‘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

Bite-sized review: Hellmut The Badass from Hell

What is it: Hellmut Badass from Hell is a twin-stick shooter rogue-like which, according to Slovakian development team Volcanicc , has you play as a collection of “improbable creatures and slaughter furious demon hordes”. I looked at it on Nintendo Switch but it’s also available on PC and console.

So, what’s it all about?: Hellmut uses the currently popular 16-bit pixel art style of graphics that a few developers are favouring at the moment, and it’s one of those games where you move with the left stick and aim with the right as you fight your way through increasingly tougher enemies until you die – then you respawn and start all over again.

If you like games like Dead Cells and Hollow Knight, Hellmut will likely appeal to your gaming sensibilities (conversely, if you hate games like Dead Cells and Hollow Knight, you’ll hate Hellmut). It has procedurally generated levels and nice touch is that Hellmut (who seeks imortality from a demon so is reduced to a floating skull and spine) can transform into two other nightmarish creatures (the rat king and the stitchmonster), both with different abilities. The game really looks great on the Switch’s screen, too.

So, anything about the game that grinded your gears?: Well, it’s a rogue-like so, yeah. I frustrate easily with rogue-like games and so it was with Hellmut (and with Dead Cells and Hollow Knight before it). You have to have incredible patience and stickability with games like this and I’m not sure I have the patience to see them through to the end.

Verdict?: Hellmut Badass from Hell has a nice little sense of humour running through it and I liked that, but the bottom line is, like all rogue-likes before it, if you find games like Dead Cells – where when you die you restart from the beginning – frustrating then this isn’t the game for you. That said, if you love games where the odds are often against you and you love the challenge of learning from your mistakes, you’ll love this.

Thanks to the publisher who provided me with a Nintendo Switch game code.

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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Huawei Y6 Pro 2019 review

Huawei has been in the news recently – and not for great reasons thanks to Android OS maker Google and a decision by the US government – but don’t write the Chinese smartphone manufacturer just yet.

The Y6 Pro 2019  is one of Huawei’s budget phones – it’ll set you back a paltry $249 – but it doesn’t look or feel like a budget smartphone, thanks to its sleek design and quality construction. My review handset was coloured a nice sapphire blue that really does look the bee’s knees and wouldn’t look out of place next to top end smartphones from Huawei and other manufacturers.

Sporting a 6.09-inch HD+ IPS screen (1520 x 720 resolution), 3Gb of memory, a 13MP camera and 32Gb of storage (which is expandable via MicroSD), the Y6 Pro doesn’t have a fingerprint scanner like Huawei’s top-line phones like the P20 and P30 (or even the Nova 3i) but it does have facial recognition which worked every single time I picked up the phone.

The screen is good but not colours don’t pop and the screen isn’t as sharp don’t pop as Huawei’s higher end models and it handled mobile games like Deus Ex Go and Lara Croft Go extremely well, not seeming to drain the battery too much. Talking about the battery, I was impressed with Y6 Pro 2019’s battery life. I got on average two days usage from the phone’s 3020mAh battery needing a charge.

The camera does the job but images aren’t as sharp as on higher end smartphones.

Perhaps the biggest flaw of this phone is the limited internal storage: 32Gb isn’t going to last you very long so if you’re the sort of person who takes lots of photos or downloads content, I’d suggest buying an microSD card at the same time as buying the phone. Face it, buying a larger microSD won’t break the bank given how cheap this phone is.

Overall, Huawei’s Y6 Pro 2019 is a good phone without being a fantastic phone. It’s a workhorse that ticks all the right boxes and is perfect if you want a cheap but good-looking smartphone for your teenager.

If you’re a power user, though, you’ll want to look at something more high-end.


 

Weekend news

Some news for you all.

As well as maintaining this blog, I’ve now started writing PC game reviews for Australian-based gaming blog Koru Cottage which has a great team of writers based in New Zealand and  Australia.

I’ve known the guys involved in the site for some time through social media platforms so it’s nice to have been asked to join the team and contribute.

I’ve done my first review for the site, too  – Rebellion’s Sniper Elite V2 Remastered – which you find here.

Have no fear, though, I’ll still be keeping this blog up and running: I may just tweak the content a bit as time goes on.

Have a great weekend.

 

Nintendo Switch most searched console in New Zealand – PriceSpy

It seems the Nintendo Switch console is the most searched video game console on price aggregation site PriceSpy.

PriceSpy says Nintendo’s handheld hybrid is currently the most popular console on the site (1 January 2019
to date), followed by the Sony PlayStation 4 Pro (1TB) and Microsoft Xbox One S (1TB).

PriceSpy says Nintendo ranks overall as the most popular brand within the gaming shopping category
on PriceSpy, followed by Sony and Microsoft, and in 2018, the Switch also claimed the top spot as overall most popular console, followed by Sony PlayStation 4 Pro (1TB) and Sony PlayStation 4 Slim (500GB)

Liisa Matinvesi-Bassett, New Zealand country manager for PriceSpy, says its data suggests consumers appear to be making the switch (har, har), increasingly searching for Nintendo over the other big gaming players.

“Whilst consumer interest appears to be up the up, historical pricing insights for the
Nintendo Switch show the console’s actual price point has remained fairly static, varying by
just $79 between $469 to $538.

“In comparison to the second and third most popular consoles, the historical pricing insights
tell a different story. Both the Sony PlayStation 4 Pro (1TB) and Microsoft Xbox One S (1TB)
have varied massively in price points, suggesting retailers are offering bigger discounts on
these models to entice consumer in to make a purchase.”

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.

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