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Is State Of Decay 2 Dead On Arrival?

Back in 2013 when Undead Labs released the first State Of Decay game, I was bored of the whole zombie survival genre. There were zombie games everywhere, even in games you think wouldn’t have them – I’m looking at you Red Dead Redemption. Don’t get me wrong, the Undead Nightmare DLC for Red Dead Redemption was amazing, but did anyone honestly think that the game needed zombies? Zombie games were everywhere and as I said – by 2013 I was just so utterly bored of those undead bastards. Then State of Decay was released and my brother kept hounding me to play it…and I really didn’t want to. But he was persistent and without giving too much away he just kept telling me how great the game was and so I reluctantly downloaded it and hated it. I sat there playing this abomination of a game for a while, running around and smacking zombies around the head with a piece of wood. It was tedious and I got rather angry with my sibling for convincing me to fork over my hard earned cash and quickly turned it off. The game was ugly, had numerous glitches and frame-rate issues.

State of Decay church

“Just get to the safe-house at the church” is what my brother told me. So I did, I gave State of Decay another go – hell I paid for the fucking thing so I may as well get something out of it right? All through my play time I just kept hearing my brother in the back of my head saying “get to the church, get to the church, get to the church” in a really annoying voice. Long story short, he was right as its when you do “get to the church” in State of Decay when the game really opens up. Character management, base building, scavenging, equipment creating and so much more are all unleashed onto you and what starts out as a pretty boring zombie game suddenly evolves into something totally different with a depth of gameplay I rarely see in big budget, AAA titles never mind a low budget indie game as State of Decay was. It went from being a game I detested to one of the best games I played last generation. I must have poured hundreds of hours into State of Decay on the 360 and then the Xbox One, I even played through it again before the release of the sequel on my Xbox One X. So when Undead Labs announced a sequel at E3 in 2016, I was ready with bankcard in hand and as soon as I could pre-order, I did. I even went for the Ultimate Edition which comes with some in-game items, and future DLC including a new map and new gameplay mode. But more importantly, it came with early access to State of Decay 2 which was available four days before it’s official release date of tomorrow. I did a very quick (and rough) first impressions when I played the game for a couple of hours and liked what I saw. But I wanted to do a proper write up and look at the game after I’d put more time into it as first impressions can change over time. So I’ve been playing State of Decay 2 over the weekend and?

Title.jpg

First thing I need to make clear is that this is still a low budget, indie game here not a big budget title and there are a few cracks. There are some issues with frame-rates, lag and other minor niggles but nothing game breaking at all. There was a patch released for the game which sorted out a lot of the bigger problems but a few do still remain.

The game starts with you choosing from three pairs of characters, each with their own skill sets and strengths. There’s a little blurb on their relationships and back stories but it really amounts to nothing as the individual stories are not important in the grand scheme,its really just background filler. After you choose your pair of characters, you are thrown into a linear tutorial that teaches you the bare basics of movement, combat and scavenging. For a seasoned State of Decay player, the tutorial is just insulting. Get to the end and you then can choose which of the three maps you start on. As far as I can tell, there is no major difference in the main story and the map/character selection is nothing more than just that, a map selection/character. But once you get passed all of that – that game starts proper and you are thrown into an open world extravaganza.

Right from the off, the game looks good. Okay so its not as graphically impressive as something like Assassin’s Creed: Origins but again, State of Decay 2 is low budget and in that regard it does look impressive. The world feels alive despite the fact you are trapped in a zombie apocalypse. There are little details like rats and lizards running around, rubbish strewn on the floor that make the world you are in seem lived in at some point. Many of the staples from the previous game return and have either been tweaked or overhauled to work better. The base building is back with several more options and multiple upgrades for your base. The character building plays out pretty much the same but with some new features. In State of Decay when you maxed out one of your character’s skills, you could chose a specialization and that was pretty much it. Now when you max out a skill, you can chose from several specializations each with different strengths and weaknesses and continue to level up that specialization further.

State of Decay 2 church

I mentioned in my first impressions article how I found myself pressing wrong buttons and not really getting on with the menu system. This is mainly due to coming directly from playing the original (a lot) and my being so used to that set up so that switching to the sequel and its tweaks did throw me for a while. But now I’ve spent more time with State of Decay 2, I’m finding my way around the menus and interface easier, its become second nature. Base building works like a dream with the new options as does managing your characters. You can switch between your survivors with ease, promote them if needed, check out their skills and stats and so much more. All of this helps create one of my favorite aspects of the game, the building of your community. Situations can change if you don’t keep your base well stocked with the essentials, lack of food can lead to your community’s morale dropping and even to depression. Some of your characters may clash and fight between themselves. Low building materials can mean you’ll see your base suffer damage and in need of repair. You need to keep an eye on everything and ensure you maintain your stocks at a level that keeps your base and residents happy. Then there is a flip side to, overstock with food (for example) and it can spoil if not used. There is a delicate balancing act going on among all the zombie slaughter which you need to keep an eye on to help your community grow at a steady rate.

