The Division beta – impressions


One of the most hyped games for this year has to be Tom Clancy’s The Division, an open-world MMORPG set in a locked down New York after a pandemic outbreak.  I got access to the beta of the game over the weekend after pre-ordering, and I must admit it’s very good indeed.  I haven’t actually managed to partake in some of the much talked about co-op gameplay or the PVP dark zone sections, but just exploring the disaster-stricken New York streets, taking on scavenger gangs and completing side missions as well as the beta’s main mission … has been a lot of fun.

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screenshot captured directly from my PS4

Visually the game has had a bit of a downgrade since the initial E3 reveal but that was to be expected considering the game was first shown before the Xbox One and PS4 were even released.  But with that in mind, how do the visuals stack up in this near-finished version?  Very good indeed actually.  There are a ton of effects at work, impressive weather such as wind & snow considering the game is set at Christmas, and a wealth of detail on buildings, the road, and cars (yes you can still close that car door, folks!).  The lighting is very atmospheric and with what appears to be a dynamic weather and day / night cycle the game shows off it’s true beauty the more you play it.

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screenshot captured directly from my PS4

Gameplay-wise (with similarities to Destiny) you create your character (well, their face and gender but I didn’t do much with this aspect when first booting up the game), and then are introduced to the world, following the storyline of an agent flown into the crisis and having to make his (or her) way to the base of operation – a hub environment that you enhance and develop as you go on missions and complete tasks.  It’s a good idea and one that will mean there’s more than just a develop character / stats excuse to keep on playing.  I wonder if this is the only base of operation or if there will be others in different areas the player can develop?  The core shooting feels good too, with an excellent cover-based mechanic that enables the player to run to various areas of cover very easily, making for some exciting encounters.  The character / NPC designs are very detailed and slickly animated making this game feel very next-gen overall.  I think it will be a game that could become quite addictive also as more missions become available and various quests are discovered.  The enemy characters at this stage seem quite samey (all violent hoodies it seems) but that could change once the game is out and we could get boss fights.  It’s too early to be sure though.

For now The Division is looking to be a solid game to invest a ton of time in so I can’t wait till March 8th!

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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. 

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I think we as bloggers or simply as movie fans can go through a bit of a dry spell.  I suppose with work, life, personal stuff I’ve not really been in a movie-watching mood … but rest assured viewers, that is going to change soon!  I have a few things on the horizon, of which I wont spoil for you here, and have also been playing a lot of Titanfall with the newly released ‘expedition’ map pack which is proving a great deal of fun.  What I hear you ask are my thoughts on the recently announced kinect-less Xbox One?  Concern really.  Yes Microsoft’s machine has been flagging behind Sony’s PlayStation 4 sales-wise as well as technically … but its still been a huge success, and I for one think Microsoft should have stuck to their guns and kept Kinect as part of the package.  These rumors of a performance boost is also puzzling considering there is already an installed user base who will have the Kinect sensor attached … what does a performance boost mean, that the machine will work better without the sensor attached, or just that developers can choose to disable Kinect to use that extra 10% of GPU power?  If so then what of Kinect functionality like ‘xbox record that’ … will that just not work?  It all sounds very problematic.

On a plus announcements like Halo 5: Guardians and a stronger games with gold line up, including price cuts and free games can only be a good thing, and like the 360 it is good to have two different purchase options, as in the console with or without Kinect … opens up the potential sales to those that don’t agree with the higher price over the PS4.

I will be watching these developments and everyhting Xbox related with much interest.

Falling for a Titan


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Well it’s here, after much anticipation and a teasing beta, now I have the actual game in my hands!  Yes I am talking about XBOX ONE’s much anticipated exclusive (at least as far as it not coming to PS4) … Titanfall.  Developed by ex members of Infinity Ward, the guys responsible for the highly popular shooter Call Of Duty, this futuristic online-only game breathes some much needed fresh air into what was becoming a tired genre.

The basic concept is that you fight in two teams, at first on foot, but as you battle to kill the apposing team, each player is able to launch a titan… a hulking robotic exo-skeleton not that different to the ones seen in movies like Avatar and The Matrix Revolutions.  Then you battle either in or out of your Titan, as well as being able to free-run the environments on foot with wall running, double jumps and the like.  Its a great deal of fun!

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It stings somewhat their isn’t a single-player story element, and just a bolted on multiplayer-campaign which doesn’t really do much that you can’t experience playing in the various multiplayer modes – just with added commentary and a few extra battles going on around you … it’s still games of Atrition (deathmatch) and Hard-Point (domination) overall.  A wasted opportunity … but this is at least made up for by 14 detailed and well designed maps that offer a ton of enjoyment, as does the deep and rewarded levelling and customization options.

As a big release for the XBOX ONE which continues to dwell in the shadow of PS4’s success, I think it’s a crowd pleaser overall and at least its aiming at the right audience.  Call Of Duty, Battlefield etc. all continue to dominate, so it’s a wise move making this a potential system seller.  I personally think it’s a mistake on Microsoft’s part to allow this to be released on the XBOX 360 as well, giving an excuse for the undecided console owners not to jump to a next-gen system just yet.  Halo didn’t require other formats to make XBOX sell, and neither should Titanfall.

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There has been some controversy over Titanfall’s final display resolution of 1408 x 792p compared to the much desired 1920 x 1080p of full HD (something the PS4 seems to handle with ease).  I only have a 26” 720p display so … what’s it like in reality?  Its gorgeous!!  Very smooth at an almost steady 60fps (surely most important??) and with very detailed graphics, great lighting / shadow effects and large, complex environments.  Screen-tare does rear it’s head, but isn’t that noticeable.  On my TV such shortcomings like lower resolution are a non-issue and well, with the games I have played on the XBOX ONE, such as Dead Rising 3, Forza 5 and Tomb Raider: Definitive Edition … I can firmly say they are all slick, very detailed and attractive games that make me happy with my purchase.

So if you hanker for a new breed of online shooter, or just want that excuse to go for a new console … you could do far worse.  It really is a great game … lacking a little with no single player, but as a pure multiplayer experience, its fantastic.  Prepare for Titanfall!