Weekend Whammy

Weekend Whammy: Mass Effect Andromeda Remaster, Maneater & Mafia

Hello my dear readers, my dear friends, my dear comrades in video games! Let’s jump right into this, shall we? This week I’m talking about the Mafia remasters, Maneater, the Unreal Engine 5 demo and a Mass Effect: Andromeda remaster.

I walloped out a few reviews over the past couple of weeks, starting with Shred 2, following that up with the very enjoyable Before We Leave and finally tackling the Saint’s Row 3 remaster! I made a mistake in that review by listing Volition as the developer of the remaster, when in fact it’s the awesome people at Sperasoft who did the excellent work. It’s a damn fine remaster of a really fun game.

I also put out a ranking of the Tony Hawk games to celebrate the recent announcement of Tony Hawk Pro Skater 1 + 2, a remake of the first two games. A staggering amount of my childhood was spent racking up insane combos in the Tony Hawk games, especially Pro Skater 2. I’m pretty excited about the franchise coming back and this remake hopefully remedying the crapness that was Tony Hawk Pro Skater HD and Pro Skater 5.

I’ve got a couple more reviews coming this week. The first is for Maneater, a game which claims to be a shark RPG, which might be the coolest thing I get to type all year. I’ve put a lot of time into it over the weekend and the review should go live tomorrow, provided I don’t look back at my work, panic and frantically delete the whole lot. It’s a really fun game with some big problems holding it back from true greatness. It actually feels like it would have been perfect for Gamespass.

Speaking of remasters we got the lovely surprise announcement of a complete remake of the original Mafia, a remaster of the second game and a re-release of Mafia 3 with all the DLC included. Mafia 2’s remaster is already out. I really enjoyed Mafia 2 when it first came out, but I’ve been disappointed to learn that the remaster seems to have a whole lot of issues such as poor performance. Given how good the Saints Row: The Third remaster once it’s a real blow to learn that the same care wasn’t given to Mafia 2. However, on the other hand the complete remake for the original Mafia looks beautiful. Here’s hoping that when it launches in August it’ll wash away the sour taste of Mafia 2’s remaster.

The other review will be for Huntdown, the side-scrolling shooter that pays homage to every 80s action film ever made. It’s challenging, it’s fun, it’s worth playing. I think I just spoiled my own review.

Thanks to a question asked over on the amazing Triple Jump podcast I’ve been thinking about what games from this generation of consoles I’d like to see get remastered or even remade. There’s honestly not a lot because this generation of games already looks great, but you just know that with the PS5 and Xbox Series X there’s going to be a wave of remastered games arriving at some point. So, the game I landed on was actually Mass Effect: Andromeda. A remaster could potentially clean up a lot of the visual problems which would go a long way to improving the game. And a remake could realize the potential that I believe Andromeda. Sure, I didn’t love the game but I did have some fun with it. I think even a remaster with some light gamplay tweaks could make it worth replaying.

Are there any games from the Xbox One/PS4/Switch generation you’d like to see get remastered on the next gen consoles? Or do you hope that the industry will leave this generation alone for a while and focus on older titles?

One cool thing we got to see was a demo for Unreal Engine 5 which was running on a PS5, which was a nice piece of smart advertising from Sony. Shocking nobody, Unreal Engine 5 looks gorgeous, but the really exciting things are what it means for developers. If it does as promised and if I’m understanding everything correctly the new engine should cut out a bunch of steps in asset creation. That should mean a lot less hours of work, cheaper development costs and it should let developers get to the more creative side of things far quicker. Smaller teams should also get big benefits from this, letting them build beautiful games without having to spend so much to do it.

So a big thank you to the thousands of kids spending money on Fortnite for funding this brand new, glorious engine!

As a nice bonus Epic also announced that developers won’t have to pay to use Unreal Engine until after the game makes at least $1-million in profit. That’s awesome news for budding developers and small companies. They’ll get to use one of the most popular game engines around for free, up until they earn enough where the fee shouldn’t make too bad a dent in their success.

I worked my way through The Black Hawks, a fantasy novel by David Wragg that follows Chel, a pretty regular guy who winds up having to escort a teenage prince across the land while also falling in with the titular Black Hawks. It has an intriguing plot and a cast of colourful characters I enjoyed learning more about. Although the writing didn’t blow me away it was a solid read, especially if you like your fantasy with a lot of fucking swearing. Possibly too much, actually.

However, the book did commit a most egregious sin, my dear readers, by not hinting anywhere in the blurb that it’s actually the first book in a series. Damn it. I picked it up looking for a nice, middle-sized, standalone read and wound up discovering that I’d just read the first book in a new series by hitting a massive cliffhanger ending that resolves very little. *Breathes in* FUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUCK!

Look, I love a good series. I just finished up Lightbringer, after all, and am patiently waiting for Patrick Ruthfuss to hurry up and get book three out, please, Mr. Ruthfuss, sir. But that’s also the problem: Blackhawks only came out late last year. There’s no word on when book two might be arriving. Had I known this was the first book in a new series I honestly probably would have waited to read it until I knew a second book was definitely happening or until I felt mentally ready to commit myself to yet another multi-book relationship. It’s like dating someone believing that you’re both in it for a bit of fun and then finding out that they’ve actually been planning a wedding the whole time.

Ah well. It was still a good book and I do look forward to seeing what happens in the next instalment. Probably some time in 2035 or something. Or maybe Wragg will be one of those writers who gets his book out in under a year.

I’ve also been reading Kingdom, a book about The Kingdom, a Disney-land style park filled with extremely advanced hybrids. The scientists there have brought back long-extinct species using crazy technology. But the star attraction are the Fantasists, seven lifelike princesses who the guests can interact with, get their picture taken with, admire and love. If it all sounds a bit like Westworld then you’d be right as it does deal with questions of when artificial life becomes real, and the moral implications of bringing back dead species for our amusement.

As for the actual plot, we follow Ana, one of the seven princesses. As the book opens we discover that Ana is on trial for murdering someone, and from there we get a series of flashback,s and trial transcripts and interviews between Ana and a cdoctor that fill in exactly what happened. It’s fascinating stuff, and while the 300 pages don’t let Jess Rothenberg get deep into a lot of the implications behind everything, she uses that nice, light page count to tell a compelling story. If nothing else the premise alone of a Disneyland princess that has been artificially created is pretty awesome. Occasionally the prose gets a bit too flowery for my personal tastes, but it does at least make sense because Ana is a fan of classic literature.

Overall, while I haven’t finished The Kingdom yet I think it’s worth picking up if the idea appeals to you.

I also parked my butt down and watched the Sonic the Hedgehog movie and it was…actually not bad. It was nothing special but I had a couple of laughs. Jim Carrey made an excellent Doctor Robotnik, too. But I’m not sure why they set it on Earth. That’s just so boooooooring. We get the briefest glimpse of Greenhill Zone before we are whisked away to dull old Earth to hang around with humans. Why? At least give us ten or twenty minutes in Greenhill proper. Ah well, maybe if we get a sequel.

That’ll do it for this one, my fine fellow fleshy humans. I hope you’re keeping yourselves safe out there, and a big thank you to every key worker who is busy stocking shelves, keeping the lights on, collecting the bins and keeping the Internet running so that we can all retain our sanity. You are truly the best of us.

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