As you build your base, you can and will encounter problems. A bigger base will attract zombies. If your base creates a a lot of noise and building a generator to give your base electricity will create the most noise then zombies will most definitely come a-knocking on your front door. This is a new feature were your base will get attacked by passing zombies. Thankfully you can keep an eye on just how much attention your base will attract on the base building screen. So its up to you, build a huge and impressive base with as many rooms and facilitates as you want but be under continual attack from zombies, or keep it much lower key and avoid all the hassle. But of course a smaller base will only attract smaller groups of survivors and you need as many survivors you can find to stay alive. Its more of that balancing act I mentioned before and really gives you a lot for freedom in just how you build your home and community.

State of Decay 2 menu

The main aim of the game is to survive. Gather resources, build up your base and continuity, fend off zombies. Its State of Decay with some tweaks and improvements…and I’m perfectly fine with that. Undead Labs have not messed with the winning formula too much. They have kept what worked with the original game and improved in the areas that needed it. If you played the original, you’ll find yourself right at home with this sequel. All the special zombies are back too, the screamers that stun the player and attract zombies, the bloater that explodes in a cloud of zombie gas that can poison you and those really annoying ferals that jump around erratically and leap on you from a distance…oh yeah, lets not forget those great hulking juggernaut zombies that take several dozen rounds of ammo to put down. But this sequel adds a new type of zombie to the mix, the blood plague zombie. These blood covered blighters can and will infect your survivors if they get in close enough, this leads to you contracting the blood plague and you’ll soon have to find a cure or your survivor will end up deader than a dead thing. The only way to really stop the blood plague is to destroy the plague hearts that will appear around the map – but there is twist as the more hearts you destroy, the stronger the next heart becomes. So things can get a little tough further down the line if you are not properly equipped…which is where the whole base management and equipment crafting comes in useful.

State of Decay 2 blood plague

The three maps are big, not the biggest maps I have seen in an open world game but they still have plenty to see and do in them. Put it this way, I have sunk around 20 odd hours into my single -player game (I also have a co-op game going with my brothers) and despite the many hours I have put in, I think I have only seen about one fifth of one of the maps…one of the maps – there’s still two more to explore after the one I’m currently on. Now I read a review that claimed they finished the game within 10 in-game days. I can not say how true this is as I’m only on day 5 and still have a long way to go. But I think this is due to the fact I am not rushing my way thorough the game (20+ hours and I’ve still not finished it) and if you are one to rush to the end, then you are really not playing the game right and will miss out on a lot of what it offers. This is a game where you really need to take your time and enjoy what is there to get the most out of it.

The environments themselves are varied between the three maps, I did start new games just to take a quick look at all three. There seems to be a lot more verticality over the previous game. There is more variety in the locales within each map, more places to discover. Though I have noticed a lot of the buildings have the same layouts as they did in State of Decay. Some of the houses are the same, the shops, gas stations, etc all seem to have the same basic layouts even if the graphics in them have been updated.

State of Decay 2 map

Of course I have to quickly cover the all new co-op mode in State of Decay 2. You can now team up with up to three friends and take on the zombie hordes online. Its damn good fun too with a decent team of players who know that they are doing. Good team work is the key to survival and just running around aimlessly is a surefire way to end up one of the undead. Gathering resources, building the home-base and keeping the community happy is easier with a few pals. One of the big things a lot of reviews are seeing as a negative is the the tethering, you see guest players are tethered to the host player and can not wander off doing their own thing and if you do wander off too far then you get a warning to head back, ignore the warning and you will be auto-snapped back to the host. Some reviewers have called this out as a negative, but I don’t see it that way at all. The range you can wander from the host is still pretty big to be honest and besides, this game is all about support and backing each other up…so why would you want to go off and do your own thing, that is what single player is for. Yeah the tethering works well and means you have to stay within range of the host, but still gives you enough freedom to do what needs to be done. I really have no problem with it at all.

Its not all good news though. As I mentioned earlier, there are still some glitches even post-patch. Strangely I found most of the glitches seem to happen in co-op mode over single player. For instance, I played games where doors were ‘open’ as shown in the game but actually closed and needed to be opened – if you get what I mean. Sometimes the locker you use to store your items is not there, rooms you build in your base may not show up on another player’s screen. There are still problems with frame-rates and lag issues – particularly when driving. Its still rough around the edges and I hope Undead Labs do fix the niggles in the future with another patch. Plus I don’t know if its just me, but I find the game far easier then its predecessor. In the original I used to dread alerting a zombie horde as they could very easily surround, overpower and kill you. In this the zombie hordes are nothing but a mild annoyance. Searching a building and making too much noise attracts zombies, this was a disaster in the first game as you could get rushed with multiple zombies all attacking you at once, yet here when you make noise and you’ll just get two or three zombies shamble over to you. Infestations in the first game were a real battle yet here they are a slight distraction. There seems to be fewer zombies around in general and they also seem less aggressive over the first game too. Maybe it is just me but I find State of Decay 2 less of a challenge. I think it needs a hardcore mode.

State of Decay 2 has had a few bad reviews that call the game out on its “game breaking” glitches. I believe some (if not all) of these reviews were done pre-patch and are not entirely fair now the game has been patched to a much more playable state.

