Dead Rising 4 (Xbox One)

I really enjoyed Dead Rising 3 despite the weird path the game has been on but my first impression of DR4 is not good.

This one seems clunky and lame. 

Like it was intended to be a reboot and someone later decided to tack the project onto the Dead Rising timeline. 

It’s apparently a sequel despite Frank West looks younger, has a new voice actor and is pretty much nothing like himself.

Capcom have done a good job saving Resident Evil but it looks like they’ve lost the wheel with some of the classics. 

Devil May Cry is a mess, Street Fighter have giant heads and giant hands. I’ve got no idea what’s going on.

So now Frank West is a school tutor (for photography?) and one of his students ‘pranks him’ by promising a round of crazy golf, in the middle of the night. 

Then, plot-twist, they’re driving out to Willamette and Frank is triggered.

After having him kill a few hundred of the infected (that she set free) she then develops a heart and ditches him in Willamette with no ride. Cool?

I’d rather have them add another new character or further develop Nick Ramos.

Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker (PS3)

I didn’t play this game the first time around due to a faulty PSP game pad putting me off. 

Only just recently have I completed Peace Walker on PS3. I appreciate the bridges between Snake Eater and Phantom Pain but the story itself seems a little thin. 

It heavily relies on information from Snake Eater (bypassing Portable Ops, the follow up I preferred) but doesn’t develop much of a story itself.

The MSF recruiting feature was good and it was fun building ZEKE but I think a few irritating mechanics let it down.

Inability to pause while choosing recovery items or changing weapons obviously makes sense for online mode.

But it can get annoying when AI mechs stomp you to death for not selecting a ration fast enough.

The Peace Walker boss battle was challenging, which was good, but the music choice for the Metal Gear ZEKE battle ruined its atmosphere.

So you get a female pilot for Metal Gear, for the first time (AI doesn’t count) and instead of something menacing, you’re stuck with J-Pop? 

Didn’t make much sense to me.

Every Time I Die – December 2016 UK Tour

I’ve had the pleasure of seeing Every Time I Die play 8 shows in England this year and they never disappoint.

Slam Dunk festival, the rescheduled London takeover and just recently a European tour with ’68.

I was already excited to see them come back so soon but to bring ’68 (another favourite of mine) was overkill.

They played a show 10 minutes from where I live (Southend) and at the weekend, hosted one of their best ever shows at Brooklyn Bowl inside The O2.

I’ve seen ’68 play shows in the UK since their first tour in 2014. It’s nice to see them get the recognition they deserve. 

I heard a lot of good things from a crowd of 900 people having taken a shine to ’68.

The show had no barricades, there were bars, couches and a bowling alley to the right of the venue (with Christmas decoration). It was like being in a movie.

ETID ripped through 20 heavy songs before the crowd begged for one more.

From side-stage I witnessed bodies fly, selfies denied (literally judo chopped an iPhone out of someone’s hand) and security choke slam a loiter into the pit.

2016 was pretty good.

London ComiCon 2016

This year I returned to London Expo to check out the market and do some souvenir-hunting.

There wasn’t really much that jumped out this year but previously I haven’t had the time to look through every table.

So I bought a weekend ticket.

Friday 28th October – I spent most of the day searching for a decent souvenir. 

I found Duncan Gutteridge (the artist behind SEGA Megadrive’s Sonic 2). We had a chat about the history of Sonic on the Megadrive. I found out that the artwork was originally used for a promotional calendar (and a couple of children’s books that I own) but was then carried over to European box art by SEGA. Following the success of Sonic 2, he was then commissioned to create the logo for Sonic 3 and character design of Knuckles.

Saturday 29th October – Saturday’s are always the busiest day and the building was packed as usual. 

I queued up for a photo with Nolan North and Troy Baker, both were extremely polite and humble. Then I wandered around searching for other opportunities and discovered the signing tables featured two guests from Cartoon Network but did not specify. 

Signings for cartoons were free so I went to check it out. It was only a small line so I couldn’t complain. 

