After falling down a hole in last week's Hunger Games video, this week it's all about Sky Wars -- a game mode where everyone starts on their own little floating island and fights to become the last person standing.
True to form, the first thing I go and do is fall in a hole. Great.
I've discovered that I desperately need practice in terms of the basics when it comes to Minecraft, and that it always helps to have a crafting guide open on a second screen. This week's efforts are riddled with failure, but we also have our first taste of victory, and I follow Deadpool around demand that he gives me his skin.
It's all rather surreal.Click here to read more...
John Carmack once said the following about story in video games: "Story in a game is like a story in a porn movie. It's expected to be there, but it's not that important."
Of course, games have come to encompass a wider array of virtual interactive experiences since he uttered those words, and quite frankly there's never been a better time to be a gamer no matter what you prioritise. Whichever floats your proverbial boat the most -- be it graphics, sound design, responsive and taut mechanics, dynamic content, player agency, expansive world, free-roaming play, expertly-crafted rollercoasters of action and emotion, a well-told story -- whatever your gaming poison, chances are there something damn fine out there for you.
Carmack's words ring hollow for me as a gamer, but from a development standpoint I think it's important to note that a good story or excellent narrative framing is a tool to be leveraged in pursuit of a good game just like mindblowing aesthetics, inventive art design, and other considerations. A point that we (Jon especially) have often made on this site is to include the elements that best suit your game. A focus on storytelling is not something to be shoehorned into a game. A poor story or clunkily-worked narrative elements can frequently be worse than not having it in there at all.
There are a handful of genres to which narrative design still seems somewhat alien. We hear it all the time when it comes to sports titles, fighting games, racing and driving games -- "this game doesn't need a story". But it rather depends on what you're looking for, to be honest. No game needs bad writing or poorly thought out features or modes, but in certain circumstances, narrative framing at least can serve to elevate a game over its peers. Continuing along that line of thinking, this week's video takes a look at the NBA 2K series, as well as games like Forza Horizon and, surprise, Defense Grid 2.Click here to read more...
NBA 2K15 is finally here, and it's good. I mean really good. Visual Concepts have tweaked a fair few things in this latest instalment of the World's Best Sport Game Series, and one of the nifty new features is the ability to scan in your face for MyPlayer.
Check out my efforts in the quest for facial perfection in the video above.
I won't lie, I didn't hold out much hope that this would be any good. EA Sports' Game Face is utterly dreadful. Aside from it being a slow, clunky, often unworkable piece of crap, when it does have the decency to work, my Game Face creations all came out looking like someone had stuffed several slapped arses into a blender and then given the remains to Picasso.Click here to read more...
Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel is out this week, and the review embargo is up. But we're not quite ready to drop the verdict of Gearbox and 2K Australia's latest just yet. Our review will be along later this week, but in the interim, here's a little look at the game's opening scenes.
Definitely check out Carl's interview with the devs too.
Minecraft is a game that passed me by completely. It's a sad reality of life as a games critic -- the minute you're finished with a game for review, you're onto the next one. There's always something new to cover, whether that's a title that's just dropped through the letter box, or an Early Access project that's just started an initial alpha run, or a new demo or browser game or interview to be done.
I don't say this to complain at all, I love what I do. But it illustrates that the current situation I find myself in is very different to that of my formative years when I could wallow in a single game for months upon end. Indeed, such activity was often a requirement because of financial concerns. These days you struggle to make time for simply soaking in a game world.
So Minecraft passed me by, covered in far greater detail by a burgeoning YouTube market, expanded into classrooms and other places of learning. It became the gaming equivalent of dancing or skating competitive reality shows -- adored by the masses, but something I'd failed to get into, only occasionally stopping to watch the odd humorous video on YouTube.
Better late than never, as they say. Every Monday, I'll be teaming up with my Minecraft guru Calvin (formerly of GodisaGeek) to investigate a new corner of the Minecraft experience over on my personal channel, and you can find a new episode here at 5PM at the top of each week.
To kick things off, we check out The Hunger Games, and it quickly becomes readily apparent that neither of us are particularly proficient survivors.Click here to read more...
I'm not very good at Driveclub. I'm in the process of playing F1 2014 for review, and I always like to dip in and out of Burnout Paradise or Need For Speed: Most Wanted for a regular Criterion fix. One sits firmly at the simulation end of the spectrum, the other two are much more geared towards exaggerated thrills and over-the-top racing.
Such extremes in either direction are far too much for Driveclub.
