Category Archives: video games

‘Tis the season for E3, hear ye, hear ye … trailers & videos incoming!

As my Twitter feed keeps reminding me, the Electronic Entertainment Expo (or E3, for short) is underway in Los Angeles this week, when [most] of vidya game’s biggest  publishers and developers showcase the games they’ve got coming out in the next few months [and over the next year or so].

A notable absence this year is PlayStation: It decided to forgo E3 for reasons.

I suspect they’ll have a strong presence at the Tokyo Game Show later this year and Gamescom in Germany, which makes sense, to be honest, especially focusing on the TGS which is, after all, in Japan.

OK, so all the major players had their pre-show press conferences yesterday and today [Xbox, SquareEnix, Bethesday, Devolver Digital, Ubisoft and EA], but rather than dissect them frame by frame, announcement by announcement, I’ve had links to trailers and conferences emailed to me … so I’m going to let you do the hard work [is that lazy??]

CD Projekt Red, the studio behind The Witcher series, revealed a new trailer for Cyberpunk 2077 & while it didn’t reveal any actual game play [which is a little annoying], the release date [April 16, 2020] was announced at the show by none other than Bill & Ted star himself Keanu Reeves [who seems to be the “it” guy right now]. He’s also featuring in the game. Here’s the trailer. Keanu appears at the end.

Xbox announced it had acquired Tim Schaefer’s Double Fine Productions [you’d still better look after the backers – including me – of the Fig campaign that actually funded the game, Tim!], the beta version of Game Pass for PC, which I signed up for given I’m a born-again PC gamer, and at $NZ6.95 a month, it seems incredibly good value for money, and already hads a pretty good line-up of games so far [Metro Exodus, Wolfenstein 2, Football Manager 2019, Void Bastards], and like its Xbox counterpart, more games will be added as the service grows. It also revealed Project Scarlett, it’s next next-gen console that is apparently going to be “4 x more powerful than the Xbox One X” [and, according to one Xbox Twitter account it would be the most powerful console it had ever designed, but it did say that about the Xbox One X, right?] Details were light on the ground on Project Scarlett, though, given it’s not releasing until the end of 2020. It also showed a cinematic trailer for the next game in the Halo series.

SquareEnix showed off its Final Fantasy 7 remake, and it looks pretty impressive – and I’m not a fan of the series. Here’s the battle system in action:

It also announced Outriders, a new game from development studio People Can Fly [the company behind the very good Bulletstorm], and a Marvel Avenger’s game, which will come out next year. Here’s trailer for those two, too.

Bethesda showed off, among other things, more of Doom Eternal

Wolfenstein Young Blood

Ghostwire Tokyo

Phew, I’m tired after all that. I don’t have anything about EA or Ubisoft but Ubi announced a new Watchdogs game set in London & another entrant in the Ghost Recon franchise, and EA showed off Respawn’s Star Wars game The Force Unleashed 3 Jedi Fallen Order.

Anything catch your eye?

Update, Wednesday, June 12: Ubisoft have sent through a shite load of emails today but here’s some of the key titles it showed.

Watchdogs Legion 

Assassin’s Creed story creator mode

and God & Monsters

A Plague Tale: Innocence in pictures

A Plague Tale: Innocence, from French developer Asobo Studio, has come out of nowhere, really, with little fanfare and hype, and so far, it’s the sleeper hit of 2019 for me.

I bought it the other day on PC (true story: I got the conversions wrong so thought I was paying around $NZ45 for a $US37 game but actually ended up paying $58) and I’ve been blown away from the moment I started playing. After about two hours playtime, I’m still blown away by the game.

Set in France during the time of a devastating plague (I’ve no idea what time period), Amicia and her brother Hugo must escape the British Inquisition soldiers hunting down Hugo. To make matters worse, swarms of rats are a crucial element that Amicia and Hugo have to survive against.

This isn’t a review of the game, or even a preview, it’s really just to show just how jaw-droppingly good looking this game is on PC. I get the odd hitch every now and then but I’m playing on Ultra graphics settings with an AMD RX580 GPU and it just looks phenomenal.

Chances are I’ll post some thoughts when I’m done with A Plague Tale: Innocence. So far, all those thoughts are incredibly positive.