State of Decay 2 foresome

Overall, State of Decay 2 is a cracker of a game. If you loved the first one then I highly recommend this as its everything a sequel should be. The core of what made the original great is still there and its been improved just enough. There are some new features that keep the gameplay fresh and interesting. Plus the co-op mode is just so much fun, one of the best co-op games released in years. Despite its niggles, State of Decay 2 is a solid and entertaining title. Yes the bugs and glitches are an annoyance but nothing that will ruin your enjoyment of the game. If Undead Labs could iron out the problems – this could be one of the best open world games around and most definitely the best zombie survival game yet.

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State Of Decay 2: First Impressions

I very rarely pre-order games, I fail to see the point as they are often over priced and I prefer to just wait a while for the hype to die down and get the game at a lower price later. However, there is one game I’ve been looking forward to since it was first announced a couple of years back that I just had to pre-order. State Of Decay 2. Thankfully State Of Decay 2 was being offered at a low price at launch anyway, much like the previous game as it was a low budget/indie game. Plus the fact that I’ve gone for the Ultimate Edition and one of the bonuses was that you get to play the game four days early too…so I had to jump on this one.

I thought I’d just play the game and offer my first impressions as I play. But before I get to that, I just want to quickly cover what State Of Decay is for those not in the know.

The Original

State of Decay

Developed by Undead Labs and published by Microsoft Studios for the Xbox 360 and Windows. State Of Decay is a zombie survival horror/action game that has a hell of a lot of enjoyment hidden within its basic premise. You’ve played zombie survival games before…but not like this. If there is one thing that amazed me about the game at the time is just how much it has packed into it considering it was originally an Xbox Live Arcade game, which itself was a platform Microsoft used for smaller downloadable games from both major publishers and independent game developers.

Not that I’m saying that Xbox Live Arcade games were poor as they often had plenty of great hidden gems – but more a case of the games the platform offered were just smaller, rougher games over the big AAA titles that were being released by bigger studios. State Of Decay broke the mold – it was a big (for an indie game) open world marvel that really pushed indie games to the limit. Just as a quick visual example – CastleStorm was a game released on the Xbox Live Arcade and it looked like this…

CastleStorm

The game itself is pretty fun to play, but its a simple 2D action game and there were a lot of them on Xbox Live Arcade. Then State Of Decay, released the same year looked like this…

State of Decay action

State Of Decay actually starts pretty slowly and dare I even say, its rather dull really. For the first several minutes of the game, you are just walking around hitting zombies with a stick. Then you get to meet some survivors hiding away in a ranger station and the elements of scouting locations and searching buildings for weapons and supplies is introduced. This is followed by a mission where you rescue a fellow survivor who then joins your team. The game really starts to open up as you make your way to the first safe-house in the game and then the whole base building element is introduced.

In short, State Of Decay is an utterly engrossing game that has a hell of a lot of gameplay when you really get into it. Individual characters have specific skills and traits that can help grow your community through the game. Base skills level up the more you use them, run a lot and your cardio increases, use guns and your firearms skill will improve, fight zombies using blunt, sharp, heavy weapons to increase your skills with these. You slowly but surely begin to build stronger and stronger characters the more you use them…you grow attached to them too and fight hard to ensure they survive as when a character dies in State Of Decay, they stay dead – there’s no checkpoint saves, no reviving. When you lose one of your best, leveled up members of the community you have built up over several hours of gameplay…they are gone for good. Its this element that really makes you care for your characters, do you send out a lesser character to clear out a zombie infestation and just hope they can handle it or do you risk one of your better peeps who have the skills to fight off a zombie horde but could die losing all the work you have put into them?

State of Decay action 2

Your base can be uniquely created with specific rooms such as a bedroom for your survivors to sleep in, a library where you can learn new skills, a garden so you can grow your own food and a kitchen to cook it in. How about building a workshop so you can maintain your cars and even build weapons, plus several other rooms to build. Some rooms work in conjunction with others; build a library and a workshop to unlock more advanced weapons and upgrades for example. Each room can be upgraded and some will require a specialist to get the most of of them. The base building is brilliant and adds a lot of depth and strategy to the game as you safe-house only has limited space so you have to pick and chose what to build. You can’t have everything all at once. You have to balance your resources such as building materials, ammo, food and fuel to get the most of your you continuity along with dealing with morale issues and other problems. And I use the word ‘continuity’ because that’s exactly what you end up building, a continuity of survivors all fighting to stay alive.

The game has driving, shooting, fighting, base building, scavenging and so much more. All wrapped up in a beautiful little indie package that really has the gameplay value of a title made by a worldwide famous software house that knocks out AAA titles regularly. In fact, State Of Decay puts a lot of big budget, massive releases to shame.

State of Decay stats

Not that the game doesn’t have its problems as it does. The graphics are okay at best, there are frame-rate issues and I’m about to use a word I desist using…overall the game’s look and style is very ‘janky’. There are clipping problems, zombies will sometimes just appear from nowhere or walk through walls of a building, etc. There are problems but they’re also mostly forgivable given the low budget and indie team that made it. The game is rough around the edges but still one of the finest zombie survival games I have ever played. In fact I’m going to say it – State Of Decay is THE best zombie survival game I have played so far.

