Friday 28 October 2016

The Crazy Train Podcast! Episode 42 - That's Incestitive...

In Episode 42 of The Crazy Train, host Rob Wade is joined by Brad Harmer-Barnes, Sour Crouch and Blake Harmer! It's our first show in a short while, but we're in our new recording area and it's a positive change!

We talk about Rob's trip to Iceland. This results in a game called "HOW MUCH?!" We then field a listener from American Frank, of the "We.Are.Frank" podcast, about our local area of Medway in the UK. In the meantime we talk centaurs and incest. In other words, we've not missed a step. Get On Board The Crazy Train!

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Wednesday 26 October 2016

A.J Waters' Spoiler-Free Review: Vermintide

Before we start, I’d just like to begin by saying that I am a huge Warhammer fan and have been for more than 20 years. So when I heard that there was this game where you could battle hordes of Skaven (or rat people, to the newbies and heathens), I wanted in! What’s great about this game is that it’s enjoyable whether you’re a fan of Warhammer or not! However, like all games, it is not without its faults. Let’s get the shit stuff out of the way first and end on a high!

Now, as you may have heard, this game’s mechanics is very similar to those of the killer zombie franchise Left 4 Dead, where you and a group of friends are thrown into the thick of it and are asked to clear the way of baddies and work as a team to complete the objective. Vermintide is exactly that, straight up - Balls deep into the action with plenty of firepower to make an 80s action movie. With that being said, here are the negatives.

Now, as a multiplayer game, you really do need to be careful about who you have on your team. Ideally, you're going to want a group of friends (or reliable gamers in your online friends list who actually have the game), so that there can be an open line of communication, utilising the “team” element as much as possible. If not, you will run the risk of being thrown into a game via the matchmaking process in which you may well be paired with idiots.

This, of course, isn’t the game’s fault by any means, it’s most likely a result of poor parenting. However, it’s pretty much the same outcome if you don’t have any friends to play with or if the matchmaking system doesn’t pair you up with anybody, because they will, instead, just give you a team of AI bots, which – in all fairness to the developers – fucking suck. I mean, seriously. Don’t get me wrong, they know how to swing a sword, but when it comes to reviving/saving you, they just stand and stare like twisted voyeurs who seem to get off on your suffering.

However, that being said, at least when a loot rat turns up, and you spend the best part of three minutes trying to kill the fucker only to then get a strangle rat lassoing you, the AI won’t steal your hard-earned loot before attempting to revive you. On that, another point altogether. Loot isn’t shared. This is a bit of a piss-take. Potions and bombs and shit seem to be in good supply for everyone, but when it comes to loot dice (a mechanic that gives you a greater chance of scoring better prizes in the post-mission screen), it’s first come first served, no matter who opened the chest, killed the boss, killed the loot rat etc. So if you’re down, everyone can just steal the shit before letting you up, which is fucking bullshit.

Also, now I may be alone in this, but as far as I can tell, each character seems to be pretty much the same thing, only with a different skin. Don’t get me wrong - they're great characters and a lot of fun to play, but from what I can make out, none is particularly different to the other as far as damage, range, accuracy, strength et cetera, which is weird because you’d image the mage would take less damage than your “tank” character and what have you (I know, I’m being racist).

So far, though, that doesn’t seem to be the case. I mean, even the blunderbuss (with its wide crosshairs, indicating inaccuracy) seems to hit stuff pretty well at a distance. I dunno, maybe it’s just me. So really, it doesn’t matter which character you get left with in a multiplayer game, chances are there isn’t anything it can do that others can’t or vice versa. All in all, everybody wins.

Another thing this game needs is a pin-down failsafe. We get it, that when an assassin jumps on you or if a strangle rat lassos you, you want to have the other players come and save you before you can do anything as you’re left helpless or “pinned down”. That being said, after a suitable amount of time, you should be able to free yourself (with a health penalty or something, to keep it fair) because as mentioned before, AI players or certain real players (read: dicks) will not come and save you. Instead they'll leave you to bleed out, die, forcing you to start over again (which is apparently your fault, even though it’s their job to come and save you. Funny that, innit?).

