What To Play: 2018-2019 Edition

Posted in Best / Worst, Blog, Games, Lists, Resident Evil with tags , on June 15, 2018 by slateman

As E3 rolled out the new and exciting, it’s hard not to truly get pumped up by something. There are some enormous titles a’coming – and many of them are not so far off. Sony’s Resident Evil 2 reveal gave us our first glimpse of the game in action as well as a release date merely seven months later.

Today I’d like to go through some upcoming release dates alongside my excitement level. Three stars = must buy, pretty much. As always, this is more of a personal checklist, but now that it’s written up, there’s some good shit on here!!! Let’s go!

07 Aug – Overcooked 2 ***
31 Aug – Divinity: Original Sin 2 *
14 Sep – Shadow Of The Tomb Raider *
21 Sep – Spyro: Reignited Trilogy **
26 Oct – Red Dead Redemption 2 ***
04 Dec – Just Cause 4 ***
31 Dec – Mega Man 11 **
?? ??? – Bloodstained: Ritual Of The Night***

2019
25 Jan – Resident Evil 2 ***
29 Jan – Kingdom Hearts III **
?? ??? – Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice ***
?? ??? – Guacamelee 2! ***
?? ??? – The Last Of Us – Part 2*

Resident Evil 4 – Again!

Posted in Best / Worst, Blog, Games, Resident Evil on June 15, 2018 by slateman

By my counts, this is the fifth time I’ve beaten Resident Evil 4. I’ll simply never forget my first time on the GameCube – and that chainsaw death. I followed this with the PS2 game, and later the Wii game which, by all acounts, was the easiest of them all. The remaster on the PS3 and now on the PS4.

But on this last playthrough, I wondered to myself, why precisely I was doing it again. I found it curious that on both of these Playstation versions, I paused. There was a significant delay between certain trophies. After saving Ashley and before defeating Bitores Mendez on this playthrough, I stepped away for seven months. As surprising as that might be, the lapse was 3-and-a-half years back on the PS3. Evidently that middle section is my least favorite.

So back to the question: Is this really one of the best games ever? Five playthroughs suggest yes, but that middle bit gave me pause. However, the flurry of trophies as the game ends on both the PS3 and the PS4 show that I just blasted through the finale. The level design is smart, the bosses are challenging but not overly dumb (as is the case with certain games) and it balanced the tiptoe beginning with an action-packed ending. Resident Evil 4 is not a top-10 game ever IMO. But it is a top-20 game and that’s not half-bad. I’ve definitely spent too much money on this game, but it’s OK when the final product is that fun, with satisfying head-shots, intense anxiety due to those effin’ Regenerators and tremendous sound design.

Perhaps after two Nintendo systems and three from Sony, I may have completed it for the last time. At least, until the remaster on the PS5!

Oh, and just checking out those trophies made me think, “I must’ve taken a picture from the last time I beat the game! I did – and the stats are significantly different! I’m certain pause time contributed to the lengthy duration of this latest run, but, I couldn’t have paused it for that long!

God Of War: Mini-Review

Posted in Best / Worst, Games, Screenshots with tags , on May 13, 2018 by slateman

Having taken a few weeks to complete the campaign, I sit thinking of how to describe the experience. The game may have received rave reviews across the board, but was it truly as memorable, inspiring and wonderful as everyone says? To begin, let’s address some facts after the obligatory here be spoilers warning.

The middle sections were iffy and revisiting places felt a bit drawn out. The music wasn’t as heroic as I’d hoped and I never found myself humming any tunes as I itched to return to Midgard. There were some lighting issues, particularly with shadows, where everything would go dark and it gave the game an unnatural and jarring feeling from time to time. Initially, there were too many menus, upgrade choices and options to go through. One of the later gameplay mechanics felt too video-gamey, especially for a title that aimed to bridge the gap between cinematic experience and games and I also hit a checkpoint bug that was frustrating and made for too much work.

Phew…that’s a long list of woes. However, as a true testament to the game’s magnificence, I would still give it a 10/10 as the laundry list of good/great/fan-fucking-tastic things is easily 20 times the length of the previous paragraph. From a gameplay perspective, the puzzles were almost all interesting and fun and they were tied in with the story or side quests perfectly. Fighting as Kratos has never been as satisfying, challenging or glorious to behold. A series staple, this game somehow made me forget about the blades of chaos, at least until they returned. On the one hand, the leviathan axe was a brilliant change of pace, both brutal in its weight and also marvelous to watch, and its integration into puzzles made it the ideal weapon of choice. But as Kratos’s past returned, the blades were not merely a prop or throwaway weapon: they served a purpose, both with their fire element and also the gravity of accepting his prior life.