But I’m not here to drone on about the first game. I put this article together to take a look at the sequel. So lets get into it. Just as a quickie – I am going into this one blind, I’ve not read about the story, I don’t know any of the characters and I have avoided looking at any gameplay footage and reviews – all I have seen of the game was the E3 reveal trailer from 2016. I have not played the game yet and I really am just going to just play a few hours and give my first impressions.

So what follows is going to be as much of a surprise to me as it is to you. There could be spoilers ahead as I write up my experience so there’s a pre-warning for you there.

The Sequel

I’ve waited two years to get my hands on this one and now I finally have it four days early thanks to the Ultimate Edition. I’ve been looking forward to this all damn day, I even booked the weekend off work so I could get some serious State Of Decay 2 playing done. So lets crack on…

I suppose the first thing to do is check out the co-op mode, yes State of Decay 2 features a co-op option where you and three friends can fight of zombies together. I have managed to get my bother to join in for this one so lets bash some undead.

Well right of the bat, it looks ten times better than the previous game. Much more colour and detail. Looks like I’ll have to play through the tutorial before I can do co-op though. Just have to make my way to a camp to find help, bludgeoning a few zombies along the way. All good so far made it through the tutorial and now I get to chose which one of the three maps I want to start on. And off we go, got a car and now just driving off over the horizon as the title appears.

Well the car has run out of gas, that’s another new feature in the sequel – you now have to worry about gas consumption. Now the game starts proper and I’ve teamed up with my brother for some co-op. The map is really well detailed, just saw a lizard run across my path on the way to the first safe house. The game does look really nice, not exactly GTA V level of detail but a massive step up from the first game. The menu seems a bit cumbersome compared to the original, but I think I must need to get used to it. The same basics are there such as the base building and resource management, etc but everything is different enough to slightly confuse me after playing State of Decay so damn much, as I say, its just a case of getting used to the new interface. The controls have been slightly tweaked to over the first game and I keep pressing the wrong buttons. But managed to make it to the first safe-house. Its all very familiar and yet new at the same time. Looks like we have our first mission to so some surveying.

And off we go out to venture into the unknown for the first time. Really loving the graphics so far and the views are really quite lovely to look at too. There is a tethering system in place so you can’t wonder off to different areas of the map – that’s a bit disappointing but the range you are tethered to each other is still pretty large and I’m not sure if you really want to be leaving your companions behind anyway as this is the kind of game where you need to stick together. But I’m able to go off and explore one area and numerous buildings while my brother does the same elsewhere. The tethering is not too restrictive to be fair. Well after a few diversions and a bit of exploring, we finally made it to the surveying spot, pretty much the same as the original game. Look around and reveal locales, searchable buildings, vehicles and special zombies.

Back home after a spot of scavenging and can now build a medical bay at the base. Just been introduced to a neighbour and it gives you the option of working with him or not. Could prove interesting further in the story, stay friendly with neighbours and build up some trust…or don’t and who knows what they may do in the future. Yeah this is pretty much what I was expecting so far – State of Decay with a tone of refinements. The character development is still there, the base building is too. So it looks like building a community from the first game is back but with several more options to explore and play around with.

The characters themselves feel much more emotive and animated. The combat seems to be the same as before but with a load of new animations and gruesome finishing moves. This is exactly what I wanted from a State of Decay sequel. They haven’t messed with the winning formula too much and improved on the areas that needed improving. I’ve have only just scratched the surface on this one, done a few story missions, need to get to grips with the new interface and menu system. But overall I’m well pleased. It’s now almost 3 AM and probably a good time to get some sleep. I can definitely see myself getting lost in this game just as I did with the original – I must have sank hundreds of hours into that on the 360 and then again on the Xbox One. This was just a little taster of what the game has to offer in the opening couple of hours, I’m sure there is so much more to see and do and I’m really looking forward to it too.

Just as a quick aside. I’ve not read any reviews of the game myself, but I do know that its getting a bit if a bad rep for bugs and glitches. I have to say that me and my brother never really experienced any on the couple of hours we played. There was one instance of a frame-rate drop for a couple of seconds and that was all. Nothing worth worrying about anyway.

Yup, really happy with this one and I may do a more in-depth and proper look at the game later. I’ll be playing it a lot more over the next few days and I think the co-op will be a damn good laugh too. Well done Undead Labs, I’m well happy with the game so far.

The Third Red Dead Redemption II Trailer

The 26th of October just can not come quick enough can it? We have patiently waited a long time for this game and that was before the numerous delays. Still, the new trailer debuted several hours ago and revealed a few nice little snippets without ruining anything major. So lets take a look at what we can expect in Red Dead Redemption II.

Well, we now know its set in 1899, 12 years before the previous game. So lets get the big one out of the way first. John Marston was 37 in 1911 when Red Dead Redemption was set – which would make him around the age of 25 when this game takes place…so is John in Red Dead Redemption II? Just skip to 1:11 at the trailer during a robbery and people think the man speaking is John. Possible but I’m not 100% convinced and we can’t see his face. So lets skip to the 1:41 mark instead…

John Marston

Those wounds on the cheek, nose and that lip scar look familiar…

Older John Marston

Is that a 25 year old John Marston? I think its pretty safe to say yes. Which could make the female of the gang Abigail, future wife of John as it was when in the Van der Linde gang that they first met and it is known form the previous game that Abigail rode with the gang.

