Doki-Doki Universe is a weird game. It's a handcrafted paean to positivity that measures progress in emotional terms and places you in the role of QT3 -- a robot who has spent the last 32 years waiting patiently on an asteroid for the human family that abandoned him. Until a gurning, monobrowed alien named Jeff turns up, that is, and informs QT3 that his entire robotic model line is due to be scrapped unless he can demonstrate a capacity for understanding humanity.
The game revolves around jetting off to visit new planets and satellites, performing tasks for the cast list of weird and wacky inhabitants, learning their likes and dislikes, unocovering hidden secrets and presents, and spawning in a plethora of bizarre creatures and items in Scribblenauts-lite fashion. Each planet is different, each collection of offbeat characters going through some sort of moral crisis, which QT3 has to set right. Slowly, the robot begins to comprehend things like abandonment and bullying and love and fear (what would freak you out more... a man in a bunny suit or an anthropomorphic carrot?), the action punctuated by personality tests (complete with goatee'd therapist) to determine QT3's progress and allow for plenty of comedic asides.
If that all sounds bat-sh*t crazy, that's kind of because it is, as I rather demonstrate in the video below. If you come out of the other side more confused than when you went in, don't be alarmed. That's exactly how I felt.
The Doki-Doki Universe review will go live tomorrow.Click here to read more...
Developers: Sony Japan Studio
Publishers: Sony Computer Entertainment
Mark Cerny. Architect not only of beloved IPs such as Crash Bandicoot, Jak & Daxter, and Spyro the Dragon, but also of the PlayStation 4 itself. This smiling genteel man has been one of the most visible exponents of innovative design over the years, no more so than in the past twelve months as Sony had him take the stage time and time again to tell us that the PS4 was focused on one thing, and one thing only: games.
With such a litany of references and credits, and ably supported by Sony Japan Studio -- an outfit although sometimes lacking in execution and polish brought us the fantastic ideas behind games such as Gravity Rush and Tokyo Jungle -- when we learned that Cerny would be heading up a crack team of developers to produce something for the PS4, we all got rather excited.
And then Knack turned up.
Sure, Knack is pretty to look at. Constructed of chunks and shards of minerals and relics, the titular character is a wonderful sight to behold -- an impressive avatar to demonstrate the power in particle rendering and animation that the PlayStation 4 can bring to the table. He trots around brightly coloured landscapes, from ice caves to lava plateaus and gloriously realised, verdant temperate areas, with a fixed camera harking back to days gone by when we'd be controlling a sprightly marsupial on the PSOne. When you open chests stuffed with relic pieces, and Knack absorbs them into his form and swells in size, it's hard not to be a little impressed by the graphical trickery. The textures are gorgeous, the clean, Pixar-esque feel to it all is aesthetically delightful, and Knack at least looks the part.Click here to read more...
This week on Game Buzz we take a look at the first wave of record-breaking next-gen sales reports, we ponder OUYA's plucky new initiative, and we work out a definitive answer to the most pressing question of the hour: Which is better -- PS4 or Xbox One?
Parental Advisory: We've tried to keep it as conversational and informal as possible, and you should be warned that there may be some instances of strong language.
We're coming to the end of the Staff Picks part of our Best of Generation season (the Top 50 runs next week), but let's take a moment to look forward. We've celebrated some of the finest titles and moments from the past seven years or so, but how has that shaped our vision of the future? Ladies and gents, it's time to get stuck into our personal hopes and wishes for this next generation of games consoles...
I've said it before a thousand times, but just once more for the road: graphics mean nothing without the gameplay to back it up. Given the choice, you'll find me playing an innovative boutique or indie title rather than a shiny AAA shooter. All day long. This new generation promises devastatingly handsome games, but also needs to push forward in terms of systemic, dynamic worlds to explore, advanced AI, bigger contiguous playgrounds and genuinely new things to see and do.
I'm reminded of the beginning of Generation 6, when I first played Rainbow Six: Vegas and Gears Of War and thought, “wow, this is the start of something amazing.” It was to some extent, but sadly, business is business. In a strive to conform to focus testing and market forces, we saw any number of games apeing the biggest hitters, rather than running with new and unique ideas – to the extent where it was occasionally difficult to find a major new IP that didn't resemble a cover-based shooter or, erm, Call Of Duty a while ago. All too often, we saw the biggest studios iterate rather than innovate, falling back rather than pushing forward.
