Earth Defense Force 4.1: The Shadow of New Despair – The buggiest game I’ve played in some time!

Did you see what I did there?  In the title?  Bugs?  Because there are giant insects in the game.  It was a joke!  A good one!  Ok, fine.

Insect joke
Is this more to your liking?

Anyway, Earth Defense Force 4.1: The Shadow of New Despair (which is a hell of a long title) has you shooting giant insects.  A lot.  Right from the word go, you will be confronted by hordes of rampaging giant insects, from ants, to bees, to spiders (I know, but the game calls them insects…) before moving onto robots and space ships.  It’s utterly bonkers, but great fun for it.

Earth Defense Force 4.1: The Shadow of New Despair environments
The environments look very nice from a distance, although the textures look a bit shaky close up.  They’re fairly large too, often too large necessitating long periods of running.

And I’m not kidding when I say hordes.  On pretty much any one of the almost 90 missions, you’ll be confronted by hundred of enemies to take out either alone or with a local partner or 3 online team mates.  Taking on so many enemies at once and coming out on top is quite cathartic.  In many ways it reminds me of the Warriors games (Dynasty, Samurai etc.) in that you lead a group of soldiers to mow down swarms of opponents using your choice of weapons.

Earth Defense Force 4.1: The Shadow of New Despair Environments 2
Much of the environment can also be destroyed using explosives. This can prevent insects from climbing out of reach, but also removes your cover.

There are 4 classes available.  The middle-of-the-road Ranger, the agile but vulnerable Wing Diver, the support and vehicle summoning Air Raider and the walking tank designated Fencer.  Each has their own abilities and variety of weapons, giving you more longevity than you might expect for a game solely about blowing up bugs.  Once you pick a character, though, you’ll likely want to stick with it, as your health and weapon stash increases for that character only.  This means that if you switch class half way through the game you will be significantly under-powered.  This felt a little unfair as once I had finished the game on normal, I wanted to play as a different character on a higher difficulty.  Doing so was near impossible due to all the other characters being far too weak to survive on hard mode.

EDF Godzilla
Oh, and sometimes Godzilla turns up.

And this is where the game starts to slip somewhat.  Farming.  Do you like farming for items and buffs?  Then this is the game for you!  To have a hope on any difficulty above hard, you will have to go back to previous levels and farm health pick ups.  I don’t have a big problem with farming, but after a while it becomes rather tedious.  And if you want to see all the game has to offer, you’ll need to do this with 4 classes.  I saw an estimate that to finish the game on the highest difficulty with all 4 classes would take around 500 hours.  That’s a lot of content I suppose, but I for one would be bored long before hitting that!

Mothership attack
Occasionally it can get rather hectic.

I’ve yet to mention the story, and that’s because there barely is one.  It’s very much old fashioned B-movie fare: aliens invade Earth with giant insects.  This is fine as I don’t think anyone was expecting literary genius here.  The graphics are serviceable, but certainly won’t blow your mind.  The sound is fine, although the music is repetitive.  The voice acting is simultaneously some of the best and worst examples of video game vocal work I’ve heard in a long time.  It’s full of cheesy dialogue between the soldiers mid-mission and lead to more than a couple of laugh out loud moments (Soldier 1: “Why did you sign up?” Soldier 2: “For some reason!”).  Utter gold.

EDF Air Raider
Air Raiders can call in support, from vehicles to air strikes.  I’m not an Air Raider, but it looks great when it happens.

Most important though, is that this is fun.  It’s light-hearted, switch off your brain fun.  The combat feels fine and you don’t need to think too hard about what you’re doing on the first few difficulty settings.  On higher settings you’ll need to be very careful and plan ahead, but for the most part you can simply run around having fun.  If you go into this not expecting anything more than that, you should have a good time taking out aliens and collecting hundreds of different weapons.

EDF Balam
Oh, and obviously there are mechs. Which you use to punch Godzilla in the face. This game is bonkers.

