Oh, my dear, sweet weekend, we really must stop meeting like this! Whatever would my wife say? Well, girlfriend. Imaginary girlfriend. God, I’m so lonely.
Yup, it’s the weekend once more and here in Scotland it’s currently so windy that I just saw a typhoon getting blown away. In other words the weather is absolutely perfect for some games, movies, books, comics, pig tickling or whatever else takes your fancy. I’m not here to judge, you perverted sod.
So, this week I put out my longest review of the year, spending just under 3,500 words breaking down Red Dead Redemption 2, and yet somehow I still don’t think I tackled everything as well as I wanted. Buckle in, then, ‘cos I want to get some things off my chest. You see, as amazing a technical achievement the game is and as brilliant the story is I’m still rather amazed by how antiquated the gameplay frequently feels. Almost every mission follows the same structure where you travel to a spot while gang members chat away before getting into a firefight. The only way the game gets away with this repetitive design is due to how each mission gets trussed up in various guises. Then the missions themselves are incredibly strict with fail states appearing as soon as you dare to step out of line. At one point me and a few other gang members had to make it to a boat, and a Pinkerton Agent stepped out in front of me so I drew my knife and took him out, instantly triggering a mission failure because…well, I don’t know. It was never mentioned that killing was off the table. A lot of instances like this happened, and the tight leash makes it feel like you’re just following a series of orders with very little room for initiative.
Of course, I already covered the clumsy combat and movement in my review, but out of curiosity I fired up Red Dead Redemption the other day and can now confirm that gunplay has barely changed at all. Given the obsessive attention to detail that Rockstar clearly had with RDR2 it almost feels like they forgot the actual gameplay at times, with concepts like maintaining camp supplies and looking after yourself and your horse ultimately proving a bit pointless. I still love the game and stand by my review of it, but the more I reflect on it the more I question the lack of refinement in the mechanics.
But let’s move onto something else! I just got my hands on an intriguing little game called Steel Rats where you ride a motorbike around a sort-of-2D world. It’s like a platformer, but with a bike, enemies and a surprising number of special abilities and weapons. It’s absolutely bonkers and the controls take some getting used to, but so far it’s actually quite fun. Keep an eye out for a review soon.
I’ve also been jumping back into Assassin’s Creed: Odyssey a bit. I keep finding more and more awesome side quests that tell hilarious little stories, and I’m still finding all the core mechanics to be heaps of fun. I’m impressed by how Ubisoft has managed to reinvent the franchise at this point, and I’m curious where they’ll go with this particular design template. Fingers crossed they don’t overuse it like they typically do.
I wrapped up watching the Chilling Adventures of Sabrina on Netflix this week, too, which is a hell of a departure from Sabrina the Teenage Witch that I watched as a kid back in the day, let me tell you. This one picks up with 15-year old Sabrina as she approaches her 16th birthday which is also the time of her Dark Baptism where she signs her name in the Book of the Beast and thus pledges herself to Satan and witchood. Problem is, she’s also half human and she’s struggling with having to give up her regular school, human friends and boyfriend.
Okay, so things started a little rocky for me because it sometimes felt like the show was attempting to tick a bunch of “progressive” and “look at how inclusive we are!” boxes and then smash me over the head with the all. Now, I don’t mind that in general, but here it felt forced like they were doing it purely to appeal rather than because the writers wanted to say anything meaningful and the execution was pretty poor. It genuinely took away from the rest of the show which is really pretty awesome.
But after a few episodes things settled down and what was left was a really cool show that has a unique visual style with superb production values and that tells a fun story with compelling characters. Sabrina herself can be a bit annoying due to her almost cocky attitude. She comes across sometimes as the kind of person that believes everything must bend to her will because she says so, but I like that this side of her was worked into the story later which helped make her story arc more enjoyable. And it has to be said that the actress playing Sabrina, Kiernan Shipka, has brilliant on-screen charisma and an infectious smirk that I admit may just have made me fall head over hells in love with the character. C’mon, Sabrina, dump Harvey. He can’t love you like I would.
The rest of the cast are great and they all manage to get their moments to shine, and in particular Ambrose was a hoot. He’s a prisoner staying with Sabrina and the two aunts, unable to leave the house grounds due to a transgression years ago. He’s smart, funny and not afraid to stand up to Sabrina, although Sabrina’s aunts don’t take any crap, either. Finally, the three Weird Sisters are fantastic, especially Prudence who manages to steal the scenes she’s in.
There was a good mix of gore, mild horror and cheesiness that I found invigorating. It was often funny, both in its jokes and in some of the more over-the-top gore and horror sequences, and the ending was pretty awesome. In other words, I’d recommend checking the show out.
And finally I’ll wrap up this rambling by saying a profound goodbye to Prima, the creators of beautiful game guides over the years. They’ve announced that the company is officially shutting down, and it’s not surprising. In fact, I’d say it’s impressive that they managed to stay in business this long due to everybody having a phone in their pocket and thus instant access to guides for free. I still personally love a good guide book. So to everyone at Prima I wish you the best of luck! Thanks for all the guides.
So what are you guys watching, playing or reading this weekend?
P.S. I almost forgot; as much as I loved The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina the stupid fish-eye lens which makes everything except the dead centre of the image blurred is horrible. It gave me a headache a few times.
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