Monthly Archives: June 2015

Lets get Mad on the Fury Road

I know it’s a bit late to review Mad Max: Fury Road but now I’m on holidays I have finally got a chance to start catching up with some serious viewing, so here goes…

I don’t know about the rest of you but when I first heard about Mad Max 4 I was very apprehensive thanks to the disappointment that came out of Beyond Thunderdome. However, after keeping track of the films development and hearing some feedback from a few reliable sources I started to get a bit more excited. As an Australian I have long considered Mad Max and it’s sequel The Road Warrior to be two of the best examples of our unique brand of gritty film making also present in Wolf Creek and Animal Kingdom. Its a quality that can often be lost in the big budget Hollywood productions which have a tendency to make action to heavily processed and ridiculously unbelievable with the added insult of simplistic noble stereotypes. Thankfully … Mad Max Fury Road is faithful to it’s origins and delivers a high octane hit of adrenaline in a flawlessly depicted version of a post – apocalyptic world.

Returning to the helm after 1985’s Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome George Miller is able to deliver the world he envisioned in 1981 after the remains of a decaying society seen in the original Mad Max are swept away. To the stark and harsh desert of the apocalypse Fury Road brings a depth to this vision that was missing form the earlier films through variation. During the film as Max and his companions journey across the land they are faced with different environmental obstacles which are as bleak and desolate in their own way as the all to familiar desert. It is this variation that makes the world of Fury Road more realistic and even brings a sense of adventure to the film.

It is the action sequences were Fury Road really stands out as despite the $150 million budget it resists the urge to give into the Hollywood tendency for bigger is better. The film blends individual action sequences into one nearly two-hour car chase filled with V8 engines, gun fire, explosions and customary gritty violence. Surprisingly, based on this description the films actions sequences seem more realistic and avoid the far-fetched cliché’s of other movies such as the prevalence of martial arts training or the ability to survive multiple gunshot wounds. One of the elements most noticeable are the periods of silence that follows each confrontation where the characters actually have to reflect on the cost of their actions or the losses they have suffered. In these instances a few words, the growl of the engine and a series of small subtle expressions are all that are required to allow the audience to believe that the characters belong in this vision of the future.

This is were the cast led by Tom Hardy as Max and Charlize Theron as Furiosa make the film work as the characters communicate volumes with limited dialogue. Theron provides a gripping portrayal of a women of action and gritty determination while carrying the scares of her past, trying desperately to hold on to some form of hope. In contrast Hardy has even less dialogue to bring depth to his portrayal of Max yet, he is able to create a loner hunted by the events of the original Mad Max who develops through the relationships and experience he shares with Furiosa. They are ably supported by a well chosen cast who also manage to communicate through looks and gestures just as much as dialogue. A special mention must go to Hugh Keays-Bryne who played the Toecutter in the original Mad Max for returning as the principal villain Immortan Joe.

One of the things I liked must about Fury Road is it emphasised these links to the original films and didn’t try to reboot the series. The continued references to the lose of Max’s child although with some slight differences brings back memories of Mad Max and his V8 interceptor still makes a cameo. However, the film is more reminiscent of the 1981 sequel The Road Warrior since it takes the final car chase and extends it over the course of the 2-hours. Thankfully, Fury Road does avoid following the mistakes of Beyond Thunderdome by including a logical plot.

Mad Max: Fury Road is possibly the best action movie I have seen in years and is definitely a cut above most of the so called blockbusters released this year. This is a must watch of any action movie buff or any fans of the originals as it clearly delivers, I’m even looking forward to the next instalment, Mad Max: The Wasteland

Action: 10/10

Storyline: 7/10

Cast: 8/10

Cinematography: 9/10

 Overall: 9/10

If your interested in checking out a few more reviews head over to the movie guys

Jono

Why 2015 is the Year of Xbox One (Op-Ed)

Why 2015 is the Year of Xbox One (Op-Ed)#xtor=RSS-980.

I think Mike from Tom’s guide is spot on with this one. He raises some of the same points I made about Microsoft’s out performance of Sony at E3 last week. Especially focusing on the potential growth of the Xbox One in the backend of 2015.

