It’s been a while since my last post, and I wish I could say it’s because I’ve been super busy writing, but that’s not entirely true.
The last stretch of 2018 was busy, working, seeing relatives, eating like a pig, etc. It’s frustrating that I’ve not been keeping to my workout routines, or my running, but December is a month that tests all of us in lots of different ways. For me, it resulted in working more and comfort eating and seeing as many people as I could over the busy holiday period.
But I knew that once it was new year, I would do the typical “New Year, New Me” crap that everyone loves to do. I also knew, that I was a secret weapon to kick-start the process for myself. And it was cruel.
I’d signed up for the Garstang 10k Run, which I had not trained for whatsoever since November, and even then, my training was beginning to slip up, as was my diet. (My birthday is in November, I’m not made of stone.)
I’d been dreading it. I considered dropping out, and telling myself that I should do little runs, train up for the next one, whenever that comes around. (I am also going to sign up for the Manchester 10k Run too, so I have another running goal for the summertime!) But, I felt a bit like if I gave up, I’d ending up beating myself up about it relentlessly, and maybe even sink further into a rut over it. I would end up moping around about it, and fall into a little spiral, and it would take a huge blow to my self-confidence. So screw it, I went for it. I signed up to it, I should make sure I run it, right?
So I ran it yesterday. (On a cold, wet, windy and pretty horrid Sunday morning.) I wasn’t feeling at all confident at first. I was worried about my breathing, my legs, and how hilly the run would be, and I was right to be worried about all three. But, I just went for it. I didn’t go crazy and push myself too far. (I did almost have to have a tactical throw-up about 400 metres from the finish, which was a new and horrible sensation.)
But I finished. It was one of the worst 10k runs for me ever, only due to the amount of times I felt queasy whilst running, and the weather was pretty poor. But I felt amazing about myself afterwards. (aside from some chaffing – No, no I won’t go into it.) And whilst I’m hobbling around a bit today as a result, I feel pretty good about myself.
Okay, so far this whole first post back is just seems like me patting myself on the back, and okay, I am a little bit. But I don’t do it often, and I did come out the other end feeling incredibly motivated and encouraged for the rest of this year. I just need to keep that ball rolling, and don’t let it slow down too much.
But, writing and running, whilst both require a lot of self motivation, are completely different. I’m still a little worried about getting into the full swing of writing as much as I can, as often as I can. I need to find the same kind of motivation that I had in regards to running and apply it to my writing. I still want to keep this blog active, even if it’s only me reading it. (That and some of my friends who’re nice enough to let me bug them to read it!) But it’s going to be a new challenge.
If anyone has any advice for what personally helps to motivate them to sit down and start typing, especially if you’re trying to juggle things around as so many writers are so often doing, feel free to speak up!
I used to travel a fair amount when I was younger. Both my parents enjoyed going to new places when and where they could and wanted to bring me with them to experience other countries: try their cuisine, see the landscapes, and understand and appreciate the culture. I was always a bit nervous, but I embraced the experiences when and where I could.
Sadly, as I’ve gotten older, I don’t have as many opportunities to be able to jet off to new locations and adventure as much as I used to. But I didn’t want that to spell the end for trying to get out there and visit new places, and not end up in a rut of only going on a beach holiday to somewhere in Spain again and again.
So, me and my girlfriend had a sit down and had a think about what we could do that was both affordable, not -too- far away, and somewhere neither of us had been. We started by thinking of places we’d like to visit; Italy, Germany, Cyprus. We only wanted a long weekend away, just for a nice little bit of escapism. We finally decided on Dublin, Ireland. Neither of us had ever been, and we couldn’t get much closer to a short journey than that. I had always wanted to visit Ireland, after having learned a fair amount during my history lessons in college. Booking tickets was fairly priced, and we managed to find a nice place to stay in the Temple Bar area.
We’d decided to set off early and get one of the first flights out of Manchester to Dublin, so we could spend our first day exploring and getting our bearings without losing any precious time. It was a stress-free journey, at least in our experience. When your flight only lasts about 30 minutes in the air, you don’t exactly have much time to stress out about anything. I literally only got to read the first chapter of my book before we were already set for our descent.
Although it’d been an early start, as soon as we were able to drop-off our luggage at the hotel, we immediately set off to the nearest touristy sight – in this case, Dublin Castle. It was a lovely building, but only had fairly small bitesize bits of history dotted around. But then again, I’m a bit biased and could spend a long time just reading information about a place. Not that Dublin Castle wasn’t interesting, it was perfect weather to look around the castle grounds, and it is still an officially used building, so only part of it was open to the public.
What I really loved was just behind the castle: The Chester Beatty museum – a gentleman who I’d never heard of before, but left knowing a lot more about. Now I could go on for a while about this since I enjoyed it so much, so I’ll do my best to try and keep it brief.
Sir Alfred Chester Beatty, an American, nicknamed the “King of Copper” was something of a business legend for his time. Having made his fortune from mining in the United States, he had moved over to Dublin in 1950, and became a private citizen. Beatty was a collector; European, Asian, African and Middle-Eastern texts, objects, all sorts. Some items were hundreds of years old, from all the corners of the globe, all carefully preserved and cared for at the museum, which has been open to the public since 1954. Although a large amount were religious texts and manuscripts, this didn’t make it any less interesting whatsoever, as there was bundles of information for everything that was on display. Even though it wasn’t the largest museum, it did still contain a fair amount; and if you took the time to stop and read everything, you would still be there for a while and learn a lot too. Overall, I was a huge fan, and we even ended up stopping by again a couple of days later just to try and get a little memento from the gift shop.
