Tuesday, 14 June 2016

Xbox @ E3

Sorry for the delay, internet trouble delayed our articles. Microsoft had a solid e3 this year and there was a certain confidence in the presentation. lets break down the news.

Integration Everywhere
There was a defiantly different tone to this years E3, Microsoft trailing behind their rival seems to of made them look in and change things up. The first thing that hit us was there new initiative "play anywhere" which isn't game streaming, instead it's cross buy, cross play, and cross save initiative between Xbox One and Windows 10. It appears that all of Microsoft's upcoming exclusives will be part of the initiative. If you buy the digital version of any of these titles from either the Windows Store or Xbox Store you get it for the other store for free. Your saves and achievements freely flow between the two platforms. Even the new controller with the Xbox One S (more on that in a moment) features wireless and Bluetooth tech, which allows it to be used across devices.

Even Minecraft is enjoying an greater integration with all the mobile versions (Win 10, Android, iOS and Gear VR) are now enabled with cross play via Xbox Live, achievements and compatibility with Minecraft Realms (dedicated servers so your friends can access your world even if your offline).

This integration focus was an important set up to this next bit.

Hardware for All

First up was the Xbox One S, A slimmed down version of the Xbox One The 40% smaller size isn't the only change. First the S will feature 4k video support for those who have lovely 4k TVs, HDR game support which is basically bringing contrast and colours closer to the human eye. (More Details on HDR HERE), The new pad can be customised on their website (which isn't active yet) and as mentioned before isn't limited to the Xbox.

Some additional information that hit later, The S features an IR blaster (so your Xbox acts as a remote) because the S dose not have the Kinect port but the there will be a USB adapter for upgrading users.

The Xbox One S have a staggered launch of its three flavours 500GB - £249,  1TB £299 and 2TB £349 (for comparison fat Xbox One is £229 for the 500GB and £256 for 1TB on Amazon) with the 2TB launching in August. The others should filter in by Christmas.

The Xbox Scropio was their final announcement that we'll talk about early. As you can see third party devs are excited for the prospect of console this powerful featuring a 6 Teraflop GPU (I'll post a graph shortly for easy comparisons) and an 8 core CPU. In realistic terms you're looking at 5 to 6 time the power of an Xbox One.

As you can you see the Xbox Scorpio is an entire PS4's worth more powerful than the leaked specs, of cause there is nothing stopping Sony from pushing more power before either system launches next year.

In terms of features Microsoft wants the Scorpio to handle games at 4k without up-scaling and run VR without stripping down the graphics or functionality matching the PC VR experience. MS didn't reveal if they will be launching their own headset or will be stepping up their partnership with Oculus. There is an interesting counter point regarding VR, during the video Tod Howard mentions bringing Fallout VR to it but its currently being said that its Vive exclusive.

Bringing the first part of the article back again. Microsoft has confirmed the Xbox One, Xbox One S, And Xbox Scorpio will share the same game library and accessories. After the event confirmed that non-Scorpio optimised games will run on the new machine games should also benefit from the extra grunt especially games that use unlocked frame rates and/or dynamic resolution such as Witcher 3 and Halo 5, these games on Scorpio will run at their maximum FPS and/or resolution. [NOTE: Currently Sony is saying that games without a "Neo"mode will not run on their machine BUT this could easily change

There are some concerns though. Obviously price comes screaming to mind the specs alone will push it in the £500- £700 bracket (£500 being an extremely generous estimation assume AMD Polaris tech) and that's assuming there isn't an VR (headset/motion control) component included in the box. I also worry about competitive play with original X1's and the S. 4k players would effectively have longer/clearer line of sight than their... lesser siblings. Lastly Microsoft's language suggests that there will be more "families" beyond the Xbox One suggesting they are shifting to a similar launch pattern as iPhone and Galaxy phones, hopefully they create clear cut off points for the systems.

Anyway on to the games

Gears 4

Gears showed of some campaign co-op on stage, the level in question show cased some pretty extreme weather that makes us question why people ever settled on that world. Microsoft confirmed that PC and Xbox players will be be able to play co-op modes together including the all new Horde 3.0, sadly we did not see horde in action. Microsoft also announced Gears 4 will support HDR on Xbox One S and showed off a bloody Gears edition of the Elite pad. It's since been confirmed pre-ordering Gears 4 nets you the 4 360 games

Sea of Thieves

Easily my highlight of the show, Rares first "real" game since Nutz 'n' Boltz impressed us no end. The games highly stylized graphics defy the tutorial free multiplayer. Its shaping up to be an fantstic multiplayer experience. Honestly its hard to discus it with out showing you, so check out the gameplay footage below.


