Thursday, 22 March 2018

Coffe Table Reads For Mancaves - The Art of Battlefield 1

The Art of Battlefield 1

With the forthcoming reveal of Battlefield V from EA and the most recent 'Apocalypse' DLC released for Battlefield 1 keeping current players occupied I thought it was long overdue I took purchase of another book on video game art I'd had my eyes on for some considerable time.The Art of Battlefield 1 from Dark Horse is an absolute treasure trove for the eyes in terms of illustrative and design work for Battlefield 1 which launched on PC and PS4, Xbox One back in late 2016.
At 184 pages its a stunning coffee table addition to any man-cave or study looking to add some laid back reading, especially which puts more focus on the art than the word if you're a lazy reader like me. Descriptions and design notes support a lot of the imagery giving a keen insight into the processes of bringing one of the most popular FPS games of recent years to life. Forr the most part, the book is a beautiful 'behind the scenes look at illustrative design and the historical factors that came into focus when creating a WW1 FPS game.

The book explores character design, showing the various design exploration of soldiers uniforms and in latter stages of the book, the ethos behind keeping the brand imagery in sync with other Battlefield games,but what really stands out is the way in which combat and map design create scenarios when combined with land, air and ground warfare. Pages are full of some truly eye popping digital renders and visualizations of how the game should look from air to air combat, tank warfare and the detail that goes into bringing the horrors of the World War 1 battlefield to life.

The book is a nice size and measures in at 23.6 X 2 X 31.2 cm, hardback with a matte finish to the cover, compared to Titan Book's  The Art of Battlefield 4 which featured a lot more architecture and locations The Art of Battlefield 1 feels like it presents and explores far more of the scenarios from the campaign and multiplayer that players will come face to face with in the game. 

If you can snap up a copy for under £30.00 / $40.00 then you've got a bargain because the book is difficult to put down, in fact these books are perfect for browsing in an evening or lazy afternoon.

Amazon have both kindle and hardback editions available and the price has been reduced from its original RRP:

Want to see more art from the DICE team?, check out Senior Concept Artist Robert Sammelin's portfolio here:

Monday, 5 March 2018


Battlefield 1 has kept me hooked nightly since it launched back in 2016, yes nightly and I'm proud say I'm one of the 25 million users that has joined its ranks since I cannot abide Call of Duty or where it ended up with drones and sci-fi walking mechs and day-glow weapons. Modern Warfare was the last great outing, possibly Black Ops II which also played pretty decent. Visually the latest WW2 Call of Duty looked absolutely stunning but the TTK was crazy and I suffered a really bad case of motion sickness trying to play deathmatch games, something  I never get from Battlefield games. 

 Above: Call of Duty revisited the WW2 era for its 2017 release.

The World War 1 setting was a huge gamble for EA and DICE but they absolutely nailed what is quite possible the quintessential representation of warfare in the modern age where the advent of armored warfare may have been in its infancy but the industrial age paved the way for scary ways in which to wage war on fellow man.

There's been quite a bit of rumor floating around where Battlefield heads next, first up was the rumor that a Bad Company sequel / prequel would appear but money seems to be a safe bet on a WW2 setting with Battlefield V. 
Reveal wise this could happen at GDC in San Francisco in late March or anytime in the next few weeks.

Battlefield 1 has a glorious mix of air land and sea combat, sea combat only really came to the fruition properly with the inclusion of warships late in the games release with the awesome map Heligoland Bight as part of the turning tides DLC in December 2017, it is perhaps the most chaotic fight you'll experience in BF1.
Air combat in Battlefield 1 balances out between bombers and nimble fighters with differing payloads and paint jobs which creates a great way for players to mix up the fight. Battlefield V will most certainly contain air combat and it would be great to see the same format of a mix of fighters and  bomber here with planes not explored that much in videogame FPS titles such as the Ju87 or Focke Wulf 190D.

In terms of ground combat I'd love to see other theaters explored, such as Crete which could have German paratroopers facing off against British and Australian, New Zealand troops which could bring in a very nice mix of combat similar to Helogoland Bight.
Much like Amiens is the definitive street combat map the same could be said for a map set within Caen during the invasion of Normandy.

Uniform wise it appears that customization will be key to Battlefield V, would love to see some options here of swapping helmets out for berets in specific units such as paratroopers as well as being able to reverse the smocks for German troops who wore the Tan and Water parkas made famous in films such as Where Eagles Dare.