Anyway, the trailer opens with what looks like a train robbery. Something I hope is readily available for us to do at will and not just story based. I love a great train robbery.

Train Robbery

A few story hints creep in and it seems that the Van der Linde gang are being hunted as the outlaw way of life is slowly dying out and that protagonist Arthur Morgan is having doubts about saying with the gang that raised him and battling his own morals, maybe he requires some ‘redemption’? The trailer shows Dutch telling Arthur he has “got to keep the faith” and “they will not crush us”. Probably in connection with the gang falling apart as they are being hunted down.

Arthur and Dutch

The big plot points are still being kept under wraps so I’m sure there will still be plenty of surprises to discover. we get to see some fisticuffs, horse chases, gun fights, and lots of fire – for some reason fire seems to be the theme of this trailer. “You have to love yourself a fire.”

 

 

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Of course the game looks undeniably gorgeous with some beautiful scenes and vistas. Still so much more that Rockstar are holding back on and rightfully so too. They never give everything away even after the release of a game.

The Gang

I’m so looking forward to this one and still hold out hope that the multi-character mechanic from GTA V makes a return. Being able to play as several gang members each with their own skill set and stats could inject a lot of fun and variation.

Farewell To The King Baby!

Well, by the time I have finished writing and publish this article, one of the great icons of the big and small screen will be no more. The man with the chin, Bruce Campbell has decided to retire Ash Williams and tonight the final episode of Ash vs Evil Dead will air.

I guess all good things have to come to an end eventually and to say a personal goodbye to one of my all time favorite characters. I’m going to to take a look at the Ash Williams character from the very start to the end by covering all his big and small screen appearances from the movies, TV show and even video games. Here is my farewell to the King, Ashley Joanna Williams.

There will be possible SPOILERS for those that have not seen the films or all of the TV show.

The Evil Dead

Ash The Evil Dead

This is where it all started back in 1981 with the release of The Evil Dead…though the film was shot through the late 70s. People who are more used to the modern Ash will be quite surprised at the original version. The quips, the one liners, the chainsaw-hand, the balls to the wall hero – none of that existed in the original film. The Ash Williams here is much more subdued and even cowardly…a complete wuss really by comparison to his modern counterpart from the Ash vs Evil Dead TV show. That’s not to say he still doesn’t kick any Deadite balls as he spills plenty of demonic blood through the flick. Its just that most of it boils down to the fact he’s scared and has his back against the wall over him being a wisecracking bad-ass.

Seeing Ash snivel and shake with fear adds a lot of depth to the character and its a trait you don’t really see in horror male leads as that’s something the females usually get associated with.

This film is still one of my all time favorite horror films and one I find much more appreciation for knowing the hell they went through to make it. I personally like my Ash Williams more in this than what he becomes later in the franchise. I prefer the underdog that fights back to the obvious, bombastic hero with the over-inflated ego.

Evil Dead II

Ash The Evil Dead II

So after the unexpected success (and it was) of the first film, the sequel was released just a mere 6 years later. Its quite obvious by the end of the previous film that there was no intention to bring Ash back. In fact the film’s director Sam Raimi said that “everything dies at the end” of the film and that includes the music too…it really does. But as The Evil Dead became such a much loved cult classic, a sequel was made and Ash Williams was brought back too.

This is where you first start to see the more ego-fueled Ash begin to creep in. Don’t get me wrong there is still a touch of the cowardly about him especially during the first 40-odd minutes, but as the film progresses, Ash gets more confident and cocky. Deadites get shotgunned and chainsawed as plenty of claret flies around – something Ash begins to take great relish in, just watch the scene where he cuts off his own hand for proof.

This is a more balanced Ash. He still retains some of that cowardice and reluctance but Ash will go toe to toe against some Deadites and begin to enjoy it too. There are also a couple of his wisecracks including his most famous catchphrase of “groovy”.

Army of Darkness

Ash Army of Darkness

Three films in and Ash is nothing like his original anymore, there is no balance between coward and hero – Ash is now a full-tilt, verbose, overblown leading man. This is the dawn of the Ash Williams most people know of. Pretty much all of his dialogue is some kind of wisecrack and Army of Darkness is easily one of the most quotable films ever made.

Ash is at his Deadite killing best here and where the iconic status of the character really stems from. All the trademarks are here from the chainsaw-hand, his ‘boomstick’ to his quips and comedic lines. There was a delicate balance between horror and comedy in Evil Dead II, Army of Darkness is a very different story as there is very, very little horror and bucket loads of comedy in its place.

I have a love/hate relationship with this flick because I can not deny that its awesome. It really is such a fun and entertaining picture. But its just not the Ash I like and the film is really an action/comedy that has lost sight of its horror roots.

