Entertainment |

Call of Duty Black Ops: Cold War review: a chilly breath of fresh air

By Joshua Appadoo November 16, 2020

Few things are certain in life: death, taxes and a new Call of Duty game every year. 2019’s Modern Warfare reboot put the game back in a positive light within the gaming community; can Call of Duty Black Ops: Cold War continue the positivity?

If you were to ask any avid Call of Duty player which game in the long-running series is their favourite, the first Black Ops game is almost certainly in their top three (and Ghosts is bound to be at the bottom). The original Black Ops really made the series what it is today, improving upon so many features and feeling like a finished, polished product worth sharing with the world. I know that for me, Black Ops came at a time right smack-bang in the middle of high school – and obviously became the perfect after-school entertainment to enjoy with mates online.

Call of Duty Black Ops: Cold War is the sixth instalment in the Black Ops series, and the seventeenth CoD game since 2003. Set in the ‘80s and positioned as the direct sequel to the original Black Ops game, Cold War really brings back so much nostalgia, and yet again improves upon already perfected and seamless gameplay. Whether you’re excited to see where the Black Ops narrative will take us next, or whether you really want to keep prestiging and max out the level of every weapon, Cold War is sure to keep you interested.

It also wouldn’t be a Black Ops game without zombies! The cult classic mode returns with Cold War, which means I am going to be getting a lot less work done… Except if that work is fighting zombies. Online or local splitscreen is available for all of us to get back into horde-slaying action and really push to see what round we can get to. (Seriously though, some of the round records I’ve seen for the original Black Ops are ridiculous.)

Building upon what 2019’s Modern Warfare reboot put into motion, Warzone continues its way through Black Ops: Cold War. With the new ‘Military Rank’ replacing the original ‘Enlisted Rank’ (1-55) XP will not only be shared between Black Ops: Cold War and Modern Warfare, but the new zombies mode will also contribute to your overall rank! Whichever game is your flavour you can be assured you’ll be making progress.

In my opinion Cold War is the breath of fresh air the Call of Duty franchise needs to keep on bringing year after year. It’s what 2010-era, high-school-student me always wanted, with a modern twist. With all the new maps and weapons coming to Warzone thanks to Cold War later on this year, it too is sure to keep you happy, immersed and satisfied all throughout summer.

Entertainment |

Assassin’s Creed Valhalla review: beautiful, gruesome Viking history

By Joshua Appadoo November 10, 2020

Sharpen those axes, comb out your beards and grab a coat, because we’re heading to the Viking age with Assassin’s Creed Valhalla.

The new Assassin’s Creed is here – and now on the shiny new Xbox Series X and S – to educate us all yet again on obscure historical events; this time we’re in the Viking age. Our main character Eivor guides us through the frozen tundras of Norway and open fields of England as he finds a home for his people to settle down in.

Being a huge Assassin’s Creed fan myself, I couldn’t pull myself away from this latest entry in the series! It builds on everything I loved from the newly reinvigorated and reinvented Assassin’s Creedtrilogy arc of the series that Ubisoft started back in 2017. In Valhalla, Ubisoft has brought life to one of the most fan-requested time periods, and it was a blast to explore.

Whether I found myself scaling the cliffs of Rygjafylke or galloping through the countryside of Oxenefordscire on horseback, there’s always so much to see and explore and Valhalla does an incredible job at making you want to explore. Some games tie your character’s in-game progress to how much of the map you’ve explored – that’s thankfully not present in this game. The exploration comes both naturally and innately, which makes the story progression flow nicely – it feels like you’re the one changing history (and all from the comfort of your couch)!

The combat, too, was really refreshing! The developers have both managed to make it feel like Odysseyand Origins, earlier entries in the series, while still adding new features to distinguish it from them. Features like dual-wielding return, which I haven’t seen in Assassin’s since Origins back in 2017. The ability to wield two weapons is great on its own, but they’ve expanded it even further, allowing you to pick how you dual wield – shield in one hand and mace in the other, two axes, or even two shields?! The possibilities are endless and very fluid; the combat doesn’t feel like you’re mashing the same buttons to get the same moves, and all weapons perform differently in their own right.

