The Witcher 3’s Tribute to Paul Walker

 

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Image Courtesy of Universal Pictures

Illegal Street Racing as Geralt

I’m finally finishing up The Witcher 3, year too late I know, and just participated in an illegal street race that is a subtle nod to the late and great Paul Walker and the Fast and Furious series.

It’s well documented that there is an achievement titled “Fast and Furious” that players can earn by winning all of the horse races throughout the game, but I couldn’t find any record of this other reference to the series, and Paul Walker specifically.

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Image Courtesy of CP Projekt Red

A Race for Cash, and Respect

The race I’m referring too takes place as part of “The Great Erasmus Vegelbud Memorial Derby” side quest. After you beat every other contestant in the derby, you are crowned champion and subsequently approached my one of Cleaver’s henchman, Cleaver is a dwarf crime boss in the city of Novigrad. Meeting with Cleaver results in him inviting you to compete in an underground and illegal street race through the city of Novigrad. There’s a vague reference here to Fast and Furious being that’s  it’s an “illegal street race” in a fantasy setting, which seems intentional, but it is also still part of the previously mentioned “Memorial” side quest and the race is known as the Palio for no discernable reason. Still pretty thin I know, I didn’t even make the connection yet, I had to replay the section after the race.

The King of Beggars isn’t exactly one of the scantily clad women that kicks off almost every race in Fast and Furious movies, but the line about respect is an obvious allusion to the scene in the original Fast and the Furious movie where Paul Walker’s character makes himself know the street racing kingpin, Dominic Toretto.

“I lose, winner takes my car, clean and clear. But if I win, I take the cash, and I take the respect… To some people that’s more important.”

The Palio is introduced as, “above all, a race of honor,” where, “the winner doesn’t  just win a reward, he earns our respect as well.” Taken altogether, this is a wonderful tribute to the late Paul Walker that seems to have been completely overlooked by most fans. Given that I’m a huge fan of the Fast and Furious and now the Witcher games, it was still pretty subtle overall.

But that’s not all! The icing on the cake is that after the races conclusion, there’s a humorous nod to the police chase following the race in the movie, except it’s a dwarf shouting, “temple guard, scatter,” rather than a street racer yelling, “we’ve got cops, cops, cops, go!” over a mic.

Someone at CD Projekt Red is obviously a fan alongside me, and that only makes me love the experience that is the Witcher 3 even more.

 

Nintendo Switch Updated Thoughts

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Rumor has it that the new Mario is the bundled game…

Games, Specs, and Switch Speculation

The Nintendo Switch has been all over news outlets since its unveiling, and for good reason. It’s not that often that a completely new console is released, especially after all of the speculation around its reveal.  New console releases could be even more rare in the future as Microsoft and Sony focus on iterative console upgrades. Here’s a wrap up of the most important rumors that have come out since its unveiling and some of my thoughts on Nintendo’s future console.

There were rumors swirling for months about some of the best games on the Wii U being ported to the Switch to give it a ton of must have games in the first few months out of the gate. From the reveal trailer, and some other rumors that have spread since, that seems to be the case. There is hearsay everywhere about the first 6 months of the Nintendo Switch release being loaded with releases, most of which seem to be first party.

Although Nintendo has since confirmed that the video on the trailer is simulated, that could safely be assumed anyway, there’s a decent chance that Nintendo wants all of those titles to be released on the Switch eventually. To make the deal even sweeter, both Mario Kart and Splatoon featured elements in the trailer that are not included in the Wii U versions. It seems that we’re looking at enhanced versions of the best the Wii U had to offer on the Nintendo Switch.

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Publishing partners for the Nintendo Switch

Specifics About the Switch’s Screen and Dock

There’s been a ton of speculation, the biggest being about the screen and the dock. It has been well substantiated that the screen is in fact a touch screen, has 720p resolution, and seems to be the same size as the Wii U gamepad’s at 6.2″. The reveal trailer hints that the company doesn’t want their device to be categorized with other tablets and mobile gaming, as they didn’t show off the touch screen at all. Nintendo has also come out and directly stated that the dock does not house any additional processing power. It remains a mystery as far as the output resolution between the 720p device screen and a likely higher resolution tv screen.  It could still upscale the image from the Switch tablet to a more suitable size for a tv screen. This basically eliminates the possibility of true 4K gaming on the Switch, it’s a good thing I don’t give a shit because…

Nintendo has Always Done More with Less

Nintendo has never been about the hardware. Despite the fact that their hardware has been considered underpowered for generations, they still kick out some of the best looking and smoothest running console games because they are so well optimized. I’m not hardcore about resolution or framerates, and it’s unrealistic to expect mind blowing graphics from a mobile device like the Switch, but I’m confident the games will look damn good. There are some serious lookers on the Wii U, and the Switch will almost certainly be a graphical upgrade from that. I’m a PC gamer, but my PC is a small form factor box that barely outpaces the current consoles and I’m more than happy with how my games look and run.

I love it. I got to play it. I will tell you – well, maybe that’s an N.D.A. thing. One of the best demos I’ve ever seen. Probably the best demo I’ve ever seen. At E3.

There is definitely a lot of hype around the console, but there are people who are critical of the idea as well. Can the Switch be great at any one thing if it is trying to do some many drastically different functions? There are obvious concerns about battery life along with the power of a portable console, and there isn’t too much hard evidence on the matter. One thing that just came out is that Bethesda’s Todd Howard is a fan, stating in an interview with Glixel, “I love it. I got to play it. I will tell you – well, maybe that’s an N.D.A. thing. One of the best demos I’ve ever seen. Probably the best demo I’ve ever seen. At E3.”