The guests finally arrived. Table #1 was Kent Osbourne – lead writer / storyboard artist for Adventure Time. I got his autograph and a Lemongrab doodle. Pretty cool. Table #2 was Ben Bocquelet – creator of The Amazing World of Gumball and Mic Graves – writer of Gumball. They both sketched Gumball and Darwin for me in silver and bronze Sharpies. I was also given a FREE ComiCon London 2016 T-shirt with Gumball’s family dressed as other popular CN characters.

On the way out, I saw Marvel comic books with blank covers and artists accepting commissions so I quickly ordered one to be collected the following morning.

Sunday 30th October – Final day. Apparently not only me but a few thousand others expected a relaxed day. It was a bigger turn out than Friday.

The Marvel cover that I commissioned was ready for collection. 

I didn’t know what to expect having not seen much of the artist’s work but the price wasn’t too bad. 

I asked for Spider-Man’s Venom but with a slight twist: Eddie Brock is replaced by 2016 presidential candidate and real-life comic villain – Donald J. Trump.

As a comic book artist, I can’t imagine too many are commissioned to draw Trump, let alone in a flattering way that honours his pure villainy. This guy delivered.

I always wanted an original comic cover and aspire to have something drawn by Kevin Eastman someday but the timeless novelty of immortilising Trump as a villain will never cease to make me laugh. 

And now we wait to see if Venom becomes President of the United States…

PlayStation VR

Today I demoed a couple of virtual reality games at a touring PlayStation VR event that stopped in London for a few days, promoting the release of PSVR.

The demos were completely free but you only get a 15-minute session on one game of your choice from several titles.

After buzzing about the two RE7 demos ‘Kitchen’ and ‘Twilight’ of course I chose Resident Evil 7: Biohazard.

I’ve played with 3D tech, EyeToy and other games that use motion sensors but none of that compared to the new VR.

The already ominous atmosphere created by PSVR paired with the cutting edge Resident Evil Engine made for an exciting and surreal experience.

You could easily become lost in VR. 

When I started up RE7’s ‘Lantern’ demo (currently exclusive to PSVR trials) I didn’t know what to expect but I was quickly immersed in another world.

You can stay seated for RE7 in VR and if you don’t feel like twisting your neck to look behind you, just tap the C-stick to jump the camera left or right a bit.

In RE7, I walked across a bridge to an empty mansion with wooden beams and a huge split down the centre of the floor. 

As I approached the split, I noticed I could look down into it and saw a flowing river running through the house that went so far down you could barely see the end.

I went through a door and heard footsteps followed by an old woman cursing, carrying a lantern.

In this demo (named Lantern) you must avoid being seen by the old woman and simultaneously solve the puzzles to escape the house.

It was as difficult as the PS4 demos to find anything around the rooms. You need to search both high and low for objects and examine everything.

I managed to complete the first puzzle by hiding outside and get to the next room. 

While hiding, I noticed there’s so much detail in the sky and jagged tree branches that poke into it. 

This intense level of detail makes the experience scarier in a way that it’s frightening how realistic games are becoming, especially horror.

The experiene was so insane. 

It felt like a roller-coaster nightmare. 

I didn’t have enough time to find everything and finish the demo so I let myself get caught when my time was up.

After RE7, I went off for lunch and came back for Batman. I noticed a little motion sickness under VR when I was hungry.

Batman VR utilises PlayStation Move controllers and a camera, unlike RE7.

You physically stand centre square to enable PlayStation camera to detect your movement before wearing PSVR.

Under VR you arrive at Wayne Manor, where you meet Alfred who guides you to the secret entrance of the Batcave.

The floor opens up and sends you down a glass elevator (with extensive detail to its aquatic surrounding and structure of the underlying cave). 

Alfred then asks you to put on your suit for testing out weapons. You are given the grappling gun and Batarang.

The Batman demo didn’t involve any action and was pretty stationary. 

It literally gears you up for the game itself and then ends.

If you get to a PSVR trial and have a choice of demos – I highly recommend you try Resident Evil 7.