We were a bit knackered after our first day, even though we hadn’t walked around too much. When searching for somewhere nice to eat in Temple Bar, we weren’t short of choices. We always try to make the effort to try and go somewhere completely new whenever we go anywhere, rather than restaurant chains which can be somewhat same-ish and a bit boring occasionally. We spent a lovely evening at a nice Japanese restaurant called “Eatokyo Noodles and Sushi Bar” where we subsequently stuffed our faces with Gyozas, Sushi, Japanese-style stir fry and Katsu Curry.
We’re big fans of Japanese food, and we jump at the chance to try somewhere that may have some different items on the menu. It was only a small place, but thankfully we were able to get seats even thoughit was busy. If you’re a fan of Japanese food and find yourself in Dublin for whatever reason definitely worth your time and money. (A darn side cheaper than going to Yo-Sushi.)
Staying in Temple Bar was a good choice. Right in the middle of the city, and everything was either in walking distance, or we could just get one of the hop-on-hop-off tour buses if we were going a little further afield. But we were lucky enough to have good weather practically the entire time we were there, so we pretty much walked everywhere. (Although, it was a good thing we got the bus back after visiting the Jameson Distillery…)
I think it’s fair to say, if you go to Dublin, you will end up at the Guinness Storehouse. Even if you’re not a fan of the “Black Stuff” you must appreciate how popular it is, and how far its reach is all over the world. We’ve all seen one of their adverts at some point in our lives, and most of us have tried it. (I don’t mind it myself, I used to drink a lot of it when I turned 18!) Although the Storehouse is a bit out of the way, it’s still easily within walking distance of the city centre.
You know you’re close once you’re assaulted by the many smells from the brewery, as you start walking close to the brewery grounds. Once inside (and you’ve fought your way through the humongous gift shop) you take a nice leisurely walking tour of the entire process it’s making. With a very visual and interactive tour, showing you step-by-step the processes in which the good stuff is made, as well as the history.
Whilst most of the Storehouse is simply a testament to how big the brand is, it is impressive how far they’ve come: The process for making Guinness, the history of the brewery and the product’s surge in popularity, the brand’s various advertising campaigns, they’ve pretty much got all their bases covered. The best part of the tour is the last part when you get your free pint of Guinness, and get to take it to the sky-lounge. A fantastic 360 degree view of the city, it is definitely worth lugging up all those stairs to get. (Although don’t drink too much, or if you do, go down carefully.)
We had purchased the Dublin Pass, which got us into a lot of the iconic locations in Dublin for free or for a reduced price. If you’re going to Dublin with the intent of going full-tourist mode, I would highly recommend it. We used it for just about everywhere we visited, so it was well worth the money. We also used it to get in Dublin Zoo! One day on our ventures we hopped on the bus to Phoenix Park and thankfully it was the perfect day for it.
We got off the bus earlier and decided to walk through the park to Dublin Zoo, which is nicely placed near the middle. Admittedly we didn’t spend that long at the Zoo, and didn’t end up going around it entirely, but we had other things we wanted to do that day. It was a nice layout, but with it being a hot summers day, most of the animals were all tuckered out and sunbathing. Can’t say I blamed them.
Afterwards, we made our way down to the Jameson Distillery. My girlfriend had to talk me into going, since I was unsure whether it would be as good as the Guinness Storehouse, and there were plenty of other things we could’ve done to fill the time. But she insisted that we go, so of course we did! It was the right decision,I ended up enjoying it more than the Guinness Storehouse by a mile.
There wasn’t a walking tour, but instead a guided tour. I loathed the idea at first, since I’d rather just wander around and read the available material. However, I was delightfully wrong, as our tour guide was very charming and knowledgeable on everything – the process for creating whiskey, the history of the distillery (which was even directly involved with the Easter Rising), the family history behind the brand, and about how Jameson are operating now.
Typical, I know, but it was very well laid out. We were given three whiskeys, one being Jameson, one American leading whiskey (Jack Daniel’s) and a leading Scottish whiskey (Johnnie Walker). We were told about whiskey tasting etiquette (I had to restrain my instinct to just down the shot, some habits die hard.) we compared all three, and discussed the differences between all of them in terms of taste, smell, and even how it moved around in the glass.
Thankfully my girlfriend wasn’t half as buzzed as I was afterwards (She made me finish 2 of her whiskey shots, and I wasn’t about to say no!) as she managed to guide me to the bus stop. We hopped on and made our way back to the hotel and started to decide where to eat tonight. After a failed blunder at finding somewhere to eat one night, trying to find what we thought was a restaurant but turned out to be a takeaway, we had found somewhere named “The Hungry Mexican” that sounded appealing with some rave reviews.
The restaurant was quite literally a hole in the wall. Only a small place stuck between two shops, right by a very busy bus-stop, we walked past it by accident when trying to find it. The décor inside was simple – cheap and cheerful tables, with all the walls painted black. Our waitress came to the table to order drinks, and she returns with a large piece of brown paper. “Are you expecting us to make a mess?” I ask jokingly. “No” she replied “I expect you to draw!” as she plopped down a container full of crayons. She then turned to point out the wall behind us was covered in dozens of drawings from previous customers. (Many of which were of Donald Trump failing to assemble a wall correctly.)
Although we were a bit baffled, we went with it. Why not? We’ve got time to kill while we’re waiting for our food. I can only draw Snoopy, so that’s exactly what I drew. A few minutes later the chef comes out from the kitchen, with several sombreros, handing them out to customers if they wanted to wear them. Everyone in the restaurant bar a party of Americans instantly donned the hats, so we thought again: Why not? Then our food came out, and it was just amazing.
Typically, we went for the nachos and burritos, but they were just delicious. It was amusing watching people walk past, peek their head through the window after having looked at the menu and then walk on by, as they probably thought “I’m not wearing a hat like that to eat here!” they couldn’t be more wrong. If they’d brought out a poncho and insisted, I wore that too, I wouldn’t question it. It ended up being our favourite meal the whole time we were over there, and we got a pretty funny story out of it too.