Scalebound also impressed with a co-op (yes the game features 4 player dragon rider co-op) boss fight featuring Platinum games largest ever boss fight, which will certain make Bayonetta 2 fans pay attention. It's till unclear how much of the game is actually co-op, it appears to be limited to boss fights but that seems awkward to set up if everyone is doing something else in game.

Interestingly Scalebound was previously confirmed as Xbox exclusive is coming to the Play Anywhere imitative. Now it's possible that the game could come to Steam but I suspect it will be exclusive to the Windows Store.

Forza Horizon 3

Forza made its traditional appearance, however it wasn't the usual show and tell. Microsoft used Forza Horizon 3 to show case the Play Anywhere imitative. You had four players each playing FH3 on a different set up; Xbox One, Xbox One S, a mid-range PC (using an X1S pad) and a top of the range 4k PC with a steering wheel. Each player was doing their own stuff in their own worlds before the X1 player sent out an invite for the game's co-op enabled campaign. The invite was answered by the other three stage players. It was pretty cool to see them all play together.

FH3 is set in Australia and looks absolutely glorious even on the old rickety Xbox One (I jest), they seem to be using the setting to its fullest with players racing through cities, deserts and jungles. Which combined with co-op gave us all at GK-UK Top Gear flashes.

Dead Rising 4

Dead Rising 4 is a true sequel and not a remake as previously rumoured, though both Dead Rising 1's star (the surprisingly young looking 54 year old) Frank West and and setting Willamette do return. This new entry sees Frank "I've covered wars you know" West return to Willamette mall in a fresh outbreak around Black Friday (hey that's familiar) so there is plenty of Christmas zombie joy to be had. The new game world isn't just the old one jazzed up, DR4's world is described as 60% mall and 40% city. DR4 will feature even more crazy weapons (including an exosuit) but to counter this there are more zombie types, well 3. The Horde: The classic Dead Rising shambling corpses. The fresh: these are only recently turned zombies and as such they are faster and can follow Frank up and over obstacles. Finally the EVO: which appear to be human/zombie hybrids which are being likened to Jurassic Park's Raptors, with them being able to work together and with the horde, letting the masses wear you down and strike when your weakened. Another addition is Frank's ability to take selfies which according to the press at E3 is an hilarious edition. Dead Rising 4 will launch this year... at Christmas ins't that lucky!

State of Decay

State of Decay was one of my favourite games on X1, you may remember us mentioning it.... several times. Microsoft treated us with a trailer for the sequel with the tagline: Nobody survives alone. Which got our hopes up for co-op the only clearing omission from the original game.

Undead Labs quickly confirmed SoD 2 will feature 4 player co-op, with "guests" playing as survivors from their own game saves and get to take a share of the rewards back. I can't explain how much I am want to play this game, to share the inky viscus dread with three others will be the best bounding/torment.

Halo Wars 2

Creative Assembly (Total War) and 343i's follow up is shaping up pretty well, MS is saying that fan demand is the main reason for the spin off's resurrection. There is a public beta live right now and the game will launch properly February 21st (FYI Feb '17 is going be crazy busy)

Its being reported that those who pre-order will get Halo Wars: Definitive Edition for Xbox One and PC suggesting that this isn't a bundled 360 game but an remaster.