Now, to the good points!

The story is simple. You’re the Empire, Skaven are in your town and you want them to fuck off. No messing around. It's kill, kill, kill! I love it! I mean, don’t get me wrong, they do seem to throw in the odd conversation between the characters to try and give these mundane heroes a backstory that no one could give two fucks about. We can’t blame them for trying. The baddies are great in this game, too. They haven’t strayed away from the original monsters which I love! You have your normal foot soldiers and gutter-runners, assassins (the pricks who can pin you down), slave masters (that can lasso you, the pricks), ogres (which are rat monsters on steroids and act as their tanks, the pricks), and plenty of others that I will leave for you to find out for yourselves (the pricks).

Your characters, as much as they don’t particularly differ as far as abilities go, have a great array of weapons too! Each character has a melee weapon as well as a long-range ouch-maker for good measure, plus the opportunity to find/forge better weapons and armour. That combined with the levelling system give this game a great sense of accomplishment and goal making to keep you interested.

You get the choice of doing story mode, so you can do levels in order and such, or there’s just the quick game option so that you can get thrown in anywhere at whatever difficulty level you want with your mates and ting. Despite its issues, I also like the post-game looting system where you get to roll dice to find out how good your reward is. Plus, the forging mechanic is good fun and keeps you invested as far as farming goes.

All in all, this is a great game to be had if you and some friends just wanna unwind, have a laugh and spill some blood. It’s definitely more of a social game than one to be binged and the buttons are so easy (and the storyline unmemorable, in a good way) that you can literally leave the game for ages and come back to it without getting enraged and confused. The only thing I would add, is that there is no map or objective marker system, so prepare yourself to walk around in circles in the sewers for a bit.

Definitely worth the price tag (a first for Games Workshop, amirite?). Just make sure you have a reliable team to really get the most out of this game, otherwise it will just leave a sour taste in your mouth.

Aaron's Spoiler-Free Review - 7/10 – Good, but don’t go it alone.

AJ Waters is a pulp fiction writer from Kent in England, who specialises in horror and flash fiction. With a novella in the works, AJ Waters is an up & comer in the British pulp scene.

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Saturday 22 October 2016

E14 Toybox #6 - Putting A Team Together!

In the latest Toybox, Rob is putting together a team for a Heroclix charity game! In the intro, Rob details the rules of the scenario. In the second part, the team is displayed, and in the finale Rob returns to tell us how the game went!

Rob Wade blogs about stuff he likes. Whether it's video games or geek media for Emotionally14 or writing about speculative theories for future films on Talk Star Wars, the focus is always on the stuff that brings the most pleasure to his life within media. Rob is the host of the E14 podcasts "The Crazy Train" and "The E14 Gamecast", as well as the host of The E14 Toybox on E14's Youtube channel. He also appears on the Talk Star Wars podcasts.

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Wednesday 19 October 2016

A.J Waters' Spoiler-Free Review: Gears Of War 4

Now, as the title suggests, this is going to be a spoiler-free zone as far as Gears of War 4 goes. However, I am just going to go ahead and assume that, seeing as you are reading this and taking an interest, you have played and completed the games in the franchise that came before it. So if you’ve not completed its predecessors but plan to in the coming days, weeks or months, then I suggest you scream at your computer, hit yourself in the ear a couple of times and look away now. Seriously. There will be spoilers.

Dom dies in the third one. See? That could’ve been avoided if you just did as you were told. So are we ready? Excellent. Now then, let’s move on.

As far back as I can remember with the Xbox 360, I have been a huge fan of the Gears of War franchise. The characters, the story, the badass weapons, the way that the Carmine family can’t even soldier, and even the varieties of Locust that try to drink your bloodzies. There have been plenty of games that provide you with deep character profiles, customisable mechanics, plot twists, alternative endings with multiple choice decisions, breath-taking cinematics and OSTs that just make your heart pound.

