The Witcher 3: Hearts of Stone PS4 Review

The Witcher 3: The Wild Hunt is an incredible game by itself. It’s also a very big game, you could easily spend 100 hours playing and still have more to do. I think this is the reason it took me so long to get round to playing the Hearts of Stone expansion, I was all Witchered out. But I’m glad I finally did because itwasn’t long before I was reminded why I love this series so much.

It’s worth noting up front that to even play this downloadable expansion they recommend that you’re level 32 which is pretty close to end game. There will also be general spoilers for the Hearts of Stone quests in this review.

Once again we take control of Geralt of Rivia, resident monster hunter and all around problem solver of this world. He takes on a seemingly innocuous contract to slay a monster in the sewers. This ends up being a pretty annoying boss fight that turns south and ends up with Geralt imprisoned on ship destined for a far away land to be executed. This is where the real story begins, a mysterious man appears and offers Geralt a way off the ship if he in turn helps this disturbingly sinister man out with his problems. 

A Witcher Always Repays His Debt

You’re tasked with fulfilling 3 requests to repay your debt that take you all over the surrounding countryside of Novigrad. They haven’t added any new landmass for you to explore in this update, instead they made good use of some areas that you wouldn’t visit during a normal play through of the main game. This meant a lot of the areas felt new even though they technically weren’t.

The first quest I embarked on was to show Vlodimir Von Everec one last night on the town, sounds simple enough right? Well it turns out that he’s been dead for quite a while. You end up having to go and resurrect him from their family crypt and let him possess your body so he can go and attend a wedding party. This leads to some great comedic moments where Vlodimir is being his outgoing, womanising self in Geralt’s body which is a complete contrast to his regular stoic personality. This is a great example of how the Witcher subverts your expectation that it’s just another stuffy, self serious high fantasy game and shows that it’s not afraid to get completely ridiculous and light hearted from time to time. 


The next task I embarked on was to retrieve some important documents from an auction house. The owner was less than cooperative so you end up planning a heist mission to get into the auction house’s vault. You even get a choice of which specialists you recruit to breach the vault door and scale the building. I love situations like this where they insert modern story concepts into the fantasy world of the Witcher.

Geralt’s Choice

The final task culminates in a sort of twisted retelling of the Beauty and the Beast story, giving you a glimpse of everyone’s dark past. There are some tough choices for you to make along the way influencing whether certain characters live or die. The most important of these giving you a time limit when deciding your answer just to ratchet up the intensity one more notch. 


Other than these story missions (which can take around 10 hours to complete) they do add in a few extra bits and pieces. There’s a new weapon and armour enchanter who can add unique upgrades to your equipment. A snazzy new all black suit of Witcher armor to collect throughout the quests. They do add a new Witcher contract too where you have to try and find someone’s lost friend but it seemed very uneventful, unless I messed it up in some way and missed something (which I have done before).

Overall I really enjoyed this expansion, it doesn’t really fix any of the problems people had with the base game. The item system is still a bit clunky to navigate and the game can still slow down and stutter if there are lots of enemies on screen. They’ve said they would try and make some more improvements to the performance of the game this month when they release the next expansion though. If you were like me and not sure if you were ready to come back to the game I would definitely recommend it just for the new quests alone.

★★★★☆

Diablo III: Reaper of Souls – Ultimate Evil Edition Review – Ps4

I am very late to the Diablo party. It’s a video game series I’ve always heard talked about in high regard but I didn’t have a PC good enough to play the older titles. Thanks to it making it’s way to consoles I was finally able to see what I’d been missing out on.

Traditionally Diablo games are played with a mouse and keyboard like most MMO’s, you click on enemies to attack them and it helps you navigate the complicated menus. So for the PS4 version that had to adjust the menus and the combat to better fit a controller. The combat side of the game translates perfectly but the menus were quite fiddly. Even after multiple hours with the game I would still mess up and end up on the wrong screen or accidently sell something. Luckily Diablo III is a very forgiving game, if you do sell something by accident every merchant has a record of everything you’ve sold and you can buy it back for only a little more than what you sold it for. 