Which leads, inevitably, into that conflict Kratos suffered. I can all but guarantee nobody saw our protagonist as the “most developed character of 2018”. (I realize, Red Dead Redemption 2 will likely win story of the year for many). Honestly, who believed Kratos could undergo such a transformation from a one-dimensional anger machine to a wonderfully-blended father figure, tormented god and, rarely, funny character. The BOY memes are not unfair, but I genuinely cared about him, his journey and above all, his relationship with Atreus.

The dynamics the duo faced throughout this journey were simply remarkable. When Atreus was in trouble, I felt my own inner Spartan Rage building. I don’t know if non-parents could truly experience the emotional side of this story, but I like to think they can, even if a portion might not resonate as much as a father of a son, like I am, can. At points, I hated Atreus and wanted to slap his face. On others, I felt for him, the way I do when my own child hurts. Finally, on others, I relied upon him to stun my enemies, distract them, reach those I couldn’t and for tossing me some energy when I was getting an all-too-frequent beat-down. He is the single best non-player sidekick I’ve ever had the joy of semi-controlling and his journey, as Kratos mentions at the end, is the true center stage of this tale.

Finding that out, however, was a vast undertaking, through realms, fighting behemoths and ultimately landing at one of the more emotional finales I’ve ever experienced. The implications of Faye’s predictions: whatever that final panel meant, makes me yearn for more in a way no God Of War ever has. The significance of the final name reveal: Loki, has me questioning everything! I’ve been entrenched in Norse mythology and, knowing my stuff, the ending means OMG – bad shit’s a’comin’! Balder’s death signifies the beginning of Ragnarök – orchestrated by Loki himself. Plus, Loki is the father of Jormungand AND Fenrir which turns the entire timeline on its head.

And all these superlatives just gloss over the incredible attention to detail, the way the developers integrated lore without overwhelming you, the utterly gorgeous graphics and pristine sound design. It doesn’t capture how after my finale and the post-finale, “I want the sequel NOW” reveal, that I just want to dive back in to collect more, defeat valkyries, upgrade equipment and, as of yesterday, tinker with the new photo mode.

The only true downside is that a sequel will never be able to capture the magic this reboot has offered us. This game is very similar to the Tomb Raider reboot from several years ago: the new take on Lara was compelling and its gameplay superb. I actually cared about the lore, though that was overshadowed by GOW’s, but the two have many parallels. Much like the Tomb Raider sequel, more is always great, but I don’t think it can ever live up to the experience I just had which is, without a doubt, among the best in my gaming life. And to think, I only just beat Bloodborne three months ago! Two games which likely reside on my top-20, mayhaps even my top-15!

I’ll cut this off now, as I surely could gush for countless other paragraphs about Brok and Sindri, about the single-shot presentation, about those damn valkyries, about…..yeah….let’s call it a day now. I’m pegging it as Game of the Year now. It’s not a question of it being deserving, it’s only a question of something else being able to topple it. OMG, so good.

Dimmu Borgir: Eonian – Quite Good!

Posted in Best / Worst, Blog, Music with tags , on May 5, 2018 by slateman

I vividly remember 1997 and hearing Dimmu Borgir for the first time. That record remains among my favorite albums ever and the band never matched it in my opinion. I lost a little interest by the time Puritanical Euphoric Misanthropa came out but my interest was renewed with 2003’s Death Cult Armageddon. With only a pair of new-material, studio records since that, Eonian’s arrival didn’t really have me expecting altogether too much. The singles weren’t bad, I thought, but it turns out that in context, they are part of a rather grand presentation.

I’m not going to proclaim this the album of the year. However, my spins leave me wanting more. For whatever genre they’re in, symphonic black metal possibly, they do it well. As the weeks led up to release, the press has spoken of their ventures outside of their comfort zone. Words that leave a long-time fan hesitant. But the album is a rather solid outing and I’m thoroughly enjoying the adventure it takes me on. There are some killer albums on the horizon: At The Gates, and my most-wanted: Skeletonwitch. Though this won’t likely dethrone Kalmah or the potential of some of those aforementioned bands, it could possibly rank in the top-5 come December.