 

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Pint-sized review: Mortal Kombat 11

Mortal Kombat 11: Finish him!I’ll get this out of the way right off the bat: I have no skill when it komes to the Mortal Kombat games. Skill, Mortal Kombat & me are not words that should be placed togther in the same sentence.

This is how Mortal Kombat games go for me: I fumble my way through the tutorials, telling myself that I know what I’m doing & what buttons do what , then  pretty much just stab at random buttons during fights, hoping that I actually konnect with my foe before he/she delivers a fatal blow & rips my spine out my arse.

So it is with MK11: I merrily went through the tutorial, doing what I was told, then starting playing the game proper – and sure enough, it quickly descended into me just mashing buttons until things happened. It wasn’t pretty, I tell you.

Long story short for MK11 is that the brutality of the former games is back once again & while it’s a rare thing for me to actually be in the right on-screen position to deliver a flawless fatality, I can attest to how brutal those climactic moves are after seeing my much-better-at-games teenage son deliver them. Look, if I do manage to pull off a fatality, it’s probably happened by accident and not due to my ability.

I’ve long been impressed with the dynamic environments in the most recent MK games, and this one doesn’t disappoint, letting players use the environment to deliver the hurt to opponents in creative ways. The game’s kutscenes/movies (which at times err on the too long side but are, thankfully, skippable) are top notch, too, and I could happily sit and watch them if they were presented in a long-form movie format.

If you’re squeamish at the sight of virtual gore – and MK11 is dripping with eye-popping, bone-crunching, vital organ-smashing moments – this NetherRealm’s latest isn’t the fighting game for you, and if I’m being honest, I did question at times the sheer graphic nature of the brutality – and I’m a person who had no problem watching the combat sequences in a movie like John Wick 2.

Look, fans of the series will welcome MK11 with open arms, reveling in the opportunity to punch an opponent’s still beating heart out through their rib cage, but for newkomers who just want to give the series “a crack” to see what it’s like, Mortal Kombat 11 probably isn’t the best starting point. You have been warned.

My The Division 2 review will be delayed: Here’s why

My review of Ubisoft’s The Division 2 will be delayed, and I’m not sure when I’ll get back to wanting to play the game, to be honest. I will post a review at some point. I just don’t know when that will be.

My reasoning for not going back to The Division 2 right now is simple: Following the tragic events that happened in Christchurch, New Zealand last Friday – my home city – where a deranged hate monger killed 50 innocent people and injured numerous others using semi-automatic weapons – I’m just not in the mood to play a game where shooting people with a variety of weapons is a core component of the game play.

I’ve played about two hours of the game but haven’t touched it since Friday’s event. I’m just not in the right frame of mind.

This is not a political statement about video games: I still love video games and will continue to play them. It’s just that I don’t feel comfortable playing The Division 2 right now – or any shooter, actually – when the events of last Friday are so raw and so real to everyone in Christchurch.

I also work for the New Zealand Emergency Ambulance Service so the tragic events of Friday are very close to home for me on a daily basis as I interact with the heroic ambulance officers who did what they were trained to do in a horrific environment.  

I will go back to The Division 2 at some point but I’m not sure when that point will be. Now is not the time for me. I’m sure you understand.

 

Sekiro Shadows Die Twice is almost upon us

Sekiro Shadows Die Twice, from the same crowd that bought us Bloodbourne and Dark Souls, is out later this month (March 22) and Activision have released a truckload of new screen shots.

Feast your eyes, gamers.

I wonder if Sekiro will be as difficult as the Dark Souls series: Those games kicked my arse severely.

 

Metro Exodus thoughts: Surviving post-apocalyptic Russia

Please note, I haven’t finished Metro Exodus yet but I thought I’d give my impressions after a few hours in the world 4A Games has created. To be honest, though, I’m making my way through parts of this game so slowly, due to all the nightmarish horrors I’m having to deal with, I reckon it’ll take me weeks to finish it.

I often question myself over things I’ve done in the past.

Most recently, after I was scared stupid – again –  by some abomination mutated by years of radiation in post-apocalyptic Russia while playing Metro Exodus, I asked myself: “What the fark was I thinking putting my hand up to review Metro Exodus, a game that features nightmarish creatures hell-bent on ripping my intestines out through my throat?”

