We're seeing a fair few nostalgia trips these days, blending old-school sensibilities with updated systems -- distilling the elements that made classics like Baldur's Gate and Fallout and Elite so utterly brilliant and updating everything to provide a smoother experience that feeds our rose-tinted desires and removes any clunkiness or mechanical cobwebs.
Nostalgia is a powerful thing indeed, and it carried Pillars of Eternity (just called Project Eternity back then) to the top of Kickstarter's funded list, giving Obsidian Entertainment the chance to pay homage to the Infinity Engine games that put so many of its employees on the map.
Last week, we got the chance to check out the game and chat to project lead Josh Sawyer, who delivered a half-hour presentation bringing us up to speed on where development currently sits. There'll be a preview coming shortly, but here's the presentation in full for now. Apologies for the awful visuals (had a slight tech fail on the day).
One of the undeniable highlights of Nintendo's E3 showing was Splatoon -- a new take on the third-person multiplayer shooter that coated the genre in a fresh lick of paint.
Or rather ink.
Nintendo have never struck us a company that'd jump into the saturated online shooter market, you wouldn't find them crafting a COD killer or taking the field against the likes of Halo or, indeed, Battlefield. But Nintendo are all about innovative twists on well-worn themes, and in Splatoon they've not just handed a roster of their beloved mascots Quasar rifles or paintball guns, they've gone and greenlit a brand new IP. Nintendo EAD making a new IP and a multiplayer shooter? Don't be alarmed, hell hasn't frozen over just yet.
The excellently named Splatoon features two teams of four players vying for control of a level, marking territory by splattering everything in sight with ink to match the teams' respective colours. You essentially run about the place, covering as much of the map as you possibly can in the colours of your team, splattering any miscreant foes you come across, and transforming into a squid every so often to refill your paint gauge, traverse the place a little faster, and just because it's cool.Click here to read more...
Back when Fuse was still called Overstrike 9 and looked like a badass Saturday morning cartoon stuffed with throwaway lines, brimming with personality, and looking both mechanically and aesthetically interesting, we were super excited for it. But apparently EA weren't. Insomniac never said it outright, at least not on the record, but it was clear that somewhere in between Overstrike 9 becoming Fuse, someone cracked out the mood-hoover and sucked all of the fun and characteristic charisma out of Insomniac sails. Still, they must have stashed it all somewhere, bottled it up and hidden it away from EA, because then along came Microsoft with a boatload of cash and creative freedom, and suddenly Insomniac have uncorked their creativity and are back with a bang in Sunset Overdrive.
The party line is clear -- "this is the game that we always wanted to make" -- but the smiles are back too. I canvassed the opinion of a few of my colleagues at the showcase and the top pick of the day was largely given to Insomniac's bright effort.
Sunset Overdrive is a mish-mash of Crackdown, Jet Set Radio, and Scott Pilgrim in many way. Community lead James Stevenson likened its underpinning concepts to aspects of The Omega Man, and that scene from I Am Legend where Will Smith is spanking golfs balls off of a roof in the middle of the zombie apocalypse. The whole point of Sunset Overdrive is to embrace the fun nature of gaming, centred around the philosophy that things don't have to be grey and grim and depressing just because it seems to be the End of Days.
How the world has reached that point in this game sets the tone perfectly for the action that follows. The story kicks off in the fictional metropolis of Sunset City, an urban sprawl industrially dominated by the massive corporation FizzCo. FizzCo has created a brand new energy drink called Overcharge Delirium XT, and they throw an enormous party to celebrate its release -- a party that you, the protagonist (a nameless character who's highly customisable...yes, you can even play a female assassin if you want) are hired to clean up. Unfortunately, everyone who drinks Overcharge Delirium XT turns into a slavering mutant, and you find yourself stuck in Sunset City, it's streets overrun by assorted monsters, Machiavellian FizzCo reps trying to cover everything up, and other human enemies capitalising on the frenzy.Click here to read more...
A Good Snowman Is Hard To Build lives up to its name, but you wouldn't know it at first glance. In fact, it looks positively adorable.