On our last full day, we were tired; We’d done a lot of walking at this point, and just as much eating. We never did any shopping whilst we were there, although from what we saw we imagined it would have been pretty good. But we only had small suitcases (Actually, -I- had a small suitcase… My girlfriends’ case was somewhat larger, but already full.) We stopped by Trinity College, which was about 5 minutes away from our hotel, and it was positively bustling. We didn’t hang around too much, but it was a very impressive and large campus overall.
When we stopped for a quick lunch, we decided to stop by a nice little spot we’d walked past a few times in Temple Bar. It was called “Off-Beat Donuts”. If you go to Dublin, you absolutely need to go to Off-Beat Donuts. Honestly, it put every major donut chain to complete shame. Apparently, it’s only localised in Dublin, although it could -absolutely- expand further if it wanted to. Red Velvet, Ferrero Rocher, Reese’s Pieces… There were so many different ones to choose from, we ended up picking some up for breakfast on our final day. We both instantly loved it, and we’ve done nothing but sing songs of praise for it ever since. Make. Sure. You. Try. Them.
The last place we ended up visiting was further down the river more towards the docks. It was the EPIC Immigration museum. We thought it would be good to end with something more educational, since most of the time we spent drinking and eating. It was very interesting, giving an entire history of Ireland’s immigration throughout the ages, telling us all about various famous figures, up to modern days. There were many famous Americans with Irish ancestry presented and lots of interactive features scattered all the way through the museum. Even though the museum is sort of out of the way from everything else, it’s worth going if you fancy learning a bit more about Ireland’s history, and how they as a people have spread across the globe.
To sum up, it was a worthwhile trip. The time we spent in Dublin was worth every penny, as we absorbed as much history and culture (and alcohol) as we could and didn’t waste a single opportunity. We ate at some lovely restaurants that we have done nothing but recommend to people we know if they ever find themselves on the Emerald Isle. I went over thinking I knew a decent amount of Irish history, and left knowing a lot more. If you’re ever looking for a nice long weekend away, Dublin is the perfect escape. Everyone we met was lovely and welcoming, and I don’t think we had a single negative thing to think about afterwards.
We may not get the chance to go again for a while, although I do hope we get the chance to stop over again sometime, even if it’s only for another long weekend. Although we saw a lot, there were still a lot of things we sadly didn’t get the time for. We had a wonderful time. We actually went to celebrate being together for 5 years – and it’s fair to say it was an unforgettable experience that we’ll both remember fondly.
Unfortunately, today, we have lost a giant in the comic and movie world. Stan Lee, born December 28th 1922, passed away today on November 12th, 2018. People all around the world are shook by the loss of this titanic figure in the comic industry, a face and name that so many people recognise and love – and you’re guaranteed to have seen him if you’ve seen any Marvel movie in the past couple of decades.
Stan Lee has held a very close place in most comic book fans, artists, superhero aficionados, and movie-lovers’ hearts. We truly will not have a comic book legend that will even remotely hold water compared to the marvel that was Stan Lee.
Stan Lee has helped create some of the most recognisable superheroes for an entire generation. Working with several different renowned artists throughout his career, he has gone on to make iconic superheroes again and again, such as Spider-Man, DareDevil, the Incredible Hulk, Doctor Strange, the Fantastic Four, Black Panther, the X-Men. He even helped in the creation of Iron Man, Ant-Man and the Mighty Thor. Truly no small feat, with many of these superheroes are now household names. (They are in my house!)
All these characters will be forever celebrated and have been enjoyed by generations of people – from their humble beginnings at the start of Marvel Comics, to seeing them being acted in blockbuster films that drew in millions upon millions of fans worldwide. Not many people could bring so much pleasure and happiness to so many in one lifetime, and it cannot be exaggerated how much of an impact he has had on people’s personal lives. Whether it be helping them through hard times by the fantastic escapism the Marvel Movies have brought or being able to find something new to enjoy by diving into a comic.
Stan Lee is truly a marvel. A hero to millions, myself included. He has done so much in his long life that it’s staggering to even begin to think of how much he has achieved. I know personally that when the next Marvel movie comes out, there will no doubt be a touching moment when we see what may have been his last movie cameo.
I’ve grown up loving Marvel – from reading Spider-Man comics as a kid, as well as watching the Spider-Man and X-Men cartoons throughout my entire childhood, to the original Spider-Man movies, and Marvel Studios first film – Iron Man, which would then snowball into one of the greatest, arguably the greatest movie franchise of all time, especially with the climatic sequel to Infinity War on the horizon.
So, thank you Stan Lee, from the bottom of my heart. It’s fair to say that without the influence of his characters, I may not be quite the same person I am today. Comics are, and continue to be a big influence in my life. That may not have happened if I didn’t flick on the TV and see Spider-Man as a child. Rest in Peace Stan Lee – you are truly immortalised forever in the memories of fans all over the world. We true believers will forever remember your feats, and hold your creations close to our hearts. Excelsior!
To be completely honest with you, I had no idea who Simon Reeve was. I’d never heard or seen any of his TV series, which I was apparently alone on. He’s been on the scene for a long time, creating well-crafted and interesting documentaries; travelling to many strange, exotic and even dangerous places all over the world. (Including some places that don’t even exist on maps!)
I had gone with my mum to one of his evening talks in Harrogate, since it was going to be on until quite late and I didn’t want my mum to go on her own – that and it was nice to spend the evening together, since it’s not something we get to do as much. I wasn’t particularly excited for the evening when it came to sitting down and listening to someone I’d never heard of before. Turns out it was a very interesting and thought-provoking evening.