Ash vs Evil Dead

Ash vs Evil Dead

This is where it all lead up to. For years, from 1992’s Army of Darkness the fans had been wanting to see Ash Williams back on the big screen and several times Sam Raimi hinted at making an Evil Dead IV. The film never did happen but in 2015 Ash was brought back in TV show form for 30 episodes over 3 seasons.

This is the same Ash from Army of Darkness only turned up to 11. Ash from this TV show makes Ash from the previous film look like Ash from the first film. He is so overblown and explosive that you just can’t ignore him. The one-liners and insults come thick and fast. Ash now much older (its been almost 40 years), but still trying to play young is fun and provides plenty of comedy. Plus the show had more than enough gore to appease even the most hardcore Evil Dead fan.

It was a good show and great to see Ash back where he belongs…even if I thought the finale was very weak. Yeah I’m writing this just after watching the final episode of the show and I was disappointed by the send off to be honest. Its left open while also passing the torch at the same time. But I feel for a swansong for one of my all time favorite characters, it ultimately was a let down.

Well that covers Ash’s life in terms of movies and TV. Time to take a look at what he got up to in a few games.

Evil Dead: Hail to the King

Ash Hail to the King

This game from 2000 is set 8 years after the events of Army of Darkness and Ash is back still being played by Bruce Campbell. Yeah this is wisecracking Ash too as he has to battle Evil Ash, also played by Campbell. Its a game so obviously heavy on the action more so than anything else – including character so Ash takes a bit of a backseat to the onscreen chaos.

There’s still plenty of Ash to enjoy along the way but just not enough to please Ash fans like myself. Still, this was the first time Bruce had played the role since the release of Army of Darkness in 92.

Evil Dead: A Fistful of Boomstick

Fistful of Boomstick

The second game is set 3 years after the previous one with Ash spending most of his time in a bar getting drunk. Of course the evil is released…again and Ash has to spring into action in an adventure that takes Ash through time kicking Deadite ass long the way.

Its always great to have more Ash Williams even if these games were very average at best. Bruce is still playing the character too so expect many more of those one liners delivered in that distinct Bruce Campbell manner.

Evil Dead: Regeneration

Evil Dead Regeneration

The last Evil Dead game and this one tells an alternate timeline set after Evil Dead II where Ash has been locked up in an asylum after the events of the first two flicks. This time, Ash teams up with a half human, half Deadite called Sam (named after franchise co-creator Sam Raimi).

Pretty much more of the same as Ash battles Deadites while cracking-wise. Of course Ash is still being played by Bruce Campbell so you can expect plenty of that Ash Williams crass humor.

Other notable game appearances include The Evil Dead released for the Commodore 64 in 1984. Based on the original film, the game is probably one of the first survival horror games and of course you play as Ash Williams. Broforce was a side scroller released in 2005 and features a Ash parody called Ash Brolliams. Finally there was Poker Night 2 from 2013 where Ash plays poker against other notable characters. Its also worth pointing out that Bruce Campbell does not play Ash in this game.


So there you have it. Ash Williams’ life on the big and small screen. Its been a hell of a ride and he’s a character I’m going to miss. Still, the phrase ‘never say never’ comes to mind here. I mean, it looked like Ash would never return to the screen at all after Army of Darkness and yet he did. There are still rumors of a big screen outing for Ash in an Evil Dead IV, the TV show could continue in one way or another with a different network picking it up, they could do a spin-off continuing the adventures of the Ghost Beaters lead by Kelly, Pablo and Brandy with Ash appearing – its possible given the whole ‘passing the torch’ of the last episode.

But whatever happens to the character from this point on, its been a damn fun, blood soaked journey. Thanks for the memories Bruce, its been a great ride. Hail to the King indeed!

Ash Chainsaw

Ash J. Williams:Life is hard and dangerous, and sometimes you just gotta chop off somebody’s head to survive.

Red Dead Redemption In Glorious 4K

So lets be honest here – Rockstar’s Red Dead Redemption is quite simply one of the greatest games ever created. And for a game that’s just shy of being a decade old now, it still looks beautiful. Last year I played through the game when it became backward compatible on the Xbox One, I was genuinely surprised at just how well it held up and not just in the graphics department either as it still holds up in terms of gameplay and I think puts some more modern games of today to shame too.

I was planning on playing through the game again closer to the release of the up-coming sequel/prequel this October. But recently, Red Dead Redemption has been given a wonderful 4K upgrade for the Xbox One X. I own Red Dead Redemption and I own a Xbox One X…it’ll be rude not too wouldn’t it? So I thought I’d have a little play around in New Austin and Nuevo Paraiso to soak up some of the already beautiful graphics now enhanced with a 4K upgrade and see for myself just how impressive the game now looks and give some first impressions.

Armadillo

Well I’m starting a new game (on a different save slot) just so I can see the intro again in full 4K goodness and it does look amazing. I’m noticing a lot less jagged edges, much more vibrant colours and overall smoother images as the train tears it way though New Austin, the scenery looks stunning for an eight year old game. Even the wrinkles on the old bag’s face sitting behind John look defined. Well that looked great, but I need to load up an old save much further into the game so I can really get a good look around the map.