Sokobond designer Alan Hazelden and Game Jam veteran Benjamin Davis have conspired to create something truly lovely; a soft, warm and decidedly festive little puzzler starring a loveable lonely monster. All it wants in life is to create snowmen by rolling up snowballs, which become new friends to hang out with and cuddle, like Tanya above. Cuddling is already directly coded into the game -- just flick the stick to initiate a big old bear hug. Playing it is therefore much like drinking a great big mug of Horlicks on a bitterly cold day, making you feel all warm and fuzzy inside.
"It's a puzzle game about being a monster and making snowmen," Davis told me at the Develop Conference last week, lulling me into a false sense of security with the simple pitch. Right before A Good Snowman started spanking my brainpan.
Click here to read more...
I remember interviewing Ted Price at an EA showcase a couple of years back and wondering where the boundless energy of the Ted Price I had in my head had gone. The game Insomniac was showing off there was Fuse, and only a few weeks before, a new trailer had emerged that probed our deepest fears for that game -- the transformation of a colourful, mechanically-noteworthy shooter into a grey mess with a far more serious tone.
I asked him why the name had changed from Overstrike 9 and it looked like something behind his eyes just died.
But Sunset Overdrive is different. It's colourful, loaded with bonkers weaponry, and seems utterly determined to prove that post-apocalyptic games can embrace a frenzied party of irreverent fun, all the while channelling the spirit of Crackdown and Jet Set Radio and, according to Insomniac's community lead James Stevenson, The Omega Man.Click here to check out my interview with Insomniac's James Stevenson >>
Sunset Overdrive is shaping up to be a blast of chaotic, sandbox fun, filled with madcap mayhem, crazy weapons, and cartoon violence. In short, it's looking like the game that you'd expect an unfettered, unleashed Insomniac to make.
And that's awesome news.
Sadly, however, we weren't able to capture footage directly at a recent showcase event, but I did jump into a half-finished demo with the camera rolling on the screen to snap up a little bit of off-screen gameplay footage. I wasn't able to capture the in-game audio as it was being pumped through headphones, so instead I've spliced it together with some tracks from Jet Set Radio.
Given that the game resembles the lovechild of a bizarre threeway between Crackdown, JSRF, and a packet of Skittles, it seemed fitting.Click here to check out our Sunset Overdrive Gameplay vs JSR Remix >>
At a recent Microsoft showcase, I sat down with Playground games' creative director, Ralph Fulton, to have a bit of a chat about the upcoming Forza Horizon 2. The hands-on preview is already live, and here's a little taster:
The dusty tracks of Colorado are abandoned in the sequel for the sweeping coastlines of Southern France and a Northern Italy, on a map that Playground are touting as being three times the size of the original game's. The difference is clear already, and for this European writer at least, enormously welcome. Even in the short demo I breezed through, everything seems a little more vibrant, the vineyards and rolling fields delivering more colour, peppered with quaint Mediterranean villages. The Lamborghini that adorns every shot of Horizon 2's marketing is certainly more at home here - a millionaire's paradise, and a driving fan's dream.
Forza Horizon release for Xbox One on September 30th.
I've always enjoyed the Forza series in general and applauded Turn 10 for the way that they've managed to create a game series for racers and drivers and car aficionados of all capabilities, ensuring that petrolheads come back time and time again thanks to exceptional vehicle modelling, options to tailor the Forza games to one's own specifications in terms of simulation and skill, addictive progression mechanics and rewarding unlocks, and car-porn camerawork that might make the BBC Top Gear team deliver an ovation.
The original Horizon made all of that even more accessible, choosing to target a younger, fresher audience with a Festival concept and a soundtrack curated by Rob Da Bank. It might not have been to everyone's tastes, but it clearly worked. Although Criterion had already busted open-world racing right open with Burnout Paradise and Need For Speed: Most Wanted, Horizon delivered something perhaps a little more cohesive, a little more robust, and a little more diverse.
'People told us that they'd play Forza Horizon to relax,' Playground Games' Ralph Fulton told me at a recent event, and it's not difficult to see why. In my review, I likened the spirit of Forza Horizon to the same spirit that encourages driving fans to take their beloved vehicles out for a Sunday spin. You do it for the love of it, the feel of the car, and the thrill of the open road. It's not about casual or hardcore, it's about capturing that spirit, and Horizon managed to do that in a way that few other games in the genre can come close to boasting.
