Hundstrasse Top 5 Games of 2018: Are You Excited?

Forget all the other ‘Game of the Year’ titles, all eyes in the gaming world are on my own Top 5 of the year, what is going to make the list and of course which title is going to land that illusive top spot!… I assume… 

It has undoubtedly been an exciting year in for gamers with Bethesda controversy, Red Dead Redemption 2, and the new Smash game, but strangely these are not things that I’ve been involved in. Looking back on the list of new games that I’ve played this year there are no signs of a big AAA release; I usually tackle at least one of the major releases in the year so in that way 2018 is an anomaly. It’s also surprising that I’ve relatively few multiplayer games in the list this year; Wednesday evening online gaming has been a little sporadic and when we have played it’s generally been to revisit old favourites rather than sampling anything new.

So what has characterised my 2018 gaming year? Two things: Retro & VR. Much of my gaming time has been revisiting, or playing for the first time, some classics of yesteryear. I’ve covered a good amount of PS1 ground and, in recent months, PS2 going back to my favourite ‘Resident Evil‘s, scratching an itch by completing ‘Men in Black‘, and finally getting around to that revisit of ‘Silent Hill 2’. On the PC I tackled the DOS version of Jurassic Park (to add to my meandering trip through all the JP games I can get my mitts on!), Theme Hospital, Max Payne, and even discovered that populated Unreal Tournament servers are still a thing!

Since entering the world of VR back in August I’ve also been sampling as many flavours of that particular ice-cream as I can stomach and, as many of these games are short experiences, it has undoubtedly ‘artificially’ inflated the number of new titles that I’ve checked out compared to previous years.

… but enough retrospective rambling, you’re all here to read the Top 5!  Continue reading “Hundstrasse Top 5 Games of 2018: Are You Excited?”

Skyrim VR: The First Few Hours

As I was standing the other day, waist deep in a horse, nauseatingly galloping over the rolling heath-land of Skyrim I realised two things: Firstly that I had no idea how to “get out” of the horse and secondly that I had no idea what as going on

I’d never played Skyrim. Kind of a unique confession for a gamer given how many different systems and versions this game has seen and also how many friends rate the experience so highly. I guess I’ve just never been drawn to that traditional fantasy setting preferring instead the post-apocalyptic Bethesda romps. At the same time I’ve also been caught in a bit of a VR conundrum recently; the Vive is pretty excellent, but in truth there just aren’t that many “full length” titles available. Sure, some of this is due to practicality; my back aches from standing in the virtual world for more than a few hours and having a special VR hat strapped to your face for that length of time can get hot and uncomfortable. None of that seems to be putting me off however and I’ve been keeping a look out for the more substantial VR offerings to feel that sense of immersion in a more expansive world.

Bethesda are one of the few bigger publishers who have embraced this technology releasing both Skyrim VR and Fallout 4 VR; both virtual re-jiggings of the entire 2D experience. I guess that Fallout 4 was the more obvious choice to satisfy this hankering, but I just couldn’t bring myself to fork out more money (even with a heavy sale discount) for that joyless wasteland romp; it didn’t captivate me in 2D and I doubted that VR would change that.

Instead I opted to pick up Skyrim VR; almost everyone raves about Skyrim so this open world classic in VR was surely a winner and gave me the opportunity to try something new despite being a little far removed from the type of setting I’d normally pick so I jumped in. Continue reading “Skyrim VR: The First Few Hours”

Editorial: December 2018 – Urgh, I Have to Remember to Write ‘9’ After This…

Merry Happy Winter to you all! … except anyone reading in the southern hemisphere… in which case… Merry Happy Summer to you all! 

How’s everyone’s gaming going out there? Are any of you embroiled in the Fallout 76 fiasco? I was pretty curious about the game; sure, Fallout 4 was nowhere near my favourite entry in to the series, but I did at least play it to “completion” … well, the end of the main story. 76 seems to be ricocheting from problem to problem from severe technical issues at every turn, the canvas bag caper, leaked player account details, and roaming homophobic gangs… overall it would be an understatement to describe its first few weeks as shaky. The problem is that so many games are now “released” in a state less than finished that it’s tricky to know if the concept is flawed or these are just release jitters.

