, but I also wasn’t aware of their obsession with bugs, and Zucker certainly hasn’t slowed down on that front.

As the town continues to flourish, we’ve been drawing the appeal of new villagers! This week has seen the arrival of Henry the Frog – via the newly established campground – Whitney the Wolf, and the exceptionally oddly named Peewee the Gorilla. I was originally excited to find out that I’d gained a frog villager, but Henry’s attitude seems… well, he’s smug about practically everything he does. Still, I’m sure he’ll grow on me. Whitney seems nice, if a little snooty, but that’s fine, I’m used to snooty, Queenie followed me around for years! As for Peewee… I’ve yet to really talk to him all that much, but his voice is so deep it gives me goosebumps, so there’s that.

Oh, and Bunny Day is here! Well, it’s more like a Bunny Fortnight, nowadays. I’ve yet to find Zipper T. Bunny around, which is odd because I’ve heard that other people have been speaking to him… but there’s been no shortage of egg related shenanigans taking place. They’re in the trees, in the ground, in the ocean, in the leaves, and every twenty seconds they’re in the frickin SKY! Seriously! It’s been so hard to get things done when you just hear wooshing every other moment! On your way to pick oranges? Woooosh. On your way to donate fossils? Wooooosh. Trying to decide what to do next? Wooooooosh.

Make. It. Stop!

Anyway, next week I have my final two animals moving in, Chevre and Pierce. I met Pierce on a deserted island visit, and he seems pretty cool! I imagine he’ll get on excellently with Coach. Both neighbours should be arriving today, in any case. I plan to spend the next week focusing on touching up the island with little flourishes, such as decorations, and maybe some paths…

See you then!

 

Founding a New Home – Inkwell Week 1, An Animal Crossing Diary

I was somewhat apprehensive as I stepped off the plane and onto the island – our new home – for the first time. I was used to life in Canvas, a town where I could walk to the shops to buy what I needed, buy new clothes or change my hairstyle on a whim. But as we stepped out onto the dock for the first time, I was struck with just how empty the land before us truly was. Overgrown with weeds, trees, and without a building or pathway in sight. Not even flowers!

Moreover, I was moving here with Canberra and Coach, two animals I’d never even met before. Thankfully, the Nooks had already established a basic plaza and resident services tent towards the centre of the island. They reassured us on the matters of our access to essentials – we would have some quality of life, after all – and had us pick out spaces for our tents that evening. I found a cosy spot nestled near the bank of a sort of river crossroads, whereas Canberra decided not to stray too far from the plaza, herself. Coach was stumped as to where to set his tent down, so I suggested the beach – as someone who’s into fitness, I figured he’d appreciate stepping out on the shore each morning to inspire him into his morning jog along the coastline. He heartily agreed!

Before I knew it, we’d settled down in front of the fire for a night of appleade, laughter, and stargazing. We were throwing out ideas on what to name the island long into the night, when I considered the name of my previous town of Canvas. I always liked that name as it gave the impression that the town was the canvas on which the tapestry of life would be painted. Similarly, then, Inkwell could be the pot of ink from which one might dip their pen into to write the story of their life. The others immediately took to the idea, and it became official. We celebrated for a while, but I soon grew weary and turned in for the night.

Or… so I thought. At 2am, Tom Nook – perhaps a little buzzed from one too many appleades – came by my tent to give me the full sum of my moving fees! The sly raccoon. Luckily, I’ve dealt with him before, so I wasn’t at all surprised. And besides, behind all the surface-level consumer-capitalism, there’s generosity in spades. One only has to look as far as the interest-free loan with no time limited repayment to see that. But enough – I’m starting to sound like one of his advertisements.

Things began moving rather quickly over the next few days, though perhaps that’s simply because I’m looking back – at the time, it felt like it was going at a snail’s pace! Despite originally envisioning an easy life with no responsibilities on a deserted island, I soon found myself falling into old habits, such as harvesting nearby fruit trees and selling sea shells for small sums of bells. Before long, my old friend Blathers visited, and almost immediately decided on staying and opening up a new museum, bigger and fancier than ever before. The Nooklings didn’t tarry either, setting up a new Nook’s Cranny beneath the cliff’s edge slightly north of the town plaza. And of course, we’d need to build a bridge to get there, and Daisy Mae – Joan’s granddaughter – now saw reason to visit for turnip sales, and then Sahara showed up… everything began to feel more familiar, but also more like home. I’d soon stopped thinking of Canvas as “back home” and started thinking of Inkwell in that way instead.