Earth Defense Force 4.1 was developed by Sandlot and published by D3.  I played the game on PlayStation 4 and would recommend you give it a try as a cheap action game.  If you need a palette cleanser game that you can easily dip in and out of, then this could be exactly what you need.  Put your feet up, switch off your brain, and kill some ants!

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Video Game Inspired Art – Talented People Making Things I Never Could

I’m a little behind on my games at the moment.  The backlog is growing and I think I may die before getting through it.  To give me a little time to catch up and have a game I actually want to write about, I’ve been having a look at gaming art and decided to let you, dear reader, know about something I found interesting.  Is this filler content?  Maybe!

Anyway, I like art based on gaming (I even looked at game art styles recently), preferably pieces that aren’t too obvious.  Having a painting of Mario stands out a little too much for my tastes.  Something more subtle is what I’d be looking for.  And whilst I like finding interesting pieces, most of the time they aren’t ones that I could put in my house.  They just wouldn’t fit in.

Legend of Zelda
This is in my daughter’s play room along with some Disney ones in a similar design. It’s clearly Legend of Zelda but without being as in your face as Link shoving the Master Sword into Ganondorf’s face.

Anyway, I recently came across a company, Ukiyoe Heroes, that takes video game characters and redesigns them in the style of old fashioned Japanese art (I would say traditional, but I don’t know if that’s totally accurate).  All the artwork takes a different approach to the game in question, in some cases not being immediately clear as to what game was the inspiration.  I love all the pieces they’ve made here.  My house isn’t suited to the style they have here, but maybe yours is!  Take a look and see what you think.

Donkey Kong Art Print
Starting with a classic. I’m sure you can work out what this game is!
Waking the Mountain
This Shadow of the Colossus print is fantastic. The little details on the Colossus really add a lot to the piece.
Swift Kill
Sonic and Tails with swords is a bit of a shift for the series, but it certainly works within the aesthetic.

They are some really interesting takes on classic games.  The images either come in 12 x 17 inch prints ($40, around £30) or 7 x 9 inch handmade wood block prints (a lot more!).  I’ve seen lots of different art inspired by video games, but none like this before.

Rickshaw Kart
Bowser tries to slow Mario down with squid ink. That’s one determined looking Kooper Trooper!
The Queen
I think this one’s a really creative interpretation.
Battle in the Bath House
This is by far my favourite. Also the most expensive. You know how Christmas is coming up…

They also do some original prints too if that sort of thing takes your fancy.  Have a look at what else they do, I’m sure you’ll find something to get me for Christmas…I mean something you like!

Have you found anywhere that does interesting video game inspired art work?  Let me know, I’d love to check it out and support the artists!

5 Great Video Game Adverts – Shut Up and Take My Money!

The new John Lewis Christmas advert is out!  And everyone is loving it apparently.  For those of you in the US, or indeed anywhere else in the world, John Lewis is a large chain store that releases a Christmas advert each year that fills people with emotions and stuff.  It’s practically an annual event nowadays.  Here it is if you’re interested.

So I decided that rather than go all Christmassy (it’s a word!) I’d take a look at a bunch of video game adverts that I remember from the past few years.  Back when I was a youngster, televised adverts for video games were few and far between (in this country anyway), so don’t expect to see many from such a long time ago.  But here are 5 memorable adverts for video games.

Halo 3

Halo 3 Logo
Halo 3 (2007)

The release of Halo 3 for Xbox 360 was something of a major event for Microsoft.  The final part of Master Chief’s battle against the Covenant and the Flood.  Apart from it wasn’t, but we weren’t to know that at the time.  Plus all that lovely multiplayer fun that came with it.  They advertised this big release rather well to my mind, with a scene of a battle between the humans and the Covenant frozen in time.  It looked like something constructed from action figures.  We see Master Chief held up by the throat, seemingly defeated, before he raises his head and we’re met with the word “Believe”.  The frozen visuals paired up with the almost peaceful piano piece works brilliantly.

Dead Space 2

Dead Space 2 logo
Dead Space 2 (2011)

No, I’m not talking about that stupid “Your mum would hate it” (or whatever it was) advert that suggested EA were aiming the incredibly violent Dead Space 2 at kids.  I’m talking about the fun, action packed advert backed by Smashing Pumpkins.  I don’t think it’s an advert on the same level as some of the others on here, but I find it very memorable.  Again, its a great pairing of music and visuals that had anyone who was invested in the series after the game excited for more.