By contrast, Gears of War said ‘Fuck all that!’ and just gave you balls-deep gun action until your thumbs hurt. And that’s all we’ve come to expect from The Coalition (and formerly Epic Games) when it comes to this particular co-op friendly series that gamers across the globe have had such an amazing relationship with. However, like all relationships, we’ve noticed that this certain love of ours has picked up some very annoying habits along the way.

Let’s start from the beginning. Gears of War 4 takes place 25 years after the war against the Locust has ended and all is well in the world. Well, sort of. Marcus’ kid takes the lead role and he is somewhat of a shit, running around with some raggedy-arsed “outsiders” (their word, not mine) and stealing stuff from the COG for a living. So with that, you get to fight some COG-Manufactured robots (after all, we can’t have you killing living members of the COG, that would defeat the purpose) and it’s a mechanic I found to be a breath of fresh air into this very linear but lovable franchise. But wait…

Shortly into the game I found that I cared very little about the main characters, a new trio going by the names JD (that’s Marcus’s kid), Kait and Del. JD is a very two-dimensional character that I personally couldn’t stand. I don’t know what it was, but I just couldn’t relate to the guy. Kait, probably the best of the bunch, was a character with potential, but whose only function (at the fault of the developers) seemed to be to appeal to female players. I mean that in the most cynical way possible, in a way that almost seemed alienating, as though she was created by a bunch of guys who knew nothing about what women wanted, but thought “Yeah, that’ll keep the feminists off our backs!"

It's to the point that it made her quite unlikable, and without going into too much depth there's a bit in a hospital that feels particularly clunky. It's a shame because she seems to be the only character who has more than one level to her personality. As for the character Del, well, he’s just your “Ah hell no” or “oh dayum!” comic relief black guy that, again, just gave me the impression that all the developers were not only all-male but also all-white, and maybe didn't know any black people apart from those off the TV. To sum up, the characters were crap. It's a shame, because I loved all the older characters in the past games, including all those Carmines that kept dying.

Another thing about these characters is that they tell way, WAY too many jokes all the time which just made them so irritating that I wanted nothing more than to brush their teeth with wire brush angle grinders until they finally stopped twitching and gave in to the sweet release of death. When they weren’t making crap jokes, they were constantly repeating themselves with poorly-timed audio bites. One in particular was Kait forever saying “Get back in your pod!” every fucking time she killed something, which made me want to put her in the naughty corner to think about what she’s done and that she’s not allowed to leave until all the Locust are dead. All of them. Every last one of them. And when I say ‘poorly-timed’, I mean exactly that. For example, you’d be in the middle of a firefight, bullets flying everywhere, you’ve already dropped six Locust and someone will suddenly blurt out “we’ve got a Locust!”. Really? You think so? Because I would never have fucking guessed! And don’t get me started on the AI. Too late! I’ve started!

In the old days, it was a pretty level playing field. Everyone shot at everyone and everything was fun, furious – but fair – mayhem. Nope. Not anymore. Now the baddies will come after YOU. And just YOU. They don’t care about the other Gears shooting at them anymore. In fact, they will even barge past the other Gears, completely ignoring them, just to come after you, which sucks. Another crap mechanic of this game was the new Storm flares they have. This isn’t a flare you throw at things. No, no, no, this is an electrical storm that they keep trying to use as a plot device every few chapters because they can’t be arsed to think of anything else to throw the game off balance. Plus, when it comes to your teammates reviving you, they will (6 times out of 10) run over to you, and just stare at you while you bleed out.

You think I hate this game. Don’t you?

Well, on to the good stuff!