I won't pretend that I've been looking forward to this game with eager anticipation. Indeed, it's difficult when there's not much to actually get excited for. The USP upon which Driveclub has been built is currently in a sorry, shambolic state. Apparently, Evolution learned nothing from the half decade or so in which we've had systems like Autolog. At the time of writing, Driveclub is still engaged in a "one in, one out" system regarding access to its servers. As you'll see in the video, connectivity was limited. And by limited I mean laughably non-existent.
First Contact is a series all about first impressions. The ones I had of Driveclub were a mixed bag, to be sure. It wasn't all bad (though my driving, as you'll see, certainly was). It looks fantastic. So good, in fact, that when you start up the game you might well crash terribly in your first race on account of enjoying the view. I speak from experience. The handling is geared more towards the arcade end of the spectrum than sims, but that's okay, and the little objective challenges for each race are a nice way of encouraging replayability.Click here to read more...
Chances are, you're either a big fan of the Dark Souls series or you just can't be doing with their brand of no-nonsense difficulty and downright unresponsive controls.
Me? I'm not a fan and haven't been since I played the original Demon's Souls. So why am I the one talking to you about Bloodborne, a game by the same devs and seen as a potential killer exclusive on the PS4 for fans of From Software’s series? Well, after trying out the recent Alpha, I'm thinking maybe Bloodborne will be worth a look after all and those of you that aren't fans of the Souls games probably shouldn't dismiss it so soon.
Is it still hard? Of course, and the checkpoints (or lack of them in the Alpha) will certainly make your eyes water a little and I'm sure there will be plenty of difficulty settings to nail that feel of trapping your junk in your zip, or stubbing your toe for hours on end or what other kink that makes you keep playing these bastards.
So, let's dive into the Alpha demo. First of all you're given the option of four different characters with four varying weapon loadouts. The first is the one you may have seen in past footage with a blunderbuss gun and a saw cleaver, this was the first one I tried. The second was armed with a pistol and a sword that could split into two blades at the touch of a button.Click here to read more...
I'm really enjoying This War of Mine.
Actually, that's wrong. "Enjoying" is too jolly a word for such a bleak game. This War of Mine puts you in control of a band of civilian survivors trying to eke out an existence in the rubble of a war zone. Food is scarce, illness is widespread, and extreme circumstances have led many into taking extreme measures to survive. The pockets of humanity that are left are rife with mistrust and paranoia, and you must do all that you can to keep your characters alive.
Well... "must" is a strong word too.
See, This War of Mine is all about choices. It's what you might expect The Walking Dead to look like if they replaced the zombie apocalypse with a war-torn one, and took the shackles off the story so you could create your own survival narrative packed with questionable decision and moral crises.
As you'll see in the video, the characters you take control of are not hardened action heroes or gritty folk well-seasoned in the art of living off the grid. These are regular Joes and Janes, people who never thought they'd live through times such as those depicted here. Their concerns are basic -- food, warmth, health, safety -- but I was struck by the appearance of "sad" in their character files after I accidentally got one of them killed on a night-time scouting mission. Clicking them open, I realised that they'd been chronicling the days through brief journal entries -- character reflecting on the things that I'd caused to happen. The mental strain of it all taking a toll on their efficiency.Click here to read more...
It's fifteen years since the Nostromo went dark, and Amanda Ripley is still hunting for reasons behind the disappearance of her mother, Ellen. So off she trots to Sevastopol Station, where it seems that the Nostromo's flight recorder has been found.
Welcome, ladies and gentlemen, to Alien: Isolation.
The review embargo is up and the game is out next week, but unfortunately we're not quite ready to publish our critical appraisal of the game just yet. Instead, here's a slightly edited (SEGA have limited the length of the videos we can make ahead of launch) look at the game's opening scenes, Amanda's first interactions with her companions on the trip, and what happens when they reach Sevastopol itself.
The review will go live ahead of Tuesday's launch, and there'll almost certainly be a video of yours truly screaming in terror along with some further gameplay footage over the weekend. In the interim, however, here's a little look at the first moments of Alien: Isolation.Click here to read more...
The Vanishing of Ethan Carter is an odd little game -- an exploratory adventure title, shrouded in mystery, that sees you stepping into the shoes of paranormal detective Paul Prospero as he responds to a letter received from a very scared little boy.