Watching this back reminds me of how much I enjoyed this game, and makes me dislike the direction the series went in all the more.

Team Fortress 2

Team Fortress 2
Team Fortress 2 (2007)

This is less to do with a single advert and more to do with how it’s been advertised over time.  Valve pulled off something rather special with their (now) free to play multiplayer shooter/hat simulator.  Rather than focus on the gameplay, they promoted the game’s character and sense of humour.  Over time they released a trailer for each of the Team Fortress 2’s classes and gave them a larger than life personality.  They’ve kept up this sense of fun in trailers for the games various events that have been released since.  The one below is my personal favourite.

I’m cheating with this one a little I suppose as it’s not a TV advert.  But it’s my list and I didn’t set any rules at the start!  Anarchy!

Gears of War

Gears of War Logo
Gears of War (2006)

Gears of War has quite a record of action packed video paired with gentle music, and this is the one that started it all.  Scenes of battle between Locust and COG soldiers, helicopters exploding backed by Gary Jules’ cover of Tears for Fears’ Mad world.  It implies a certain amount of emotion would be present in the final game, rather than it just being about CHAINSAWING MONSTERS IN THE FACE!  Still though, it was a very memorable advert, and certainly not the worst culprit for using a trailer to suggest a game was more serious than it actually was.

This is a redo of the original for the “Ultimate Edition” Xbox One remake.

Sonic the Hedgehog 2 Genesis Advert

Sonic The Hedgehog 2 Logo
Sonic The Hedgehog 2 (1992)

I think I’ve mentioned in the past that Sega are bonkers.  If you didn’t think so before, then this advert may well convince you.  Again, this is a bit of a cheat as it’s technically for a console as well as the game, but I don’t care.  You need to see this lunacy.

Wow.

Some honourable mentions as ever!  Bioshock Infinite had an excellent advert.  Even though the scene shown wasn’t in the game, it still gave a taste of what the game would be like. The Call of Duty “There’s a soldier in all of us” set of adverts are great fun and show that the marketing team know exactly what they are aiming for with the multiplayer side of the game.  Finally, a dishonourable mention: Dead Island for its trailer that had absolutely nothing to do with the game whatsoever whilst still being an exceptionally good mini movie of sorts.  If that trailer represented what the final game actually was, then it would be nigh on perfect.  As it stands it sticks out as an abject lie to my mind.  It’s almost as egregious as No Man’s Sky.

How about you?  Any adverts you remember for games you loved?  With the YouTube being as huge as it is, it’s much easier to see trailers for games than ever before so I bet there are a few you like.  Let me know below!

 

 

Forza Horizon 3 – Power Slide your Land Rover Around the Outback

I don’t know a huge amount about cars.  I know what a muscle car is.  I know that fitting 15 people into a Smart Car is probably quite hard.  I also know that drifting is about taking something designed to go forwards and trying to make it go sideways.  But if you ask me what an exhaust manifold is, I’d probably tell you it was someone tired of doing origami.

Complex Origami
I bet this person was fed up of doing origami.

In spite of my lack of vehicular knowledge, I do like a good racing game.  I enjoyed Rad Racer on the NES and played countless hours of Formula 1 Grand Prix and Grand Prix 2 on PC with my dad as a child.  Need For Speed, Gran Turismo, Forza Motorsport and so on have all had a lot of play time in my various machines over the years, but the series I have enjoyed the most for some time has been Forza.  The amount of options the series’ entries provide mean you can tune the game to be as much a hardcore simulation as you could a light-hearted arcade racer.  The Horizon iterations of the series tend to take the game more towards the latter direction, but there are certainly plenty of simulation options for your serious racing enthusiast.

forza horizon 3 rain effect
The rain effects look really rather good and make the tracks much harder to navigate. Especially in this Shelby.