My mum had bought the tickets for the evening about a year ago, so we were sat on the second row. I was sat thinking how long it was going to take, and even wondering if I was going to be able to stay awake. I was also fairly distracted, since I’ve had a lot on my mind recently. Hence, I didn’t exactly walk in with an optimistic mindset for this evening, which wasn’t really a good idea.
He started off by giving us a background into his upbringing, and what his life was like. He described how he grew up in East London and was a troublemaker from a very young age. Which was a bit typical, who isn’t a bit naughty when they are a little kid? But then he gets into when he was older, more towards being a teenager. The troublemaker instinct seemed to have stuck, but in a bad way: Skipping school to drink in the local pub, stealing and various other not-so-good activities. He skips ahead to when he was older and had left high school with next-to-no qualifications to his name, finding himself lost, jobless and spiraling into depression.
It’s always darkest before the dawn. When he came to his lowest point as he described himself literally standing on a bridge, considering the worst option, he managed to come to his senses and head home. This part of the evening really did grip me, maybe not because it resonated with me, but because these are the sort of things that are spoken about more and more today, with mental health becoming more prevalent all the time. Thankfully, he was able to get help, and was able to start trying to push himself. After some heart-warming anecdotes about his small journeys that were on the road to his recovery, he tells us how he came to get his first job – a mail room at a newspaper.
In the 80’s he was now working in the post-room at a major newspaper. Maybe not a very glamorous start, but he didn’t require any qualifications whatsoever to get the job, which worked to his favour. After getting to grips with the job, he was able to do little bits and bobs for other people that worked there, busy-work, but he began to network and get more involved.
Then came his first big break: he was instructed to track down two south-African terrorists who were reportedly staying in Boston, in Lincolnshire. He described how scary yet exhilarating the experience was, and he was hooked. That’s when more doors started to open up for him, and how this led to his intrigue in terrorism in general, especially after the 1993 World Trade Centre attack.
He then began long-winded and frantic research into Al-Qaeda and wrote the first book ever published on Bin Laden. He told us how this book, pretty much sat dormant on shelves for the longest time. Then, 9/11 takes place. On that very day he told us how the books were suddenly starting to sell, and how his phone rang non-stop for a year. He was thrown into the spotlight and interviewed by major American news outlets almost right off the bat.
Even if his success came from a dark place in human history, it gave him his chance to shine, and really put all his hard work to good use. His book was the only one in the world at the time that had researched Bin Laden, which was quite something considering after the events of 9/11, almost everyone on the planet became aware of this terrorist figure.
Suddenly, Simon Reeve became a very interesting figure himself. He was offered to do his own TV series in the early 2000’s and took the chance straight away. His series was about countries that “didn’t exist”. Typically, these were countries that weren’t represented by the UN, and/or not even recognized by the UN entirely. He spoke about some of the extremely odd places he ended up travelling to, and sometimes very dangerous places. One he told us about at some length was about his visit to Somaliland, neighboring the infamous Somalia. Telling us how Somaliland was a democratic state, that had its own elections, and wasn’t as corrupt as its neighbouring country. He then told us how he ventured with his dedicated crew into Somalia, and how terrifying the experience was for him.
It was becoming very clear that these early experiences with his first series were what got him hooked on the travel aspect, and showing his audiences these different places, their cultures and what they were like, as many people would never dream of venturing outside their yearly holiday to Spain. He encouraged everyone to go outside of their comfort zone; whether it be travelling to somewhere new, trying a new activity, or even just trying something different to eat. He had a point – we don’t discover anything unless we’re pushed outside our comfort zones. We get all too familiar and end up getting stuck in a rut, and lose that flavour of life we could be experiencing firsthand, rather than just sitting in front of TV screens and living through others. Not to say that watching TV is bad, but when it becomes our only ways of discovery, perhaps we need to sometimes take a step back and step out of that comfort zone and just try something new, even if it is only something small and relatively risk free – that would be progress.
In Conclusion, I went into the evening knowing nothing about Simon Reeve, who he was, or what he does, has done, or will do. I left knowing what felt like an intimate amount of detail about his life when he was younger, and some of the more extreme circumstances he’s ended up being in over the years of his detailed and often hazardous work. I wouldn’t have said I was his biggest fan, but I did find myself interested to look into some of his ongoing work – the series he’s got aired at the moment “Mediterranean”, which has been interesting and insightful – since most would assume that this would be covering parts of Europe they’ve gone on holiday to; but instead showed us his ventures into Northern Africa, Palestine, and exposed some of the seedy underbelly in places like Sicily.
As many people I know are already well aware of who he is, I would feel a bit silly recommending watching his series or getting into his work – so many people already do, and religiously watch anything new he brings out, much like when David Attenborough brings out a new series. I feel as though I’ve missed out having not heard of him sooner, but better late than never. I’m officially a fan; I’ll be reading his latest signed book at my leisure.
Whether it’s good or bad, everyone has been talking about Red Dead Redemption 2. I think the negativity hasn’t been anything to do with the actual game itself whatsoever, but instead about the recent controversy when Rockstar thoughtlessly came out bragging about making their employees work crazy-long hours to make sure the final product was shoved out in time, which was a very poor move. Twitter doesn’t like when people brag about stuff like that, and with good reason.
I found myself siding with how many people online seemingly felt – that the way they were treating their employees was less than admirable, but sadly, still knowing I was going buy that game no matter what. Boycotting was one idea, sure. But this is Red Dead Redemption 2. We’ve all been waiting for it for a long time, and all that hard work (all 100 hours a week of it!) would’ve gone to waste. Sort of. It was still always going to fly off the shelves, it’s no simple task to boycott a Rockstar game.
Firstly, this game is phenomenal. I hate to jump on the bandwagon of people singing songs of praise when I think a game doesn’t deserve that much of a pat on the back, but this time it’s really hit the nail on the head and come out as what I think, is a huge success.