Don't get me wrong, the PC and emergent console download marketplaces have stalwartly delivered bountiful new and interesting games to enjoy; revolutionary experiences to sink our teeth into. We've definitely enjoyed plenty of exceptional triple-A titles too, many of which have attempted to push boundaries. And that's what I want from the next console generation: a desire to push the envelope, to push those boundaries even further in gameplay terms.
Wouldn't it be nice if, when new games are announced, we find ourselves saying, “wow, that branching dialogue looks amazing,” or “whoa, that learning and evolving AI is really exciting” rather than just “gosh, doesn't that look pretty?” With luck, Project Spark and Watch Dogs are going to make this happen, and really be the start of something truly amazing.
Actually, scratch all that pretentious nonsense. Give me a decent Crackdown and Rainbow Six sequel and I'll be happy as Larry. Perhaps take a look at those RRPs while you're at it.Click here to read more...
Platforms: PS4 (reviewed) | Xbox One
Developers: Visual Concepts
Publishers: 2K Sports
The generation jump has, by and large, seen much of the same again in the short while since the Xbox One and PS4's releases. We've had a dearth of truly essential exclusives on both sides, coupled with generation-bridging third party extravagances that, though shinier on next-gen tech, are largely feature-complete and cheaper on old machines. What this had meant is that it feels as though we're still awaiting a number of studios to really commit to the future consoles and truly elevate their games to the next level.
Thankfully, Visual Concepts are on the ball. Sorry for the puns.
NBA 2K14 arrives on PS4 and Xbox One in markedly different form to the game that greeted PS3 and Xbox 360 owners. Instead of being a slightly tuned up version of NBA 2K13, what we have here is a title that has been resolutely overhauled both on and off of the court to striking effect. It hasn't all gone entirely swimmingly, but what we do have here is a truly next-gen title that shows great promise.
If you watched my initial impression video for NBA 2K14 on PS4, you'll no doubt have borne witness to my excited reaction to the player models and exceptionally fluid animations. Visual Concepts have always been excellent at player capture and recreating the spinning, Eurostepping balletic grace of a player such as Kobe or D-Wade. Creating a zippy point guard and giving him a devastating, Iverson-esque crossover has long been a delight. But here, on machines with more power and memory, the animations and level of physical detail on the players have been ramped up to an impressive degree. There's a solidity and physicality to proceedings that is very welcome, aided by an on-court soundscape that has been recaptured and given wider variety and impact.Click here to read more...
In our penultimate roundtable considering the best and worst of the passing console generation, we take a look at some of our personal highlights from the last seven years.
Okay, I’m sure we can all agree that there have been some let-downs in regards to this particular topic, and yes, we’re still waiting for that Double Fine project, but the fact that over the last few years we as gamers have actively engaged with the crowdfunding of games is something that is absolutely a highlight for me. After all, thanks sites like Kickstarter and IndieGoGo we’ve had the chance to bring games to life that would have normally never have seen the light of day, or would have taken years to emerge in a much smaller capacity.
After all, what kind of publisher would have taken the risk on Chris Averline to make a new RPG? Who would have provided funds for Ragnar Tornquist to continue his critically acclaimed adventure series? Hell, who would have seriously considered giving $1 million dollars to Chris Roberts to make a space sim game, let alone $30 million? Of course, Project Eternity, Dreamfall Chapters, and Star Citizen are some of the more well-known success stories, but smaller games, such as the highly-addictive FTL: Faster Than Light, have been developed and gone on to make some serious money thanks to crowd-funding. The whole thing has also allowed many of us to directly converse with some of our heroes from the industry, both online and in person – something we never really would have had the chance to in such an open manner through a publisher.