This was one of the main things that impressed me about the game. They’ve done away with many annoying things you usually have to do in RPGs. Every character can generate a magic portal to take you back to town if you need to sell items and when you’re done you go back through it and continue exactly where you left off . You can sell any type of item to any vendor, no running round to find the armor guy just to offload that crappy shield you picked up. Almost every new area has a waypoint that you can teleport to easily from town. Little things you probably just accept in other games but it’s refreshing to see a developer make these quality of life improvements.

A Family That Slays Together…

One of the big things that attracted me to this game was that you can play the full story co-op, with up to 4 players either locally or online. I wanted a game my fiancée Danielle and I could play together that wasn’t too demanding gameplay wise and this was perfect. The game is played at a top down view so both of your characters can run around independently but you can’t go too far away from each other so no one gets left behind. Each player gets to make their own character, with their own items, gold and experience. Gone are the days of player 2 getting the short end of the stick and having to be Luigi or something.

I chose to make a Crusader who’s a slightly more defensive warrior type with a sword and huge shield. While Danielle went with the Demon Hunter who’s an archer that gets access to a host of animal companions like a bat, wolf or even a hog (much to her delight). We didn’t really plan it but these characters went really well together, I would wade into the hordes of enemies and pull their focus while Danielle rained down pointy death from afar. 

Here’s a picture of our heros after finishing the game:

A Lust for Loot

This game is all about loot. You’re constantly picking up better armor and weapons throughout the levels and it’s never not exiting. Regular enemies and chests will drop a few items but when you beat a boss or uncover a secret chest they explode in a fountain of coloured items. It’s a great complement to your victory over a boss as everyone dances round their corpse collecting goodies, it just feels good inside.

There are a lot of different armor sets to collect so the look of your character is always changing. You can dye each individual piece to your liking and even make it invisible in case you don’t like the way a helmet covers your characters face but still want the bonuses from wearing it. You can even change the way weapons look so if you have a strong bow that looks boring you can give it the design of a legendary one but keep all the stats of the original. They really went above and beyond on these features, Blizzard is the same company that makes World of Warcraft so they probably have a lot of experience with what gamers want for outfitting their characters.

Any Way You Like It

Diablo III really does encourage you to play the way you want to play. Once you get far enough in the game there are 11 difficulty levels to choose from. We played the first 4 acts on Normal but by that point we were steamrolling everything so we upped it to Expert. This made the final battle an actual challenge, we had to come up with strategies and actually dodge the boss’s attacks which we hadn’t had to worry about before.

You can change the difficulty at any time from the pause menu so if you get in over your head you can always fall back to Normal. I love this part about the game because it means even if this is your first ever video game you could still beat it and be finding cool items but if you’re an RPG veteran you’ll be rewarded for playing on harder difficulties with more gold and XP.

Story Bored

The main story mode is made up of 5 acts in this version of the game, each one sees you explore themed areas and ultimately fight a big demon boss at the end. Unfortunately the story was the weakest part of the game for me. There’s just nothing special about it, it’s your standard video game fantasy story you’ve probably heard 100 times before. Your hero sets off on a globe trotting quest to save the world by defeating Diablo’s demon generals before confronting him yourself and your character is the only one in the world who has the power to do this. Granted, they don’t really take the story that seriously themselves because most of the characters are usually cracking wise as long as the world isn’t in imminent danger. 

There were charming characters along the way though. My favourite was Zoltun Kulle who is an evil ethereal wizard you’re forced to bring back from the dead because you need his help. He follows you round on one quest constantly saying evil things and trying to recruit you to help him take over the world while your character politely declines. I really wish we could have taken him through the whole game.

Overall we really enjoyed our time with Diablo III, we played the whole game co-op locally and it worked perfectly. If you’ve been curious about the series this is a great jumping on point and it can be enjoyed by players of any skill level.

★★★★☆

Jake’s Top 5 Worst Cartoons Based on Video Games

Cartoons and video games are are like the only two things I cared about as a kid. I’ve always loved animation, when it’s great it can take you to fantastical worlds that you can’t experience with live action shows. That’s one of the same reasons I love video games too. So surely if you combine the two things it can only get exponentially better right?… right?!

Well no, not always. So let me take you on a journey through my wasted youth in this top 5 worst cartoon shows based on beloved video game franchises.