The dusty tracks of Colorado are abandoned in the sequel for the sweeping coastlines of Southern France and a Northern Italy, on a map that Playground are touting as being three times the size of the original game's. The difference is clear already, and for this European writer at least, enormously welcome. Even in the short demo I breezed through, everything seems a little more vibrant, the vineyards and rolling fields delivering more colour, peppered with quaint Mediterranean villages. The Lamborghini that adorns every shot of Horizon 2's marketing is certainly more at home here - a millionaire's paradise, and a driving fan's dream.Click here to read more...
Nintendo are desperate for that GamePad to seem relevant. Far from giving up on the Wii U, the Big N are doubling down on their console, having delivered one of the finest E3 showings in their recent history (albeit with a few too many instances of "coming 2015" for our liking), and a number of works in progress. In a move that seemed entirely un-Nintendo-esque, the Nintendo Treehouse channel unveiled two very early game prototypes in the form of Project Big Robot and Project Guard.
Project Giant Robot is what five-year-old me might have envisaged back when cereal packets could be used to transform oneself from a human boy into an Autobot. The demo began with robo-construction. You get to pick the base units for your robot's head, arms, torso, and legs from a plethora of increasingly weird items. I decided to make a robot made up entirely of Megazord heads. You can stretch and squish each module too, so if you want to create a robot with guns bigger than The Incredible Hulk's you can.
You can make your robot thinner than a rake or fatter than than Jabba, you can give it supersized shoulders or a pea-sized head. But whatever the physical appearance, players need to be aware that it'll affect how the robot in question handles. Make it too top-heavy, and your robot will be susceptible to toppling over. Bigger mechanoids will make for heavier hitters, but they'll also be slow and lumbering. Tall robots will suffer balance issues as the tradeoff for power, but while smaller robots might stand their ground better, they'll sacrifice something in terms of punching weight.
What followed was a series of battles against robots of increasing size in amongst a blocky urban landscape that proved ripe for destruction.Click here to read more...
Why is Sonic wearing a sodding scarf? Seriously. Can someone please explain why Sonic is trying to evoke the rugged heroism of Nathan Drake? Has it really come to this? And while we're at it... why is Knuckles a triangle with legs now? He looks like he's been freebasing creatine.
Despite vomiting heavily into a bag upon witnessing the hideous visual transformations of Sonic and co. for this new venture, excused of course by chants of TV and transmedia, I foolishly thought that there could be some merit in really shaking up the Sonic formula, getting some proper co-op gameplay involved, and busting out some awesome action-platforming. But, though it might be easy to suggest a revamp for a series that's been inconsistent over the last decade, Sonic Boom is not the answer.
I actually liked Lost World in parts. It was flawed, sure, but I had fun with it in places. Sonic Boom, however, exists to remind you of the very worst PS2-era platforming tie-ins. Simple movement is incredibly imprecise and twitchy. Sonic constantly overshoots areas, and Knuckles appears to handle like a lead brick mired in treacle. Enemies pop up for you to smack down by spamming the face buttons for normal and special attacks -- Sonic does a spin-dash, and Knuckles, well, Knuckles can climb walls.Click here to read more...
Super Mario 3D World's "Captain Toad" stages were absolutely brilliant. They were wonderful puzzle-platforming vignettes that varied the pace a little and gave players something fresh and new to do. Now everyone's favourite, useless little mushroom fellow has his own marquee game, and it's shaping up to be something truly delightful.
Much of the appeal comes from the fact that Toad is fundamentally useless. His only real ability is to plant a smile on your face -- he can't jump or attack or do much for that matter -- and that makes for a game that looks like it might be Super Mario 3D World replica with a new avatar, much like Nintendo did with New Super Mario Bros U and Luigi, but that couldn't be further from the truth. Captain Toad is no Goomba-stomping moustachioed maverick. He's a toddling mushroom with a benevolent god rocking a GamePad and a camera.
That's us. The players.