Mike’s article highlights the strength of Microsoft’s exclusive titles which includes franchise favourites Halo 5, Gears of War ultimate edition and Forza 6. Others have been raving about the offerings from Sony but Mike has recognised the long wait for these titles will likely lose Sony the momentum during the end of this year. Additionally, he points out the up coming software updates including backwards compatibility and Windows 10 that will make the Xbox One far superior come Spring/Fall. Finally he touches on the Elite Controller as an added extra but with a focus on this year Mike doesn’t discuss the future potential of HoloLens or VR for either system.

Click on these links to read my own take on the Xbox vs PS4 battle at E3 or to look more in detail at some of those Xbox titles.

Jono

E3: My Games Wishlist

E3 2015 is done and dusted so I thought I’d look more in-depth at the games that really caught my attention and those I personally can’t wait to get my hands on.

Halo 5 guardians

Platform: Xbox One

Release Date: 27/10/15

A new Halo is always a big deal for the Xbox community and the first instalment on the new console will be expected to boast overall console sales just like the past. The small snippets of the story line have got fans like myself sitting on edge, is the Master Chief a traitor, is Spartan Locke friend or foe and the inclusion of Buck voiced by Nathan Fillion from ODST is a welcomed addition. At E3 we were given a glimpse of the campaign that diverges a little from the traditional formula as it seems more like ODST and Reach with two teams of Spartans led by Locke and the Master Chief made for drop in & out coop play. In addition 343 industries gave us Warzone a new 24 player multiplayer mode combining elements of PvP and PvE where two teams compete with the added fun of AI opponents in a crazy overload of Halo awesomeness. Suddenly the 27 of October seems so far away.

Forza motorsport 6

Platform: Xbox One

Release date: 15/9/15

Recently I have really got into playing Forza 5 as it has outstanding graphics and is perfect for gaming when you have time constraints. The 6th instalment promises much of the same running in 1080p it looks stunning and with an extensive list of 450 cars it’s perfect for car enthusiasts. However, the main development is the addition of meaningful racing conditions, this goes beyond the basic visual effect and includes real world experience as rain doesn’t just look pretty but actually make the track slippery and effects your handling. A subtle inclusion but one that will make it just that little more challenging for seasoned racers.

Fable Legends

Platform: Xbox One and Windows

Release date: 2015

This free to play cooperative title has been promoted before at Microsoft events as it demonstrates the capabilities of Windows 10’s cross-platform gaming as PC and Xbox users can play alongside each other. Legends offers gamers a different experience than previous titles as players can choose between the traditional hero game play without the exploration alongside possibly up to 3 friends or as the villain who plans the obstacles faced by our band of heroes like a strategy game. It seems like an interesting combination of different game styles and I’m looking forward to testing it out later this year.

Fable Legends hands on

Rise of the Tomb Raider

Platform: First on Xbox

Release date: 10/11/15

Crystal dynamics sequel to their 2013 reboot of Tomb Raider promises a lot with different combat options and more opportunity for discovery. Learning from the feedback after the previous title developers have incorporate a new ability for Lara to use her environment to create weapons and make choices as to how she will engage combatants. Most notably this includes the ability to avoid lethal engagements using items as distractions and finding other methods to take down the enemy. In addition crystal dynamics have stated their aim to make Lara the most realistic and humanised character in gaming by focus on the emotional impact of decisions and the storyline. We shall have to wait until November 10th to see if Rise of the Tomb Raider delivers.

Gears of War ultimate edition and Gears 4

Platform: Xbox One

Release date: 25/8/15 and holidays 2016

The other Xbox franchise also had its time at E3 with two announcements. Gears of War Ultimate Edition was unveiled and its more than just a remastered HD version of the 2006 original but more of a full rebuild. The Coalition has gone back to basics with new motion capture and animation to help bring the game into the next era of gaming. Beyond this the remake incorporates new game elements from more recent titles in the series including an enhanced  multiplayer. Even thinking about it gives me a pang of nostalgia.

Gears 4 the first game in the franchise since Microsoft took over the rights shows more of what we expect, chainsaws, weird creatures and a post apocalyptic setting. Still scarce on details all we really know about Gears 4 is that the gameplay looks similar to the other titles in the series. It’s still far away but any new chance to saw through your enemies can’t easily be passed up.