Look, I’m a mess at the best of times when it comes to scary moments in video games. Truth be told, I tend to play games that feature any scary moments during the day, when people are at home, with the curtains open. None of this play it in the dark, all alone, with headphones on rubbish. Fark that for a game of soldiers.

The Metro series, as those that have played it will know, is a game that features scary moments and is based on the books written by Russian author Dimitry Glukhovsky. Lots of them, especially when you’re creeping through claustrophobic environments when it’s dark and all you have to light the way is the slowly dimming glow from your head-mounted torch.

I played Metro 2033 and Metro Last Light and so I had a strategy for Exodus: Play during the day when monsters are supposedly less abundant, meaning more human foes and less of the mutated humanoid ghouls and beastly beasts (notice how I highlighted less in that sentence?). Less monsters means less chance of having to deal with aforementioned nightmarish creatures. Well, I’m calling bullshit on that assumption right off the bat.

During one area in the Volga (Exodus’ first location), I decided to hunt for upgraded equipment for Artyom’s attire (upgraded helmet, gas mask, bullet carrying capacity). Three buildings nearby were heavily guarded by bandits so it was risky to take them out during the day – there was more potential for things to turn pear-shaped – but I thought I’d take that risk: It was better than facing the unspeakable horrors that lurked during the night.

One building, an abandoned petrol station, seemed easy enough, although two of the five bandits were heavily armoured. My strategy was to skulk around the outskirts, picking them off one by one, pluck the equipment from the storage areas and get out. Well, things didn’t go quite according to plan.

As I crept around a barrier, two little monster things suddenly attacked me from behind so as I dealt with them the sniper on the roof of the saw me, alerted his friends and all hell broke loose.

I took out two guys out easy enough, advancing on the building, but one of the heavy armoured dudes appeared, forcing me to duck behind a rusted out car. As I took him out, a horde of humanoid monsters suddenly appeared, forcing me to fire randomly, hoping to take them out. It had all turned to custard, royally, but I survived. Just.

And don’t get me started about the monsters during the night, or when you wander through dark locations, or the terrifying electrical anomalies that crackle and roam, setting all matter of things on fire with their electrical energy. In one example of these things, it suddenly appeared in a rail car that I had just finished driving, sending arcs of radiated energy everywhere.

In Metro Exodus, everything is out to get you, literally, be they two-legged, four-legged or multi-legged.

As in previous Metro games, part of the tension came from the scarcity of resources, and that has returned here, with things like ammunition in short supply, forcing you to collect what you can then craft it – bullets, air filters, knives, decoys – either at a workbench or from your backpack. When possible, I’d use stealth, punching an enemy in the back of the head rather than waste a precious bullet on him.

I liked how you can scavenge parts from discarded weapons then cobble together frankenstein-ish armaments at workbenches, creating some amazing variants. Want a sniper scope on a handgun? Sure. A longer muzzle and extended clip on that rifle? No problem.

Exodus’ story is engaging, and I actually became invested in the story as the travellers moved from location to location on the Aurora, and visually, man, the game looks stunning on the PlayStation 4 Pro, especially night-time environmental effects. It looks pretty impressive on PC, I’m told. I also really loved the option of no onscreen clutter and that the in-game map is a clipboard that Artyom can flip around to view mission notes. It’s a really nice touch.

All that data comes at a price, obviously, as Exodus has incredibly long load times, especially when you first fire up the game. At times, it took in excess of 3 minutes, nine seconds to first load up. Load times are quicker if you have to reload a save but initially, it’s “Make a cup of coffee and some toast load times. Hopefully, a patch will remedy those load times.

Also, I don’t think the developers have done a very good job of actually telling you what some of the controls are for certain actions. It wasn’t initially clear to me how I actually took of my gas mask when I didn’t need it (on the PS4 it’s hold down on the D-pad).

I noted that at times people would talk over the top of each other, making it difficult to follow what was going on sometimes (I always have subtitles on so that makes things easier) and sometimes, the enemy AI is a bit brain dead, with foes sometimes forgetting that you’re there.