Xbox Live Update

MS announced a trio of new features coming to Xbox Live: Clubs: kinda like Facebook groups, used as an area for you to find like minded Gamer., Looking for Group: seems to exist as an dig at Destiny's lack of Raid matchmaking. You'll be able to post "adverts" saying exactly what your looking for in a group and people can "sign up" if they feel they meet your requirements. Finally there is Arena which is fairly self explanatory Tournament system but importantly these wont be limited to just publishers as Gamers themselves can set up and run their own tournaments

Assorted other stuff
Here we are at the end of our round up and heres a splattering of stuff not covered above

  • Tekken 7 IS coming to X1 in 2017, Tekken Tag 2 is currently free for Gold members.
  • Playdead's new game Inside will launch June 29th, Their first game Limbo is free on Xbox One
  • Witcher's Gwent is getting it's own game! 
  • Final Fantasy XV has a gameplay footage to show off the games new combat... it went badly.
  • Recore will launch this September and looks... good but slightly indie. 
  • Whilst Phantom Dust reboot is dead Microsoft is remastering the orginal for Xbox One
And thats about it really, here lets end on the new controller's multiple looks

Monday, 13 June 2016

Bethesda @ E3 round up

Bethesda had a pretty safe E3 with few "all new" announcements and was mostly housekeeping on its current titles and plans. No Elder Scrolls 6 here.
Quake's back!

Looks like making this years DOOM really triggered something with in the now Bethesda owned ID software. Quake is returning and appears to be reciving the same treatment as DOOM. Introducing Quake Champions an hero based (set characters with special abilities), fast paced arena shooter. Here check out the trailer!

Quake. Is. Back.

The fast, skill-based arena-style competition that turned the original Quake games into multiplayer legends is making a triumphant return with Quake Champions. Running at an impressive 120hz with unlocked framerates, id Software’s new multiplayer shooter is getting ready to take PC gaming by storm once more.

Quake Champions features a roster of unique characters, each with their own distinctive abilities, allowing you to fight the way you want.

Fallout 4 DLC

Bethesda confirmed the 2nd wave of DLC for Fallout 4 (still under the one season pass) featuring 2 workshop content drops and a final expansion.

The first DLC will be "Contraptions" which will allow you to build physics based devices... basically lets you make a version of Mouse Trap for your settlements. Launching this month Contraptions will feature elevators, green house kits, fireworks, armour racks (yay) and more such as stocks (lets see Macy Long complain now!).

The second DLC entitled "Vault Tech Workshop" which as the name implies will allow you to build and operate your own vault (which seems slightly counter initiative considering this a post bomb world), complete with experiments to run on your new dwellers and all new pre-war (I suppose that's technically true)  items. You'll be able to customise your dwellers using new cosmetic and hair dressing items. "Vault-Tech Workshop" launches in July. As you can see in the following trailer, it certainly seems to be taking its cue from the free mobile titles Fallout Shelter.

The final DLC (unless the guys get drunk and decided to add more again) is "Nuka World" and will be much closer to Far Harbor in terms of content. This DLC will see the Sole Suvivor traveling to an all new "open region" featuring a town set in the ruins of the Nuka Cola world theme park.

Skyrim's Back

It was rumoured for so long and now its been confirmed, Skyrim is coming to Xbox One, PS4 and PC (with some PC users getting it free). Not only dose the new release come with the DLC and remastered effects such as better snow, water and sunlight, but as rumoured it will also support console mods. Ultimately there isn't a lot more to say here, take a look at the polished up new release due 28th of October.

Prey returns!

We finally now know the fate of the Prey series after Bethesda canceled Parkour alien bounty hunter sequel to the first native Indian spiritual force vs alien invasion. Yeah I forgot about rather jarring shift there, anyway Prey now returns via Dishonored 1 & 2 developer Arkane. So far it looks rather impressive and holds very little outward link to the original title.

Arkane Studios, the team behind the critically acclaimed Dishonored series, is bringing their unique vision to Prey, a first-person sci-fi action game that reimagines the franchise from the ground up… with an added psychological twist.

You are Morgan Yu, the subject of morally dubious experiments designed to improve the human race. You awaken aboard the Talos 1 in the year 2032 and must uncover the secrets hiding in the depths of the space station while being hunted by the mysterious alien force that has taken over. You’ll have to rely on the tools you find on the station – along with your wits, weapons and mind-bending abilities – to combat the growing threat and, hopefully, survive.

left overs
Bethedsa also announced multiplayer DLC for DOOM, breifly teased Wolfenstien, Fallout and DOOM would be receiving VR support and that Elder Scrolls Online will be removing its borders between players.

This will let everyone experience all the content regardless of faction or level. Under the new system the player levels to the environment so your free to join up with anybody. No need to worry though as areas that are meant to be hard will still be hard, this is intended to return the sense of free exploration of the single player titles, players can now explore with out worrying that they'll be insta-killed by a rat.