Rare Replay

Platform: Xbox  One

Release date: 4/8/15

This collection of 30 classic Rare games is a steal for the $30 price tag. Many of the games pre-date my  gaming experience  but classic 64 titles like Banjo Kazooie, the sequel Banjo Tooie and Perfect Dark are enough for me to jump on board. Adding  some Xbox 360 up dates to those series alongside a host of other games to explore for the first time and I’m counting the hours of game play. The only disappointments are the absence of GoldenEye and Diddy Kong Racing due to legal restrictions. Click here to see the full list.

Star Wars: Battlefront

Platform: Xbox One, PS4 and PC

Release Date:

A self professed Star Wars tragic I have been looking forward to this one since Battlefront 2 was released years ago. One of my absolute favourite Star Wars games because it allows players to jump into the epic battle and key events of the films like no other game. Gameplay follows the same basic format as the earlier titles in that it is primarily a third person shooter with different class options and you need to complete a series of objectives in order for your side of the Star Wars conflict to gain victory. It doesn’t look like there are any real changes to this basic formula but the new Battlefront takes advantage of the next generation consoles through new game modes and refinement. Personally I can’t think of a better way to get in the spirit before the release of The Force Awakens.

Mass Effect: Andromeda

Platform: Xbox One, PS4 and PC

Release Date: Q4 2016

Details are still scarce about the new Mass Effect but we learnt at E3 that the game is set outside the milky way in the Andromeda galaxy long after the events of Mass Effect 3. This means that developers have the freedom to imagine a new host of planets and new alien species without being restricted by the previous games. Despite this scope for innovation its clear that this next chapter will maintain most of the elements we have come to expect of the series as the game will still follow a human protagonist leading a team made up of different specialists. Beyond this we also know that Mass Effect Andromeda will use the Frostbite 3 game engine behind Dragon Age Inquisition which promises a rich experience. I’m very excited about this one as I’ve spent hundreds of hours playing through the previous titles multiple times, I’m just shattered its such a long wait.

Check back later as I preview the best of the rest from E3

Cheers

Jono

E3: Tale of the tape

E3 2015 has unleashed a wave of surprises and exciting new games for Xbox One and PS4 fans alike but with all the announcements done, it’s time to reflect and see who won this heavy weight fight. To give a detailed comparison I thought I would break this down into three categories; System, Games and Peripheries.

System

Xbox One: Possibly the biggest surprise of E3 was the announcement of backwards compatibility coming to Xbox One this spring (Fall for my friends in the Northern Hemisphere) but currently only available to those lucky enough to be invited to the Xbox Preview. So far the list of Games is very short but it will grow quickly before the app goes live and personally I can’t wait to start playing Mass Effect on my Xbox One. Not only has this caught Sony by surprise but they have since disappointed fans by quickly killing any rumours that they might be doing the same any time soon. In addition Microsoft gave us a look at the new Xbox dashboard complete with Cortana that we will see later this year with the Windows 10 update.

MCV – Sony on backwards compatibility

PlayStation 4: Compared to the Xbox event Sony was much more game focused but they did talk about some exciting changers to PlayStation Vue. The live streaming TV service is being released in new regions and with a chose your own channel service. Notably this sees Sony move further towards the all in one entertainment system that was the original goal of the Xbox One.

Verdict: Got to give this one to the Xbox One as backwards compatibility has the potential to be a game changer as any one needing to replace their 360 can simply upgrade and still play all their old games. Some people like myself may have even put off the decision to upgrade because of this limitation. In contrast the upgrade to PlayStation Vue will benefit existing owners but probably won’t be that nudge to jump on board.

Games:

Before getting stuck into the exclusive titles it is important to recognise that comparing games is always going to be very subjective based on your past experience and your existing emotional attachment. This year that perhaps is more important than usual as most of the big titles from both our contenders have a touch of nostalgia and are the newest games to pre existing game series. Personally that means for me any new Halo is ultimately a kill all since I have been hocked from the very beginning but as always I will try to keep a critical mind.