Speaking of Canvas, though, I had heard word that some of my old townsfolk had taken to visiting some deserted islands of their own, and I set out to some of the smaller ones in hope of coming across some of them, but no luck. I did, however, meet a very energetic yellow monkey by the name of Tammi. Behind her smile she seemed to be lamenting the nature of her current home, so I tentatively offered her a place back at Inkwell, to which she immediately accepted. She wasn’t the only one to move in this week, however; Tom Nook also had me building plots for Zucker the Octopus and Norma the Cow. Zucker is an… eccentric fellow, who has this odd fascination with bugs that I’ve not quite come to grips with yet. Norma is one of the sweetest animals I’ve ever met, and all three of the newer villages have immediately taken to decorating their homes with a delightful assortment of furniture.

Animals haven’t been Inkwell’s only visitors, however. I’ve been in touch with some friends, and have so far had the joy of hosting friends from Hoenn, Lazuli Bay, Stinkwhiff and Tarkinael. I’ve also visited their islands and met some of their villagers, including not one but two bulls who seem like cousins of my own Coach. We’ve traded fruit, so Inkwell now has a wide variety of delicacies on its horizon, as well as ample bell-making opportunities. Speaking of which, I’ve been hard at work ridding smaller islands of tarantulas for future visitors, which is hard work for honest pay, and have already swapped my humble tent for a fairly spacious house with three rooms! If my old friends back at Canvas knew I was in debt to Tom Nook once more, I’d never hear the end of it.

Resident services was closed for refurbishment today, but it’s due to open tomorrow and I’m so excited to see how it turns out. Tom Nook muttered something about requiring some help for the expanded services and gave me a knowing look, but I can’t think of who he might be hinting at. Well, I suppose I’ll find out soon enough. Tomorrow, as always on Inkwell, is another adventure.

My Final Days in Canvas Town – An Animal Crossing Diary #0

I’m wandering the town of Canvas tonight with newfound appreciation for the smaller details. Rather than the usual tour of rocks, trees, and shops on main street, I’ve taken extra time out of my day to talk to the villagers, appreciate the flowers, and just take in the evening, You see, in less than two weeks I’ll be departing Canvas for new horizons, and I’ve been so excited about it that I’ve barely taken the time to stop and consider the fact that I’ll be leaving my home town of seven years, unlikely to return save for the occasional visit. My term as mayor will effectively be over.

I decide to pick up some stationary from T.I.Y before it closes. I’ll be drafting out letters to all my villagers over the course of the next few days saying my farewells, and they’ve already seen the notice I put up last month regarding my imminent departure. But tonight I’m struck by a sense of sentimentality, and knowing that I’m likely to take a trip back to Canvas sometime in the next few years, I decide for my first letter to be to none other than my future self, the one who will be looking back on these days fondly.

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Afterwards, I take a halfhearted browse of the rest of T.I.Y’s wares, as well as today’s Able Sisters merchandise. I run into Goldie and buy myself some skeleton pants, knowing full well that I won’t complete the set before March 20th – I just want the Able Sisters to know that I value them. I return to town, muddle around a bit, pass the time of day with Pinky, Crackle and Ed, and do some fishing, not really hoping to catch anything. I’m listless and reminiscent as my legs take me by Queenie’s place.

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She senses what’s on my mind immediately, and encourages me to take in the town while I still can. The future may be exciting, but Canvas has been my home for years, and for good reason. We’ve had some good times here. Queenie is also my oldest friend, having lived in most of my previous towns, too, from when I was young. I think she fancies herself something of a big sister to me.

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As far as I’m aware, Queenie has no plans of moving from Canvas any time soon, though she could always surprise me on the 20th – it wouldn’t be the first time. Either way, she is reading my mind tonight in ways that only an old friend can. I’ve said nothing of my aimless wanderings around Canvas tonight, but she’s in much the same mind as me.

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She’s right, though. Canvas, Taymar, and other towns which came before, they’ve all contributed positively to my life to help shape who I am today. I’d be a fool to sit here and dwell on times long past, lest current days pass me by, and fade into the past themselves. And as for the future… I know it’s going to be great, but I can’t just sit around waiting for it to get here. I should savour every day of Canvas which remains in my present, and that means…

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Some habits never die. I may not be taking the bells with me to my new island home in a few weeks, but it’s always nice to line my pockets with Canvas currency while I’m still here – and besides, I’ll need to spending money for my return visits!

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Either way, I think Tom is ready for whatever the future has in store.

My History With Animal Crossing

Sadly I no longer remember the first time I discovered Animal Crossing, but I can tell you that my first Animal Crossing game was City Folk on the Wii (oddly titled Let’s Go To The City here in the UK). I can also sadly no longer remember the name of my first town, but funnily enough I can remember the rough layout of my town, and the fact that it contained Bud the Lion, Tom the Cat, and Rocco the Hippo. Oh, and Queenie the Ostrich, because she follows me everywhere.