One thing I would like to see if there are any future games is – and this is just a personal preference – is for Artyom to have a voice. Many times during the game, his comrades would call out to him over a radio and there was no response: Just silence. He grunts and groans when he’s exerting himself and gets injured but Artyom is continuing the long held tradition of many first person shooter heroes being the strong, silent type.

When I first heard that the Metro series was coming out of the tight confines of the previous two games into a more open world environment, I was worried that the series would lose some of its charm. I needn’t have worried. Despite a more open world, Exodus is a worthy addition to the series.

Now, if only I could muster up the courage to face those mutated creatures during the night, I’ll be sweet.

A big thank you to Five Eight Distribution in New Zealand who supplied a code for the PS4 version of Metro Exodus. 

Stars Wars Republic Commando: One of the finest Star Wars games ever made – but we’ll never see a sequel

Trawling through You Tube the other night, I came across an excellent short by YouTube site GVMERS on the history of the superb Star Wars shooter Republic Commando.

After I watched it, I decided to hunt out my original Xbox copy of the game (which I still have, thankfullyl), Googled whether it would work on my Xbox 360 (it does: Apparently it may work on the Xbox One as well?), inserted the disc, applied a small update patch, and fired it up.

I was transported back to Star Wars gaming nirvana.

Along with FPS Dark Forces, space shooter X-Wing vs Tie Fighter and the wonderful Jedi Knight series, Republic Commando is still one of the greatest Star Wars games of all time. It is, believe me.

dd56a48dbf4f8343759e68efedbcaa74Republic Commando is a great game because it came when LucasArts still made Star Wars games and before the franchise was gobbled up by Disney and the game licenses given to EA to squander. I spent countless hours controlling Kyle Katarn (a stormtrooper who became a rebel fighter) as a burgeoning jedi knight and shooting dark troopers in Dark Forces.

Sure, Republic Commando’s graphics don’t stand up to today’s realistic visuals – where talking about a game that launched on the original Xbox around the mid-2000s – but believe me, the narrative and the game play (set around the time of George Lucas’ second trilogy of movies: Episodes one, two and three) still stand the test of time as you lead a rag-tag quartet of Republic Commandos, each with their own personality (something that is intriguing given republic soldiers are all clones), battling separatist forces on the bug-infested planet of Geonosis.

[Look, I’m not wearing rose-coloured glasses, thinking every single Star Wars game was the second-coming of gaming, because I don’t: There were some real stinkers, but games like Knights of the Old Republic, Dark Forces, the Jedi Knight series and Republic Commando are classics.]

But back to Republic Commando. What makes me love Republic Commando so much as an example of a Star Wars game with a single player campaign done right is that players control one of the Republic’s elite soldiers and it feels so damn badass doing it. The game play feels solid and it’s a nice tangent from the Star Wars movies.

Republic Commando is a game that brings me so much joy despite being years old but I know we will never see a sequel to this amazing game because Disney (and, I guess by extension, EA because it has the SW games license) just doesn’t have any idea what make great narrative-driven Star Wars game. Heck, I’d love to see a re-master of Republic Commando for current-generation consoles and PC. How good would that be??

Disney proved in 2013 that it has no idea what makes a good Star Wars game when it cancelled Star Wars 1313, a game that showed massive amounts of promise in a short 15-minute demo. Sadly, I also don’t have a lot of faith in EA’s up coming Star Wars game from Titanfall developer Respawn Entertainment.

Now, don’t get me wrong: I have the utmost faith in Respawn and Vince Zampella – Titanfall 2 was one of my favourite games of 2016 – but I am seriously concerned that EA will pressure Respawn to forgo a solid, narrative-driven single player campaign (like Titanfall 2’s), making it concentrate on a micro-transaction-laden multiplayer campaign. EA doesn’t care about single player games: All it cares about is MP game that can reap it financial rewards.

Look, I’d like to be proven wrong with Respawn’s Star Wars game – and I really, really hope I am – but I just don’t think Disney and EA care about the narrative-driven Star Wars games, and that makes me sad. Very, very, very sad.

Of course, I’m speculating wildly about EA and Disney and they may surprise us with an amazingly good Star Wars game with a worthwhile single player campaign in the coming years, but I’m not holding my breath.

I guess I’ll just have to keep playing the Star Wars games from the past to get my Star Wars video game fix.

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