Tag Archives: Xbox One

My week in gaming: Auckland, Zelda and visiting strange planets

This week I got to do something that as a gaming writer I haven’t done in a long, long, long time: I visited a game development studio to talk about an upcoming Xbox release of a game that’s already out on PC.

A screenshot of the upcoming Xbox version of Path of Exile.

The game is Path of Exile, an action RPG made by an Auckland studio called Grinding Gear Games. If you’re a PC player, you’ve likely heard of it: Path of Exile is a free-to-play online multiplayer game that is hugely popular in Europe and America – and it’s coming to Xbox soon. No release date has been announced yet .

While I have to say multiplayer action RPGs aren’t really my first choice for video games, the Xbox version of Path of Exile is looking pretty good.

Look out for a story from my visit in the coming weeks.

Flying from Christchurch, where I live, to Auckland, where Grinding Gear Games is, gave me a good chance to play a heap load of Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild on the plane – and I’m really liking the game. The portable mode of the Switch is amazing and while the degrading weapons in the game is a bit of a pain in the arse (especially when a weapon breaks mid fight), I’m slowly making my way through the lands of Hyrule. I tamed a horse last night so am now wandering the lands on horseshoe-clad hooves rather than shoe leather.

The new research pods in Astroneer are quite weird, too. This one looks like a tomato, right?

Lastly, I’ve gone back to Astroneer this week after the latest update and I’m not sure what I think about it at the moment, to be honest. I still love the game (which is in early access) and its one of my best game purchases of the last year (along with Thimbleweed Park) but the new update has tinkered with the research tree – (when you land on a planet you find strange objects that can be scanned at your base that will reveal blueprints for technology like solar panels, space ship parts, batteries, etc) – and now research like the 3D printer, which is used to, obviously, print out objects, is much, much harder to find.

Developer System Era has now created a tiered research system but that means it’ll take much, much longer to find blueprints for things like the aforementioned 3D printer and the vehicles – and on some planets the research “nodes” aren’t that easy to find. I hear that the developer is looking at patching the game again to make those items much easier to find sooner rather than later.

OK, so that was my week in gaming. How was yours?

 

Gears of War review: Time to rev up that lancer!

Please note, dear readers, this is a review of Gears of War 4’s campaign and not any of its MP modes. If I get time to play any of them, I’ll post my thoughts, but that said, I like single player campaigns more than MP so that might be a while …

I’ve always been a fan of the Gears of War video games.

Son of a gun: JD Fenix

Son of a gun: JD Fenix

In fact, I’ve always liked the series much more than Halo, to be honest. Maybe it’s  the over-the-top characters with larger than life calves and that it has a gun that has a freaking chainsaw attached to it, but I always liked the dude bro chemistry between original Gears characters Marcus Fenix, Dom Santiago, Damon Baird and Augustus “Cole Train”Cole as they battled the Locust.

Set 25 years after Gears of War 3, you fill the combat boots of James Dominic (JD) Fenix, the son of Gears legend Marcus Fenix, and this time around the COG (Coalition of Governments) that Marcus and his pals Dom, Cole and Baird fought for so long ago are now the enemy, with JD and colleagues Kait and Del sort of revolutionaries fighting against the machine that is now the COG.

This is a much more vibrant Gears of War game, at least compared to the dark, gritty colour tones of previous games in the series, and while it’s not unicorns and rainbows it’s nice to see colour that isn’t various shades of brown and grey.

Gears of War 4 Drone BattleGOW4 takes a while to warm up and much of that is down to the fact that for the first couple of hours all you battle are COG robots called DeeBees. Don’t give up, though, as once you start fighting the Swarm – the new enemies – things pick up for the better.

Despite a new developer, Gears of War 4 feels like a Gears game and by that I mean it’s a tightly scripted affair where rooms are combat arenas full of knee-high walls and barricades that you can hunker down behind and pick out the horde of enemies, one by one. JD smacks into walls with a satisfying thump (you can almost feel the masonry crumble as a shoulder slams into it) – and there’s always plenty of cover to move to as you advance. There are new weapons too, to mix things up a little so you don’t have to reply on the faithful lancer all the time: One that fires saw blades, while another fires projectiles that drill into the ground then explode.

Gears of War has always been about arenas where you enter a room, clear out the enemies then move towards the objective. It’s never been about open-world exploration where you can wander off the beaten track.

Narrative has never been  a strength of the Gears games and it’s pretty average here but JD Fenix is a likeable character that grew on me the more I played the game and in a nice nod to the previous Gears titles, it was nice that Marcus Fenix becomes part of the team during the latter stages of the game.

A welcome return: Marcus Fenix makes a welcome return in GOW4.

A welcome return: Marcus Fenix makes a welcome return in GOW4.

It was nice seeing The Coalition give us an older, more grizzled (could he get more grizzled?)

