Sunday, 1 March 2020

This Site Will No Longer See New Additions

Across February, I’ve been transferring everything from here onto my main site, which will be the home of all content. This site will no longer see new additions.

A new experiences article looking at LEGO Harry Potter, a second look at the GTA-verse Herzan state, and something relating to Sonic the Hedgehog will be on the main site, as well as a new Future of Mario Kart, two first impressions articles, and more.

Head on over to the home of DarkRula Media to get all the new content as it appears. Hope to see you over there.

Thursday, 20 February 2020

Animal Crossing Direct - February 2020

That information drive about Animal Crossing New Horizons was everything I could have hoped for and more. We’ve got a lot more information than we had previously, some interesting new additions, and some quality of life improvements.

The Direct started out with a look around the island in all four seasons, and you’d be forgiven for thinking there wasn’t much coming out of this. However, it did reveal we can place where our villagers live at the start, which led the way to placing where all villagers will live.

It seemed like a build up of freedom in customisability, with that leading to custom designs able to be used on furniture, the path creation tool we already knew of, and then the reveal that we can alter the entire look of the town.
We can build up cliffs and remove them, fill in water for more land or remove land for more water, there’s a massive amount of scope for some truly wonderful designs to come from this, as was shown within the Direct. The ability to move buildings should probably come with this, but while I didn’t spot such a feature, I’m sure it will be there.

There’s a new feature in the mystery tours, where using Nook Miles to get a ticket will allow us to head off to exotic locations, finding new materials and meeting new villagers, who we can invite back to the island to allow them to live with us. I proposed such an idea within my Crossing to the New Life series, so I’m happy to see it here.

Special villagers will still be around, with Wisp and Gulliver being shown near the beginning, with Celeste, Savannah, and new characters near the end. Buildings such as the Able Sisters and the Museum will be able to be built on the island, with the resident building becoming the town hall once the island is developed enough.

Advanced tools allow for interior house customisation, with the expansion being through a loan as per the norm. It doesn’t look as though we have free reign over the positioning of the rooms or their sizes, but considering everything else, it’s a small price to pay.

External customisation of the house is easier than ever, with it looking like we no longer have to wait for a certain option to appear in a store before we can choose it. Indeed, the whole shopping experience seems to have been made easier, with menus allowing us to select items for purchase instead of needing to select each individual item as it appears in the store. Such a change is welcome, and allows for the wandering traders who visit to no longer be constrained to such a small selection of items.

I’m not covering everything here, but needless to say this is looking to be the best in the series. Not only do we have all these customisation options, but it still manages to keep the relaxing and sedate pace the series is known for. There’s goals to aim for in expanding the island, with plenty of improvements with the systems in place.

You’ll also no longer need to worry about your island being savaged when others come over, as the best friend feature will make sure certain things – such as shovels and axes – are locked from use except for those on the list. This is particularly great for those who care about their island and the things within it.

I’m ready to get into the game next month and start my island getaway. There’s a lot to be exploring here, and all that’s holding me back it the wait.

Wednesday, 19 February 2020

Feeling the Hot Pursuit As I'm the Most Wanted

With the recent news that Criterion are back onto Need For Speed, I’m hyped. The team might have seen some change since Burnout Paradise, but they are a great studio. That concept they had for the extreme sports game never got off the ground, but there was promise within it.

And you’ll note that I said back to Need For Speed. Once finished with Burnout Paradise, the Criterion team were put onto EA’s other long-standing racing series to make Hot Pursuit. After the success of that game, they followed up with my personal favourite of the series in Most Wanted [2012].

While they did help with Rivals, their time on the series looked as though it was done, with Ghost Games [now EA Gothenburg] being the main developer of Rivals and taking on the series since that time.

With the news that Criterion are back, I’ve been revisiting those old games they have to their name to see what it is I liked about them. And though they differ greatly from the other, they both have something to enjoy.

Hot Pursuit took the cops and crooks concept and ran with it for the whole game, offering a mission structure that followed both sides. As the cops, you’d be hunting down racers, smashing into them and using the equipment on hand to arrest them. While the racers also had equipment, these were more defensive blocks to the police’s powerful force as you tried to complete the race.

The mission structure allowed both sides to be playable from one career, earning experience in the form of bounty to unlock new cars and equipment for that side. At first, you would start off with little in the way of power or speed, but through gaining experience would become a force to be reckoned with on whichever side you chose.

While there was also a freeroam mode, it felt a side feature to the missions. Despite not getting far with those missions, I could be found within the freeroam often, riding around in a police cruiser just taking in the scenery. The map might not be the most refined, but there’s still a decent amount of things to explore within it.

With Hot Pursuit’s map being more natural, the bustling city of Fairhaven is where Most Wanted takes us. And this time, the freeroam was the main attraction. Taking cues from Burnout Paradise, billboards and security gates are around to smash, with speed cameras also being placed around the streets.

The difference with Paradise are jackspots – the way to gain new vehicles. Scattered around the map are plenty of these spots that grant access to new vehicles, being in both easy to spot and hard to find locations. Once you’ve found a vehicle, it gets added to the list to warp to for future use, though you can swap at that location.

Each vehicle has six events tied to it to unlock performance upgrades for that car. The reason for doing so is to encourage swapping vehicles to build up your Most Wanted level, as there’s ten drivers who will only challenge you once you have enough Most Wanted reputation.

I love exploring this world more than the one in Hot Pursuit, with the cops always on the lookout for wrong-doing and some very great chases able to be had. This was one of my most played games on the PSV, such was the fact I had double the Most Wanted level of the highest on the list when returning to it on PC.

Neither game has the size or variety in their maps as latest games, but those latest games lack something in terms of mechanics when driving. I’ve still yet to play Heat, but it is one I’m wanting to get to. As Ghost Games’ last, it will be interesting to compare their first solo effort to their last.

As for Criterion and the newest game they are working on ready for the next generation (for a release in 2021, I expect), I hope it can be as great as these two games rolled into one. Featuring the exploration of Most Wanted with the tightness in mission structure (and the cops and crooks concept) of Hot Pursuit, and a map that I’ll want to be exploring featuring plenty of variety.