So now I’m in Nuevo Paraiso at Chuparosa and its a very cloudy day as I stand in the centre of the town just taking in the scenery. Those clouds are looking rather ominous and I think a storm is brewing, I love the weather effects of Red Dead Redemption – still some of the most visually impressive weather I’ve ever seen in a game. Just had a bounty pop up so may as well call my faithful horse and go get me some bandits. One thing I’ve definitely noticed is a huge reduction is that distance blurring, you know the thing they do to keep the frame-rate up at the cost of making far off graphics look worse. I can very easily make out signposts and store signs from a good distance. The horse models have always looked great in the game but now in 4K? Stunning, you can really see the muscles of your steed move as it walks and runs. I can’t wait for Red Dead Redemption II with its horse balls physics.

Sunset

Just had to stop my horse on the way to the bounty and perch myself at the top of a hill to check out the vistas. I can not believe I’m looking at an eight year old game here. I’ve seen games released in the last few months that don’t look as good as Red Dead Redemption does right now. Obviously the game engine itself is a little dated today – but just in terms of graphical fidelity and detail, this is beautiful. I’m seriously in awe just like I was when I first played the game. Bounty has been captured alive, time to unwind with some poker but if that annoying Ira Shelton is there, I’m going to put a bullet in his head…sure as shootin’.

Think I should check out the snowy Tall Trees area and take in some of that wonderful, wintery imagery and I’m treating myself going by stagecoach to take in the scenery along the way. I have no way of checking the frame-rate, but its running buttery smooth anyway, no slowdown, no jittering or anything. Is it full 60 FPS? I’m not sure but its silky anyway. I have noticed the load times are much quicker though over the original 360 version.

Tall Trees

Well that’ll do for now, I only wanted to get a quick look at the visual improvements and Yeah it looks incredible. I’ll save the full experience for a few months when I play through the game fully from start to end before Red Dead Redemption II is released. But overall, I’m very impressed. The game always looked great anyway, it did eight years ago, it still did when it was made backward compatible last year and now it looks even better with the 4K upgrade. I have nothing else to say about the game but John does.

John Marston:You little beauty!

I have managed to find a comparison video from ElAnalistaDeBits on You Tube you can check out, obviously watching it in 4K helps a lot…

 

Games That Aren’t Based On Movies…Honest!

When it comes to gaming, the movie license genre can be very hit or miss – with many, many more misses than hits. For every awesome GoldenEye 007 there’s a dozen or so Charlie’s Angels, Fight Club, Batman Forever and so on. The main thing about the movie licensed game is timing as developers/publishers want the game out in shops when the movie is in the cinema. A good film can result in a well selling game regardless of quality. Another factor of the licensed game is the cost as money has to go toward not only developing the game itself and paying all those wages of everyone that works on it, but there is also the cost of the licence itself. The bigger and more famous the movie, the more the studio want for the licence to make a game based on it. So what if a developer doesn’t really feel like paying for a movie license? Just make the game anyway and change a few details and claim the game is ‘inspired by’ instead of ‘based on’.

So here I’m going to take a quick look at a few games that are very clearly ‘inspired by’ movies but most definitely not ‘based on’ them…honest!

Werewolves of London

Werewolves of London.jpg

Developed by Viz Design and released for the  ZX Spectrum, Amstrad CPC and Commodore 64 in 1987. Interestingly, the ZX Spectrum, Amstrad CPC versions were released on the same cassette as a ‘flippy’ with the Spectrum version on one side and the Amstrad on the other, probably to save production costs.

The basic plot of the game has you playing as a character who is cursed with Lycanthropy and you have to find the people who put the curse on you and kill them. An interesting action game with some light strategy elements. But the game was released unfinished as original publisher, Ariolasoft ended up going bankrupt. You play as a human but when the in-game timer hits midnight, your werewolf side comes out. This is when you are hunted by the folk of London as well as the police. The more people you kill and the more active the police become. Avoid the police and kill those who put the curse on you to win the game.

Werewolf of London Poster

I suppose that 1981’s An American Werewolf in London would be the obvious reference with this game and there are definitely elements of the film in there. But I think it’s biggest influence would be the 1935 flick, Werewolf of London. The plot of the film features a character who is bitten by a werewolf while on an expedition to Tibet and infected with Lycanthropy. Back home in London and he manages to track down the person/werewolf who bit him, who is now in London and seeks his revenge.

Alien Breed

Alien Breed.jpg

A simple top-down arcade shooter that takes inspiration from the arcade classic Gauntlet but wearing a nice Sci-Fi hat. Developed and published by Team 17 in 1991 originally for the Amiga – though other ports soon followed. Alien Breed became a successful franchise with numerous sequels, updates and even remakes.

The game has a simple enough goal of getting the the end of the level to progress to the next. The goal itself may be simple but actually achieving it is not as each level is full of aliens and locked doors to hinder your progress. Thankfully each level is littered with power-ups and credits that you can pick up and spend in terminals to buy new weapons and upgrades.

Aliens

Do I really need to mention which film(s) this game series is inspired by? Alien and its sequel Aliens are the all too obvious influences here. In fact the original Alien Breed game was so much like the Alien films (in particular the alien designs and weapons) that developer Team 17 actually approached 20th Century Fox who own the Alien film rights and asked for permission to make the game, which Fox happily agreed to. So Alien Breed is technically approved by but not based on the Alien films.