5. Mortal Kombat: Defenders of the realm 


Now this isn’t an automatically bad idea. Mortal Kombat is a game series so violent that they had to create an entire rating system for video games just for them. The problem was kids loved it, so they created this show to be a Mortal Kombat product that parents could let their kids experience guilt free. 

Unfortunately they forgot the part about actually making a quality cartoon. The character designs are pretty good even though they’re from the less successful Mortal Kombat 3 but the animation is just cheap. Characters routinely stand around with weird expressions on their faces and appear in front of objects they should be standing behind because the animators messed up with the layers. 

The fights end in some extremely unsatisfying ways usually with one punch or kick sending a person flying back 50 feet or someone just dodges and lets the bad guy fall off a cliff. My favourite part is where Reptile and Sonya square off and he just runs up and kicks her in the butt, then does it again 4 more times while she tries to get up… MORTAL KOMBAT!
All the characters act really immature. Sonya is the whiny teen of the group and takes every opportunity to shout her catchphrase “Kombat Time!”. Raiden at one point calls the group “Mortal Butts” as an insult that only a 5 yr old would find funny. And we find out that Jax was a fat kid in school and teasing still hurts his feelings awwwwwww. 

It was an awful show but when you’re a kid that just wanted more MK it was all we had, sadly. Here’s a montage of some bad moments if you want to check it out yourself.

4. Super Mario Bros. Super Show!

Yay! Mario, the most famous video game character in the world! There’s no way they could mess this up.
Now I know what you’re all asking, “who’re those old creepy dudes?” why it’s mildly successful pro-wrestler Capt. Lou Albano and Canadian television actor Danny Wells playing Mario and Luigi of course! 

The creators decided to bookend the episodes of this cartoon with boring improvised live action segments that usually involve trotting out some “celebrity guest” from the network’s other TV shows. I don’t know about you but I always wanted to know what the Mario Bros got up to in their plumbers workshop in front of a fake studio audience.

That’s not to say the cartoon was any better though, instead of exploring the world of the Mario video games or referencing any of his in game adventures they went with scintillating storylines such as: While trying to catch Koopa in Jungleland Mario suffers from amnesia and is convinced by an ape couple that he is their child, Posing as Judge Koopa he sentences Mario and Co to the prison of Koopatraz where he is also the warden, Mario and Luigi take to the skies to stop Koopa and Lakitu from taking over Pastaland with the help of a used magic carpet salesman, Koopa kidnaps Santa Claus in order to ruin Christmas, Koopa’s road gang has stolen all the spaghetti sauce in Car Land so Mario’s group must work to get it back and many more horrible ideas!

Almost every episode was a bad movie or tv show parody and the ones that weren’t had a bad cover song in the episode. Probably so they didn’t have to write any dialogue for a few minutes. The only good part of any episode was the end credits because you knew you were free of this abysmal show but also because you get the live action Mario Bros awkwardly dancing in front of a green screen. Come on everybody! Do the Mario!

3. Street Fighter (The Animated Series)


This show is hilarious for all the wrong reasons. It’s horrible looking animation and stupid dialogue all combine into a deliciously bad mixture and I kinda love it. 

Looking back at footage of this show I just have no idea what’s going on. They were so cheap with the cartoon you can see the individual frames of animation a lot of the time, which should never happen. It suffers from similar problems as the MK cartoon except it takes them to a ridiculous level. Characters will show ridiculous feats of strength and agility only to be swatted aside by whoever they’re fighting and there are multiple times characters just fall over for no reason. 

This show also has the most animation mistakes I’ve ever seen in a cartoon. The characters randomly grow and shrink in size to such a noticeable degree that you’re left unsure if it was intentional. It constantly breaks the laws of physics in it’s own world. 
I feel like if you watch too much of this show you might go literally insane. Just see for yourself:

The only thing it gets right is that characters all have the right costumes and special moves so I guess one person working on the show knew their stuff.

2. Captain N: The Game Master


A 90s kid and his dog get sucked through the TV into Video Land which is apparently where all our favourite obscure Nintendo characters live:

This show’s worst offence is that it’s boring. It shouldn’t be hard to make a story about a kid getting sucked into a video game considering that’s probably the dream of their target audience. I think one of the reasons it failed was they clearly couldn’t get any of the famous characters to accompany our hero. He gets lumped with Kid Icarus, Simon Belmont and Mega Man (who inexplicably sounds like he smokes 100 packs a day). Three characters that I never heard anyone my age mention until I started reading about games on the internet. 