To give some idea of the premise of the story, but not saying too much for those of you who haven’t had a chance to grab a copy or properly sink your teeth into it – the story is good. Or at least I think it’s going to turn out very good and iconic, much like the first game. Now, I say that after only having had a chance to sink maybe 10 hours into the game, so take it with a pinch of salt. We start off in a snowstorm somewhere in the mountains, with several characters trying to find shelter, a gang of misfits of some sorts. We play as the aging outlaw Arthur Morgan, as he travels eastwards with this somewhat infamous gang, known as “Dutch’s Gang”.
Very quickly we’re thrown into the story, after a major event has taken place for Dutch’s gang, in a place called Blackwater where things have gone awry somewhere down the line. We’re not told everything from the get-go, and we’re given dribs and drabs of what had happened previously as the game progresses.
Eventually, Dutch’s Gang settles down in an area called “The Heartlands”. It’s from here where you’re released upon the world, and pretty much allowed to do whatever it is you want. Of course, the logical thing to do is to progress the story, but some of us who are just too curious to see what we could get up to before all that get stuck in.
You’re certainly not short of anything to do. I’m weird and the first thing I wanted to get into was playing Poker – but there are so many options. Whether that just be exploring for odd locations, hunting all sorts of game for different reasons, bounty hunting, stealing from literally anyone – or just talking to them – there is so many things to do, in a vast open world.
Aside from a large number of weapons being available, some of which are more “modern” guns (This is set in 1899, so some progress has been made!) you get all the goodies from the old game, such as my favourite, the lasso, it’s impossible to not have a laugh at least once when it comes to hogtying people. You can also put in a huge amount of customisation into both the weapons you get, but also all the different outfits and clothing you can acquire along the way. Some clothing is even needed depending on where you explore due to the varying hot and cold temperatures you will encounter.
The world building in Red Dead Redemption 2 is amazing. The world does appear somewhat empty at times, and maybe a bit lonely. But you can talk to literally anyone; you can annoy them, be friendly, or just flat out rob them, beat them, or kill them if you’re into that. But you’ll quickly discover a new feature in the game, which is a morality meter: Honourable or Dishonourable. Depending on how you act in the world, it affects the meter, which in turn effects how you’ll be treated by everyone in the game; you could be noble and help everyone at every chance you get, and become nice outlaw (Is that a thing? It is now!) or take every opportunity to be the baddest badass outlaw you can be. Or, you could just do whatever you want, whenever you want. The choice is up to you, and it’s personally one of my favourite new features, and gives the game a whole new level of replay-ability.
Not only is the gameplay fun, but the world in terms of how it all looks is drop-dead gorgeous. There are so many different styles of environments to see and explore, and you can see how much effort has gone into each area to make it unforgettable. The landscapes are simply amazing. And the detail that’s gone into even the smallest aspects of the game, like the plants and buildings, are impeccable. The effort that’s gone into all the towns scattered around, and even just smaller locations, I can now see why this game was a beasty 105GB download, and it was well worth the wait.
On top of everything in the game being jaw-droppingly beautiful and full, the voice acting is also top notch, and clearly has been a massive focus when making the game. Since you can talk to literally everyone with a few different options to choose from, that by itself is a tall order to fill. All the eclectic characters that form Dutch’s gang, all of whom you can have many different conversations that change overtime, and even open side missions and requests for, give the entire game much more of a Roleplay game feeling, which I welcomed with open arms. If anything, this large focus on just being able to chat to anyone and get really stuck in to the world, has really set it apart from any Rockstar game to date.
In conclusion – I’m darn-tootin’ impressed. I’ve got a long way to go until I even start to see the end of the game in sight, but from what I’ve played so far, I can’t see it going downhill anytime soon. The tremendous effort that was put into Red Dead Redemption 2 is extremely apparent. Whilst there has been the controversy behind the way it was made, as I soon began to learn on Twitter, these kind of overworking practices are sadly fairly commonplace in the gaming industry, as I saw many people tweet about how they’ve been overworked when its come to a deadline, rather than just extending time to put out the final product. Even if it was going to be delayed for a few more months, the game would still fly off the shelves.
Putting that aside, Red Dead Redemption 2 is awesome. It’s easily going to install itself as an iconic game to be remembered the same way the first game was, without a doubt. The story is gripping and intriguing, the world is stuffed with so many things to do, and all of it is stunning. Now, time for me to hit the old dusty trail and get stuck back in myself, partner.
There’s been a lot of Spider-Man games over the years. The first I ever played was on Nintendo Gamecube, which was Spider-Man one, based off the movie franchise that was hugely popular (and still is to some) at the time. Now, Spider-Man 2, both the Movie and the video game, hold a very special place in my heart. Not only a fantastic childhood film, but likewise with the game.
Skip forward years later, and we’ve had several Spider-Man games. Some based off other franchises, other’s not. Then ‘Marvel’s Spider-Man’ rocks up onto the scene, exciting fans of the movies, comics and games all over the world, after several arguably bad Spider-Man games that had left fans wanting something that recalled those feelings from Spider-Man 2. All seems so promising and exciting, as we get to hear reviews start to crop up by the big game reviewers, and the hype reaches a new unprecedented level. Then it comes out, finally. All seems good in the land of Spider-Man fans. But is it? (Probably. Maybe. Yes.)
Now, personally, I’m in love with this game. Which seems typical as Spider-Man is my favourite superhero overall anyway, so maybe I am a little biased, but with that being said, there is always room for improvement in lots of different areas, even when it’s a fantastic game. For me, it brought back all those nostalgic feelings we all crave and reminded me of coming home from school and loading Spider-Man 2 on my Gamecube and swinging around the city, just being able to explore, let alone actually just playing the game’s story mode. Who wouldn’t get a kick out of being able to get a taste of what it’s like to be Spider-Man?