Weapon choice would be vastly improved for a WW2 setting, there were some pretty unique weapons in Battlefield 1, some of which carried over to WW2 such as the Lewis Gun which was eventually replaced by the more widely adopted Bren but aside for the 1911's and Lugers which will no doubt make another appearance it would be great to see weapons like the MP44, American M3A1 Grease gun and M1 Thompson get the battlefield treatment. other more unique weapons would be the FG42, the Panzerfaust, De Lisle carbine, Lee Enfield No.5 and Lahti L39 20mm anti tank gun.

 Above: The 1911 Colt 45 "The Care Package" skin -  Legendary

It'll be interesting to see how broad the scope is for either the campaign or multiplayer in Battlefield V, the campaign mix split between tanks, planes and ground combat in the campaign worked extremely well and tied in some key elements to the historic warfare not just on the Western front but in the Middle East as well. With the Eastern Front, the Pacific and Middle East theaters all providing some exciting options for dice it provides a huge diverse choice to pick from.

Above ; T.E Lawrence (Lawrence of Arabia) Will historic characters also appear in Battlefield V?

Thursday, 1 March 2018

The Ultimate WW2 Strategy Game for 2018

Armchair Generals of the world rejoice, there's a new WW2 hex based strategy game on the horizon which is looking to take the Panzer General crown, Klotzen! Panzer Battles was recently announced as a new addition to the popular hex based strategy gaming genre for PC and arrives during the summer of 2018.

Klotzen! Panzer Battles will offer a challenging turn based combat experience with a built in adaptive AI system that will look to capitalize on ways to attack the player when they least expect it. The game looks to provide a wide variety of historic engagements from WW2, all of which are based on historic engagements. Impressively Klotzen! Panzer Battles aims to provide players over 550+ unit types in the game  which are divided into 22 unit classes including infantry, Battleships, armored tanks, bombers, submarines, and fighter planes. Klotzens other unique approach to strategic combat will allow players to re-write military history by conducting historic military campaigns to play out a range of entirely new and unique outcomes such as the invasion of Normandy a whole year earlier in 1943 instead of in June 1944 or successfully invading England to take London or on the Eastern front to successfully steamroll the Russians in order to take Moscow.

Combat in the game takes into consideration things like supply lines which are crucial to moving units as well as being able to recycle knocked out units. Add to this the ability to coordinate multi task force initiatives with attacks from the air and sea by utilizing naval power parked off the coast. Attacking towns and supply lines from the air provide a tactical edge not seen before in other hex based games. The various Campaigns offered in the game can be fought over a variety of terrain options such as the brutal harsh realities of Winter combat on the snow covered Eastern front and at the other end of the scale, the unforgiving cooking pot of North Africa.
Map sizes in Klotzen! Panzer Battles look pretty substantial and vary from 200km to over 1000km in scale, (each hex represents 10km).

By far one of the biggest draws of the game is the way that developer Maxim Games has managed to visualize the game, typically most of the WW2 hex based games on the market cater for a 2D perspective, to do this Maxim Games have pre-renderded 60 images of each unit, by comparison Panzer Corps managed only 2, right side, left side. The 3D effect adds a nice bit of finesse to the game looking to make its mark in today's crowded strategy market.
Another nice aspect of Klotzen Panzer Battles is the fact that the outcomes of campaigns is different each time, there are two or three different outcomes to each map which increases the replayability aspect of the game. The role of Generals and Commanders all with various traits also shakes up the outcomes and ongoing tactical operations of the game which I think offers a nice spin.

From the looks of it Klotzen Panzer Battles has looked closely at what both Panzer General and Panzer Corps have already offered up to WW2 strategy gamers and decided to bring the WW2 hex based genre up to date with a really thought out strategy offering of its own. For any game looking to introduce something fresh into a heavily populated genre developers need to look at areas where rival games have made their mark and then improve upon that offering with their own unique ideas. The use of aircraft as an attacking asset on supply and towns is an interesting one, the visuals are fresh and really nicely detailed and the sheer number of units and proposed scenarios (60 scenarios at launch) make this a title to keep a close eye on for sure.

Panzer General has ruled the roost for many years and Panzer Corps DLC offerings have kept the lights on for a good while but this looks like it could really shake up the genre nicely.

Be sure to check out the Steam page for Klotzen Panzer Battles here 

Friday, 16 February 2018

X-Wing The Game Just Turned 25!

X-Wing the game just turned 25, how old does that make you feel, let that sink in for a bit  - February 1993 Star Wars: X-Wing launched on PC.Remember Gouraud shading, no?, okay, I'll move on then.
1993 was a stellar year in videogames actually, Star Fox using the new Super FX chip was launched on SNES, also launched in 1993 was Syndicate from EA and Myst not to mention Legend of Zelda: Links Awakeneing on Gameboy and of course the daddy of them all Doom which was launched on PC in December 1993.
1993 was the same year that Loaded Weapon, Army of Darkness and Bill Murray's Groundhog Day were out. That's right old timer, a looong time ago. A quarter of a century.