Marcus Fenix, a military man who has lived life as a civilian for 25 years and now lives on a farm, growing tomatoes and generally leading a quiet life (there’s a nice sequence where JD, Marcus and co make their way through Marcus’ tomato plants and Marcus complains that his plants are being destroyed).

The Coalition hasn’t reinvented Gears of War here, and I don’t think anyone expected that they would, but I felt that the middle sagged a little, with the game becoming bogged down with traipsing through Swarm-infested lairs. As you’d expect, the ending has set us up for Gears of War 5.

gow4benchmark

 

Gears of War 4 looks wonderful on Xbox One – it could be the best looking game on Xbox One right now – and on PC, and it’s the third game to be released as part of Xbox’s Play Anywhere scheme where if you buy a digital copy on PC or Xbox One, you’ll get a free copy on the other platform and despite having a four-year old graphics card, I played most of the campaign on my PC. It’s incredibly scalable and my PC managed solid frame rates of close to 60 frames a second at 1080p using a mix of medium and high graphic presets. I was pleasantly surprised.

For a fan of Gears of War, I found number 4 in the series (let’s just forget that Judgement ever happened, shall we?) incredibly satisfying. It delivered all the things I wanted in a Gears game.

Now that The Coalition has got its first album out of the way, let’s see what direction the series heads in the future.

 

 

ReCore review: One girl and her robots

Meet Seth, Mack and Duncan.

They’re Corebots and the co-stars of the Xbox One/PC game ReCore, a game from Japanese game developer Keiji Inafune, the man behind the Mega Man series, and a development team that have worked on a variety of games, including Metroid Prime.

Seth, a spider-bot, is good at climbing, Mack, a dog,  is good at headbutting other Corebots and Duncan, a gorilla, is good at smashing pretty much anything you ask him to.

This is Joule, she’s the main human character in ReCore.

Hero Shot of Joule

Hero Shot of Joule

 

Joule has been sent to the planet Far Eden to help set up terraforming operations before humans start colonising the planet. Unfortunately, things seems to have gone pear-shaped and Joule wakes from her cryosleep decades later than she should have and finds the robots designed to help make the planet habitable have turned rogue and Joule has to sort things out.

As she explores Far Eden, Joule must search for things called prismatic cores, glass prisms of light that unlock doors to help her progress through the game world. ReCore is very much an action RPG game, in that Joule has to search dungeons and complete challenges to get enough prismatic cores to progress.

Platforming is the heart of the game, drawing inspiration from Inafune and his Mega Man heritage no doubt, with plenty of double jumping and boosting to grab out-of-reach platforms. Combat, too, is a prime focus of the game, with Joule and her robotic pals having to fight plenty of corrupt robots as they scour the planet.

Joule using Seth to traverse an area

Joule using Seth to traverse an area

Seth, Mack and Duncan can be upgraded and modified to make them more powerful and stronger and Joule herself is a handy scrapper, too, able to zip and jump around thanks to a jet pack and an energy weapon that fires four different coloured charges: Red, blue, white and yellow. Shoot an enemy with the corresponding coloured energy and you’ll do more damage and defeat it quicker.

Destroyed, enemies explode in a satisfying shower of collectible parts but Joule is also able to rip out a vulnerable enemy’s core using a grappling hook. What ensues is a satisfying tug of war between Joule and the defiant Corebot as both battle to hold onto the core.

recore_enviro4ReCore is a fun game with a genuinely interesting dynamic between Joule and her bots but it’s hampered by some incredibly long long load times on the Xbox One and some frustrating platforming sections which will almost have you throwing your controller across the room. At least, I found some of the sequences frustrating.  There’s also a fair bit of backtracking and grind to search for more prismatic cores when you  realise you don’t have enough to progress.

ReCore is also one of the first games in Xbox’s Play Anywhere scheme where if you buy a digital copy on PC or Xbox One, you get another copy for free on the other platform, and it works. To be honest, I played it on PC as it proved more stable than the Xbox One version with improved graphics (there is still some glitching, especially when you quit the game) and much faster load times. I was also impressed that I was able to have the graphics cranked up quite high despite having a few-years-old nVidia Geforce GTX660Ti (I’m sure locking the frame rate to 30 seconds also helped a lot).

Another thing in ReCore’s favour is the price: It’s only around $NZ60, which for a new game is a great price.

I enjoyed ReCore but wonder whether it might have been rushed out of that gate a little early. A bit more spit and polish and it would have been a great game, rather than just a good game. I’m intrigued to see where the franchise goes from here.

 

No Man’s Sky: Survive

PlayStation have released the last trailer in its four-part series: Explore, Fight, Trade, Survive in the lead up to No Man’s Sky coming out on August 10.

The new trailer, Survive, show you’ll face not only deadly creatures and toxins but extremes in temperature. Here it is here:

There’s still a lot of uncertainty about No Man’s Sky, a lot of questions about what do you actually do apart from just flying from planet to planet, scanning the world and discovering stuff. They’re valid questions and the universe is so big the chances of actually running into another player are slim. I’ve said it before: No Man’s Sky is either going to be amazing or people will play it for a few weeks then get bored with it and move on.