The villains are even more perplexing and obscure. For henchmen we’ve got Eggplant Wizard who is an enemy from the game Kid Icarus that turns you into an eggplant (or aubergine to the UK crowd) and King Hippo who is one of the boxers from the Punch-Out!! Games. But our main attraction here is their leader Mother Brain from the Metroid series. In the game Mother Brain is an evil sentient bio organic computer that shoots lasers at you. It doesn’t really have any characteristics or personality till later games. So for the show they decided to give it a face and have it sound like Audrey II from Little Shop of Horrors. It even has heavy lipstick and eye makeup which just makes me think of Frank N. Furter too!

But despite these wacky characters to work with they still managed to make something boring. Looking back I think they ignored the source material a little too much and their own interpretations were just plain weird.

1. The Adventures of Sonic the Hedgehog 


This was one of those cartoons that I genuinely thought would hold up until I revisited it and learned how wrong I was. This show is one of the messiest and obnoxious things I’ve ever seen. I can deal with intentional chaos in comedy, I’m a big Tim and Eric fan but this Sonic cartoon is just disgusting. It’s a complete assault on all 5 senses and a few more that I didn’t even know I had.

The characters are repulsive in every way, just look at this vomit:

I think they were going for a Ren and Stimpy sort of vibe with the art style but they didn’t have the talent to pull it off so it came out more like Worker and Parasite.

Every character’s voice is shrill and annoying, especially Scratch the chicken robot henchmen who punctuates every sentence with an ear piercing high pitched “AHA HAHAAAAAAAA”. Most episodes involve Scratch and Grounder (out resident Bozos) setting traps for Sonic to run into that even Wile E. Coyote would be embarrassed by. They don’t even have any real motivation, Dr. Robotnik just stamps around saying “I hate that hedgehog!” whenever Sonic escapes one of his traps.

I’m surprised I came out of my childhood with any brain cells left after watching this abomination. Luckily for us the show had to succumb to the Children’s Television Act which meant the episodes had to contain a portion of educational content which is where we get this gem from:

Yep! That was Sonic telling kids what to do if someone touches them inappropriately. Unquestionably good advice but such a hard pivot considering the pointless cartoon trainwreck that came before it.

So that’s it for this dark window into how I spent my time as a child in the 90s. If you want to watch any of this junk they’re pretty much all on YouTube in their entirety because not even the creators care about these shows anymore.

Street Fighter V Review – PS4

  
  
In February I wrote about how I thought Street Fighter V was not worth buying at it’s time of release. Since then they have made some of the promised upgrades so when I saw the game had been discounted to just under £30 I decided it was time to check it out. 

SFV is the newest numbered entry in one of the longest running fighting game franchises ever. The first entry in the series was originally exclusive to arcades in 1987, there may only be 5 numbered entries but Street Fighter is famous for re-releasing games with new additions to prolong their lifespan. The first ever Street Fighter game I played was Super Street Fighter II Turbo which is actually the 3rd revision of that specific game, Phew! So this actually makes SFV round about the 19th unique release! Everyone still following along at home? 

It’s totally understandable that fans were disappointed that SFV launched with such a barebones list of features considering this isn’t Capcom’s first rodeo.

Missing Pieces

  

  

Street Fighter V shares a lot of similarities with many other fighting games on the market today. A regular match is best to 3 rounds with the first player to reduce the other’s health bar to zero winning. Each character has their own set of unique normal and special fighting moves they can use to do damage and trick your opponent into letting down their guard. Street Fighter is often likend to the video game equivalent of chess because it pits two people against each other in a pure test of skill. 

Unfortunately this isn’t very good for new players who can be completely outclassed if you venture online without training enough. This was the first thing that disappointed me about SFV, they still haven’t figured out a good way to teach new players how the game is played. You’re thrown into a pretty basic tutorial up front that shows you what buttons to press to do some moves but it doesn’t tell you why you should use certain moves in certain situations. Sure you could go online a find some of this out yourself but you shouldn’t have to do that. 