Lets end this wrap up with a glorious look at Dishonoured 2 gameplay!

Sunday, 12 June 2016

EA @ E3

EA is first taking on E3 this year, with its own take on Nintendo's direct. EA's take involved 2 separate shows running side by side in the US and UK. I'm panic writing this article "live" so it will be rough as hell.

EA CEO Andrew Wilson starts by confirming Star Wars, Titanfall 2, Battlefield and Mass Effect Andromeda. Wilson says there are now over 2 billion gamers, cant help but feel that includes mobile.

First up we're getting a look a Titanfall 2 with Vince Zampella. First we get to see some multi player New pilot powers (teleport, grapple hook), Titan powers that look like they have been lifted from the avengers including hulk shock waves, and Iron-man chest laser. There will be 6 new Titans

Commenting on the earlier single player leak, "for those 4 people who didn't see the leak". Its all the same footage, we have aliens, awesome robo-human teamwork and anime buster swords. All in all its largely what you'd expect from the Modern Warfare guys.

Next up is a Madden trailer... which to an UK citizen looked... fine I guess (sorry for our US readers). Usual sports game updates, better season, more realism and better commentary. However it appears Madden (and probably Fifa) is EA's attempt to lure more people into pro gaming. With three teirs of eSports. The first is basically fan ran events with custom rules, the 2nd is one ran by partners with them establishing rules, and finally and top tier EA ran tournaments.  

Now EA is showing off an eSports bit... and it comes off a little silly (to me) with programmers being treat the same way as Boxers are before a fight. EA is hosting an Madden championship with an $1,000,000 price.

Next up is Bioware... I'm going to privately scream.

"you are the alien" is the central theme for Mass Effect Andromeda, 90% is apparently going to be all new (in universe) so all new tech, all new planets and all new races. Looks like we're not getting a new trailer but we do have lots of behind the scenes footage which is filled with gameplay and movie clips. It dose look really really nice, which is to be expected on a current gen exclusive frostbyte powered game.

EA is introducing "EA Play To Give" which appears to be in game challenges that once completed send a donation to charity for a total of $1 million.

Next up is Fifa 17 (more but different screaming), EA is saying this years entry is "revolutionary". An every excitable "football fan" Hunter is telling us about football fantasy in the playground vs video games. The following trailer is showing off what appears to be a fairly dramatic story mode following said football fan "Hunter". the character talks and looks nicely animated, it doesn't appear to support custom characters. Apparently "The Journey" (which is the name for Fifa 17's story mode.) is so in depth it requires them adding the managers in game.  

More of the usual sport title updates, more interestingly is them showing off the "new rookie talent" rendered in the Frostbyte engine.

The success of last years Unravel has inspired EA to create its own Indie label - ironically named "EA Originals" despite the self serving name, EA is actually going to pump all of these profits from these titles back to their developers. The first title in this label is "Fe" which frankly looks like your typical artsy indie title, it dose however look like it could be an interesting experience much like Beyond Eyes from last years xbox E3.

Next up is Star Wars. First up is Battlefront 2 which will "reflect fan demand" and also feature content from the new films (assuming ep 7 and rouge one), In 2018 Visceral action adventure original story. a brief alpha clip was shown and it looked very nice on a desert world. And finally Respawn's game will be set in a "different era" and will be a third third person action game (the behind the scenes video showed a mo-cap light saber dual at Respawn).

Finally we have Battlefield 1.first up is a short in game teaser for what appears to be the single-player, which is all very very nice looking. Battlefeild 1 will feature more natural and intuitive destruction, The maps also feature dynamic weather which will directly affect how you play. The game will also feature Behemoth vehicles such as the Blimp, Armoured train and Warships.

Next up os the rest of the tease and boy dose it look good, the effects seem suitably overwhelming and intense,

Wednesday, 8 June 2016

Confirmed: Injustice 2 Annouced

At some point I should really get an article going about all the things that are better than they have any right to be. On top of that list or near the top would be Injustice: Gods Among Us. On paper it shouldn't of been good it was based on the Mortal Kombat engine, the previous attempt Mortal Kombat vs DC universe was uneven, set in a Superman gone rouge universe, and balancing should of been a nightmare. 

