Gamescom gameplay stand-outs


I have kept a close eye on this week’s games convention in Germany, Gamescom and some of the gameplay videos that have surfaced really impressed me.  I think there were some exciting reveals, even if the increasing focus on Indie titles leaves me a bit cold (I tend to find these budget games get a bit boring after a few plays…).  But I’m all for the blockbuster franchises and games like Call of Duty Advanced Warfare and The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt looked very impressive.

My highlights though remain these two:

Quantum Break

Format: XB1

Developer: Remedy

 

Assassins Creed Unity

Format:  XB1 and PS4

Developer:  Ubi Soft

 

Sadly at the moment only AC has a release date (pencilled in for Oct 28) but Remedy seem to be keeping tight lipped about when we’ll get our hands on the very cool looking QB.  Either way, lots to look forward to for gamers.

The casualties of war


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More than at the recent E3 event, the big wigs of the gaming industry, Sony & Microsoft have really pulled no punches when bitching at each other’s announcements.  The big news of course was Microsoft securing Rise of the Tomb Raider as an exclusive for it’s Xbox platforms (XB1 and Xbox 360).  This has pissed off it seems a big portion of the internet with Microsoft rushing to clarify the announcement by saying they paid for a timed deal with Square Enix and Crystal Dynamics … which basically means Sony fan boys may see the much-anticipated title arrive on their platform eventually.  Sony’s response to this?  They offered a statement saying ‘they don’t need to pay for exclusivity in their games’. Oh, and so Xbox owners can expect Uncharted on their machine soon then?  Yeah … thought not.

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It’s all very petty and a bit juvenile.  Microsoft did kind of mislead people by not mentioning the timed aspect of their deal, but then again – aren’t most exclusives timed these days unless they are first party?  Also I don’t really get the uproar surrounding such news as Microsoft need to have a few more trump cards up their sleeves to grab customers in the wake of PS4’s popularity … it’s just good business sense.  Tomb Raider made a real name for itself on PlayStation, granted and also on PC so I can see the frustration, but this isn’t just about several machines all enjoying a piece of the pie – this is a war, and one a big company on the scale of Microsoft aren’t going to lose without a fight.  So grow up everyone and realise that first and foremost … videogames are a business.  If you don’t want to lose out in some way, buy all the consoles.  I love Mario but don’t own a Nintendo console … see me blubbering?  No.  So trust your loyalty to a particular format and deal with the disappointment instead of moaning about it on internet forums.  It actually makes you look a bit silly.

I am interested in getting a PS4 later in the year, and like the look of some of it’s exclusive games (especially The Order: 1886).  I can live without them at the moment as XB1’s announcements are good for my general taste in games (loving the look of Quantum Break’s gameplay), and yes if Tomb Raider had been said to go to PS4 instead, I’d be pissed too.  But then that is why owning both consoles is the way to go this generation.  I understand many will not be able to afford it (and I can’t really) so like I said … stick by your decisions and let the games speak for themselves.  Competition is good for the industry, bitching is not.  Simple as that.

Destiny Beta – impressions


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Today marked the launch of the Destiny beta for all Xbox One Gold subscribers.  The game already released in beta (trial) mode for the PS4 and now available on all four formats, prior to the game’s official launch on September 9th … is the latest big name game from Halo creators Bungie.  I’d call it a cross between Mass Effect, Halo and those massively multiplayer RPG’s like World of Warcraft.  You create your character, from several races and classes, then you are taken into the game, where a robotic floating ‘ghost’ revives you from the dead on a post-apocalyptic earth.

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Your initial quest is to find a space ship to fly up to the tower, the hub world where you can buy weapons, meet up with other players and go on missions.  It’s fairly standard fair for an MMORPG (although you are free to play it alone) but looks state-of-the-art.  Bungie’s graphics engine is superb, and runs excellently on the XB1 and looks near-identical to it’s PS4 counterpart, as online comparison videos have proven.  Lighting effects, water reflections, particle effects, terrain and characters / animation are all top-notch and this really feels like a next-gen game from the very start … at times the vistas and locations on view are breath-taking.

A good example is this opening footage from Youtube user Maka91Productions:

 

I’ve only played a couple of hours in the Beta and am enjoying it a great deal.  The gunplay is very tactical (you can’t just run in all guns blazing… you have to take it slow, pick enemies off, or it’s game over very quickly … very Halo).  I haven’t sampled the other mode ‘the crucible’, a traditional player verses player death match / hard point arena with various maps – but am sure it will be a worthwhile inclusion.  But what I do want is that beyond the missions here, there is a good, deep and immersive story, which I know Bungie can do, and a return to the awe and complexity of the first Halo’s narrative would be very welcome.

