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.

The Definitive Lara


Look what popped through my letterbox this morning…

TombRaider_1

Although having played, loved and completed last year’s Tomb Raider on the PS3 … as a long time fan of the series and with a bit of a gaming drought at the moment on XBOX ONE I thought it was a great excuse to dive back into arguably Lara Croft’s greatest adventure.

Taking advantage of the extra grunt inside Microsoft’s new console this new version carries over all the DLC that was made available originally, along with concept art, a digital comic book and in the limited edition I ordered, a very nice digi-pack art book.

The game itself has been enhanced with higher Tomb Raider_2_editedresolution textures, improved particle effects on weather, fire and water etc., better lighting and it all runs in native 1080p.  The XBOX ONE version apparently supports a 30fps frame rate compared to up to 60fps on the PS4 but is reportedly more consistent than the varying frame rate on the rival console … but I think this is only an issue for those that look for such things.  Playing it, and I have only had a short time with the game, it feels very smooth and looks superb – an extremely detailed forest / island environment and bags of atmosphere.

I am looking forward to experiencing Lara’s adventure again throughout (something I normally don’t do a second time) as it was a fun game with a good story and plenty of ‘wow’ moments.  Is it really worth double dipping if you’ve already played the first game?  Probably not but if you’re hankering for a decent game on the XBOX 1 (or PS4) until big hitters like Titan Fall and Watch Dogs arrive … you could do much worse.

Deus Ex: Human Revolution – impressions


I have played each game in the Deus Ex series, and this much-anticipated third instalment has been a long time coming.  Sort of Half-Life meets Metal Gear Solid, with a sprinkling of Blade Runner on the top.  You play as Adam Jenson, a cybernetically enhanced security agent working for Sarrif Industries who must investigate what happened during an attack on his previous employer that ended with the death of a close friend.  Set in a future detroit, you have the freedom to go about missions and side quests in you own way, upgrading your abilities along the way to further enhance and customize your experience.  This is a very deep and expansive game, with tons to see and do, and will no doubt last be a fair while.  Interacting with the environment and the characters is a joy as the world you inhabit seems very alive, aided greatly by an impressive graphics engine with life-like animation and some stunning lighting and other effects.

The story too is quite complex and obviously had some care put into it.  Although you have an arsenal of weaponry at hand though, this is no run and gun shooter either, with the gameplay leaning much more towards stealth and finding hidden areas and different routes through an area.  This is also much of the fun, as discovering different way to approach a given situation can be really absorbing and often I have found the time fly by as I get lost in such a detailed and interesting world.  Having played the previous games, although extremely polished, it still feels very similar and the actual mechanics haven’t really progressed from Deus Ex #1.  Which considering that game is regarded as a masterpiece, I suppose is no real criticism.

So a solid experience then, and although only a little way into it (just reached China) I’m really enjoying it.

Kane & Lynch 2: Dog Days impressions


I didn’t play the first game, mostly down to almost overwhelming negative reviews, despite the fact I actually liked the look of it.  I chose to make up for this by buying the sequel, a game that has been received marginally better than its predecessor, but still is blighted by very negative reviews.  Which is a shame, because this is an enjoyable, somewhat simplistic but thoroughly engaging shooter, with two shouting, sweary leads that seem to have come out of any half-decent crime thriller of the last twenty or so years.  Continue reading

Final Fantasy XIII – impressions


Let me begin by saying that I have only played a few hours of this latest epic RPG from developer Square-Enix.  The last game in the series I played was Final Fantasy VIII, and before that the much celebrated Final Fantasy VII.  None of which I might add, did I complete.  I have never completed an RPG as they tend to be games you keep in your collection from months, at first addicted to and then just dipping in and out of as their initial wow-factor wains.

Over five years in the making, from the minute I switched on, it was clear to me that this was something special.  From the production values, including beautiful CG movies and breath-taking scenery, to the finely detailed character and enemy art, there has clearly been a lot of time and money spent on crafting this game.  To play it is basically a gradual learning curve with a detailed tutorial system to get your head around an at first, basic battle system that allows you to attack enemies in real-time with the use of the ATB (Active Time Battle) gauge, an ever increasing metre on the screen that fills up and in the time it takes to fill you must assign attacks to unleash on your enemies.  Anyone used to the mechanics of RPG games will take to the system straight away, and thankfully not too much is expected from the player from the off-set, more over the system increases in complexity as your progress, and you’ll grow your understanding of it as you play.

I only really struggled when I had to fight my first major boss character, and had to hone my skill at the system, which admittedly took some doing.  You see the system is all about knowing how to time your attacks and defence correctly – grasp this and you’ll be making your way past deadly enemies in no time, but the complexities don’t stop there, as there is also a very deep upgrading system to improve your characters abilities and weapons, which will surely see me getting enthralled for months to come.

The game itself is centred around a group of (as ever) likable, colourful characters, lead by Lightening, a female soldier who becomes embroiled in a struggle against warring factions from two different planets; Cocoon and the barely explored, much feared home world of Pulse.  The story is typical of Japanese RPGs, complicated, emotional and very hard to explain – so google it if you are curious.  I personally am loving it, and am really enjoying the branching storylines of the various characters – which certainly keeps proceedings interesting.

(Update: 17/03/2010):

Well I am about 12-13 hours into the game, and although the game felt somewhat dumbed down from previous installments, I was kept hooked by the graphical splendour and the story, and now I have hit the 10+ hour mark, the game’s complexities are beginning to reveal themselves.  I’ll warn you – this game is a grower, and if you’re initially after a deep and complex RPG from the get-go, this will at first seem rather basic.  But fear not!  I assure you with the crystarium, the weapon-upgrading and the battle system with the gradual addition of summons, this turns into the Final Fantasy that fans have adored for years.  I defend the choice to go linear for those that aren’t used to the style of RPG games, and to be honest from my own experience with them, they can be rather alienating unless you have lots of time and patience, which in this day and age, few do, especially with other commitments like work or school.  I salute Square-Enix for designing a game that pulls you in slowly, doesn’t blind you with complicated gameplay mechanics, but settles you in before revealing it’s intricacies.  You may feel like it’s too linear or dumbed down, but it’s far from that, it’s just trying to appeal to a wider audience, and for once loosing none of its identity in the process.