Being able to just run and jump off a skyscraper, freefall, and then start swinging around any way you want to is such a satisfying feeling for me, and I’m sure a lot of people would agree with that at least. It’s a feeling for me unlike any other video game out there, probably because Spider-Man himself is so unique himself! Bearing in mind this is just how I feel about exploring New York City as Spidey, the freedom to just do what you want. (Seriously, who the hell uses fast travel in this game? Okay, maybe to just get the achievement, but that should be it, get swinging!) I was ready to just give the game 5/5, and I think on some level I do, but there are some issues. Or at least, there are some things that could be improved on.
I love the overall combat, the use of combos and how it seems to flow throughout even your average street-crime fight. Some may cry ‘Arkham copy-cat!’ and okay, maybe it takes some inspiration from it, it’s very possible. But is that wrong? The Arkham games are fantastic for their story and combat, but I don’t think they get to call that style of combat their own. They’re not the only game series out there that use the style of combat that we see in Marvel’s Spider-Man, and they won’t be the last. I think the combat used in Spider-Man is actually better, it’s not just a matter of countering at every opportunity, it’s about thinking how you can take everyone down fast, use the gadgets available to you (Electro-friggin’-webs, Anti-Gravity devices, lots of different web based goodies!) and try to take enemies out in the air, or on the ground, whilst dodging certain enemies types that are very aggressive, and ones with certain abilities.. Alright, right now it’s starting to sound a lot like one of the Arkham Batman games, but it’s just different. If anything, I think it’s harder, and a lot more frantic! Especially if you decide to go for a higher difficulty right away.
So, I’ve already touched on some of the aspects of the gameplay, the exploration and combat, which are by far some of the largest aspects of the game. There’s the story, which can be done at entirely your leisure (and should be, what’s the rush?) and side-missions, and random events such as crimes that vary to some degree. Now, Side-missions are one of my favourite aspects. Whether it’s little snippets of story that aren’t relevant, or challenges that vary from web-slinging traversal skills or fighting a ton of bad guys in various situations, or even doing a stealth mission, which have different levels for you to accomplish to help earn medals to craft new suit mods and gadgets.
There’s a lot of other things to do on the side, but I will admit that some do feel a bit same-ish, or just not that interesting, and some would only do them to get the trophy, and it depends if you’re a perfectionist. Essentially, the ones you think will be fun are, and the ones that don’t sound fun, aren’t. Only you know if you prefer enjoy beating up loads of bad dudes as compared to chasing pigeons. Everyone’s different, but I know which camp I sit in.
One of the main complaints I heard about at first was that the random crimes that pop-up are all too similar and get boring way too quickly. Well, for a start, there’s only a certain amount of crimes they can put in that’re going be appropriate for Spider-Man. It’s not likely that Spider-Man is going to swing in and stop white-collar crimes. (Although, I would be down for that.) Whilst people saying this do have a point, there is some difficulties of what other crimes/situations could you put in? Perhaps saving someone falling from a construction site? Helping someone off a building that’s on fire? There’re a few different ideas that could be used, but the options are limited. I don’t mind beating down on street thugs, so you won’t hear me complaining too much. But once you’ve completed the game and done a lot of the events, I’ll admit it does become a bit stale relatively quickly.
When people initially found out that Insomniac Games were going to be creating Sony Interactive PS4 Spider-Man exclusive game, people freaked out for a lot of different reasons. Overall the first reaction was quite bitter, with people slandering the fact that this was going to be a PS4 exclusive game only, with next-to-no chance of it coming out on PC, Xbox One or Switch. Which is a frustrating position to be in if you’re a hardcore fan of a particular console, but thankfully I lucked out, since I made the switch from Xbox 360 to PS4 once the time was right.
Not everyone can afford to have more than one console, and not a lot of people are willing to have two anyway. Why not just make it so it could be across other consoles? Or at least Xbox One? I don’t know many people with Xbox Ones personally, but even just by scrolling through Twitter and Facebook, people’s resentment of this choice was extremely clear, but not noted particularly. Sony clearly wanted this one to themselves. People literally went out to buy PS4 with the sole purpose of playing this new, and tremendously hyped Spider-Man game. And I don’t blame them, I think I would’ve done the exact same thing. (Once again, biased Fan who would take a literal bullet for Spidey if he actually existed.)
Angry fans aside, when we found out it was Insomniac Games behind the wheel of bringing in a new Spider-Man game into Modern Age gaming on PS4, people’s eared pricked up. The Amazing Spider-Man game franchise, which I personally hated, had really shattered a lot of people’s hopes at bringing a new Spider-Man game into the world with a lot of potential. But Insomniac Games? The guys who created Rachet and Clank? Spyro the Dragon? Okay, it isn’t the same kind of game or gameplay whatsoever, but these guys had created titles that people all over the world loved and cherished. In the months that led up to the game coming out, we were sprinkled with lots of bit of information, hints, and videos, but no definite gameplay until we got very close to release. But with every bit of extra information we got, there was a kind of quiet hope that this game would make up for the years of failed Spider-Man games. That maybe this was it, a potential Spidey game franchise that people would use as a comparison for years to come.
In my view, I believe that Marvel’s Spider-Man met up to the hype entirely, and arguably much more than I actually thought it would, even if I think there could be some improvements. Whilst not everyone shares this opinion, I think it’s fairly clear that a lot of people would agree with me, that it’s a bloody good game overall. The hype train pulled right into the station and delivered on its promises.
Now, I won’t prattle on or delve too deep into what I think of the general storyline, in case there’s people out there that haven’t completed it yet. I will say that I feel the story is very interesting, and original. It takes little aspects of the some of the Spidey comics, and makes it its own. It doesn’t directly follow any comic book storyline, but takes inspiration from several, and references some others. (Most notably for me was the references to the Ultimate Universe Marvel comics.)
