E3 2019 roundup


The biggest calendar event in gaming, E3 has come and gone once again, and as usual there’s been surprises, disappointments and lots and lots of games! Sony’s absence this year was jarring but not all that missed as there was still plenty to gush over, some of which, my personal highlights, I’ve detailed below…

Microsoft

I was majorly hyped going into this press conference that kick-started E3 2019 and have to admit … I came away a little disappointed. Big games announced the previous year like Gears of War 5 (now simply called Gears 5??) and Halo Infinite were shown but with little to no game play. I wasn’t really expecting much from Halo, but more was shown of Gears last year than we got in this initial press conference. A strong focus on the multiplayer was also concerning.

However, a ton of games were revealed, a good amount of exclusives such as the new game from Ninja Theory ‘Bleeding Edge‘ which looked cool but a bit too Overwatch-y for me. A release date for the long-awaited Ori and the Will of the Wisps was welcome, even if February 2020 still seems like a long wait. There just wasn’t that big ‘wow’ moment I had hoped for unless you count Keanu Reeves coming on stage to reveal the release date for Cyberpunk 2077 (April 3020) – which admittedly was rather cool. Even a reveal of-such of Microsoft’s next console ‘Project Scarlett‘ didn’t do much – what does it look like? How much will it cost? Still, 4 times more power than Xbox One X? Where do I sign?

Overall the show entertained, showed a lot but never really took off for me, which was unexpected considering all the promise of last year. Xbox is clearly in good shape and has plenty still to offer, but with PS5 on the horizon, this wasn’t quite enough to silence the nay-sayers.

Nintendo

Ok Nintendo truly knocked it out of the park with a Nintendo Direct and Treehouse hands-on that showcased a good amount of games I’d really want to play. Luigi’s Mansion 3 looked incredible, as did the personally-anticipated The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening. I was also really impressed with Astro Chain. Oh, and The Witcher 3 is getting a Switch port? That’s pretty damn amazing. Animal Crossing delayed till 2020? Oh well, it didn’t float my boat much anyway. There was also no sign of Bayonetta 3 or Metroid Prime 4.

However it was the confirmation and teaser trailer for a sequel to Breath of the Wild that genuinely blew my mind. I’m suddenly excited about Nintendo Switch all over again!! That’s how you deliver the goods at E3.

The other guys

Ubisoft’s conference was decent. I’m certainly now hyped for the amazing looking Watchdogs Legion, and the new Ghost Recon Breakpoint game looked cool too. A lack (again) of a Splinter Cell announcement was disappointing though.

Square Enix showed more of the highly anticipated Final Fantasy VII remake which looked lush. However I remain on the fence about Crystal Dynamics’ Avengers game. The Switch version of Dragon Quest XI looks great though.

Bethesda seemed to take a long time apologising for Fallout 76, but did manage to show off Doom Eternal and various game expansions and mobile games (a growing trend at E3). The new game from Arkane Studios ‘Death Loop‘ looked freaky and interesting, as did ‘Ghostwire Tokyo‘.

Nintendo and a few others aside , a reliance on pre-rendered cinematic trailers rather than hands-on game play footage was problematic (no Cyberpunk game play after all this time?) but this year E3 still proved it’s worth and remains for me the best way to get hyped about the games industry … an annual event I truly hope never disappears.

Game of E3: for me it’s definitely Watchdogs Legion

Biggest surprise: Breath of the Wild sequel teaser

That’s all from me for now.  Lots to look forward to on the gaming horizon.

Craig.

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Nintendo Switch launch


Nintendo Switch

I can’t let today pass by without remarking on the release of Nintendo’s brand new console – Nintendo Switch.  I’ve had my eye on this ever since it was announced, and it’s come as a bit of a surprise just how interesting and clever an idea Nintendo has come up with.  Firstly, Nintendo have for many years ruled the handheld market … that cannot be contested.  The 3DS flew off the shelves and it’s various iterations – even in the advent of increasingly powerful mobile phone technology.  However on the home console front, they’ve been failing for a while even after the huge success of the Wii.  Yet now here comes a console that offers the best of both worlds and will attract both types of gamers; those that want to have their gaming on-the-go (I hate that term) and those that prefer the comfort of their sofa and a big screen TV.  Never before has a console offered both and offered it so seamlessly, as the video below will attest:

SwitchI won’t go into detail too much on the various things the Switch can do…I’m sure if you’re at all interested you’ll have read up on the machine already.  What I can give you though is my thoughts on why this is an exciting games system and why Nintendo are luring me back, despite my reservations in the past with Nintendo’s consoles (I had a GameCube, a Wii and a Nintendo DS back in the day).  It has a feel from what I’ve seen and read of a great secondary console.  It’s not rubbing shoulders with Xbox or PlayStation (something Nintendo has avoided for years) and has it’s own identity.  Plus I’ve really missed Nintendo’s game design.  Nothing on a PS4 or XB1 plays quite like Mario or Zelda.  There is a unique and stylish charm to their characters, and yes I have sometimes even looked to the ill-fated Wii U with jealousy because it still had those games.  However that machine had little to separate it from the Wii, whose motion-control gimmick faded with time and so it was clear Nintendo had to revise it’s approach to console design.  Therefore I’d say the Switch has delivered sort of a ‘best of Nintendo’ this time around in a well-designed and attractive package.  Only time will tell if the games can live up to the machine’s potential, if 3rd party publishers support it the way they do Sony & Microsoft.

