It’s good night from me and it’s good night from him

In 2009, I did my first radio segment with Glenn “Wammo” Williams on Kiwi FM while at that year’s E3 convention in Los Angeles. So, it seemed somehow fitting that our last radio segment before Wammo climbs on a big bird to go explore London was the week after this year’s E3.

When I did my first radio spot with Wammo I’m sure I was stilted, unnatural and sounded like a bumbling fool  – some would say not much has changed since then  – but it’s been an enjoyable three years when we chatted games, gaming and everything about the industry in between. While my hair might not have always been the best and things were a little untidy behind me, it was a great experience from the first day.

So, here is the last radio segment with Glenn before he heads overseas: we talk this year’s E3 and the future of gaming. All the best on your new adventure, my friend. May the force be with you (I sort of felt obliged to stick a geeky sci-fi quote in there somewhere).

Making the music for Halo 4: Neil Davidge talks to Game JunkieNZ

I’ve been a fan of the game since it first came out, so no-one had to convince me.

A few weeks ago I was lucky enough to talk to British producer, musician and composer Neil Davidge about his involvement in writing the musical score for Halo 4, the next game in the blockbuster series, now under the watchful gaze of 343 Industries.

Davidge told me it had been a particularly hectic 12 months but he was thrilled to have been asked to work on the game – the first video game soundtrack he’s worked on – but it took little to convince him to come on board: “I’ve been a fan of the game since it first came out, so no-one had to convince me.”

As thrilled as he was, Davidge also revealed that he was also intimidated to be taking over the musical duties from American composer Martin O’Donnell, who had written the score for the Halo series since the very beginning. “I couldn’t allow myself to think about how I could better or improve on what Marty [O’Donnell] has done. I couldn’t afford to think about what the fans might think of a new composer coming in. That would have just stopped me from doing my actual job. I just had to make music, ultimately, that I liked, that I thought worked for the project and then just crossed my fingers and hoped that other people would like it.’’

Click on the link to see the full interview in .pdf form: Neil Davidge talks Halo 4

I just had to make music, ultimately, that I liked, that I thought worked for the project and then just crossed my fingers and hoped that other people would like it

My take on Sony’s pre-E3 press event

“Where was the love for the PS Vita,” was my first reaction after watching most of Sony’s pre-E3 press event this afternoon (NZ time).

Actually, no it wasn’t: my first reaction was “When can I play The Last of Us? That looks so freaken amazing,” after Sony closed out its presser with a demo of Naughty Dog’s next adventuring game.

For Sony it was all about the games and the PlayStation 3 – and there were a lot to take in – but very little love for the Vita, a console that isn’t a year old yet and is struggling to gain traction with gamers. Apart from an Assassin’s Creed game for the Vita (Assassin’s Creed 3:  Liberation)  and cross platform connectivity with All Stars Battle Royale, Sony had nothing for the Vita. That’s a worrying proposition, especially for early adopters of the handheld. Does the lack of first-party support mean that Sony is worried as well?

 Sony’s CEO Jack Tretton opened the event by thanking gamers for giving the company the inspiration to do what it does then welcomed on to the stage French game maker David Cage, the man behind the innovative but ultimately tedious Heavy Rain, who revealed his new game, Beyond: Two Souls, a game that spans 15 years and lets players “live the life of a video game character”, namely Jodie (voiced by Juno actor Ellen Page).

After Beyond Two Souls came PlayStation All Stars Battle Royale, which I flicked between while I was doing some work, then AC3: Liberation,which brings a female assassin this time around, then Assassin’s Creed 3, which showed a sea battle aboard naval ships and involved sailors, rigging, cannons, explosions and lots of shouting. Some Far Cry 3 co-op multiplayer was shown as was a rather tedious reveal of Wonderbook, an inventive partnership between PlayStation and British author J.K. Rowling where you use the PS Move as a wand to cast spells while reading a magical book. It was fun at first but the on-stage demo just went on for far too long. I got bored with it.

Tretton introduced God of War: Ascension as “one of the biggest and most epic releases on PlayStation 3” and we’ve seen the multiplayer component before but this showcased the single player, which saw the forever angry Kratos take on goat like creatures, a large Kraken and an elephant warrior that met the wrong end of Kratos’ anger. It’s due out early next year.

 The biggest cheers, though, were saved for Naughty Dog’s The Last of Us, which cements for me the developers pedigree as a AAA game maker that knows how to do narrative – and has the visual grunt behind it. Make no mistake it was a brutal trailer with Joel and Ellie, the two main characters in the game’s post-apocalyptic world, having to fend against rather aggressive foes. The combat is visceral and forceful, with Joel slamming a foe’s head against a desk at one stage and shooting another at point blank range with a shotgun, while Ellie throws a brick at another’s head to distract him – before he’s pummeled by Joel. It’s a stark display of a struggling world after a disaster. “Good job with all the killing, and stuff,” Ellie says after they’ve survived the encounter.

The Last of Us is unmistakably Naughty Dog: it reminded me a lot of the Uncharted series with similar visuals and a main character that even moves slightly like him. I guess what I’m saying is that it feels like a Naughty Dog game – and that pleases me a lot.

If I was a betting man, I’d say Sony won the round today, offering more games than Xbox was able to but the game of the day for me, easily Ubisoft’s surprise announcement of  Watch_Dogs, a game set in a society where computers can see everything and nothing is a secret. It actually reminded me a lot of the TV show Person of Interest, which I have enjoyed.

Nintendo is up tomorrow, revealing what it has planned for the 3DS and other things Nintendo. If I can get up in time, I’ll watch it (it’s at 4.30am NZ time). I need my beauty sleep, you know.