Animal Crossing: City Folk is entwined with some of the best memories I have of my Nintendo Wii, played primarily in the years of 2009-2011. The Wii was my second ever Nintendo console after the original DS, so I was really still exploring those IPs for the first time, and even though I was around 14 at the start of this era, they still managed to leave a lasting impression on me. I vaguely remember a sense of wonder and discovery when watching videos of Animal Crossing on Youtube, and I think I must have gotten it for my birthday not long after. There used to be an online forum called friendcodes.com (now sadly gone) where you could set up lounges to play games with other members, and instant messaging chat and friendcodes listed beneath names for ease of joining. I made many friends here who, after hours of playing Mario Kart and Super Smash Bros Brawl with, would usually unwind with by visiting their Animal Crossing town soon after. I have one specific memory of hanging out in Brewster’s cafe on a Saturday night til far later than I should have done.

One of my friendcodes friends was an older woman who played often and gifted me thousands of bells until I was filthy rich, and I remember feeling vaguely guilty when I eventually reset my town, as gifts from her alongside items from another friend who had hacked their game quickly resulted in me having no reason to play – at least, in the eyes of a teenager who saw house completion as the end of the game. This led me to become a bit of a serial resetter, a trait which sadly extended to later Wild World saves. I would fall into a habit of making a new town, playing for a week, coming back a few months later, seeing all the weeds and deciding to simply start all over again.

One of the reasons why I would so often fall off of playing City Folk was due to the Wii’s main gimmick – motion controls. I recall that our motion bar developed some issues, and we replaced it with a third party one which didn’t function as well as it should have. I longed for the ability to play the game in sideways controller mode, and would likely have spent far more hours in City Folk if this was the case. As it was, I’d heard that the preceding game, Wild World, was a DS game, and practically the same as the Wii title, bar the titular city’s inclusion. And so it was that in the Christmas of 2011, I moved into the snowy town of Taymar, and met the best villager in all of Animal Crossing:

Aurora the Penguin.

Usually when you talk to someone who is passionate about Animal Crossing, they’ll bring up the fact that they have a favourite villager. For those unfamiliar with the series, I should mention that villagers have many different personality styles, and they usually have different things to say every time you talk to them. They were characters you’d spend time with every day, and you’d grow attachments to them, and usually you’ll have a favourite; for me, it’s Aurora the Penguin. This wholesome little waddler was always so kind to me and never failed to bring a smile to my face. I think she may be the only villager I’ve ever naturally obtained their picture from, a sign that you’ve become a really good friend with them in the games.

As I mentioned earlier, however, my serial resetting eventually made its way to Wild World, and after not having played for a stint Aurora had moved out, and my town was overrun with weeds. I bid Taymar goodbye and moved to New Taymar (…I know), which also had Aurora in it! Clearly, this was where she had moved to. I was delighted, even if my old friend didn’t seem to remember me initially. The fact that she showed up in my second Wild World town really helps cement her place as Best Villager and I really hope she turns up in my New Horizons save next month. I’m over my resetting, Aurora, I promise. New Leaf has taught me the error of my ways.

When New Leaf came out for the 3DS, I bought a 3DS for it. Well, that and Pokémon X, but that’s another story. In 2013 I moved to the fledgling town of Canvas, and was mistakenly appointed as Mayor, a title which I have since kept, because people seem to like me in the role, even though Isabelle does all the work. I was greeted by, among others, Bud the Lion, from my first City Folk town! And I am overcome with a sense of guilt while writing this because I was certain that the lion in my City Folk town was named Leon, and have thus not recognised Bud until just now. I’ve had an OG villager for six years without realising! Although I also have Queenie, who I definitely do recognise because she follows me across every town. It’s a bit weird.

I was overjoyed to learn that the Beautiful Town Ordinance was a thing, because it meant that I could leave the game for years at a time and not have to worry about the town being infested with weeds upon my return. I’ve had some villagers move out, sadly, but Tom has since moved in! I suppose the more titles you play, the more likely you are to run into old friends, which is nice. Again, I’m excited to see what the future holds in store for me there. I would also love to be paired with one of the villagers from Chuggaaconroy’s Let’s Play series, such as Shari or Biskit, as it’s a series I’m very fond of.

So, yeah, if it isn’t already apparent, I’m extremely excited for Animal Crossing: New Horizons. I love that you only start out with two villagers this time as New Leaf’s five made it feel like you were moving into a pre-established community, whereas this way we’ll be able to get to know our villagers better over time as they move in. I plan on writing them letters, visiting them as often as possible, and hopefully writing some sort of diary series here on this blog about my island, although I’m yet to decide on how often, if at all. The last thing I want is to burn myself out by turning my island escape into a productive obligation. So… maybe irregular updates, as and when things occur? Stay tuned.

Either way, I’m hoping to meet Aurora and Goldie and Maple and Genji and many others during my time on Inkwell Island, but I also can’t wait to see what new animals I’ll meet along the way. March 20th can’t come soon enough!