I need to get back in VR…

Album Review: Transit Blues by The Devil Wears Prada

It took some time for Dead Throne to grow on me after TDWP’s fantastic Zombie EP. 

8:18 was gritty (in a good way) like they were on the verge of uncovering gold among their eclectic sound.

Space EP had a lot to live up to because of how great a concept Zombie was but with their synth and heavy hooks, they hit this out of the park. The song ‘Alien’ suits the Alien movie atmosphere so well.

It had me wondering where they could possibly go from Space and 8:18 but Transit Blues managed to fuse the best elements of those two records into one.

The themes of desertion, isolation and resentment are persistent within TDWP.

There’s a dark and isolated atmosphere that progresses into a catchy chorus but it’s sewn together with heavy hooks. 

‘Detroit Tapes’ surprised me with familiarity. I completely forgot they recruited Stevis from The Chariot to do guest vocals. I miss The Chariot.

And the closing track, ‘Transit Blues’ was both sombre and exciting at once. A great way to close an amazing album.

I’m not sure if it was intentional but the energy of this band reminds me of the soundtrack in a Capcom horror game.

With a lot to compete with, it’s difficult to choose a favourite record for 2016 but Transit Blues is definitely in my top two.

The Black Queen – September 2016 UK Tour

Greg Puciato (of Dillinger Escape Plan) with his new band The Black Queen released their debut album Fever Daydream in January 2016.

They played a couple of sold-out shows (one of which was Hackney, UK) and came back in winter for several more shows around Europe.

I managed to get to all three UK shows; Camden, Bristol and Manchester. 

Each one had a different vibe as The Black Queen’s atmosphere absorbed the venue.

  • September 26: Camden Jazz Cafe

I can’t say I’ve ever been to nor had any desire to attend a Jazz Cafe since I’m not a coffee drinker or fan of jazz.

A tiny venue, always the best. Everything was in one room. It wasn’t quite Old Blue Last but it was very civilised and clean.

The first act was Collapsing Scenery. 

Very strange electronic band featuring Mickey Madden (of Maroon 5). 

This is the sound I’d imagine a lifelong acid trip would create. 

The room filled with smoke and blue lights as the weird jazz music played in between acts went down.

Strobe lighting pierced the mist and heavy bass shook the ground. A great return performance to London.

  • September 27: Bristol Thekla

The last time I went to Bristol Thekla was in 2013 for Bring Me The Horizon. It was packed and the crowd were so lively you could feel the ship shake. 

The interior of the venue reminded me of the Tanker chapter in Metal Gear Solid 2. 

Stage times alternated for each night so unfortunately I didn’t get to see Mickey smack himself in the head with his palm like he did in Camden but I was perfectly in time for The Black Queen.

I had a better standing view this time and the acoustics were better. This was my favourite night of tour.

  • September 28: The Deaf Institute

A weird and pretty disrespectful name for a music venue in Manchester.

I booked a Mercure (since it was closer to my coach station) but I didn’t expect it to be so classy indoors.

It made me feel a little underdressed in my typical black denim, but it was convenient so whatever.

Deaf Institute is a strange looking hall above a bar and grill, with a disco ball in the centre of the room and an unreserved block of seats at the back.

The floor is slightly slanted in this hall, so if it wasn’t for the crowd of six foot men who always stand at the front it would have been an alright view.

I was kinda disappointed Mickey didn’t smack himself in the face with his palm like he did in Camden (cause I wanted to film it) but Collapsing Scenery were still good. They came back more humble.

Lights out, purple glow, Fever Daydream, time to go. Mid set, Greg asked for a beer to be crowdsurfed up to him. He took a sip (nearly missed his cue) and nailed it.

I could hear the guitar much clearer in Manchester than the other two venues.

This crowd seemed more in awe or stupor of The Black Queen, which was good.

One of the taxi drivers made a comment about Manchester being ‘calmer’ than London, which I doubted.

Until I got back in Victoria to witness a fist fight between an aggressive customer and the manager of KFC.

The End