Xbox One: The line up from Microsoft’s conference didn’t hold to many surprises as they emphasised the favourites; Halo 5 Guardians, Forza 6, Fable Legends, Rise of the Tomb Raider  the official conformation of Gears of War ultimate edition and the 4th instalment in the successful shooter. However, there are a few completely new titles like the action RPG Ashen, run and gun Cuphead, free to play Gigantic, adventurous Sea of Thieves and the action adventure ReCore. In addition to all these new titles the Rare Replay a collection of 30 classic Rare games for $30 including Banjo Kazooie and Prefect Dark is an absolute steal for a quick hit of nostalgia dating back 30 years.

PlayStation 4: Games was defiantly the focus of Sony’s conference and they had done well to keep the biggest announcements secret before the expo. Leading with the long awaited The Last Guardian was always going to be a hit with fans and that was only the beginning then came the remake of Final Fantasy VII and the kickstarter Shenmue 3 which completed fans wish list. New titles like the borderless No Man’s Sky and the stunning looking RPG Horizon Zero Dawn as well as other exclusives including Street Fighter 5 and Uncharted 4 helped demonstrated Sony’s focus on hard core gaming fans. The steal however was Call of Duty as the lucrative franchise departs from its recent partnership with Microsoft to release exclusive content

Verdict: Despite my preference for Xbox i’m going to give this one to the PS4 due to execution, since Sony had been able to keep things quite in the lead up to E3 and pulled off the steal of the year by getting Call of Duty to jump ship.

Finally … Peripherals 

Xbox One: Microsoft got the ball rolling here before the conference with the announcement of a partnership with Oculus Rift to take advantage of VR gaming. Extending this strategy Microsoft committed to a similar partnership with one of the other major developers in this exciting new avenue for gaming in Valve VR. The real star of the show was HoloLens as Microsoft showed off 3D Minecraft to a captivated audience but it doesn’t stop with the obvious applications as reviewers got the opportunity to test out the augmented reality headset with Halo 5’s new Warzone mode. If that wasn’t enough Microsoft have given us the Elite controller which is fully customisable with adjustable parts and settings to let users play their way.

GameSpot – Halo & HoloLens

PlayStation 4: Leading up to E3 every one was hoping for more information about Project Morpheus, Sony’s own VR headset. Unfortunately, I felt this was a bit of a let down since Sony spoke about the headset and showed an interesting trailer for RIGS a VR game that allows multiple players to enter the same virtual world the information and WOW factor was limited with only some vague assertions of a 2016 release. Thankfully reviews got to test drive the headset during the expo and it seems like it is going to offer a rich VR gaming experience.

Android Authority – project morpheus 

Verdict: This one was a clear win to Phil Spencer and his Xbox team, not only did they bring the mind blowing demo but they also made sure they didn’t forget hardcore gamers with the elite.

Overall:

It might not surprise anyone but i have to give 2015 to Microsoft as they seam to have finally learn’t and brought their A game. Overall Microsoft have taken more into account and listened to feedback with backwards compatibility, a real demonstration of HoloLens and a new controller. In addition the only category where Sony have out performed Microsoft this year is highly subjective as personally I’m looking foward to adding at least 6 of those exclusive Xbox titles to my collection ASAP. Meanwhile there are a couple of caveats to some of those surprises, firstly No Man’s Sky will release on PC at the same time as PS4 and most games will not be released until 2016 with Final Fantasy VII and Shenmue 3 without even that level of guidance.

But don’t take my opinion for it, check out the links and make up your own mind and leave your thoughts.

Cheers

Jono

Xbox And Oculus: A Partnership Designed To Blow Your Mind

Xbox And Oculus: A Partnership Designed To Blow Your Mind#xtor=RSS-980.

A pre-E3 bombshell! Oculus have announced a partnership with the Xbox for the release of their long awaited virtual reality headset. I’m still not sure yet if virtual reality will take off as it is limited by tethering and the practical application of VR in the everyday world but this arrangement makes sense for Microsoft. It provides an answer to Sony’s development of a VR system for the PlayStation 4 and gives consumers another reason to jump on board Windows 10. The deal further demonstrates Microsoft’s new mindset to open themselves up to different platforms and allows them to still capitalise on any future success in VR while still focusing on the augmented reality with HoloLens. Perhaps we will find out more at E3 about the potential of this new technology to change gaming.