Games that plonk you down in the middle of a new space and simply demand that you get on with it are becoming rather plentiful these days. The delights of piecing a narrative together for oneself are obvious, but these games are not without their risks. It's not simply enough to expect players to automatically engage with a game world or feel obliged to work out what's going on. As I found with Betrayer, it's all too easy for games such as this to have skipped out on the precious foundations of creating a game world that we want to be in.
Thankfully, though, when it comes to The Vanishing of Ethan Carter, there's plenty to keep one's attention. It helps that the world is gorgeous, that the soundtrack makes the hairs on the back of my neck stand up. Murders and disappearances are always useful hooks for ensnaring curious minds, and the splashes of evidence and mysterious happenings here in the first half hour certainly do a good job of encouraging progress. I continue onwards because I want to, rather than feeling like I should.
The review will be up by Monday at the latest (silly season has begun!) but in the interim, here's the first half an hour or so of The Vanishing of Ethan Carter along with some real-time initial observations.Click here to read more...
I've just called a bundle of pixels a "cancerous badger's nutsack". Ten seconds earlier I told the game to which these pixels belonged that I would perform an inventive, illegal sex act upon its relatives on a bed made of lava and nightmares.
Fenix Rage is an incredibly aptly-named game. It's all about dying over and over and over again and resurrecting until you just get better, and it'll make you apoplectic with rage. I for one am quite glad about this. It's given me a chance to practise my more creative swearing for Destiny's loot cave.
It's a game that's a lot like Super Meat Boy at its heart: simple controls, fine margins, increasingly complex levels, and oodles of death. But is it any good? Well, the review is on its way, but in the interim, here's a look at my first half hour with the game.
Check out the game's official site here.
Guild Wars 2 is FREE this week, and so, after a year of constant nagging, Jon and Carl finally managed to persuade me to set aside my MMO reservations once again and leap into the fray.
Everything was going swimmingly, public events were popping up all over the place, much to my delight, and after almost falling to my death, we had a nice little dance party.
And then someone suggested we go fight a massive fire elemental.
I can't get enough of Hyrule Warriors. It helps, of course, that I'm quite a fan of the musou genre, but Omega Force have quite outdone themselves with this hybrid mashup. I spent much of yesterday listening to the game's outstanding soundtrack, which mainly consists of epic, widdly, J-rock variations on an abundance of Zelda themes.
Much like the OST for Pacific Rim, it instantly makes whatever you're doing seem more awesome than before.
Anyway, our review is already out, in which I gave it 8/10 and called it a bunch of fun, along with branding it as probably the best Warriors game to date:
Hyrule Warriors doesn't pretend to be anything that it isn't. It does exactly what it says on the tin, producing what is probably the best Warriors game to date, and doing so by taking many of the best aspects of The Legend of Zelda and successfully incorporating them into the classic 1-vs-1000 gameplay. The fan service is astonishing, the level of detail very welcome indeed, and the action can be truly satisfying, with the various bosses going a long way to making the repetitive action seem quite refreshing at times. A triumphant mash-up indeed.
Not only that, but we've also gone and captured the game's first battle on Hyrule Field, which features lots of Spin Attacks from Link, and an appearance from King Dodongo.Hit the jump to see Hyrule Warriors gameplay in action >>
The Masterplan is like a top-down Payday in many ways. The Early Access version of Shark Punch's hold 'em up is just a smattering of levels at this point, but already there's something glorious about the whole affair. Much like Starbreeze's criminal FPS, you're given a location, some intel, and it's your job to get and get out with the swag, hopefully before anyone calls the police.
Here's the official blurb:
Drawing inspiration from both legendary tactical turn-based games and classic heist movies alike, the goal of The Masterplan is to put together the right crew, get the right equipment, and finally plan and execute the biggest heist ever.
Set in the early 1970s, the game features beautiful hand-drawn 2D art and an authentic soundtrack recorded by a real band. The gameplay blends a physics-based world and a clever AI system with an easy to approach "real time with pause" user interface.
The user interface is lovely, keeping things simple and allowing players to better survey the area, identify obstacles and issues quickly, and try to plan out the perfect heist. Left-click to select, right-click to move and aim and interact, and there are a selection of useful hotkeys for brandishing weapons and (this is easy to forget at first) concealing them once more. Simple stuff, but when applied to an intricate tapestry of guard patrols, security cameras, a steady stream of potential witnesses, and obstinately locked doors, The Masterplan really comes alive. I have to talk about the music as well, because it's simply superb. The band recordings conducted for this game have brought an aural "crime caper" soundscape into the mix, with the dizzying horns rising and falling as the drama in the level unfolds and is dealt with. It's brilliant stuff.