It’s worth noting that the only concern at the moment with the Xb1 version over the PS4 version is that the beta is 900p resolution, compared to the PS4’s 1080p.  Now Bungie have stated that on release the full version of the game will be 1080p / 30fps on both next-gen consoles.  Will this come at any cost, performance, graphical detail / effects?  A video over at IGN.com seems to rubbish such doubts with gorgeous looking footage of Destiny in full 1080p glory.  All I can say is this is the game I was thinking of getting a PS4 for … but now I’m not so sure.

Roll on September 9.

Outlast creeps me out


Before any long-term readers start thinking this is turning into a gaming blog, I do actually intend to post some new movie reviews in the next week or so, rest assured.  But for now, on with the gaming!

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I downloaded today after reading many good things and seeing some interesting looking gameplay footage, the game ‘Outlast’ which was released last week on Xbox One.  Formerly available for PS4 and PC, this is a very raw horror experience, where you play as a reporter who is investigating mysterious goings on at an insane asylum.  Typical horror subject matter, but originality isn’t why I was attracted – more the fact it’s meant to be damn scary, something I have only really experienced in a videogame once or twice before (the best being Silent Hill 2).  So just a few minutes of this, with your protagonists heavy breathing, doors that slam! and eerie corridors and NO WEAPONS but for a camcorder and night vision mode … I confess I was actually wondering if I’m too wimpy to carry on playing this way-to-effective videogame.

Only time will tell. 

Watch Dogs … room for improvement?


This is the last post I’ll be writing on this heavily hyped and popular game now I have had more time to really get to grips with it.  So there are a few things I’ve noticed and a few things I wish had been implemented better … or at all.

Ubi Soft have done a great job with this recreation of Chicago and its a blast to explore, especially with all the extra side missions and wealth of people and things going on. What did puzzle me was the amount of bus shelters – but not a single bus! Also why aren’t there any Taxis in this city? Just seems like a complete oversight by the developers. Also strange that Police seem to be absent for the most part until you do some sort of crime. Shouldn’t they be on patrol anyway?  Then the pedestrians which at first glance are well done and individual, it soon becomes apparent that there are a ton of repeated lines of dialogue like ‘what is going on in Chicago’ and ‘she has a crazy perfect ass’ but spoken by different pedestrians and in different areas of the city. A tad lazy for an apparent next-gen experience.

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The weather system is at first impressive and I can’t fault the thunder / rain effect. Even the slight smoggy look at certain times of the day is impressive, but wouldn’t it be cool if there were other effects catered for, like snow? As seen in The Division, but perhaps time of year is a factor, so a wintery sequel? Hmm.  Building interiors lack some detail and I think they could have had a few more areas you can go inside and explore. It doesn’t feel as interactive as GTA V and that was a game on last-gen hardware. Oh and why is this city, like many open world games completely unpopulated by children and animals? I get it, we don’t need to see a child run over by a crazy gamer or shot at point-blank range, but hey – not very ‘real’ either, is it? Couldn’t it be implemented so that such incidents would have a much bigger impact on your reputation compared to regular pedestrians? Just a thought.

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The cash system is far too generous. I haven’t once during the time I have played, lacked money – I either pick it up from fallen foes, steal it off pedestrians or its just plain given to me … lots of it. Makes the whole buying weapons, pills, clothing part of the game a bit boring if its so easy to come by. Oh and as for weapons, getting hold of high powered items like the grenade launcher, very early on, makes many of the missions rather easy. Shouldn’t such hardware get unlocked the more I progress, or as I have mentioned, wouldn’t more of a lack of cash make such cool weapons worth ‘saving up’ for etc… with cash earned perhaps during side quests? I actually had the grenade launcher around the start of the game. On the subject of weapons, how about customization and individual weapon mods, like perhaps a silencer on a sniper rifle…?

The game has some very cool ideas though. The way you can hide in your car following a police chase feels very cop thriller territory, and the story itself, whilst very serious in tone, has the feel of a cool high tech TV series or a movie, with characters that feel real – to me at least. I love profiling pedestrians for some of the weird job titles etc. Also getting hacked during my game is very clever and fun to track down the hacker and blow him away…lol. Some have said the driving is a bit off. I disagree. This depends on the car you use, and feels believable to how real world cars react, as in over-powered ones spin out very easily etc. The bikes are awesome, by the way.

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That extra six months of development, I do wonder where it went . . was it getting the core gameplay principals just right, or adding silly (but fun) diversions like digital trips and cash runs? Personally the time given to such mini games could have been better put to use on limiting the repeated dialogue, giving us buses and taxis to ride (not just trains…) and general polish (yes the game has bugs…). Oh and don’t get me started about the radio… firstly no stations and no DJs? Granted this is Ubi Softs first stab at this sort of GTA-like game, but really? It’s been a stable mate of this style of game for years.

So for the inevitable WD #2 I hope we don’t just get more of the same, but Ubi Soft dedicating themselves to delivering a fully immersive, open world experience with all these little details intact – believe me they matter.