Graphically speaking 25 years is a long time ago when you compare X-Wing to more recent fare, Star Wars Battlefronts X-Wing VR mission add-on being probably the best example.

Above: Check out the comparison between the 1993 Version of X-Wing and the latest X-Wing VR mission in Star Wars Battlefront.

Packaged in a distinctive purple box with equally pronounced silver logo and marketed as a space combat simulator it proved to be one of the most popular games of the time. Space Combat Simulator was perhaps a little far fetched since much of the combat appears to be wave based rather than seeking out imperial enemy craft in a random free flight kind of affair but that didn't detract from the fact that you could dogfight imperial Tie Fighters.

Released in 1993 the current version available on COG gives you the option to jump between the classic 1993 version or the slightly upgraded 1998 Collectors series version which featured better graphics. Star Wars X-Wing was of course followed up by the equally impressive Tie Fighter and spawned other spinoff titles within the brand, Imperial Assault was the add on in the same year (1993) followed by B-Wing another expansion also in 1993 Star Wars X-Wing Alliance being the last in the series.

25 years ago I took out the first mortgage on my house, holy crap, time flies when you're having fun.

BSA R10 S.E Black Pepper .22 Air Rifle

After what can only be described as the longest time I think I have ever saved money for anything, and after much difficult contemplation and discussion I finally took the plunge in becoming an Air Rifle owner.
The device of choice, again, after much deliberation and contemplation was a BSA R10 S.E in Black Pepper in .22 calibre, I'd looked at the options from Daystate and Weirach, looked at various reviews for and against a small number of rifles and decided that the BSA was the one I'd like to marry.
Why?, well I have to admit that for starters I fell in love with the finish, the Black Pepper BSA is just a sight to behold and I wanted something that was different to the standard wood and composite rifle stocks that are typical with most rifles. Performance and reputation were important don't get me wrong and despite some early reliability niggles with product quality these appear to have been ironed out at BSA due to customer feedback.Aside from all that I see Air Gun Shooter Magazine guru Matt Manning uses one in some of his YouTube videos and if its good enough for him, its good enough for me.

For UK based shooters like myself and to stay within the legally required power output, air rifles are restricted to a power output of 12ft fpe (16 Joules). Unlike the USA where the majority of air weapons have an unrestricted power output except for city limits in some states. Our closest neighbors across the stream in France have a 20 fpe and sunny Spain has an 18 fpe power limit. Germany however is restricted to 6 fpe.

At 48 years of age I guess I've come into air rifle ownership and shooting a little bit later than I probably should have, the joints aren't as limber as they used to be, a niggling back injury and eyesight on the wrong side of 40 are challenges I'll have to adapt the shooting to. My father in law does clay pigeon with a guy who's pulls around an oxygen tank behind him from stand to stand with a golfing trolley, he's 76 and still knocks out a 38 out of 50 so maybe all isn't lost yet. Besides, 48 is a whole lot better than starting at 58 or 68 so I shouldn't complain that I'm entering a new sport at my age.

The BSA R10 SE Black Pepper is a laminate wood design, a process by which layers of wood are bonded together through adhesives and immense pressure. Rumor has it this process actually makes 'engineered wood' 50% stiffer than traditional sawn cut timber primarily because the adhesives and resins are pressed deep into the wood fibers.
The gun is a PCP powered bolt action 10 shot rifle fed by a small rotary magazine, both .177 and .22 versions have this mag fed system, blue for .177 and red mags for the .22. I'd contemplated a springer powered rifle but wasn't a huge fan of breaking the rifle after every shot to fumble around with a single shot reload, that's me probably being a bit lazy though more than a conscious design decision if I'm brutally honest.
The beauty with springers is you don't ever need to refill an air bottle but who knows, maybe someone will come up with some kind of Winchester reload function that can cock a springer with some sort of built in tech that works like a compound bow does and has a magazine capacity of 10+ shots.

I decided to opt for one of the rifle and scope package deals on offer from the Airgun Centre, an airgun specialist local to me, I didn't want the interest payment options on the gun, just an outright purchase and ownership. The process was pretty painless, a driving licence for I.D and a fist full of cash and twenty minutes later I was an air rifle owner.The rifle and scope package provides the gun in either .177 or .22 with a choice of stock options including traditional wood, composite and the Black Pepper variant. In with that you get a Debden sling and QD swivels, carry case, spare 10 shot mag, pack of targets, bipod and a choice of scopes which gives you either the Hawke Eclipse 3-12X50 AO IR Mil Dot or the Hawke Eclipse 4-16X50 AO IR Mil Dot, not to mention the Hawke Mounts for whichever scope you decide upon. Add to that free servicing for life and a lifetime guarantee and you're all set.