Luckily it was pretty great, even like me you was not... overly fond of the basic Mortal Kombat gameplay, or the overly armoured designs. It did win me over with it's clever use of character abilities, interesting story (which's backstory was excellently written in a 5 "year" comic) and... well Batman!

Today Warner Brothers and Netherealms have announced as sequel, which like the upcoming Justice League movie apparently doesn't sport an subtitle - Injustice 2.   

Well wasn't that... armoured,

Sorry and I'm back. According to the release materials this game doesn't feature transformations as the trailer implies. What it dose feature however is an RPG style loot system, this system will not only change how your character looks but will apparently also alter their abilities and your strategies (i'm assuming by altering move start up times/directions) as well as forcing your opponent to switch up their game.

The all important loot will be rewarded after each fight, with some loot being generic and others being character specific. Guess we'll see how all that works out in 2017.

Abe's Take
First up i'm excited to see where the story is going and as a fan of DC's TV shows it was fun seeing veteran Flash and newcomer Supergirl (I'm assuming that's her, could also be Powergirl) but the I do worry about balancing the loot for online, I'm getting DBZ Xenoverse flashbacks. That games loot pretty much destroyed the online.

Tuesday, 7 June 2016

XCOM 2 is Hitting Consoles

It's been a difficult relationship with XCOM for the modern gamer. The franchise burst back on to our screens, almost every screen with XCOM: Enemy Unknown and it's expansion XCOM: Enemy Within PC, 360, PS3, Android and iOS. Those excellent titles was then followed up by The Bureau: XCOM Declassified which was... a third person shooter and is best left at that.

Such glory (yes I'm ignoring Bureau) continued on to the announcement of an direct sequel to XCOM: Enemy Unknown. Which was met by cheers (and I like to think street parties) however those cheers got a little less loud as 2K and Fraxis announced it was PC exclusive. Which after the excessive wooing of the console and tablet crowd seemed rather perplexing. To Fraxis' credit they was pretty open on why it was staying on PC namely keeping the team focused on one version, and mods; which kept the last release on everyone's PC for a long time.

Now the dark times are over for console players as 2K has recruited "The Workshop" (developer beinf X1/Ps4 ports of Evil Within and Liberator.) to bring the former PC exclusive to Xbox One and PS4, XCOM 2 will begin punishing console player starting September 6th.

Whilst there is no news on whether mods will be coming to consoles we do know that 2K will be releasing all of the existing DLC the same day as the game launches.

Abe's Take
I always suspected XCOM 2 would hit consoles sooner or later, doubly so once Bethesda announced Fallout 4 mods for console. I am however slightly annoyed that the DLC will be hitting day one and wont be included in the price. Not that I'm saying I think the DLC isn't worth it but having it sit there on the store on day one feels... off.

Also what's with these pre-E3 announcements?

Rumour: Dead Rising 4 leaked

Dead Rising is a one of GK-UK's much loved franchises, even when its punishes us for no real reason. Those prisoners in their jeep still haunt our dreams. The first game was a weird wonderful Japanese take on Dawn of The Dead (we're aloud to make that link now right?) even with the sequels switching to a US studio and adding co-op the games kept that quirky tone and was still fun.

Multiple sources have outed an poster (probably for E3) for Dead Rising 4 which sees franchise front man Frank West return, it also appears to show the original mall at Christmas.

More details have seems to appeared along with an screen shot. Its being reported that Dead Rising 4 will in fact be an remake of the original title. However it wont be a simple remaster as it also see them touching up the old game, DR4 apparently now features 4 player co-op (with other players taking on the roles of Chuck, Nick and Annie and may have more/the rest) of the town in which the original game was set.

The sources are saying that Dead Rising 4 is Xbox Store exclusive, which doesn't mean download only but that its coming to Xbox One and Windows 10 exclusive. They's also a talk that MS will also unveil State of Decay II, which would be... well epic really.

Abe's Take
Really excited by the idea of a new Dead Rising and State of Decay combo at E3. That being said this seems really weird that DR4 is a remake of DR1. I cant help that feel its might not be a remake but more the character revisiting the physical area. Access to the extended town, the stars of Dead Rising 2 (5 years after DR1) and 3 (10 years after DR2) being playable, and Christmas theme all make me feel this isn't a remake. Actually it gives me a "end of the series" vibe.