If you dig a little deeper into the options they have added character specific tutorials that go into more detail about the tools each character has but this is simply a video clip and a text box overlay. It doesn’t show you and then let you try it out for yourself. You’re just supposed to watch it then commit it to memory. Some of this was fine for my needs because I’ve played most of the games in the series but I couldn’t help but put myself in the shoes of a novice player. If you’re approaching this game with no prior knowledge I really think you’d have a pretty frustrating time at first, until you read some online guides or watched some YouTube videos. I just can’t help but think there’s a step they’re missing in there. Capcom should find a way to help new players make that transition from noob to pro without having to seek help outside of the game.

As I mentioned previously, Capcom did make good on their promise to update the game in March to add some new features and a new character. Frustratingly Capcom was keeping quiet and the update didn’t show up until March 30th which sent forums and subreddits into a rage but they’ll always be able to say that they technically hit their March deadline I guess. 

These features were the aforementioned character specific tutorial videos, up to 8 player online lobbies, the online shop (where you can purchase additional content) and 10 challenges to complete for each character which sees you performing progressively harder move combos. These are all things that definitely should have been in the game from the beginning but at least we didn’t have to purchase them separately so that’s something.
  

My Fight Money!

  

 

The online store at the time of writing is a complete mess. It seems as though they made it as convoluted as they possible. First of all there are 2 types of currency, Fight Money is what you earn from in-game actions such as winning matches and generally just playing the game. Then they have Zenny which is a premium currency you can buy with real money but as of right now this hasn’t even been added into the game yet! I’m just not a fan of this dual currency system, it comes from free to play mobile games and I don’t think it has a place in a full priced retail game. 

There are items in the store that probably should just be included as unlockables in the main game. Each character has the default costume and classically in Street Fighter you can select color variation on this outfit so for example Ryu can have his classic white outfit and red bandana or you could change it up with a blue outfit and yellow bandana. In SFV you only start out with 2 colours for each character and 8 more can be unlocked by beating the game’s survival mode on various difficulties. The remaining colours 11-15 have to purchased from the store on a per character basis. I don’t think you should have to spend your currency just to unlock what is essentially a colour swap of content that is already on the disc and when they add the option to be spending real money on this it’s just going to get messier.
  

Choose Your Character

  

One thing that’s always a constant in the Street Fighter series is a cast of interesting characters to choose from, let’s do a character rundown:

Ryu: Our wandering hero who is looking for the answers that lie in the heart of battle. Ryu is the classic beginner’s character that has been in every main SF game. He still does all the things you know and love. He throws fireballs, has his Shoryken flying uppercut and the spinning hurricane kick.

Ken: Ryu’s old sparring partner Ken also makes an appearance. He’s a lot like Ryu having the same basic special moves but he’s a bit quicker and has some more complicated combos to learn. He also has a better Shoryken than Ryu which travels further and sets the opponent on fire!

Chun Li: Another returning veteran. Chun Li is probably the fastest character in the game. Be ready to defend against a relentless barrage of kicks from all angles if your opponent picks her. 

Nash: As of right now considered to be the best character in the game we have Nash. Killed by the big bad M.Bison earlier in the timeline he’s now back as a reanimated corpse out for revenge! Nash has his own fireball variant the sonic boom and he can also teleport behind your opponent making it harder for them to defend.

Dhalsim: The stretchy, fire breathing yoga master is back. In past games Dhalsim has been a bit of a slower character but in SFV thanks to his teleport and air attacks it’s surprising how quick and aggressive he can be played in the right hands.

Cammy: The deadly british secret agent who’s bent on taking down Bison and his crew. Cammy is another speedy character who can rocket across the stage with her spiral arrow corkscrew kick which if timed right can also slip under your opponent’s projectiles.

Alex: Is the first of 3 wrestlers we have in SFV and he’s also the first downloadable character added post launch. Alex is a powerhouse, he hits really hard but is a little slow. If you get close to him you’re probably going to get powerbombed but he can also leap across the stage to grab you if you try to back off.

Laura: A Brazilian jiu jitsu fighter who somehow can electrify her opponents with judo hip throws. Laura’s a character who can have trouble if you keep her away with projectiles but once she gets in she’s in her element.