Forza Horizon 3 places you in the shoes of a racing festival organiser (which is a departure from the previous entries in the series) based in Australia.  Your goal is simple: put on the best festival ever.  This might sound a tall order, but it really boils down to winning races in whatever vehicle you feel like driving at the time, pulling off stunts, and generally breaking the speed limit.  As you do these things, you earn fans which in turn unlocks more events and locations, as well as Showcase events (more on those later).  Races can be set up however you like, letting you change the number of laps, the time of day, even the type of car permitted in the event.  Being put in the role of the organiser really opens the game up, and prevents you from being forced to race a certain type of car in most of the races.

forza horizon 3 bmw
BMW drivers eh?

There are also PR stunts, which include racing past speed cameras, pulling jumps of ramps, and completing the Bucket List (a set of car specific challenges).  Add to this the Showcase events that will have you racing against jet fighters, and you’ve got a racer with a lot of options at any given time.  The game is open world, meaning you can travel around the map as you see fit as you look for an event that takes your fancy.  And you’re never far from one.  The map is packed with races, secret cars (Barn Finds as they’re called in the series) and other activities but manages to not feel over crowded like some other open world games (take note Ubisoft).  I was never bored as there was always something different to try just a short drive away.

forza horizon 3 first event
The first Showcase has you racing a buggy through a jungle.

There’s also the obligatory online mode, including an online free roam, online races and events as well as a co-op campaign.  It really is a very feature rich game.  All that would be for nothing if the cars weren’t fun to drive, and they most certainly are.  Each class of car, and indeed each individual car, feels different to handle.  From the hard to control but powerful Dodge Charger, to the smooth handling of the Jaguar F-Type through hyper cars, off-road, and buggies.  There are a lot of different types and hundreds of cars to choose from so you’re bound to find something that’s fun to drive.  And because you can choose the type of car you want each race to be based on, you can pretty much pick a handful you enjoy and stick with those.  I’d say you’d be missing the point of the game, but it’s great that the game lets you play it how you want.

forza horizon 3 beach photo
The photo mode allows you to get some absolutely gorgeous pictures.

The game looks gorgeous, as is often the case with racing games these days.  The developers know it too, including a feature to take photos in the game and going as far as including photographing all of the cars as an additional challenge.  The environment is varied and interesting with a mix of desert, forest and towns, and combines well with the weather effects that shift as time passes.  The car interiors are all individually modeled (which is one of the reasons I like to play racers in cockpit) and well detailed.  Sound is also excellent, with cars having their own engine sounds (I’m no expert as I said, but they all sound distinct) and the radio gives plenty of soundtrack options.  The game also implements Groove Music if you have a subscription to it, allowing you to create your own playlist and pipe it into the game.  It’s quite fun to dive up to a festival location and hearing one of your favourite songs played as though it were live.  It’s a small feature but one that I liked.

 

forza horizon 3 bucket list
The Bucket List events give you a car and set you a specific challenge such as beating a speed target or reaching a destination in a set time. I found this speed challenge very difficult.

There are a couple of flaws here and there.  Occasionally the Groove Music connection breaks down, preventing you from playing your songs of choice.  More irritating is when you set up a championship (a series of races across a number of locations).  Just like with single races, you can set the championship up how you’d like.  This includes which races, number of laps, time of day and such.  You can also pick the type of car allowed, but it won’t let you see which cars of that class you have until after you’ve set the championship up, which is a bit of a pain if it turns out that the only cars of that class that you have aren’t terribly good.  There’s also the odd spot in the world in which your car can become stuck, and resetting it just puts you back where you were, stuck again.  It’s rare but I found a couple of places.  On the whole though, the experience is extremely polished.

forza horizon 3 jet fighter
Obviously you end up racing a jet fighter.

Forza Horizon 3 is developed by Turn10 and published by Microsoft Game Studios.  I played the game on Xbox One and would recommend anyone who is looking for a fun, adaptable racing game.  The options will get it as arcade-like or simulation-like as you want, and it will even suggest adjustments to you if you’re doing too well or badly.  Obviously it kept telling me to make the game harder.  I’m an expert after all.