Friday, 3 June 2016

Ghost Rider #27 (July 1992)

J-Max was challenged to review 30 issues of Ghost Rider in (roughly) 30 days. Should J-Max succeed he shall earn his freedom (probably not). However should he fail in this task then he shall be subjected to an attack by Bees...DEADLY BEES.

So let's join him for his review of Ghost Rider #27

Vengance: Pure and Simple.

Credits: Howard Mackie (writer), Ron Wagner (artist), Gregory Wright (colourist), Mike Witherby (inker).

Overview: Ghost Rider and the X-men fight the brainwashing aliens.

1 DAY UNTIL Beemageddon!

This issue was the first Ghost Rider comic I owned as a kid. I didn’t pick it up in the store because it looked good or because I was interested in Ghost Rider at the time or even out of curiosity - I’m sure many did. I picked it up because it had somehow became wedged in with the X titles that I was buying and purchased by accident. It's appropriate for both of these reasons that I end with it.

By The time Ghost Rider #27 was released, the comic was in trouble from heavy competition in the widening anti-hero market. Frank Miller's Sin City had just finished its run in Dark Horse Comics - offering a competitive vigilante styled suburban crime noir. Todd Mcfarlane had brought Spawn to massive commercial acclaim through Image comics – offering a competitive hell themed vigilante book. Both writers brought new readership to their prospective companies with their pop cultural lore and their willingness to remove inhibition from their heroic figure. 

There were no rules anymore.

Not only were these issues a problem, the comic was deeply struggling with its own sense of identity. Where before Ghost Rider would be attacking rapists in an alley or fighting city wide corruption with chains and hellfire he was now battling aliens and acting as a supporting cast member in his own comic.

It seems I had missed even more story as this issue follows on from X-men #9 so Ghost Rider is normal again and out for revenge but I don’t feel cheated in the slightest because once again all this issue offers is a wall to wall fight with uninteresting villains. The Brood are a note for note take on Ridley Scott’s Alien creatures. They have an insect like appearance, gunk people to walls and come out of the walls to attack. The heroes stumble through the hive and kill the queen before meeting up on the surface.

The Brood characters in this arc seem to sole be here to give Ghost Rider a legitimate excuse to become more violent and callous in his own comic which, for some reason, he is not allowed to be when real people are involved. Here he is free to go full Deathwish.

Everything is high octane, explosive daemon carnage porn cranked up to eleven with lots of shouting and flashy art that admitedly would look great on a wall but perhaps even better in the bin. Suddenly, I realised I wanted to stop reading. I was looking at splashy nothing. How Ghost Rider had finally arrived at this point was beyond me. 

Zap there’s an alien dead.

Tink there goes another.

If he had just had his origin story told years ago we wouldn’t need to reach the point where he is so stuck for villains that we need to have him in the earth fighting insects to see who has the bigger chain or mandible. Ghost Rider and the comic had lost its humanity but I was not about to lose mine. I couldn't stop. The insects couldn’t win.

This comic was clearly an example of fan service. Given the growing anti-hero climate. Cyclops, Beast, Jubilee, Rouge and Psylock just sit down somewhere in the hive while Wolverine, Ghost Rider and Gambit head off to have the big fight because it will look even better that way.

Ghost Rider occasionally comments hinting that Dan may not be as dead as we think he is so I’m guessing this is Marvel damage control as they try out what the comic would be like without human characters and going full daemon. The answer is self-evident.

Meanwhile, we have a splash page of Dan floating around in the ether with shattered mirror fragments dancing around him showing the X-men alien showdown. “What have you done to me?” wails Dan. What an appropriate thing to ask.

Slash “dis feels good.”

Crack “They bleed.”

“In your exhausted state, you will come to serve me.” says the insect queen.

The one good that is preventing me from feeling lost in the hive of action is Johnny Blaze coming back into the comic. He’ll move the plot forward! Hearing about a Ghost Rider sighting he rushes in and joins the daemon as he rips the alien’s skin off from the mouth down. Then he shoots it with hellfire to kill it. Then wolverine stabs it in the eye. Then Gambit throws an explosive card at its head – just to be sure. Then cyclops comes in and vaporizes the body. 

Then all the gritty, edgy heroes head to the surface and fist bump before wolverine has a cigar. Thus bringing the issue and insect menace to an end. 