Necalli: Some kind of ancient soul devouring demon man with sick dread locks. Necalli is one of the new characters and he’s pretty fun to use. He charges around the stage clawing at his opponents and he can also stomp and pound on the ground to create blasts under his opponents.

Vega: The prettiest matador/cage fighter in the land is back. Vega is as imposing and tricky as ever in this game. He still has his trademark claw weapon which gives him good attack range and he still jumps off the walls to surprise people with german suplexes and strikes from above.

F.A.N.G: One of the new bad guys under Bison. This guy is pretty interesting, most of his special moves have a poison effect that will slowly drain the opponent’s health until they can land a hit on you. He’s also pretty goofy looking so it can be hard to tell where his attacks are coming from.

Zangief: Another veteran of the series the Russian wrestling champion of muscle power is back! He plays pretty much the same as he always did, your strategy should be to get close enough to put your opponent in his patented spinning piledriver. It can be risky against more projectile heavy characters but the reward is great.

Rashid: This guy is a new character who has the ability to shoot mini hurricanes across the stage with his super fast kicks. They can be hard to avoid as they go diagonally from the bottom to the top of the screen and while dodging this Rashid can still be attacking you.

R. Mika: A female wrestler from Japan who can rush at you with all manner of strikes to put you off guard. Unique to her is that she can call in her tag team partner to hit you from any side so you’ve got to keep an eye out for that during the fight too.

Karen: Is a highly skilled aristocrat with a disdain for those she deems lower class. Not the most exciting character to watch as most of her special moves are variations on kicks and punches but in the right hands she can be totally overwhelming.

Birdie: A huge chubby punk guy from London who uses his mohawk like a rhino horn to charge his opponents. He’s one of the slower guys but he can use bike chains to grab you from across the stage so he doesn’t always need to get close to hurt you. 

M. Bison: The evil dictator himself is also back to terrorise the world. Bison hasn’t changed much from the previous games. He still has his head stomp and his flipping knee attack but now he can also grab your projectiles out of the air and fire them back!

6 Buttons and a Joystick 

One thing I can’t fault in this game is the fighting. Actually playing the game feels great which is technically the most important thing in a fighting game but it’s a shame the whole package couldn’t have been held up to this standard.

You can really feel the impact of some of the hits, the fighters also do quite a lot of damage compared to Street Fighter IV so the matches have a quicker pace and are more tense when you get down to that last bit of health. They’ve also changed the way defending works in this game. In past Street Fighter games any special move that hit you when blocking would slowly chip away at your health. So if you had a pixel of health left your opponent could just mash out specials until one hit you but in SFV a move will only K.O. you if don’t block it. I think this makes it more exciting as you have to outsmart your opponent if they’re hanging on with the tiniest amount of health and blocking all of your fireballs.

Also new to this game is the V-system. Each character has a unique V-Skill activated by hitting the medium punch and kick buttons together. For example Ryu’s is a parry that can negate an attack giving you a chance for a quicker follow up or Dhalsim’s is to float in the air when you jump to avoid projectiles or mess up your opponent’s timing. They also have a unique V-Trigger activated by pressing the hard punch and kick buttons which is more of a long lasting effect but can only be used once a round typically. For V-Trigger Ryu gets increased special move damage and Dhalsim creates a carpet of flame that drains your opponent’s health if they stand on it.

In addition to this each character has a special meter which when full lets you unleash a Critical Art. Which is basically a big special attack that does a big chunk of damage if you hit but will probably leave you vulnerable if they block it. These character specific super moves are really visually impressive and are always crowd pleasers for anyone watching.

  

  

There are a lot of options during a match which is good but I often found myself forgetting to use a lot of this stuff in the heat of battle.

Another problem I found with the controls is they don’t map to a PS4 controller very naturally. You have to use the shoulder buttons for some of the attack buttons as you ideally want to use all 6 of them. Luckily I have an arcade stick controller so this wasn’t a problem for me but it’s something to consider if you only have the Dual Shock 4. 

I can’t really recommend SFV to a beginner who hasn’t really played a fighter before. I don’t think they would have a good time with it. I’m not sure if the problem of introducing new people to the genre has been solved yet but SFV didn’t do anything to help that cause. Capcom very clearly catered to the hardcore fighting game community which will probably hurt the overall sales but the diehard fans will be too busy playing it to care.

★★★☆☆