One of the most interesting and enjoyable elements that I found in Assassin’s Creed Valhalla was your town. As you play through the game, you’ll have to start your town anew, constructing new buildings and upgrading existing ones. But, of course, if you’re gonna build, you need supplies – and the only way you’re going to get them is through raiding towns and cities throughout England. So grab your axe and board your longship – there’s building to be done.

I really found myself staring off into the distance with this title. Valhalla has beautifully rendered the gorgeous English countryside, and equally beautiful yet gruesome Viking culture on the other side of the Channel that I wouldn’t have experienced otherwise. Grab it today and play it on the Xbox Series X for a gaming experience that tops all others in my book!

Entertainment |

Unboxing the Xbox Series X: our hands-on review

By Joshua Appadoo November 6, 2020

So, it’s finally here – the next generation of console gaming is within arm’s reach, and many people around the world will be unboxing their own Xbox Series X very soon!

It’s been a journey to get to this point, but the end result is oh so satisfying. I have to say, the team at Xbox has really outdone themselves this time – the Series X console stands up to the hype I’ve been building up inside my own head for months and months, and I’ve been waiting, wanting, desiring and imagining this moment for quite a while.

The Xbox Series X’s aesthetics are gorgeous – I’m very thankful for the different approach that Xbox took to the console’s industrial design, so it doesn’t just blend in with other set top boxes and game consoles. In its vertical position, it stands out as a monolith amongst other older consoles; it even reminds me of a desktop PC tower. While I was setting up the console, I found myself stopping just to look at it properly because once it’s plugged in you’ll rarely move it again. It’s worth taking the time to really look at this marvel, especially if you’ve spent the last 6 to 12 months looking at it online already!

They’ve conquered it in the looks department but, how does it perform? In short, incredibly well. The Series X supports high resolutions and frame rates all the way up to 4K and 120fps – and this means there’s never been a better time or a better reason to upgrade your TV! Ensure your TV (or the one you’re eyeing off in the store) is rocking HDMI 2.1 to take advantage of those high refresh rates for buttery smooth gameplay. We’re already familiar with pretty lighting, water and facial features in modern games, but nothing prepared me for what Series X was pushing out! You can see the pores on characters’ faces, individual droplets of water dripping off clothing, and rays of light reflecting gorgeously off water. I hope you’re ready to spend some time gawking at the sea!

That being said, I’m very excited for the existing Xbox One games that are being optimised for the Series X! The ease of use of Xbox Game Pass, and the movement of much-loved titles to the new console, is so easy that it barely requires anything of the user. Seeing some of my favourite titles easily playable on the Xbox Series X is a sigh of relief – no more re-buying of my games, and no back and forth on the phone to tech support to get them to work. All this insane performance won’t be wasted either, we’ll have game worlds unlike any others before. So depending where you are in your gaming journey, go back and play some gems like Alan Wake, Mirror’s Edge or even re-experience Halo on this powerhouse of a console. Thanks to Xbox All Access, it’s very hard to find yourself without a game to play – there’s always new games being brought forward for both old and young audiences to enjoy.

The games that launch in the early stages of a new console generation always excite me the most. They’re either created with the previous generation in mind, so everyone can enjoy them, or they are a title that manages to use the new technology in an innovative way to bring us gameplay we’ve never experienced before.

The innovation that we see in games with every new generation is a great time to get into gaming, and I’m personally on the edge of my seat waiting to see what developers do next with the most powerful console ever.

You can get hold of Xbox Series X as part of Telstra’s exclusive Xbox All Access offer. Available as a monthly package for Telstra consumer postpaid customers, Xbox All Access includes a new Xbox console of your choice and access to over 100 games and online multiplayer through Xbox Game Pass Ultimate. The flagship Xbox Series X bundle with Xbox All Access costs $46 a month (min cost $1104 when you stay connected for 24 months plus your plan charges). For more info on the packages or how to order, head to our Xbox All Access site.

Telstra News |

Watch Dogs: Legion review: a new twist in the series

By Joshua Appadoo October 30, 2020

If you’re looking to express your inner rebel and push back against tyranny, control and abuse, look no further than Watch Dogs: Legion.