God Of War: This Is The Real Deal

Posted in Best / Worst, Games with tags on April 22, 2018 by slateman

I’ve only just begun, but I’ve already uttered the famous words, “This represents everything I love about videogames.” Just a few hours in and I’m mystified by the world, intrigued by Kratos’s relationship with his son and left in awe at how spectacular the game looks. It’s simply amazing and is the best-looking videogame I’ve ever feasted my eyes upon.

And so to commemorate a mere portion of the game, I’m sharing some of that visual splendor. These are spoilers, of course, but holy shit, do they look good! I will be back with more, that is a certainty. Oh, and Ghost Of Sparta was a surprising title. It was a lot of fun, had an excellent story and it’s a game I’m glad to have gone back to consume. Unfortunately, GOW: Ascension simply couldn’t hold my interest. It’s OK. I’ll dare say the current God Of War may very well be the series’ best. Bold words after a few scant hours. That’s a testament to just how good things are going so far! OK, enough ado! Spoilers ahead!

God Of War Is Coming! A Look Back

Posted in Blog, Games with tags , on April 12, 2018 by slateman

The image shown here displays a few years of GoW history. However it omits my two playthroughs of the original on the PS2 and one run through its sequel. Yeah, I suppose I played 1, 2, 1, 3, 1, 2, 3, A, COA, GOS, if you had to really break it down, not counting incomplete playthroughs of those PSP games back in the day.

And as shallow as the games truly are, they were enough to beckon me to return, as made evident here. Now, I’ve only just begun Ghost of Sparta and never finished Ascension and so I’m by no means the series’ biggest fan. However I do believe that God Of War III’s finale was the perfect way to close the series out. It finished the tale and did so in utterly brutal fashion. And while they revisited it later, the trilogy feels very much complete and actually concise once you cut out the other three unnecessary games.

But in only eight days the series takes an enormous leap forward into Scandinavia! Both the story and the setting intrigue me and the visual splendor will be a marvel to behold. Hell, the remaster of 3 was stunning! I am thoroughly excited about the game’s return. Now, the change in tone will be as substantial as the new locale. Atreus. A bearded Kratos playing father. No more chain blades. I, for one, look forward to the new GOW formula. Reviews are glowing, but you can tell they’re holding back on story and gameplay info. What’s going on? How did Kratos’ new wife die? Wait, who is she and why is he there? It’s refreshing to know these details aren’t flowing from the developers and publisher. That restraint will help millions go into this game blindly, just as it should be. It’s hard to believe that 13 years have passed since the first game landed. I was still living in NY, to give that perspective. It’s been eight years since GOW III closed the trilogy out! I suppose amidst all that waiting, one final week should be easy. But some perfect-10 scores only made me thirst for more. April 20th cannot come soon enough!

Kalmah Get! Album Of The Year?

Posted in Best / Worst, Blog, Music with tags on April 6, 2018 by slateman

The mighty Finns return with album # 8 trying to trump the masterpiece that was Seventh Swamphony. The first singles didn’t win me over, but then again neither did the title track of album #7 and I’m thinking that may be top-20 ever. Really.

So, with the arrival of Palo – is Kalmah a shoe-in for yet another AotY victory? They took 2013, narrowly missed 2010, and won three times in the ’00s. Only fellow Finnish metalers Moonsorrow even mustered three AotY titles – could Kalmah make this their fifth?

Well, hold on now. We’ve got the mighty return of Dimmu Borgir ahead, Amorphis and even an Abbath-less Immortal record looming. However, neither of the two Norwegian bands ever captured an annual crown and Amorphis last flew their blue-and-white 24 years ago with 1994’s AotY Tales From The Thousand Lakes, truly a genre-defining album.

While some stragglers could pose a threat, there’s only one I can currently predict to genuinely battle the swamplords for the title. Yes, At The Gates is back! We’ve been treated to a pair of tracks from their second post-hiatus album: one an average filler song and the other which could vie for the best ATG riff ever written. That thing is a monster and made me salivate for the LP a mere eight seconds into the title track. The album arrives in six short weeks, plenty of time to devour this Kalmah opus.