Two more additional purchases were made, I purchased a Hills hand Pump for refilling the air bottle on the rifle and air rifle membership and insurance through BASC ( done online through BASC online) which set me back 159.00 and 53.00 respectively. I figured the insurance was a good idea for joining a club as well as covering me if I do by chance get an opportunity to shoot on private land anywhere for rats or woodies.

All in, this little purchase spree came to just over a grand.
I had looked at BASA insurance but there were too many people on shooting forums telling anyone who would listen to avoid at all costs due to shoddy or late paperwork and lack of customer service.Overall I knew BASC more than any of the others and the work they do for shooting enthusiasts and conservation so it seemed like a better and more sound choice.

Some of you are probably asking why I chose .22 instead of .177 since my main hobby will be target, again, this was just personal choice, although the primary function for the gun will be target shooting I wanted something that would increase the element of  a challenge, the .177 has a flatter trajectory than the .22 does and is perfect for target shooting, being a heavier round the .22 drops sooner than the .177 so the amount of hold over on longer distance targets will be different.

Overall I'm blown away at the fit and finish of the gun, in the sunlight the BSA R10 Black Pepper literally shimmers as the sun reflects of the ash grey and silver tones of the laminate stock.BSA has a long history in terms of firearms dating all the way back to 1861, founded by a group of 14 gunsmith members of the Birmingham Small Arms Trade Association, it was BSA that manufactured the famed Lewis Gun used by allied troops in World War 1 as well as engine parts and motorcycles, BSA went on to play an integral part in manufacturing parts, weapon components and transport related materials during World War 2 despite being bombed by the German Luffwaffte when its factory and barrel mill at Small Heath were damaged in one of many air raids that targeted production. Gun rights to BSA are now owned by Spanish gun maker GAMO.

The BSA R10 Black Pepper is shown here with the scope,mounts,sling,pidod and hard carry case which is a package deal from the Airgun Centre.

Friday, 19 January 2018

John Wick: Franchise Building for 2018

John Wick probably flew under many peoples radar when it initially came out in September 2014, marketing wasn't massive but specifically targeted, developed from an original screenplay originally titled Scorn by Derek Kolstad the movie was shot with a relatively small budget of $29.7 Million. Upon release,word of mouth quickly took hold and the film went on to enjoy a cult following not to mention a comfortable box office run and recouped a satisfying $88.8 Million.
John Wick for the uneducated is the story of a legendary hitman that comes out of retirement to enact revenge on a mobsters son who has done him wrong, not to mention stolen his gorgeously death black vintage Mach 1 Mustang. John Wick the character is revered and feared by everyone in the criminal underworld in almost mythical like respect, a man not to be messed with on any level no matter how many men you send to kill him. Even the police leave him well alone. John Wick killed two men in a bar with a pencil...a reference that is retold and retold again in the films.

The films sequel, John Wick: Chapter 2 was developed for a budget of $40 Million and went on to recoup $171 Million and was set four days after the events of the first film.
This time John is visited by Italian crime lord Santino D'Antonio. It is revealed that to complete his "impossible task" (which was mentioned in the first film) —which allowed him to retire and marry Helen—John asked Santino for help. As a form of contract, Santino swore John to a "Marker," an unbreakable promise symbolized by a "blood oath" medallion, it's when John breaks the unbreakable promise where things take a turn for the worse and Santino convinces John to undertake a contract he really doesn't want any part of involving Santino's sister.

Reeves physical performance in the John Wick films is nothing short of stunning, the actor is after all, knocking on 53 years of age, I groan bending down just to put my damn shoes on and I'm 47. Looking at the sheer speed and choreography within the two films its not surprising that Keanu delivered such a convincing action movie though when you take into consideration the massive amounts of prep he did for the role. Keanu was devoted to the role and the character of John Wick and his months of training involved advanced firearms training as well as hours and hours of hand to hand combat training and martial arts with the Machado brothers pays off in spades. Weapons training was conducted by Taran Tactical which you can see below as Reeves totally shreds the course in record time with live ammo.

Training with the Machado Brothers.