Our job is to steer Toad through a number of increasingly complex levels that can be spun around, their perspectives played with, to ferret out secret gems and hidden coins, and eventually guide Toad to the star at the end of each stage. It's a mechanism that evokes memories of games such as Echochrome (though Nintendo eschew Escherian temptations) and Fez, where the systems of stages are fixed, and the player progresses through manipulation of the camera angle and the stage itself as a whole.Click here to read more...
Every reviewer has one game, possibly one game a year, that we look back on and perhaps feel that the review we gave didn't quite do that game justice. It could be a wildly over-inflated score for a game that proved to be a pile of poo in the long run -- a title perhaps over-hyped at the time, arriving with a groundswell of excitement that proved too loud to ignore. We're human, it happens. Or maybe it was a game that we grew to love over replays, unable to see its qualities in the midst of a hectic release period with deadlines on all sides at the time, but something that made us kick ourselves upon return.
For whatever reason, I gave the original Bayonetta an 8 out of 10. I've gone back and tried to crawl into the headspace of my younger self time and time again to ascertain exactly why that score wasn't higher. The review even reads like a 9 or a 10.
Mind you, maybe it's because I foresaw room for improvement on some level. Maybe it's because somewhere, in the recesses of my mind, I had an inkling of what was to come: that there'd be a sequel, that it would be even more fantastically overblown, that it'd be an exclusive on the Wii's successor. Hahahaha! Sorry...no one could have predicted that last one.
I came staggering out of the Nintendo post-E3 showcase drunk with happiness, a massive grin plastered to my face, and with a burning desire to buy Nintendo's latest console. Every game I played slapped a smile on my face, but none dropped my jaw so utterly and so consistently as Bayonetta 2.Click here to read more...
I love The Legend of Zelda games. To me they represent some of the finest examples of game design we've been blessed to enjoy over the years. The adventures of Link have proven time and time again to be some of the most innovative, ambitious, and polished games to have graced this industry. Dynasty Warriors, on the other hand, is a series that's barely changed at all over the years, staying true to its formula of a button-mashing frenzy of smashing up enormous swathes of mindless, characterless AI fodder, punctuated occasionally by the odd absurdly-overpowered mini-boss.
Still, I do have something of a soft spot for Dynasty Warriors.
Hyrule Warriors is not your typical Zelda game at all. It's very much something of a Zelda reskin of traditional Dynasty Warriors gameplay at first glance. I went hands-on with the game at the recent Nintendo E3 showcase and was merrily massacring multitudes of Bokoblins within seconds. The scale is fantastic, and the sense of cathartic empowerment is glorious, helped along by a better draw distance than we've typically seen in the past. One of Dynasty Warriors' foibles over the years has always been an alarming amount of pop-in, but Hyrule Warriors seems to have managed to mitigate that slightly. It's still there, but it's not so offensive to the eyes this time around.
Visually, at least, Hyrule Warriors manages to engage the player to a far greater degree than its spiritual predecessors, eschewing the drab, washed-out palette of previous Warriors games in favour of a brighter, more vibrant colour set and art style that breathes a little more life into proceedings and firmly roots you in Hyrule. There's a distinct lack of detail -- this game won't win any prizes for astonishing beauty -- but generally the game appears to do a decent job of selling the setting. It's actually a little thrilling to feel part of some sort of grand battle for Hyrule, wading into war with Gorons and Hylian guards by your side, as Lizalfos and Moblin generals marshal their troops.
Of course, it wears thin rather quickly, and even over the course of my initial fifteen-minute demo the combat became repetitive. The Warriors games have always been titles that, for me at least, are best enjoyed with a friend by your side, drinking beers, and chatting absolute rubbish. They're the sort of games that you don't really have to focus too much attention on because all you're really doing is mashing the same buttons over and over again. They're a catalyst for conversation, something to be doing in background while you catch-up with a mate you've not seen in some time. Sometimes I don't really want to think when I'm playing a game, and Warriors games are great for that. Hyrule being no exception it would seem.Click here to read more...
This is how you do survival horror. Just you, a motion tracker, a space station running on dodgy backup power so there are light out all over the place, jumpy human NPCs with itchy trigger fingers, and one of the most terrifying, monstrous creations we've ever had the privilege of being utterly scared by.