And speaking of…just being a new Kalmah record is hardly enough to secure top honors for the year. Subsequent listens of those first singles has really gotten me on board, but some of the middle tracks haven’t hooked me yet. It ends well, with catchy grooves and some bloody-fucking-fast blastbeats. However, I’m not fully convinced it’ll lie atop 2018’s heap of music just yet. But come to think of it, the same thing happened with Vintersorg just last year. Let’s check back in a few weeks. They’ll inevitably reclaim the title as my top-played band, but beyond that – who knows. ATG might very well be that goddamn good!!!

Star Wars Rebels – Please Don’t End!

Posted in Movies with tags on March 4, 2018 by slateman

I can say with confidence that Star Wars Rebels and specifically, some of its awe-inspiring episodes, are every bit as good as any of the blockbuster films. The darksaber episode and Kanan’s end were just remarkable entries into the SW canon and they are as memorable as any Luke moment IMO.

As I await the finale of this spectacular show, I figured I’d share two snapshots from that legendary Kanan episode which had both my and my children gasping in shock!

Platinum #25 – Ranking The Hardest

Posted in Best / Worst, Bloodborne, Games, Lists on March 4, 2018 by slateman

I succeeded in getting my 25th platinum trophy this morning: the brutal Bloodborne, a game I formerly abandoned, deeming it way too difficult. But after returning, I discovered just what a brilliant masterpiece it truly was. The lore, the visuals, the gameplay: utter remarkable. And getting that platinum required some serious time and dedication. But was it the hardest of all my platinums?

25 is an impressive number, I might say, and I can genuinely recall getting each and every one of them. However, with two being My Name Is Mayo, suffice to say they were not all significantly difficult. I thought I’d run through them all looking at which was the most grueling. To start, here are the 25 in alphabetical order.

  1. Bloodborne
  2. Borderlands
  3. Color Guardians
  4. Far Cry Primal
  5. Guacamelee!
  6. Horizon: Zero Dawn
  7. Lego: The Hobbit
  8. Lego: The Lord Of The Rings
  9. Lego: Marvel Super Heroes
  10. Lego: Pirates Of The Caribbean
  11. My Name Is Mayo (PS4 & Vita)
  12. Resident Evil 5
  13. Resogun
  14. Rocket League
  15. Tales From The Borderlands
  16. Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater HD
  17. Uncharted
  18. Uncharted 2
  19. Uncharted 3
  20. Uncharted 4
  21. Uncharted: The Lost Legacy
  22. Walking Dead, The: Season One
  23. Zero Escape: Virtue’s Last Reward
  24. Zero Time Dilemma

The easiest would clearly be the absurd game about hitting a mayo jar. Next to that would be both the Telltale games: The Walking Dead and Borderlands as simply beating the game rewarded me with the plat. Similarly, the two Zero Nonary Games platinums benefited from some guide help, but neither required any actual dexterity.

Most of the Lego games are rather straightforward. Though some had challenging sections, they reside low on this list. Now we’ve covered 10 of the 25. The open-world games like Horizon and Far Cry Primal were both fun checklists of tasks. Rocket League was similar – not difficult, just time consuming and it was made easier when they changed the requirements for one of the trophies. THPSHD was a tough one, as I got stuck on that final trophy for years. Four-and-a-half to be specific. But a glitch (Robomodo + glitch = surprise!?!) allowed me to achieve it with utter ease. Color Guardians had some really tough segments but glitches worked against me here: I had to re-do entire stages, acing them repeatedly to get the trophy to pop. Live by the glitch and die by the glitch!

Now at 15, we have 10 left and things are getting a bit more difficult. Half of those are Uncharted games and not all were particularly challenging. The latest one had so many save points and auto-locking whereas the first had three specific, crushing sections on the highest difficulty. Oh what a nightmare those were!

Guacamelee! required some major start-over sections – repeatedly dying and retrying and dying again. Resident Evil 5’s professional difficulty was particularly trying. However, doing so in co-op really alleviated the challenge. That stupid troll segment was just annoying as hell though and almost made me quit that attempt.