I feel a couple of honorable mentions need to go to Alien Syndrome and the Contra franchise who’s games are also very clearly influenced by the Alien films.

Zombi

Zombi

Ubi Soft are one of the biggest developer/publishers working today with successful franchises such as Assassin’s Creed, Far Cry and Watch Dogs to name a few. Back in 2012 they released a zombie survival game called Zombi U for the Nintendo Wii which was later ported to the PlayStation 4 and Xbox 360. Not many people know that Zombi U was actually a reboot of their very first game released back in 1986, Zombi.

An action/adventure game where you control four protagonists who find themselves stuck in a huge shopping mall full of zombies. You must scavenge the mall for anything to help you battle the unrelenting zombie hordes. Search shops for guns and supplies as you fight to keep your four heroes alive and find fuel for an awaiting helicopter on the roof to make your escape.

Dawn of the Dead

All of this should sound very familiar to any self-respecting horror film fan. Ubi Soft’s Zombi is basically an unofficial game version of the George A. Romero classic zombie flick Dawn of the Dead. Its the exact same plot and the game features several elements taken directly from the film including using trucks to block the entrances to the mall and a gang of bikers who turn up adding to the zombie chaos. Just as an interesting aside, the movie Dawn of the Dead was re-titled Zombi for some European counties including France where Ubi Soft originated from.

Speaking of Dawn of the Dead…

Dead Rising

Dead Rising.jpg

Capcom released the first Dead Rising in 2006 with the latest in the series released in 2016. Several spin-offs and remakes have been released along the way too. All in all, Dead Rising is a pretty successful franchise in its own right. Each game has its own unique setting, but its the first game in the franchise that we need to take a look at here.

Playing as photojournalist, Frank West – you find yourself in a shopping mall that becomes overrun with zombies. Explore the mall, search shops for weapons and save survivors along the way…any of this sound familiar?

Yup, we have another zombie survival game inspired by Dawn of the Dead. In fact, Capcom were so worried about facing backlash form George A, Romero that the original print run for the game came with a disclaimer on the cover that read:

“This game was not developed, approved or licensed by the owners or creators of George A. Romero’s Dawn of the Dead.”

Dead Rising Disclaimer Cover.jpg

While Dead Rising only used a similar setting to Dawn of the Dead (unlike Ubi Soft’s Zombie with just ripped it off completely – story and all), you still feel the George A. Romero influence throughout and despite what Capcom may claim, its pretty obvious that Dawn of the Dead was a major inspiration.

Shadowrun

Shadowrun

So there have been several Shadowrun games over the years but I’ll be looking at the SNES version for this one. The games are most directly based on the tabletop RPG board game series but that itself is inspired by a certain movie. The SNES version of Shadowrun was released in 1993 by developer Beam Software.

Set in a cyberpunk-fantasy, dystopian future where you play as a Jake Armitage who wakes up in a morgue with complete memory loss and has to investigate who he is and why he woke up in a morgue. Jake explores the city interrogating civilians and being attacked by cybernetically enhanced humans.

Blade Runner

Story wise, they are nothing alike (the story is actually based on the first Shadowrun novel – Never Deal with a Dragon) but its the setting and overall look that makes Shadowrun very, very similar to the 1982 Sci-Fi classic Blade Runner. The look of the characters, the lexicon the dialogue is written in, the weapons, the overall art style, etc all have a very distinct Blade Runner look and feel to them and all make the SNES version of Shadowrun one of the best (none) Blade Runner games.

Another couple of notable mentions to the games Snatcher and Syndicate as other Blade Runner-esque titles.


There are several other games that are quite clearly ‘inspired by’ other movies, but I’ll save those for another time.

Another Red Dead Redemption II Delay!!!

Well is this really any kind of surprise? Originally announced in 2016 with this teaser trailer…

The game was given a tentative “Fall 2017” release…which never came about. Red Dead Redemption II was delayed until “Spring 2018” instead as the next trailer showed.

Then, as us fans were patiently awaiting for Spring to well…spring, Rockstar announced yet another delay with a much firmer release date of 26th October 2018. Everything seemed fine until today when Rockstar announced yet another delay (the third for those counting) and we are now not going to be getting our mitts on Red Dead Redemption II until the first quarter of 2019. Unlike the previous delay, no specific date has been set – I guess Rockstar have learned from the last time not to make promises they can’t keep hence the vague 2019 date?

We are sorry to announce that Red Dead Redemption II will be delayed until the first quarter of 2019.

We ‘re utterly focused on delivering a game that will meet the high expectations of the fans. We know its been a long wait so far but it will definitely be worth it in the long run as we aim to deliver an exceptional entertainment experience.

Thank you for your patience,

Rockstar Games

I’m not sure how I feel about all of this. I mean, on one hand I want the game to be as perfect as it can be, so if that means delays then so be it. But on the other, all of these delays can’t be a good thing can they – isn’t this how Duke Nukem Forever started?

I guess all we can do is take solace in this slideshow of images, some of them are new as an apology from Rockstar…

 

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