Galaxy S6 edge review

After deciding to upgrade last month with the release of Samsung’s newest flagship. I went shopping still with an important decision to make, S6 or S6 Edge. Even as I was playing with both phones at my local Samsung store I still struggled with myself. The edge was simply stunning to look at but with the exception of the people function which gives quick access to my favorite contacts it doesn’t offer too much for the extra cash. In addition the thin sides made the phone feel uncomfortable in my hand. However the right nudge from the staff sent me down this path. In hiensight I’m still not 100% sure whether it is worth it but I do like the way the screen bends around the curve and when Apple fans complement the look of my phone I do get a warm fuzzy feeling.

Beyound the aestetics the Galaxy S6 is everything you would expect from a flagship handset. A powerful octa-core processor makes everthing run lighting quick and deals with multiple apps with easy. While the 2560×1440 screen with a whopping 577 pixisl per inch (iPhone 6 retina comes in at 326 and 6+ 401pixals per inch) is spectacular with crisp images and the right balance of brightness for reading the odd bit of tech news. Both of these elements emphasise the improved build quality found on the Galaxy S6 and Samsung’s movement away from the plastic body of the S5.

In fact the only negatives of the hardware are the absence of expandable memory and the limited battery life. Both of these are no longer major limitations as exspansion of cloud storage solutions allow users to move photos and videos off their
phone while streaming music futhur decreases the demand for memory. Unfortunately, this can really run down that battery but fast charging which gives you 40% battery life after only 10 minutes means the Galaxy S6 has an answer. Combinded with wireless charging it’s easy to make sure that my phone doesn’t run out of battery. Samsumgs compatibility with other wireless charging pads means that I can use my existing nokia pad from my Lumia 920.

It would be remiss if I did not talk breifly about the 16 megapixal camera. Used to a great camera on the 920 I perhaps haven’t noticed to much difference except when taking photos of documents. Even so all the snaps I have taken out and about, even under difficult light conditions at the footy have come out a treat. The quick launch feature works well but the camera app itself I find is horribly limiting as I miss Nokia Camera but software can easily be updated so it’s only a minor frustration.

image

Essendon vs Richmond dreamtime at the G 2015 taken on the Galaxy S6 Edge.

Overall I’m loving the Galaxy S6 Edge and highly recommend it to anyone in the market for a new high end phone especially if your like me and prefer one that fits in your jeans pocket.

Proformance 10/10
Storage 8/10
Battery life 6/10
Screen 10/10
Camera 9/10
Operating system 8/10

Overall 8.5/10

Jono

A half baked release?

It’s official windows 10 is set for July 29 and I’m definitely excited. After months of testing the developing incarnations of the OS my expectations are largely based on personal experience not just reading the thoughts of other tech heads. Since day one I have seen great potential in Microsoft’s latest flagship as it combines the positive aspects of Windows 8 like performance and a touch friendly interface with the usability of Windows 7 by bridging the gap by adding important features like continuum. A fan of Windows 8 from the beta stage I sometimes have been frustrated by the difficulty others have with the duel interface set-up but it does require people to think about how they want to use their computer at any given time while lerning new skills. In theory Windows 10 tries to fix these two issues as the OS seems to be more intuitive with modern apps being able to operate in a traditional windowed layout and the return of the start menu after the charms experiment should make it more accessible for the average user. All this suggests that Microsoft maybe moving in the right direction to leverage their desktop and enterprise dominance to improve their mobile presence.

Except one false start could cost Microsoft the future it has been building towards as the consumer market relies mere on hype and momentum then actual performance. Microsoft has some history failing to capitalise on new products through poor marketing and limited release especially in markets outside the USA. In Australia I know this only to well as I watched the release of the Microsoft Band from across the globe without being able to get my hands on a couple, even the Surface tablets were only released online until poor sales convinced Microsoft of the importance of getting the device in retail stores where people could play with the device. Unfortunately, the news about Windows 10 suggests we might confront similar limitations with possibly missing features at launch and the restriction of Cortana to only a handful of countries. This brings back memories of Windows phone 8.1 and changing my region just to test out Microsoft personal assistant. The absence of headline features at launch is frustrating for consumers like myself and might just prevent Windows 10 from reaching the success that Microsoft dreams of, hopefully they can learn from past mistakes.

Until we learn more,

Jono