Derek Kolstad is currently writing John Wick: Chapter 3, and is also currently working on the John Wick spinoff for TV, The Continental, based around the world of the assassins that frequent the Continental Hotel. if you've seen John Wick you'll know that this is as a place where contract killers get to chill, get more work or just take a time out while they're killing on the job, the Continental is unique in that its governed by a strict code of honor among its guests in that there is no killing within the confines of the Continental, contract killer or not. The dynamic works really well since there is a wealth of possibilities and characters to explore within the John Wick universe and the focus on the Continental as a central hub is a superb idea for TV, I can see this working perfectly with the right kind of respect paid to the source material, I just wish Netflix had snapped this one up considering how well Daredevil and The Punisher have done as Netflix shows.

The Continental will be shown via Lionsgates streaming TV service Starz which is also available to Amazon subscribers. The themes and timeline to The Continental will run in sync with that of the movies which will connect the flow of the storyline in way that the films and tv share a mutual universe. Planned for a potential 8 episode run, each episode will have a running time of 60 mins.

John Wick 2 introduced some really formidable characters for Keanu to go up  against and these look set to return for John Wick 3. Common will return as Cassian despite injuries he sustained in the train fight with Wick, Laurence Fishburne  who previously worked with Keanu in the Matrix films will be back as the Bowery King, the pigeon loving kingpin - mute assassin Ruby Rose is also set to return as  Ares despite coming off a lot worse than Wick in the 'hall of mirrors' fight in John Wick 2.Ian McShane will almost certainly return as Winston, owner of the Continental as well, a character central to the Wick universe. Winston exudes the right amount of charm, wit and quiet menace to run the Continental with such ruthless efficiency. After Wick breaks the cardinal rule of killing within the walls of the Continental by shooting villain Santino D'Antonio in the face, Wick is excommunicated from all Continental locations and benefits and essentially his membership and privileges to the Continental are now revoked making it open season for every contract killer on the planet to take him down for the $14 Million bounty now on his head.

 Mute Assassin Ruby Rose is back for John Wick: Chapter 3

Director Chad Stahelski had this to say about the third installment of John Wick “The whole purpose of John Wick: Chapter 2 was to get us into John Wick 3—the bridge, but do an interesting bridge. All the cool stuff we showed you in 1 and 2—we call it the service industries [for assassins]—we wanted to take that away.
John Wick was about showing you and giving; John Wick 2 was about taking everything away from him. So at the end, literally, I got the vibe from Donald Sutherland in the original Invasion of the Body Snatchers. You don’t know who’s who. We want to show how
big the world goes.Whenever you deal with hidden worlds, it’s: Who’s the vampire? Who’s the immortal? Who’s the assassin? It’s the Cold War thing, and I miss that. We wanted to instill a little of that."

Building further on the franchise Dynamite Entertainment and Lionsgate Entertainment. partnered up to bring us the John Wick comic book series which was announced in September 2017, written by Greg Pak with art by Giovanni Valetta. When a young John Wick emerges from prison and embarks upon his first epic vendetta, he comes up against a strange, powerful community of assassins and must learn how to master the Book of Rules that guides their lethal business. What are the Three Bills? Who is Calamity? And who was John Wick before he became the Baba Yaga?

John Wick: Chapter 3 hits cinemas on May 17 2019

Wednesday, 22 November 2017

The Combat Art of Ian Kennedy

If you read my previous post about Commando Comics artist Jordi Penalva I mentioned that i'd probably feature another artist on my blog. This time I've decided to profile some of Ian Kennedy's amazing artwork. Kennedy is perhaps one of the most popular artists of the Commando comic series and has illustrated over 1200 covers.
Kennedy resides in a small cottage in Dundee where he paints in his studio, he started work for D.C Thompson as a staff artist in 1949 but went freelance in 1954. Kennedy provided artwork duties on 200AD for IPC, he also provided work for Battle Picture Weekly and Eagle on the Dan Dare series. Kennedy has been a Commando artist since 1971.

Kennedy prefers to work in acrylic which he says is a lot more forgiving as a medium, his art has a more detailed, highly finished look to it accented by the use of light. Kennedy relies on a vast array of reference material to stay true to his painted subjects which feature accurate depictions of military weapons, aircraft and uniforms. It is perhaps his incredible attention to detail and dramatic artwork that has made him a hot favorite with Commando readers over the decades.

As of 1997 he is semi retired but was still painting Commando covers in 2016.

Below is a small sample of his incredible work.

SAS Blades, one of my favorite Ian Kennedy pieces

Falklands combat piece

His last new comic strip to be published in a British comic, “Bombs On Target” in Commando issue 3072 published in 1996, featured Lancaster bombers

Ian Kennedy in his Cottage studio