We see Mr. Negative take the stage as the main villain, who is noticeably very shady and strange, and even I must admit I still don’t really get him as a villain. But once more classic and iconic villains start showing up, those thoughts didn’t matter so much. We see Mary-Jane as an investigate journalist swoop into the game and take a pivotal role in the story, rather than just being Peter Parker’s pretty red-head in constant need of saving, it’s quite the opposite. We see Dr. Otto Octavius right from the very beginning as Peter plays the role of his lab assistant. (You can probably see where his role in the game starts to go, but I won’t say anything more than that!) And we even see Miles Morales in the game, a direct link to the Ultimate Marvel universe comics. Basically, the game is crammed with iconic Spider-Man characters, all of whom flow with the story and really help give it depth and making it a more meaningful journey.
Moving away from the storyline aspect, there’s a lot of nice collectibles in the game, and nods to other parts of Marvel Comics. We have Avengers Tower as part of the New York skyline, we have the iconic Oscorp industries, Alias Investigations, Damage Control, and lots of references to many different characters, like Daredevil. Even if we don’t see these other iconic characters, we feel all warm and nerdy inside, knowing that they’re there in this game’s universe, somewhere doing what they do, while we do what Spidey does.
Now, one of my absolute favourite parts of the game. The different Spider-Man suits. When I realised we were going to get to choose varying iconic suits to roam around the city with, I lost it a little bit! The Iron Spider suit that was first created in the Civil War comic story-arc, but then redefined in the latest MCU film; Infinity War. Complete with the actual mechanical spider legs that come out of the back, it was definitely a selling point to allure fans of the movie into buying the game. We have the Spider-Punk suit, Spider-Noir, Secret Wars, Fear Itself, all sorts of really amazing suits from varying different comics, and there is really a suit to suit everyone. Admittedly, I feel they missed the opportunity to add in some -really- iconic suits, and they seemed to have opted for some of the lesser known outfits. (Superior Spider-Man? Symbiote suit? Where are they!?)
Now that the first chunk of the downloadable content has been released, titled “The Heist” featuring the tricky and cunning Black Cat aka Felicia Hardy. Which has it’s own storyline adjacent from the main storyline. Now that I’ve just completed it, I can safely (Without giving up any major spoilers) that it’s good. It’s not very long overall, and there are some new challenges put into the game, and some collectibles, but you could probably complete it in one sitting. But since Insomniac is planning on rolling out Part 2 and Part 3 in November and December, we’re going to be finding out a lot more. It’s fair to assume these downloadable pieces of content are connected, I think have some ideas as to what may happen already… But that’s purely speculation.
It might seem like I’m literally praying to this Spider-Man game as the beginning and end of all possible Spider-Man games. And there’s no doubt that I am a huge fan of the game almost entirely and can only find a few faults in the game. However, this opinion is only my own, and many people did feel differently about the game after its release.
All the large gaming websites and magazines were all singing praise for Marvel’s Spider-Man. But this brought a question to mind; maybe this is a bit orchestrated? With these large AAA game titles, usually all these gaming-associated companies have nothing to say but good things, with a very low number giving some criticism and negative feedback. Is this because they’re paid off to write good reviews? Is it done this way to help create more help, to aid in driving up sales for the game? It’s something I can’t say is a thing or not, but I have to kind of side with them this time, I love this game and it’s definitely worth your time if you’re a fan of Spider-Man or just happen to have a PS4.
Marvel’s Spider-Man is not the first game to do this by a long, long shot. But it’s still a valid question. The only reason I thought this, was seeing smaller reviewers’ reactions, and people’s general thoughts on Twitter/Facebook. And I’m not just looking at “Pondgate”, I’m looking at people’s general criticisms overall. A lot of people disliked the inanimate people in the game, like if you were to actually stop web-slinging and go down to the street level, people all seem to stop and not do a great deal. Sometimes you’ll get a baddie randomly come at you, but it would be obvious who would be, since everyone else is just kind of… stood around doing nothing much.
Complaints about there not being enough to do in the endgame, about the repetitiveness of crimes that I mentioned earlier, and a bit of a lacklustre for replay-ability overall. I’m inclined to agree that yes, there are some issues present in the game that revolve around these kinds of problems, but I feel it’s difficult to bring the score or critique for the entire game be brought down over these kinds of things.
The most common thing I saw that brought the game into a negative light was its comparisons to the Batman “Arkham” game series. How Insomniac Games had simply copy-and-pasted the combat style from the Warner Brother brand Batman game, and made it suit them, but for Spidey. Now, maybe they did. Maybe they didn’t. They took some inspiration, but the combat in reality is very different in its own way. Similar, yes. The exact same? Not at all. I can understand people’s feelings regarding these topics, but nonetheless, I still think they’re overshadowed by the game’s overall vibes.
In conclusion, I’m a bit in love with Marvel’s Spider-Man, and yes, I am a little biased about it. But, I have to be fair and I realise there are some very valid criticisms of it. Things that aren’t necessarily going to be fixed, unless the future downloadable content is going to vastly change how the game is played, which I guess it hasn’t really so far at least. But Marvel’s Spider-Man for me is a definite win for Marvel fans, Spider-Man fans, and people who just want another awesome game for their collection. Stan Lee cameos in it for Pete’s sake. (If you have a PS4, that is.)
If I had anything to say about Marvel’s Spider-Man, it would be that it’s a must for your PS4 collection whether you’re an avid fan, or just causal about it. The gameplay is very individual and unique and makes the game special. And for me personally, it already holds a special place in my heart next to the much, much older Spider-Man games. With great power, comes great responsibility.