But these are just the games – we’ve had hardware projects reach and exceed their goals through crowd-funding, the most notable of which being the utterly delicious Oculus Rift. Sure, other hardware hopefuls like the Ouya may have not reached their potential once in the hands of backers and consumers, but we’ve also had products like the GameStick and the Raspberry Pi providing cheap and exciting alternatives to big budget consoles. As this craze has shown, not every idea put forth with be a golden one, and at the end of the day it’s a rather big risk for everyone involved, but it has given gamers the chance to see games they desperately want being made with a great deal of openness, and that’s why it has been a highlight for me.Click here to read more...
It's not all been sunshine and roses this generation. These aren't our shouts for the worst games to be seen over the past seven years or so, but rather the most heartfelt disappointments. These are the games and the moments that really floored us with just how little they met our expectations. Expect controversy, and let us know your thoughts in the comments box at the end.
After the lacklustre effort that was GTA IV, I was surprised to see little genuine improvement for Rockstar’s latest offering. Yes, the world in GTA V is huge and often breathtakingly gorgeous. But why does living in it have to be such a bore?
I recently finished the story and I think the Pack Man mission sums up the game perfectly. I was forced to drive an articulated lorry for seven miles while listening to the boring characters bitch about their demented existences. Yet there was some late flair to the mission when I had to leap behind the wheel of one of the cars I was carrying on the lorry so I could use the Bond-esque weapons to take out the cops that had turned up for the last leg of the journey.
The latter part of the mission was great fun, but as we all know, most of the campaign missions involve samey commutes back and forth, getting your car stuck should you dare to take a shortcut, ferrying family members around, enduring some of the worst helicopter controls in existence, or maybe the good old wait-and-follow mission. Exciting it is not. For me the wait/fun ratio always seemed to be about 80/20.
I recall an excellent car chase on a runway, with explosions everywhere as planes landed around me. After hours of boredom beforehand though, it seemed more exciting than it actually was. Compare GTA’s action-packed highlights with the likes of Uncharted or Call of Duty and it’s clearly lagging.
Rockstar are capable of much better. The world of Red Dead Redemption had so much more personality to it and felt like it was worth exploring. GTA V is just big, with a fraction of buildings having open doors and the landscape only acting as wildernesses to get stuck in if you wreck your car or find Trevor waking up there. There’s no excuse for the shoddy shooting either considering the fun we had with Max Payne 3 last year.
The story itself is one of Rockstar’s worst yet and this can largely be blamed on their mind-numbingly boring and stereotypical cast. The one-last-job guy with family problems, the mental guy (ok, he is funny at times) and the black guy that’s so above his criminal friends but is actually just another criminal. Isn’t it about time Rockstar came up with some fresh story ideas? Then we might avoid events like this horrible Sopranos/Boyz in the Hood/Heat casserole of nonsense that never sits right.
It’s sad to fall back on an old saying, but GTA V really is a jack-of-all-trades and a master of none. Not the worst of the generation by a long stretch (hello Duke Nukem Forever and Aliens: Colonial Marines), but certainly my most disappointing.Click here to read more...
Can you put a price on happiness, on fun, on experiential immersion? That's what games do , to a certain extent. How much is a good game worth to you? What do you expect for your £30-50?
Last year I wrote a lengthy piece ranting about this industry's preoccupation with game duration -- that is to say, the "length" of a video game. This is a relatively arbitrary concept, of course, given that people go through games at varying velocities, some with the skill and drive to strive for speed from the outset, some preferring a more languid approach.But it's a key consideration for consumers in particular, that much is understandable. Games are expensive, especially these titles for new platforms, and getting value for money is a key consideration.
This is part of the reason Call of Duty is so damn popular: it's a comprehensive content package.
But the reason I bring this up is because I've just finished Killzone: Shadow Fall -- a game let down by hideous pacing and far too much wave-based padding. A game that squanders the promise of its opening levels with the repetition of bumping off streams of gormless AI mannequins over and over again in its second half. Here's what I said in my review:
The first couple of hours of Killzone: Shadow Fall hint towards a game that might just play as well as it looks. And it looks phenomenal. But sadly, the game falters and falls rather quickly, crushed under the weight of its own ambitions, and it retreats to the safe banality of staid FPS conventions for a second half that's all filler, no killer. It's a great game to show off the power of the PS4, a magnificent spectacle, and its Custom Warzones hint towards the possibility of a bright future; but it's just not that fun to actually play.