The-Legend-Of-Zelda

I hope to get one at some stage myself and will report more on the machine when I’ve actually spent some time with it.  Until that day comes let’s send congratulations to Nintendo on the launch of their new console and wish them plenty of success in the future.  I think it’s their turn, don’t you?

Will The Division be good?


I have the game coming next Tuesday and to be honest I’m a little apprehensive.  The two Betas that we had were ok, and the gameplay and combat seemed good…but I’m still not entirely sure how interesting the final game will end up being.  Will it be a game that only really comes alive when playing co-operatively, or will it work just as well (or well enough) in single player?  The world it depicts that of a post-virus outbreak near-future New York is certainly compelling and developer Massive Games has done a great job of bringing New York to gritty life, but the wow-factor of the first reveal and the final graphical downgrade still stings me.

the division art

I have been playing a lot of Destiny lately and enjoy it on an exploration and character developing basis, and the various missions whilst a bit samey are still fun with solid gunplay mechanics and an interesting world.  Yet that has several large planet environments to explore and therefore gives some variety to the surroundings.  The Division on the other hand just has New York and as well realised as the city environment may be, for a game that is meant to last for a long time, several years in fact … one admittedly huge environment is still that – one environment.  I’m sure the various areas and districts will have their own flavour, but at this stage I’m wondering about the game’s lasting appeal for months to come.  It also niggles me the developer’s focus on The Dark Zone, a multiplayer PVP environment that for me, was never the big pull of this game and turns it into basically another multiplayer shooter but with loot and a few NPC characters to shoot.  It’s interesting but the developer seems way too focused on it and less  focused on the game’s narrative or single player / co-operative experience outside the ‘dark zone’.

I’ll offer a more rounded opinion on the game once I have played a fair bit of the final product.  At the moment though I’m a little less excited than I should be.  I’ll leave you with the launch trailer…

The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt impressions


Geralt W3

Probably the most anticipated game of the year.  CD Project Red’s long awaited follow up to the award winning Witcher 2: Assassin Of Kings takes the series full open world RPG and is the most ambitious project the acclaimed studio have ever under took.

But the important thing here, beyond the hype is for a fairly take them or leave them fan of RPGs, how does it play?  I chose to pick up (or more specifically download) the Xbox One version, and after about seven hours with it, I can confidently say … this game has me hooked.  Think a cross between Red Dead Redemption, The Elder Scrolls series and to some extent Assassin’s Creed and you sort of get the idea.  You play as Geralt, a bad-ass monster hunter or Witcher; feared, respected and reviled in equal measure.  The quest kicks off with you in search of the sorceress Yennifer; a former lover of Geralt’s who he’s been tracking for years and is close to catching up with her.  Also you are on the look out for your prodigy Witcher / sorcerer Ciri, who we meet in the flashback prologue where you train her as a child.  The story holds many twists and turns however, places to visit monsters to hunt and kill for bounty, and a massive, highly detailed world to explore and get lost in.

Launch trailer

This kind of game for me can be a little daunting and I’ll admit it took a while to really get into.  The fighting controls are a little unwieldy at first until you get your head around them and learn to throw in magic and protection spells with your swordplay.  Yet with plenty of character customization, potions to brew and abilities to unlock … this becomes a very deep and engrossing experience that I’ve really only touched the surface of.

On the Xbox One it looks fantastic.  One of the most impressive aspects is the weather and the lighting, how trees blow in the wind, rain fall, mist rolls across the land and moonlight bleeds in through the trees (or eye-burning sunlight).  Also add the sheer detail to houses, villages, grass, very realistic water and the wealth of creatures and monsters … and a myriad of interesting folk and characters.  This is a joy to behold.  There are a few (minor) fluctuations in frame rate and occasional pop-in or glitches, and the game did freeze on me once after dying.  So it’s not perfect, but for the scale and number of things going on it’s still an impressive technical achievement that will only get smoother and more polished with future patches.

Sat_May_23_17-53-53_UTC+0100_2015

Screenshot captured directly from my Xbox One

Anyone after a long, rewarding and deep game to really get involved in, then you can’t go wrong with this epic RPG.  It has it all and I’m sure will throw up many surprises and memorable situations as I progress.  It’s out now for PC, PS4 and XB1.  So what you waiting for?  Time to kick some monster ass and break some hearts.