Whatever the explanation I don’t think I’ll be exiting vault 76 anytime soon…  Continue reading “Editorial: December 2018 – Urgh, I Have to Remember to Write ‘9’ After This…”

No Body Knows…

I’ve spent the past few months in and out of VR, waving my hands around in the hastily cleared space of our lounge with the Vive on my head, shooting zombies, carrying out spy missions, or pulling a good old fashioned bank heist. Before I was gifted a Vive however, my VR experience was limited to a handful of hours using PSVR’s belonging to a couple of close friends. One of the first of these was playing a demo of “Until Dawn: Rush of Blood”; if you’re not familiar it is an almost literal “rail shooter” with the player being placed in the seat of a demonic ghost train and wheeled around in VR, guns in hands, blasting murderous clowns (iirc). The experience was suitably impressive in terms of immersion for one of first times I’d donned a VR hat and worked as a concept, but one of the things that really stuck in my mind about it was that I had a virtual ingame body. Sure, it was just a static model sat in the seat of the ghost train that you sort of had to awkwardly align yourself to, but once I had that figured out, being able to see a virtual body with outstretched arms holding the guns really added to the sense of immersion. Continue reading “No Body Knows…”

The Invisible Hours: I Was Sure the Cat Did It

Mr. Swan carefully replaces his broom next to the kitchen window and slowly edges back toward the table. He gingerly picks up the porcelain cat and works his fingers around it to make sure that it is the item he was searching for. Satisfied, he fumbles his way in to the dining room before positioning the cat on the polished oak table and making his way toward the hall. Little does he know that his day is about to take a downward turn.

I sat on the floor and watched Mr. Swan do this several times. The porcelain cat must be the key to it all otherwise why would he have been so careful to move it? The positioning was too precise yet random, the item too intriguing with the dragon motif on the base, and the eyes of the cat too searching, too intelligent, their glazed stare had witnessed too much. Of course ultimately it was just a porcelain cat, one detail in this play that had a surprisingly insignificant role in the a larger sequence of events where everything felt deliberate.

‘The Invisible Hours’ is a VR experience from Tequila Works (although it is now playable in non-VR) that truly deserves the ambiguous qualifier of being an ‘experience’. I’ve mentioned in the past that one of my worries for VR gaming is that it will become the home of ‘experiences’ rather than actual games however in this case the qualifier is justified as there is no traditional gameplay to speak of however please don’t let that put you off one of the more unique and satisfying VR titles that I’ve picked up so far in my Vive adventures. Continue reading “The Invisible Hours: I Was Sure the Cat Did It”

Editorial: October 2018 – Spooky

Wow, it’s really not been that long since I last wrote an editorial thanks to my poor “time-management” in September and weirder still is that we’re already in October… or as the internet calls it “The Month of Halloween!”

Yes, Twitter and the various fantastic blogs I read are already firing up their pumpkins and kicking the spookfest into overdrive in anticipation of that chilling spectacular that occurs on or around the 31st of the month. Here in the UK of course we’re always a little behind the latest trends so it’s no surprise that when I was growing up Halloween wasn’t the event that it is now. As an adult I’m bemused slightly by the spectacle that this monstrous month seems to have on my friends across the Atlantic… especially as I’m usually more excited by the prospect of Guy Fawkes night that occurs a few days later. Continue reading “Editorial: October 2018 – Spooky”

Duck Season: With Paprika

Spoiler Warning: This article contains spoilers for “Duck Season”… also whilst I’m warning, so does the trailer for “Duck Season”.

I’d lay a guinea to the fact that most of you reading this are of that very specific age to have grown up knowing the simple time pressure of renting a videogame from Blockbuster. Three-day rental, five-day rental, it made little difference, there was always a race against time. How far could you get before the return day approached? I can’t say that I had that many of the pre-requisite entirely free weekends which coincided with a Friday night adventure through the fabled door below the ripped ticket stub in to the land of blue, yellow, overpriced snacks, and disappoint of realising that although they had about a hundred of the empty cover boxes of the latest movie you needed to find one of the generic boxes to actually rent that movie. Game rental for me was indeed a rare treat, so much so that I can remember almost every instance of it during the 16-bit era… and they were all mediocre titles at best. Continue reading “Duck Season: With Paprika”