The Beautiful Game: The Witcher 3 Wild Hunt

I laid low this weekend just passed.

It was a delightful couple days of solid gaming immersion in The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt.

And whilst playing, I was repeatedly struck by the same thought...

This is a fucking beautiful generation.

Seriously, if you are on a PS4, Xbox One or PC, set your pad down and just gawp and the incredible worlds rendering before you. 

Look...

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Jeezus, it's a living breathing digital canvas that is so stunning it hurts my heart.

I can't canter for more than a minute in Wild Hunt without my thumb slipping over the Dual Shock share button. 

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Do you blame me? Merely traversing a ridge, I am greeted by egg yolk sunsets melting into rose pink skies...

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But the Lord both giveth and taketh away with the same hand - all this eye heroin is severely slowing my game progress.

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How am I supposed to swiftly level-up by checking-off quests and hacking lumps out of monstrosities when I am perpetually distracted by feathered clouds sailing past ivory midnight moons?

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But then again the slowed pace of advancement is a small price to pay when the holistic experiences of walking in Geralt of Rivia's muddied boots, or riding atop his trusty steed Roach, are so glorious.

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It takes a unique digital craftsmanship to make brutal killing fields so darn pretty...

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Fuck it, if you really start to feel like you are losing all hope for humankind...

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...you can always abandon the land and cast adrift for yet endless tides of emotion-swelling vistas...

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So many, many delightful moments, and I have barely scratched the surface of this masterpiece.

Kudos CD Projekt Red! 

 

WYWH Postcard: Mount Chiliad GTA San Andreas

Wish you were here (WYWH)...

An unmistakeable tingle of exhilaration tickled my scalp as I lined the motorbike up with the ramp projecting forth from Mount Chiliad. 

Fingers clamped tight on the brake, I gunned the throttle, inching the bike forward. Rubber smoke burned as the back wheel chewed dirt. 

Adrenaline rushing, Dan Peek's soft vocals drifted in over the radio, bringing a bipolar serenity to the moment...

'I've been through the desert on a horse with no name
It felt good to be out of the rain
In the desert you can remember your name
'Cause there ain't no one for to give you no pain
La, la ...'

I emancipated the brake - the engine squealed like a furious warthog as it crotch-rocketed me up the ramp, off the mountain face, and into a stunning clear blue sky of certain death...

...Were it not for the parachute I had found twenty seconds earlier.

A big grin stretched across my face as I jettisoned my steel-stallion, free-falling briefly before pulling the cord on my pack to open the chute.

And at once all was Zen.

I floated through the air mesmerized by the stunning Californian vista below, as wind currents softly whispered. 

A recurring critique of the GTA games, more so San Andreas and IV, is that their anti-hero protagonists and underworld plotlines yield a grim, morally questionable, and ultimately depressing player experience. 

I get this, and absolutely, the vast majority of my GTA hours have been logged committing criminal misdemeanours, atrocities and nefarious acts of chaos. But every once in a while, I would lay down my AK, and set out to peacefully explore its enticing expanse.

This was the story of one of those days, when I discovered an unsuspecting dirt track leading off from the gray highway, and happened upon my first ever GTA base jump atop Mount Chiliad.

Even now, I still vividly recall it as one of my fondest gaming moments, and there wasn't a bullet ridden NPC in sight.

Though the motocross bike did explode in a ball of flames.

I hope I didn't injur the Yeti.  

WYWH Postcard: Super Mario Bros. 2

Wish you were here (WYWH)...

Don't get me wrong I was excited when I first played Super Mario Bros, Super Mario World, Sonic etc. But none of them quite stirred my tummy and widened my eyes like Super Mario Bros. 2.

You can choose your character? You don't have to be Mario? You pick up and throw enemies? There aren't any blocks to smash with your head?

Thoughts like this, and hundreds more, rattled in my brain whilst I hurdled through the air with Luigi's gravity defying jumps.  

And it looked beautiful - cartoony sprites with discernible features and limbs set against colourful exotic backdrops. 

Of course I, like 99% of Western players at the time, didn't know that Super Mario Bros. 2 was effectively a re-skin of the already popular Japanese platformer Doki Doki Panic (the original Japanese commercial is essential viewing). To eight-year-old me, it was an unpredictable, unexpected, thrilling new adventure.

And because it was, and has since remained, so markedly different a Super Mario Bros game, it is my most favourite 2D title in the series. 

Yep, I like it more than Super Mario Bros. 3 and Super Mario World.

 (But its-a-meeee-Mario64 is still the tops)

Excellent playthrough video here

Golden Age: Back To Skool

The only feeling I can aliken it to, is the first time I played GTA III. Back to Skool blew my five-year-old mind. I had not long before started Primary School, and unbelievably through my ZX Spectrum, I could enter a portal into an alternate world where I was literally the worst pupil ever and wreak absolute havoc.

Back to Skool did have structure/ a path for its hero Eric, but to this day, I still don't know what it was. Like contemporary sandbox games, I purely reveled in breaking rules and evading capture (though the Headmaster always got me in the end).

The freedom to brazenly up and walk out of classes, randomly punch other students, write swear words on the blackboard, chuck stink bombs, fire catapults and shoot water pistols at unsuspecting innocents made Back to Skool a perpetual spring of mischievous joy.

And all of this on a 128k ZX Spectrum?  

It even had a great theme tune, which I can still hum today... 

WYWH Postcard: GTA V Tripping

Wish you were here (WYWH)...

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GTA V is a troubled work of genius. Never has a digital world been so broad, inventive and authentic a replication of contemporary American society and culture. True it may hit some foul notes with its tongue in cheek bleakness, but it is almost always interesting, forever driving the player to think aloud 'how in God's name did they make all of this'. 

Of all the memorable moments in GTA V I have experienced so far, Michael's acid trip free-fall through the Los Santos night sky, to C90s 'Shine a Light' (Flight Facilities Remix) has to be the most joyously, what-the-fuck, jaw-dropping. 

If you haven't played this scene, well, you are missing out. If you have, then I know you can dig it brother.

Either way, witness the build up and detonation here, things start taking off around five minutes in. 

WYWH Postcard: Journey

Wish you were here (WYWH)...

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Played through Journey again the other night. This game is remarkable - a near perfect distillation of The Hero's Journey in game medium. Like its story, the controls are simple and intuitive (two buttons, two sticks), meaning that almost anyone can play and experience the wonder. 

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And don't get me started on the soundtrack, the score, an invisible force, moves the player through both trial and victory, like a tide, rising, crashing, and ultimately dissolving.

A must-play masterpiece. See more moments below... 

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