Being powerless is something that Amnesia deployed to great effect, but that was combined with some semblance of the unknown. As much as ignorance can be bliss, the fear of the unknown can be a powerful thing. Not knowing what horrors await you can be chilling indeed, and I have to say I wondered how Creative Assembly would go about breathing new life into a creature that lost some of its impact to scare us as its films became more and more action-oriented. I needn't have worried. The clue is the lack of a plural in the title.
The story takes it's lead from Ridley Scott's Alien, set fifteen years after the original film. The flight recorder from the Nostromo has been retrieved and taken back to a space station called Sevastopol. However, communication with the station has been lost, and so a team is sent in to investigate, one of whom happens to be a Weyland Yutani employee by the name of Amanda Ripley, Ellen's daughter. Our demo began in the San Cristobal medical wing of the station, with Amanda tasked with reaching a sort of makeshift base of operations, probably set up by her colleagues. The first-person controls feel a little sluggish at first, but this is not a twitch shooter, and although focusing on items feels a little floaty to begin with, it doesn't present a huge problem. You have your motion tracker, bound to a shoulder button, you have your map available from the menu. Both will prove invaluable.Click here to read more...
As I thrash a modified cop cruiser up a flight of stairs, smash it off of a pedestrianised walkway, nail five seconds of airtime and land straight in the middle of a pitched gunfight, I can't help but grin from ear to ear. Battlefield and Medal Of Honor have been retreading the same old military ground for far too long, chasing Call Of Duty when they should be doing their own crazy thing. We're long overdue for something fresh and exciting... and Bad Boys II seems as good a place to start as any.
Over-the-top police action, massive heists and ridiculous car chases? Whooo-sah. Go for it!
Mind you, we now understand why EA called it "Battlefield Hardline" rather than just "Hardline." Despite the new studio and cops versus criminals premise, it's basically a reskinned version of Battlefield 4 on a functional level. They couldn't have called it anything else.Click here to read more...
Alien: Isolation made me jump so high out of my seat at one point that one of the reps in the near-pitch-black room started audibly chuckling. I had flashbacks of my time with The Evil Within a couple of weeks before, and I determined that I'm not built for horror games.
Of course, the trouble is that I can't help myself when they're really, really good. I adore Resident Evil 2 and 4, and I loved my time with Dead Space and Amnesia. And I came away from Alien: Isolation shaking like a leaf but with a grin fixed to my face. Forget the disappointment of Colonial Marines, Creative Assembly have done something rather special here. By taking inspiration from Ridley Scott's original masterpiece of oppressive tension rather than James Cameron's equally brilliant (but in a totally different way) action bonanza, Creative Assembly might be delivering us a game finally worthy of Giger's monstrous xenomorph.
It all starts with fans making the Alien game that they always wanted to play, and to find out a little bit more I sat down with creative lead Al Hope to find out exactly how he and the team are going about doing just that.Click here to watch our interview with Alien: Isolation's creative lead, Al Hope >>
Last week, I sat down with game director Quinn Duffy to have a chat about Company of Heroes 2: The Western Front Armies, some of the new units and features that are being brought to COH 2, and what Relic's plans are for the series going forwards.
Stay tuned for the full preview for Company of Heroes 2: The Western Front Armies going live next week.
It's a bright sunny day and the walk through London to the Bethesda offices has been glorious, albeit stuffed with wide-eyed, open-mouthed tourists in shorts and summer dresses. There's a smile on my face, I'm listening to a playlist of pop-punk and surf rock and Eels. I haven't a care in the world. Ten minutes later, I'll be sat in a darkened cubicle in a pitch black room, grimacing as a reanimated doctor claws the flesh from his own face, and wanting to reassess all of my life choices.
Two hours later and Mark, our Bethesda rep, will laugh at me for almost jumping out of my seat several times and swearing very loudly during my hands-on with The Evil Within. Shinji Mikami is back on point with this game, and it shows.