Now the reason I bring up game length rather than talking about the lack of ideas is because of a quote from Killzone: Shadow Fall's Lead Designer, Eric Boljes, made post-launch. In an interview with AusGamers, Boljes acknowledged the mixed reviews that the game has received, but stated that he felt this is the best Killzone game Guerilla have ever made:Click here to read more...
Developers: Guerilla Games
Publishers: Sony Computer Entertainment
Hot damn, Killzone: Shadow Fall is pretty. Really pretty. It's so pretty, in fact, that my very first act as protagonist Lucas Kellen was to rush to a balcony and gawp at the stunning vistas before me. Unfortunately, though, I was on the run from the Helghast at the time, and dawdling was inadvisable. I'm pretty sure I hold the current record for swiftest demise when it comes to this game.
The point is, of course, that Killzone: Shadow Fall really looks like a next-gen game.
It gallops along in clear, crisp 1080p at 30fps in singleplayer, and 60 in multiplayer, and Guerilla Games have thrown colours into the mix, which makes a nice change from the decidedly military tones of previous installments. An early mission sees you trotting about in a lush green forest to discover what happened to a missing scout battalion. Later on, as you find yourself in Vekta City, the urban landscape unfolds in beautiful fashion, with alabaster monoliths giving way to skyscrapers of vanilla marble and shimmering glass.
The lighting is phenomenal. From glorious sunsets that see stars melt into the horizon, to rich neon hues in more urban environments. There's a hint of lens flare in some shots, occasionally specks of dust and dirt on the camera that add to the framing, as surfaces glimmer and gleam with reflections. Every single frame of Killzone: Shadow Fall is a feast for the eyes, and if you want a next-gen game to drop your jaw with sublime prettiness, then this is it. It's a testament to the artistic craft of Guerilla's designers that you want to move through the game at a relatively languid pace just to enjoy the sumptuous visual detail. The PS4 gives this game the grunt, but the art team deserves real credit for making the tight corridors of a city's shanty built out of shipping crates just as visually engaging as the beautiful, sweeping shots of Vekta that greet you as the opening credits roll.Click here to read more...
Yesterday's roundtable piece looked at our picks for the best games of the last generation, but there's a difference between games that we reckon have been the best, and games that are simply our favourites. Sometimes, as you'll see, they can certainly be one and the same, but for these picks it's all about games we've come back to time and time again, mainstays in disc trays, and comfort games we can keep returning to time and time again.
I'm cheating here, naming a series rather than a game, but the truth is that the Halo games have been the mainstay in my disc drive of this generation. I've bought every single one, and played them to death.
I never had an original Xbox, so Halo 3 was my introduction to the series, and indeed to my shiny new Xbox 360. I could talk for hours on the strength of that game's singleplayer component (a couple of Flood levels aside), but it was the multiplayer that truly grabbed me. I'd long been sceptical of online gaming on anything other than Counter-Strike or Unreal Tournament, and this was new territory.
But I never looked back.Click here to read more...
Greatness awaits. That's been the main slogan for the PS4 over the last month, along with the party line hashtag #4ThePlayers. But does it really? Have Sony stayed true to their assertions of focusing this console on gamers and developers? The (marathon) race for supremacy in this, the eighth, console generation has begun, and this time both of the big hitters from Microsoft and Sony are out of the gates at the same time. We've already heard about the Xbox One, but what of Sony's machine. After spending most of this year basking in their competitor's PR gaffes and U-turns, Sony's console finally has to stand on its own merits.
So, can it cut it?
The PlayStation 4 is a sexy piece of kit, that much is certain. I had my slight reservations about it early on, but at 275mm x 53mm x 305mm and 2.8 kilos, the frame is both smaller and lighter than the first round of PS3 Slims let alone the original last-gen console itself. There's no ugly power brick you need to find space for, and although at a glance it looks like an obsidian monolithic homage to the National Theatre in some ways, it makes my other consoles look like ugly, jagged crates. Sat next to an Xbox One, it just oozes aesthetic superiority.Click here to read more...