It's early days indeed on the content side of things, but the core gameplay works very nicely indeed as it stands. I rather hope that the toolset of your goons expands as you progress, and I'm eager to see what other systems can be brought it to further deepen the options available to players. There's some serious potential here, but it hinges on building upon the solid foundation with some scope and ambition. One of the best things about Payday 2 was the manner in which you could specialise, and the persistent nature of progression. Borrowing those systems wholesale for this wouldn't work, but it'd be nice to see a simple continuity in your goons much like Cannon Fodder or XCOM -- improved efficiency in certain areas through use, perhaps, and (hopefully) the ability to name them ourselves. It's a simple device, but it fosters a surprisingly strong connection.Click here to read more...
Probably the most fully-realised aspect of Destiny, today we turn out attention to the Crucible in this ongoing series of review impressions, taking a look at game modes, maps, and balancing.
Hello there Traveller! Welcome to Day Two of our ongoing series of critical vidcasts regarding Destiny. Yesterday, Carl and I shared our initial thoughts on the retail version of the game, delighting in the game's exquisite gunplay and lamenting the empty feeling of the game worlds. Today, it's all about customisation. We talk about character creation and classes before moving onto equipment, upgrading gear and the economies present in the game, and also assessing Destiny's approach to dispensing loot.
Bungie basically laughed in the face of conventional review-making earlier this week, surfing into town on a swagalicious wave of money and hype. So, given that conventional reviews are sort of out of the window for this action-RPG-FPS-MMO hybrid, we thought we'd bring you a running commentary of our impressions and critical thoughts over the next few days by way of a daily vidcast.
Today we take a look at the basic gunplay, the exemplary sound design, the oddly empty worlds, and the awesomeness of the Tower and ask why the hell does a new-gen game have loading times that are longer than GTA Online's.
Also, does Carl have PS4 buyer's remorse having bought a new console for this game? Or are all of his generational dreams coming true?
Let us know how you're getting on in the box below.
With four Super Mirrors available in Bayonetta 2 (although only one that we can talk about currently), there's a fair bit of opportunity to play dress-up in Platinum's madcap action bonanza. To give you an idea of what to expect, hit the jump for a bunch of gameplay footage of Bayonetta in action, dressed in a variety of costumes and outfits from Super Mirror 64-2.
The Super Mirror's are all available at different intervals via Rodin's shop -- The Gates of Hell -- and the Mirrors themselves all cost 100,000 in currency. Unfortunately, you only get one costume included in that price (for 64-2 it's Fox's outfit), and every other costume costs another hundred grand as well. Cosplaying is an expensive pastime when you're an Umbra Witch.
The effects that the costumes have on the game itself are fairly minimal -- this is pure bonkers fan service, and there's nothing wrong with that. Most of the little changes are cosmetic, but there's something undeniably grin-inducing about rolling a Morphball about the place, or kicking the butts off of angels and demons with a set of tiny Arwings.Click here to read more...
The new Diablo III: Ultimate Evil Edition has been devouring our time here at Castle Dealspwn lately. Jon's putting the finishing touches to his review and I recently put together a beginner's tips guide. After getting back from my hols though I've finally been able to finish the campaign mode which, as players of the original version will know, has meant the Adventure mode has finally unlocked.
This part of Diablo III's end-game sees you tasked with bounties or killcount targets to bring in some seriously fat XP and gold rewards, not to mention all sorts of shiny loot. Blood Shards are rare rewards too and also a new currency that allows you to gamble for some exceptionally rare items. So, take a look at my new video and see some early missions and bounties I take on during my first day with Adventure mode. This is also where you earn keystone fragments to unlock the raid-like Rift missions. We'll have some coverage of those soon, although I'm wondering if I had better hit Lv. 70 first.Click here to watch the video.
Infamous: First Light is out in the US today, and our review went live earlier. Here's what we said about the game:
Infamous First Light packs a whole bunch of content in at a decent price, and fleshes out Second Son's most interesting character in fine fashion, with a sibling story that tugs at the heartstrings thanks to another great performance from Bailey. It's an extension, perhaps, more than an expansion -- more of the same sort of thing, but with a slightly different flavour -- but given how much fun Second Son was, that's no bad thing.
But if you're still uncertain whether or not to buy the standalone prequel to Second Son, here's a little look in more depth at some of the changes you can expect to find playing as Fetch rather than Delsin, along with a video of the game's opening 10 minutes.Click here to read more...