Now I’m left with Bloodborne, Resogun and Borderlands. The latter took me over two years to finish, but with some high-level friends, it wasn’t all too brutal. Resogun was a solid challenge and the PSN says only 3.1% of players actually platinumed it. Bloodborne on the other hand shows 7.3%, a surprisingly-high figure. Now that we’re tossing figures out, Uncharted 3 and 4 are listed at 1.3% and 0.8% – Wat? o_0 Anyhow, back to things, while Resogun was indeed a chore, it was manageable in short spurts. Bloodborne on the other hand was an incessant trial of repetition, memorization and perfection.

The boss fights were maniacal: Blood-Starved Beast, Martyr Logarius, Rom the Annoying-As-Shit Spider, that Watchdog Of The Old Lords and that damn Pthumerian Descendant…the list goes on. That whole Defiled Chalice Dungeon (aka the ‘you inexplicably have only 50% of your normal health, good luck!’ dungeon) was brutal. Then I had to fight Rom again. And Blood-Starved Beast. Holy shit, some of these guys I was stuck on for days. I genuinely disliked myself during those days.

So, higher percentage or not, (PSNProfiles shows 23.8% got this platinum) I don’t care. This was a marathon trophy that beat me down repeatedly and this doesn’t mention just how bloody hard those opening hours were. And by hours, I really mean like 30 minutes, because I died 47 times just learning how the game worked. Brutal, I tell you! And so after looking at its two dozen platinum competitors, I really have no qualm in claiming that Bloodborne was my hardest platinum. It was my most rewarding and in some ways the most fun. It wasn’t without issues, of course, but they were worth overcoming to achieve the pinnacle of Playstation gaming.

Oh, and I tossed up some BB images from the latter parts of the game, for anyone interested.

Bloodborne: The Halfway-Done Review

Posted in Best / Worst, Blog, Bloodborne, Games with tags on February 4, 2018 by slateman


I’m somewhere in the middle of Bloodborne. Some gamers could beat it much more quickly, but a) I’m an old, filthy casual and b) this game is difficult! So, while I’m in the midst of the madness, I thought I’d share some thoughts on one of the best games of 2015. In fact, while it won’t likely usurp that year’s GotY, it will assuredly take over the New IP GotY from Rocket League.

First off, as I mentioned earlier, this game is gorgeous. The eerie gloominess plagues every facet of this game. It instills a genuine sense of fear and dread about what is lurking in that corner. When you approach that hazy fog and…OMFG GET AWAY! I don’t particularly like jump scares, but this simply has me spinning the camera around constantly, worried at every turn about whatever hideous, nightmare-inducing creation could be waiting for my approach.

However, when I’m spinnning that camera incessantly, I’ve noticed issues with the game’s frame rate. As a non-videophile, it’s something I’ve never noticed in any other game before. That stuttering can be jarring though, especially when there are several enemies on-screen. In addition, the lock-on system falters: in some cases, rolling away from an enemy or group, a click of the lock-on button merely refocuses your camera. Then, peering into nothingness, they feast on your flesh. Frustrating indeed.

But for those few gripes, I’m greeted with a half-dozen awe-inspiring moments. The changing-world demands exploration. The lack of true direction is a fresh take on the hand-holding games of the past decade plus. I don’t really know what that new item does but I can’t inspect it now; grotesque baddies are surrounding me. And there are secrets virtually everywhere. It’s similar to Mario’s adventures which reward you with exploration all while being virtually nothing like Mario whatsoever.

The combat has taken me quite some time to really grasp. The beginning was just so brutally difficult, partly as learning the systems and layout was so unique. Well, unique to a non-Souls player at least. That difficulty is sometimes compounded on a cheap feel. When an enemy or three surround you, your character can get trapped or hit consistently with no reprieve or manner of escape. It’s frustrating when your 80% health is depleted without the ability to counter or retreat. Boss battles can do this, particularly with the small environments they can be in.

But victory against those odds is wonderfully-rewarding. With my heart utterly racing, those last strikes give much-needed relief to the high-anxiety stressfests that some battles are. But you never feel safe (refer to the 80% health comment above) and it’s only when PREY SLAUGHTERED appears that you can exhale.

With its non-linear paths, it goes against so many video-game tropes which leave an “anything can happen” feeling. It’s fresh, curious and beautiful, in a dreadful way. I’m hoping no future boss battle turns me off as much as Rom did (and, earlier on, the Blood-Starved Beast). I don’t know if a platinum trophy is possible, but my eyes are on the prize. Loving this game right now.

[Compare this last screenshot from the one in my previous post. It’s amazing how the world changes.]