I have to say, as far as the baddies go, there are some awesome new additions thrown in to keep the combat fresh and playful, like, seriously! Whether it’s the comical – yet somewhat terrifying – juvies that come at you 30 at a time at great speed, the new pouncers and snatchers that take hella damage and don’t take no for an answer, or what are called Carriers (and not for the reasons you think), I loved them all! Plus, as I mentioned before, you get to fight robots! Yes! Sounds mad, doesn’t it? But it works! And you fight them with what, you might ask? I’ll tell you what: awesome new guns! Man oh man, the new guns for this latest offering in the Gears franchise will make you wonder how you coped without them all this time! They are bangin’! I really was impressed with the new arsenal of snipers, assault weapons, explosives and more!

Also if you’re that way inclined, the online gaming side of it is stupidly fun! This is smooth, frantic PVP that the likes of Gears has not quite nailed like this before and I have to say I was stupidly impressed with how fluid the online gaming element was (even more so than the campaign, so what does that tell ya?). I think there can be hours of fun to be had with just the online mode ‘Horde 3.0’ where you take on wave after wave after wave of baddies with your mates (or strangers) with new defenses, those delicious new weapons I told you about, and razor-sharp performance. Ruddy top, that is, guvnor!

So all in all, I think the story and new characters were literally thrown together overnight on this one, which is a real shame, because like I’d mentioned before, I am a huge GOW fan and have been since day one, so this was kind of a let-down as far as the main story is concerned. However, the price tag is redeemed (for me, at least) with the fantastic online modes that are on offer. It’s just a shame we had to wait so long for such a wet bag of dead snakes, and I’ve literally no idea what that means.

Aaron's Verdict: 6/10 - Wait for a price drop.

AJ Waters is a pulp fiction writer from Kent in England, who specialises in horror and flash fiction. With a novella in the works, AJ Waters is an up & comer in the British pulp scene.

AJ Waters on Amazon
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Friday 14 October 2016

E14 Toybox #5: The Quest Constantinues...(Booster 2)

In this edition of the E14 Toybox, intrepid host Rob Wade continues his search for the elusive Mr Constantine, after having established that a name change and format change does not a successful pull make.

For a bit of additional fun, during the video, Rob uses the Starfighter52 scoring system, made famous by this channel:

Starfighter52 on Youtube

The scoring system works thusly:

Rules for this challenge:

Chases are worth 10pts
Super rares are worth 5pts
Primes are 3pts
Extra pieces (Clix FX, attachable piece, etc) is 2pts
Each trait is worth .25pts or 1/4 pts

Booster score: 10 3/4 (1 Chase, 3 traits)

Rob Wade blogs about stuff he likes. Whether it's video games or geek media for Emotionally14 or writing about speculative theories for future films on Talk Star Wars, the focus is always on the stuff that brings the most pleasure to his life within media. Rob is the host of the E14 podcasts "The Crazy Train" and "The E14 Gamecast", as well as the host of The E14 Toybox on E14's Youtube channel. He also appears on the Talk Star Wars podcasts.

Rob Wade on Twitter

Friday 7 October 2016

E14 Toybox #4 - September "Marvel Universe" Zbox!

In today's edition of the E14 Toybox, Rob tackles the September Zbox! The September Zbox was Marvel themed, so Rob predicted Dr. Strange would turn up, as well as Black Panther and Spider-Man.

Zboxes, for those unfamiliar, are Zavvi's answer to a subscription box like Lootcrate. For a fixed price every month, they will send you a box of geek-friendly goodies! Ranging from puzzles to Pop! Vinyl figures to books, and even throwing a T-shirt in for good measure (and they do measure them well, they're a lovely fit), subscription boxes have become somewhat of a staple for those looking to retain some mystery in their purchasing.

What will Rob find in this month's Zbox? There's only one way to find out!

Well, there are several, but watching the video is the best! Rob really liked the contents of this month's box, so hopefully you'll enjoy watching it just as much!

If you like the box, why not check out Zavvi's subscription boxes online?

About The Zbox