I think it’s pretty telling that, despite the brief mention of the Switch, it’s still the first topic noted tin the title. Theirs is a lot of excitement brewing and I cannot wait to learn more.

The Alienware Alpha and PC Gaming So Far Review

Alienware Alpha Review Pos

Bringing PC Gaming to the Living Room

Awhile ago, I wrote a post about my sour experiences with both the PS4 and the Xbox One and said that I was trying something new after always being a console gamer. There was a lot of commotion around the release of Valve’s Steam Machines as they tried to bring PC gaming to the living room, console gaming masses. The hype seems to have been short lived though, I haven’t seen them covered much at all since the initial release. But, as the Steam Machines were delayed a few times before they finally came out to a mixed reception, Alienware got tired of waiting to release their living room gaming PC and put out the Alienware Alpha.

The Alpha offers the exact same hardware configurations as the Alienware Steam Machines, except it shipped earlier and features Windows and a Xbox 360 wireless controller and dongle rather than SteamOS and the Steam controller. It seemed like much of the mixed feelings about the Steam Machines were a result of the SteamOS they shipped with, which was basically a Linux build to run Steam in Big Picture mode. This limited the machines, as well as the library of games that they could run. While the same hardware with Windows offers only advantages, you can boot right into Steam Big Picture and can run almost any game on Steam as well as access the Chrome and other apps. Here are my thoughts so far about the Alpha and PC gaming in general.

A Console Gamer Getting Acclimated to a New PC

My main reservation about PC gaming has always been the mouse and keyboard inputs. Say what you will about the precision differences, I just have always used a gamepad controller and that’s probably what I’ll always prefer to play with. The Alpha runs a special Alienware developed UI that allows you to load games using only the gamepad. You can also use some specific controller inputs to do some things that normally would require other input devices, like force a game into full screen or control the mouse with a joystick and buttons. The UI is functional but not great and a little slow. I mostly used it to boot Steam anyway, so I opted for disabling it and booting straight into Steam Big Picture. The Alienware UI still runs in the background, so in a pinch I can operate the mouse pointer to close a menu or navigate, and I get all the perks of Steam’s controller friendly mode while on Windows.

Since buying the base model of the Alpha, I have made some upgrades. I added another 4GB of RAM for a few bucks, but mainly I swapped out the hard drive. The hard drives available in the Alpha all run at 5400rpm, which are fine for gaming, but leads it to boot slow and run slowly while using it for anything else. I put in a SSD and upgraded it to Windows 10 and now it probably boots into Steam Big Picture in about 10-15 seconds. The original hard drive got you gaming a little slower than the current gen consoles with their stock hard drives, but the SSD blows them away. I still have the stock base model 4th gen i3 CPU and the custom 2GB NVIDIA GPU and I am totally happy with them. The CPU can be upgraded easily, the GPU cannot unfortunately but I don’t see that as being too negative.

As you can guess from the GPU specifically, the Alpha is not designed to give you a top of the line PC gaming experience. The thing is about the size of the original Wii and I got mine for under $350 on Craig’s List, it won’t max out the graphics of every game out now, but it does play them well and they still all look great. The performance has been great for me as well, I play a lot of indie games that aren’t very demanding, but I also played through all of Metal Gear Solid 5 without a hitch. Benchmarks show that the machine is more powerful than the PS4, which puts it in a competitive place this console generation. I’m not looking to max out graphics, but I want my games to look good and run well, and the Alpha delivers very well in both of those areas.

What the Alienware Alpha Offers as a Living Room PC

For me, the Alienware Alpha delivers exactly what the Steam Machines were meant to. It brings PC gaming to the living room in a way that could attract some console gamers. It isn’t as simple to use as a console, but it’s not much more difficult than one either. I personally enjoy the extra layer of customization functionality it offers. I added a wireless keyboard with an integrated trackpad from Logitech that allows me to access all of its functionality conveniently from the couch. I usually use only the Xbox controller, but I have the option of the keyboard for accessing streaming services and anything else you’d want to use on a PC on your TV.

On an unrelated note to the Alpha’s hardware, PC gaming is great for a person like me. First off, it’s much more affordable. You don’t need to spend a ton up front on a top of the line rig to enjoy the savings offered by Steam Sales and services like Humble Bundle. There’s a ton more variety in PC games, especially since this generation’s consoles are so similar to PCs themselves. Developers can offer almost every game they make for consoles on the PC and add the same controller support. I’m amazed by the amount of games that support controllers, it makes PC gaming much more friendly to console gamers.

Steam is the New Home of Couch Co-Op

Another thing that I’m really excited about is couch co-op, an area that has traditionally been dominated by the consoles. There are more local co-op experiences on the PC by far, and they’re all controller friendly. I have had a great time bringing multiplayer games back to my living room. It seems like consoles have moved more toward online, where the PC used to dominate and PCs have branched out to include local multiplayer as well as traditional online games. My experience so far with a “cheap” gaming PC has been phenomenal and it really has rekindled my old passion while introducing me to a whole new side of gaming.

I’ve had the Alienware Alpha for about 6 months now and am totally happy with the purchase. I upgraded the RAM and SSD completely because I wanted to, not because it was essential. The Added controller functions make a huge difference and it’s been a great way to transition over to PC gaming.

Dark Souls 3 will run on the Alienware Alpha

I’m also happy to report that Dark Souls 3, a game which I’m completely stoked for, should run great on the Alpha. I just finished another play through of the original Dark Souls on my PC and finally got to play through the Artorias of the Abyss DLC. I CANNOT wait for Dark Souls 3 to be out on April 12th.

Let me know what you think in the comments below, thanks for reading!

Images Courtesy Forbes and Kotaku