We are Venom. But are we impressed? Maybe that now somewhat iconic line from Venom holds water up to the infamous “We are Groot.” Maybe. But it’s seemed like it’s been a very mixed bag overall, with many singing different forms of praise for varying reasons, and some saying we should stay away from it, and that it’s not what fans deserved as a standalone Venom movie, and instead you should buy tickets to Crazy Rich Asians instead, or A Star is Born instead of wasting time on this particular Marvel Movie.
I’ll try my upmost to not give away too much of the story to Venom, and not to give any spoilers. Generally, I don’t think there’s an awful lot to spoil really, unless you’ve literally never heard of Venom as a character, or never saw Spider-Man 3 back when that was in cinemas, where we experienced Venom on the big screen for the first time, but as a villain and without any real character to the infamous symbiote itself.
But things are different now. With Marvel movies being fired off several films and TV series a year, some would say we’re becoming over-saturated with Marvel goodness, and that it wouldn’t be a terrible idea to slow down and take a more leisurely pace. With the promise of the MCU to expand even further after the Disney/Fox deal, we’re going to see X-Men in a whole new light, so the Marvel train MCU-related or not, isn’t due to slow down anytime too soon.
Then, a trailer drops from Sony. Venom, in his standalone movie for the first time, that’s not associated with the MCU. (Although that’s still a bit in the balance for some people, you never know with Disney money.) It was a very strange initial reaction, lots of people excited and generally curious about what and how this movie could and would work out. Could it work without Spider-Man? This is one of Spider-Man’s most iconic villains we’re talking about. With that in mind, comic book fans know Venom has been an anti-hero for quite a few years now. A lethal protector. A baddie that’s also a goodie, sort of.
There were people upset that he wasn’t going to be in the MCU, which I can sympathise with to some extent, because it makes it feel a little messy and doesn’t give hardcore fans that gooey warm feeling that this isn’t all happening in the same universe setting. Maybe that’s my issue, but at the same time, not all Marvel movies necessarily need to be set in the same universe. Not if the movie’s good. X-Men movies weren’t for a long time, and I didn’t meet a lot of people that didn’t enjoy “Logan.” It’s really more if you enjoy the film, surely?
There was a lot of uncertainty of whether this movie would be a success. That feeling is still lingering even know that the movie’s out! People have gone out, watched it, and still don’t know what to make of it. They may well have enjoyed it and laughed, but they don’t know if it was good enough, or held water to other Marvel associated movies. But was Venom supposed to have laughs? Shouldn’t it have been gory? Brutal? Scary? I think it should have been, at least more than what it was.
Personally, I did enjoy the movie overall, beats having my head bitten off. I don’t think it was amazing, recommend to all my friends and family to see kind of good, but I just thought it was good. It was okay. I wouldn’t rush to see it again, but I may buy it once it’s out on DVD.
Eddie Brock is the main character, played by Tom Hardy, which really helped sell the movie to people. He’s a good actor in my books, and let’s face it, he has a very popular following for his acting abilities, and a lot of women I know just love him and would happily spend the rest of their life with him at a moments notice. (Okay, slight over-exaggeration, but there’s no doubt that women and men love him!) I thought he really did justice to the character, made him likeable, funny, and just really brought a positive energy with his performance. He really did help make the movie for me, especially since most of the other characters are forgettable, and just not that important overall. Eddie and Venom are obviously the main characters, and they’re the only one’s whose names I really remembered in all honesty.
It’s a bit of a slow burner to start with, and the set-up actually gave a very different vibe to what the movie would be like overall. It could’ve been sped up a bit, but that’s probably me being a nit-picking fan, since I know the story of how Venom comes to be originally. Now, this movie holds true to some of these comic concepts, but it does pretty much follow its own original story line and borrow bits from comics. Which I think is fine, it makes it somewhat easier for audiences who maybe haven’t heard of him or know what he’s about.
But, once the fun starts, it doesn’t slow down. Once Venom pops off, it’s riddled with some aspects of horror, and littered with comedy. The comedy is unexpected, even I didn’t think there would be as many fun lines in the movie, but it was full of them! And I did laugh out loud at a lot of them, along with half the cinema. You don’t expect a movie about a hulking, alien, scary goop that binds to people as hosts could be funny. It reminded me of the comedic styling of “Shaun of the Dead.” Horror mixed in with comedy, absolutely. Okay, it’s not the most horrific film in the world by a long shot, and I didn’t even jump at a single scene. And I usually do. But you could see the angle they were going for when they were making it, and I think it pulls it off quite well. But, admittedly, the film could have been done in lots of different ways, and still might’ve been as much of as success. Could’ve gone down the horror route entirely, and it could’ve possibly pulled it off.
I do seem to be on board with the people that’re singing praise for the movie, it was a pretty funny movie, even if that’s not what I was expecting. But do I think it’ll be a success as a franchise? Venom-verse? I’m still very sceptical. I think as a standalone movie it did okay, but I don’t think it’s going to be a movie spoken about for years and years to come. Nobody really cared much about Venom in Spider-Man 3.
Venom as a standalone is just okay. It’s a hot mess, which I’ve seen it referred to many times since it came out in cinemas. And I think that’s the most accurate description for Venom out there. It’s like a roller coaster you don’t want to go on again, not because you were scared to go on again, but because you’d be bored to ride again.
It’s already got some potential for a sequel, definitely. But should it? Maybe. I’d be curious to see if it would actually be any good. Venom made me laugh and made me wince in ways only Venom could. But do I think it deserves a whole franchise after that? Tom Hardy put the work in, no doubt, but does it need to be more than that? Does it need to go further? I honestly don’t know, and maybe that’s because I don’t really care if it does. I don’t think it’s an iconic film, and I don’t think a lot of people will or do even like it. Its future isn’t that bright. But it most likely does have a future. That’s Hollywood, Baby.