My thoughts on the Xbox pre-E3 press conference

I got up at 4am New Zealand time this morning to watch the Xbox 360 pre-show press conference so I’m a little tired at this point but this is what I got out of Xbox’s pre-show conference: lots of Kinect interaction, lots of cable sports content (most of which we probably won’t get in New Zealand), Halo 4 and Call of Duty: Black Ops 2. For this press conference, Xbox seemed to be all about content for an entertainment experience.

I’ve also embedded the video I did with Glenn “Wammo” Williams this morning about my thoughts.

I was right in predicting that there wouldn’t be a reveal or announcement of a new console but probably the highlight of the press conference was – and this sounds really weird – was the appearance of Matt Stone and Trey Parker, the creators of SouthPark, who were talking about the new game Southpark: The Stick of Truth. These guys aren’t even making the game and they were the most exciting thing about the presser: they were natural, unscripted and funny.

The event, held at the Galen Centre in Los Angeles, opened with a demo of Halo 4 and it was pretty neat to see what 343 Industries has done with the Master Chief and Halo. I’m not a rabid Halo fan but I’m actually interested to see where Halo 4 takes us.

Next we had Splinter Cell: Blacklist – the return of Sam Fisher from the Splinter Cell games – and that had some interesting moments, especially showing you being able to use Kinect voice to distract an enemy.

EA came on and talked about voice commands using Kinect in Fifa 13 and Madden NFL 13 – it even bought out fabled NFL quarterback Joe Montana to look like he was having a good time playing it; We had an oh-so-brief trailer for Gears of War: Judgement which revealed nothing at all about game play; then focussed on Kinect functionality and how the Xbox 360 was going to give us all the entertainment we wanted.

NBA is coming to Xbox sometime – but we won’t be getting it in New Zealand. I daren’t tell Master Game Junkie that: he’s a basketball nut and is still getting over the fact that the LA Lakers didn’t make it to the playoffs. 

Xbox announced Smart Glass, which actually sounded pretty cool, a free app that offers additional information over a variety of smart phones and tablets, including iOS and Android, when watching TV or playing games.

Applications shown off included using a second screen to offer more information about movies being shown on Xbox and to access multiplayer match details while in Halo.

Internet Explorer is also coming to the Xbox 360 and using Smart Glass you’ll be able to browse IE using a smart phone or a tablet. “It turns any TV into a smart TV,” said Xbox Live’s Marc Whitten.

We had more games: the new Tomb Raider game shows a much more brutal Lara than we’ve seen before – she stabs a guy in the throat after wounding him with a shotgun blast; Resident Evil 6, which features more zombies; Ascends New Gods which seemed to show fighting big dudes; Lococycle (from developer Twisted Pixel) which featured a strange trailer that showed what looked like a futuristic motorcycle – “She was the first cadet to break the four minute mile: by three minutes and forty seconds”; and Matter, a Kinect game that looked like it featured one of the cores from Portal 2.

There’s also going to be a lot of DLC that will come out on Xbox 360 first, apparently.

Matt Stone and Trey Parker were genuine highlights in an average Xbox’s pre-show presser and Usher appeared on stage to perform his new track “Scream” in Dance Central 3 – about which time my internet connection started chugging (I tried to initially start watching it using the Xbox Live event app, but my console refused to connect to the internet just as the event started).

Then the event closed with a demo of Call of Duty: Black Ops 2. The jury’s still out on this game for me, at the moment.

So, how did you think Microsoft did at it’s pre-show press conference? Did it impress you or were you left a little underwhelmed? Personally, I was left a little underwhelmed to be honest.

Sony’s pre-show press event is about 1pm NZ time today, with Nintendo’s tomorrow morning. I’ll post my thoughts on both when I can.

Game Junkie in Sydney

I’ll get to the games I’m playing shortly but last week, I crossed the Tasman to visit our neighbours in Sydney, Australia to attend the Samsung Galaxy World Tour – which also doubled as the Australasian launch for Samsung’s third edition of its Galaxy S3 line-up.

I like Sydney and it blows me away that it has almost the entire population of New Zealand in its environs. That’s just mind-blowing. Not that you’d be interested, but I had a non-eventful flight where I had the butter chicken and rice for dinner with ice cream for dessert. It was pretty tasty, actually.

The Samsung Galaxy launch event was held in Sydney’s Capitol Theatre, which is near Campbell Street in the city’s CBD. I took a photo of the Campbell St sign just because … well, just because I wanted to take a photo of a street with my surname.

There was media from New Zealand, Australia and Singapore at the event, which had a string ensemble – called the Samsung Orchestra – and a huge screen behind the main stage.

Those of you who follow smart phone launches probably know everything there is to know about the Galaxy S3 so I won’t tread over old ground like specs and what it can do, but from the time I’ve had with it, I’m pretty impressed with it. It’s probably the best Android phone I’ve used and could well convince me to drop using my Windows Phone 7.5 handset (although, it’s a Lumia 800 so I’ll have to have some internal discussions).

Gamewise this week, I finished up the Harley Quinn’s Revenge DLC for Batman Arkham City, which was fun but didn’t actually blow my socks off. You play as both Batman and Robin, his trusty sidekick, this time and it’s more of the same for fans of Rocksteady’s Batman games but Rocksteady have upped the ante when it comes to combat in the sheer number of foes you’ll face at one time: often you’ll find yourself outnumbered by plenty of stun prod-wielding foes, armour-clad enemies and knife-poking baddies.

I’ve also been making my way through Ghost Recon Future Soldier when I can. It’s fun but it has some of those ridiculous things where you’ve got a time limit to complete a task – and standing between you and your end goal are a mountain of heavily-armed foes. I just don’t understand the point of those: you pretty much have to sprint during the few areas where there are no foes (the end goal is the control room on a cargo freight ship, so you’re climbing lots of stairs).

What have you been playing  lately?