The buzzing around me had stopped, and now there was stillness.

Ghost Rider #26 (June 1992)

J-Max was challenged to review 30 issues of Ghost Rider in (roughly) 30 days. Should J-Max succeed he shall earn his freedom (probably not). However should he fail in this task then he shall be subjected to an attack by Bees...DEADLY BEES.

So let's join him for his review of Ghost Rider #26

Blood Feud!

Credits: Howard Mackie (writer), Ron Wagner (artist), Gregory Wright (colourist), Mike Witherby (inker).

Overview: Ghost Rider is captured and brainwashed by aliens.

1 DAY UNTIL Beemageddon!

Review: Never before have I found it so hard to continue with my 30 days review as I have as I have at the point of finishing this issue. It almost seems a cruel joke that the worst is left till last. With less than three hours to go the buzzing sound below has moved to the very walls around me and the ceiling far above. I can hear the vibration humming as I type. Humming like the roaring motor of Ghost Rider hell bound motorcycle as he moves into an unknown future without his villains, his human cast or his human identity. 

Ghost Rider drives to a graveyard, ends up in hell and is attacked by aliens. The end. Oh, how I really wish I could end it there. How I wish I could give you everything the comic offers as shallow as it stands. But I can’t because I have to talk about X-men. 

The story is a through and through X-men tail about the mutants tracking down the aliens who are being worshipped by a clan that has apparently murdered Gambits bother. None of this adds anything to the series at all other than being an opportunity to have the X-men appear – who had recently had their animated series showcased on television. Why was Ghost Rider suddenly playing second fiddle to other Marvel titles? It was still selling rather strongly at this point. I already feel like I’m talking about an x-men comic book and not a Ghost Rider one.

This is a story crossover than began in X-men #8, if you haven’t read X-men #8 – which I haven’t - you’re supposed to think you’re in trouble but, I’ll save you the concern by telling you it’s about aliens and them punching aliens.

So how do we get to this point? I hear you ask. Ghost Rider is in New Orleans during Mardi Gras for some reason – perhaps explained in another marvel comic, perhaps not. I suppose now that Dan is dead there really isn’t much of a reason for him to remain in New York but there’s really no reason for him to be at a Mardi Gras festival either. He drives to a church. A shadowy figure bursts from the stained glass window and kills someone right in front of him. He follows this person into the church which is apparently a portal to hell, and he winds up in a room filled with daemon aliens and daemon alien cultists. They completely overwhelm him and leave him in a position where he needs rescuing by the x-men. The x-men show up and begin wiping out the demons but are too late and Ghost Rider has been possessed and is now the villain in his own comic needing to be taken down by the heroes.

With issue #25 we saw the hero loose his identity as Dan Ketch was finally, cold bloodedly murdered by Blackout and left abandoned on the cold earth. With issue #26 we have the only logical outcome to this: the comic losing its identity. Sure Ghost Rider has fought strange foes in the past with perhaps Zodiak being the strangest, stupidest and purest of these but he’s never fought aliens and alien cults. And here he does: in hell. We have no returning characters, a completely foreign environment, a narrative continuing over from another comic book, demon aliens, and, in the end, Ghost Rider isn’t even the hero – let alone the main character.

The thing that had really worked for the series issue to issue was the gritty suburbanite feel to it with Ghost Rider playing the role of vigilante against a rouge gallery of psychopaths and eccentric action villains. The hero was an underdog who gradually became more confident and active as time went on and when issues were too dark we had the humanity brought out by the family and friends in the main characters life. All of these elements created or could create scenes that were funny and quirky, tense or horrific and allowed the comic to move in different directions at once.

All we have here.  All that’s left is hollow action without any personality or colour or entertainment beyond the admittedly excellent drawings. The only consistency to this comic and all the comics that came before it are the creative team and the fact that still, three years in, the comic is dropping hints at some large scale origin story. Only now, it is far beyond being annoying it is simply boring. And I was ultimatly bored by this issue. And no mind controlling daemon alien could convince me otherwise.

I was nearly there, nearly finished. One more review, and I was free. I closed my word document down to find a pop up had emerged on my screen. It was Nicholas Cage, his eyes glowing wildly with madness.

2 hours to go.