In terms of the plot, I couldn't tell you what the hell was going on, so all I had to go on was the blurb we've all read time and time again since last year: There's a detective named Sebastian Castellanos who comes across a powerful force upon investigating a recent mass murder. This otherworldly power kills a bunch of Seb's fellow officers, he gets knocked unconscious, and when he comes to his living in a world filled with hideous, hungry, zombie-esque monsters.
The first of the two demos we tiptoed through saw us arriving at in a village, seeking out the patient of a mysterious doctor companion who might know what the hell was going on. We found one of the doctor's colleagues first, tucked away downstairs in the basement of one of the larger houses, burbling away to himself. Presumed missing, he was in fact the aforementioned nutcase clawing away his own skin, hacking away at a body on the table in front of him. A little bit of snooping revealed that there was an object of interest buried inside the cadaver on the table. Only the cadaver hadn't really finished dying, it seemed, so when we cracked open its chest, it burst back into life for a brief second or two, and I promptly ruined my pants.Click here to read more...
Platforms: PC | PS3 | PS4 (tested) | Xbox 360 | Xbox One
Developer: Ubisoft Montpellier (small internal team)
Hand on heart: I've never played anything remotely like Valiant Hearts: The Great War.
Perhaps that's not technically true. As a 2D puzzle adventure with simple yet engaging mechanics, we've had plenty of seemingly similar games to choose from over the last few years, but the tiny passionate team behind this UbiArt-powered title have managed to create an experience that would been laughed out of boardrooms across the industry.
Consider a game set in the grim battlefields of World War One... but with puzzles instead of visceral combat. A story that makes no-one the villain, instead focusing on the real people on both sides of the conflict and their personal dramas. A stylised and cartoony visual treat hand-drawn by a single designer, that still manages to flesh out strong characters with a bare minimum of dialogue. Featuring brainteasers that challenge players while not bogging down the all-important plot. Inspired by a small museum of correspondence and artefacts from the front, educating us about real events without becoming horribly depressing.
In effect, Valiant Hearts is too ridiculously left-field and experimental to exist by conventional AAA publishing logic, yet here it comes courtesy of Ubisoft. Having spent several hours playing the latest production build at their Guildford UK headquarters, accompanied by associate producers Gregory Hermittant and Guillaume Cerda, I can report that it promises to be rather special indeed.
You'll laugh, you'll cry and you might just learn something too - so long as the finished article matches our impressions so far.Click here to continue [Beware mild spoilers] >>
I have blood on my hands. I've racked up a mountain of debt, my landlord has kicked me out onto the city streets because rent has not been paid, and the local homeless have made it very clear that they'll stab me up a treat if I disturb them in any fashion. I've managed to swindle a boy out of some money for a seemingly worthless convention ticket, but he's taken the money from a crackhead relative and now that same relative is waving a shotgun in my face. I could have given the money back. I could have made things right. I could have left this kid out of it from the start and opted to make amends in an honest fashion. I've restarted the save from a couple of minutes ago six times and no matter what, the kid dies every time.
In the words of Buster Bluth... I'M A MONSTER!
I love the way that Always Sometimes Monsters opens -- putting you in control of Larry, the man who'll sign you up to that book deal initially. By steering Larry around a soiree held has his mini mansion, you're charged with actually identifying your own character from the throng of assembled guests. Will you be male or female? White? Black? Asian? A grungy old soul or a trendy hipster? Then control passes to the person you've chosen to be your protagonist, and you move outside to identify the love of your life from an equally diverse array of characters. Always Sometimes Monsters doesn't make a fuss about this, it doesn't shove anything in anyone's face, it doesn't ask you if you want to be gay or straight or if you're a supporter of interracial romances, it just does it. Nintendo, take note.
It's a prologue of positivity, of clinking champagne flutes and pledged ambitions. And it belies everything that comes next.
Always Sometimes Monsters is a game that attempts to look unflinchingly at the decisions we make when the proverbial hits the fan. Several years after that night described above, you play a writer down on their luck, faced with mounting debt, a project that you've not been able to finish, a deadline that passed months before, and the news that the aforementioned love of your life is getting married in 30 days to someone else in a town on the other side of the country. The question is how far will you go to get them back?Click here to read more...