The third instalment in the Watch Dogs series is here – it’s actually the series that briefly inspired me to try to learn to code and study computer science. Surprise surprise, I didn’t pursue that career, but I can still live out those hackerman fantasies in the world of Watch Dogs: Legion! 

Back in 2014, Ubisoft started this all off with one of my top 10 games ever: Watch Dogs – it absolutely changed the open-world gaming scene, with one original gameplay mechanic that the genre hadn’t had in years. Some of the big open-world players like The Elder Scrolls V: SkyrimGrand Theft Auto and Far Cry are popular enough (and are good games) to have no need to innovate. Then Watch Dogs came along and really changed the way I play.  

The game’s hacking mechanic really opens your eyes to new possibilities and routes to take out your enemies – it was so refreshing and done incredibly well in earlier Watch Dogs games. In my opinion, Watch Dogs: Legion really took the phrase “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” and ran with it! 

Hacking within the game is as smooth and fluid as ever. So far within my playthrough, the most overpowered tool I’ve come across is the spider bot – stealthy and small yet packed with the tools you need to scope out an area and hack your target. If you do happen to get caught within enemy territory, the ‘Electro-Fist’ will really sort them out; non-lethal and with a one hit KO, it really is a no-brainer to keep equipped. 

We can’t talk about Watch Dogs: Legion without bringing up one of its newest features, which is so subtle yet so much fun. New in this game is the ability to play as and recruit literally anyone on the streets of London. As something new, being given the freedom to build the team that I want is awesome! In the past, you needed to choose from the preset team members and mould your play style around what the devs gave you, but now it’s gone 180 – and you can make the game work for you! Pick YOUR team members and tackle problems how YOU want to; if you want the Golden Girls hacking dream team, you have the power to make it happen. 

To me, Watch Dogs: Legion is just enough of a fresh twist on a series I already love so much. It doesn’t feel like I’m playing an extension of one of the older titles – it feels new, and I’m sure you’re going to enjoy just as much as I did! 

Check out the Watch Dogs: Legion website for more info on the game and how to get your hands on it. I played Watch Dogs: Legion on my Xbox One X.

Entertainment |

Tony Hawk Pro Skater 1+2: two classic games given new life

By Joshua Appadoo September 7, 2020

Tony Hawk is back and with a bang! Fans have been waiting for years for a remaster of Pro Skater 1 & 2; now it’s here in one game – and I am so keen!

I’ve spent hours upon hours grinding, flipping and 180-ing my way through all of Tony Hawk Pro Skater’s classic maps. (But, alas, I still can’t get past School, because I’m just awful.) Nonetheless, that doesn’t make this game any less enjoyable – the music, the tricks, the areas all make a comeback and will have you looking through nostalgia goggles the whole time. They’ve somehow managed to make perfection even better than I remember.

THPS 1 + 2’s excellent soundtracks make their return to jog your memory in the new game, along with 32 new tracks that fit the games’ atmosphere so so well. Billy Talent, Machine Gun Kelly and Skepta are just some of the artists you’ll find to serenade you as you compete for the high score or biggest combos!

The areas available to you both feel like home; they’re nostalgic yet new and exciting. You go in knowing and remembering where to do that kickflip or that manual. But in the remastered versions there’s just so much more added detail and new textures, added so tastefully as not to detract from the gameplay you know and love.

Tony Hawk’s™ Pro Skater™ 1 and 2 - Xbox

Tony Hawk’s customisation is also just as insane! If you can think of it you can make it – change all your tattoos, hairstyle, hair colour, clothes, wheels, trucks and everything else on your board. Create A Park also makes a return, even more chock full of features than before. Every ramp, table, rail and pipe under the sun is there for you to command and mold your creation with.

If the name Tony Hawk revives memories of after school skate sessions, playing video games on weekends or staying up late on school nights, these are the games for you. It is a very faithful remaster keeping with tradition, inspiring and celebrating all skaters around the world. 

Tony Hawk Pro Skater 1 + 2 is available now to play on Xbox One, PS4 and PC. I played it on the Xbox One X I have as part of my Xbox All Access package from Telstra.

(Note, Tony Hawk Pro Skater 1 + 2 is not part of the games library available through Xbox All Access and is a separate purchase.)

Tony Hawk’s™ Pro Skater™ 1 and 2 - Xbox