What are your thoughts?

I haven’t actually done a lot of gaming lately, apart from completing the Gary Busy elusive target mission in Hitman, which, to be honest, was far too easy and over far too quickly but I have been playing around with Samsung’s Galaxy TabPro S, which is a hybrid tablet/notebook running Windows 10.

While it’s not a gaming device, it does let you stream Xbox One content to its HD screen which is nice if you can’t use the TV your Xbox Once console is connected to because someone is watching TV.  Look out for a review soon.

 

Nightdive’s System Shock remake is teasing me to back it

I never played the original System Shock which came out in 1994.

I did, however, play System Shock 2, a 1999 game that scared the bejezus out of me. I don’t think I finished it. I was too scared to finish it.

Actually, I still have the CD Rom of it in a cupboard somewhere but I’m still too scared to play it. Besides, I’m not sure the disc-based version would work on Windows 10 and if there was a hack, I’m guessing it would involve mind-boggling hard things.

System Shock was something of a watershed moment in gaming and it put the players on Citadel Station where they had to fight against cyborgs and mutated crew members created by the diabolical AI Shodan.

56731be5492e09401420454944899d53_originalNightdive Studios, an American game developer probably known most for a remaster of Turok,  has a fondness for System Shock so a few weeks ago started its Kickstarter to fund a remake of the classic game. With 15 days still to go, Nightdive has reached its target of $US900,000.

I’ve been following the Kickstarter closely, each days “Umming” and “Ahhing” on whether I should back it (mainly whether I’d play it due to its scaryness) but as each day goes by, I’m seriously contemplating plonking down $US30  which will secure me a copy of the game on either PC or Xbox One (no PS4 as of yet) when it’s released (supposedly) in December, 2017. I also think I was a little hesitant to back it yet because I wanted to wait and see whether it actually reached its target first.

As part of a sweetener for potential backers to see how much work Nightdive had already done on the remake (it’s not a remaster: A remaster has already been done), the developer released a pre-Alpha demo through GOG.com, Humble Bundle and Steam  – a proof of concept, I suppose – of System Shock on PC which offered a short, vertical slice of what sort of things to expect. I was impressed, if I’m being honest, despite it only being about 10 minutes long and me realising that my now much-outdated nVidia GTX660Ti  wouldn’t handle the finished PC version.

Sure, the demo wasn’t perfect but it showed that Nightdive were serious about making a success with this campaign and indicated what direction the developer was likely to take. Honestly, I wish more Kickstarter campaigns for video games would offer a demo of what to expect with their campaigns.

WrenchSystemshockNightdive has a few more stretch goals if the campaign reaches certain milestones before the campaign period is up (ie $1.7m will bring enemy limb dismemberment, more puzzles, ammo types/weapon settings, vending machines, basic components/research, RPG progression, weapon upgrading, hardcore mode (No respawning), ironman mode (Only 1 savegame. If you die, the save is deleted). I highly doubt it’ll reach $1.7 million – now that it’s reached its goal funding seems to have slowed down quite a bit – but the core game has been funded. That’s an important milestone.

Although the core game has been funded, it’ll be interesting to see how much Nightdive gathers in the remaining 15 days of the campaign but it’s 15 days for me to convince myself I need to back it.

If I do, I’ve then got until December, 2017 to muster up the courage to play it.

 

 

E3: The big guns come out to play

Day two of the E3 press conferences before the show proper and Microsoft and PlayStation held their press events. I woke up at 4.25am to watch the Microsoft one and I liked some of the announcements, especially the Project Scorpio console (although I’m tossing up now whether to save for a Project Scorpio console or save for one of the soon-to-be released AMD RX480 graphics cards (and probably a new motherboard to put it in).

Microsoft’s biggest cheers definitely came for the two consoles that had been rumoured but no-one really knew much about. There’s the Xbox One S, which is 40 per cent smaller than the launch Xbox One, has an internal power supply and it supports 4K Ultra HD, there’s the new console called at the moment Project Scorpio which promises “6 Teraflops”of GPU power. There’s a new Elite controller and you can customise your own one-of a kind Xbox One wireless controller but as far as Microsoft’s games went: I thought they were OK but not outstanding. I do like the cross play feature where someone with a game on Xbox One can play someone who is playing the same game on a Windows 10 laptop/PC.

Microsoft had Halo Wars 2 (I loved the first game), Dead Rising 4, Gears of War 4, Rare’s Seas of Thieves (which looks great), Forza Horizon 3 (which is set in Australia!), Recore,  Final Fantasy XV, Minecraft Realms (it was good to see famed developer John Carmack wearing a Samsung GearVR headset for this demo) and The Division Underground. All solid games but nothing really earth-shattering, in my view. That said, indie title We Happy Few looks genuinely interesting as did PlayDead’s Inside (the same developers that created Limbo).

Update: Thinking about things overnight, Xbox has scored a major win in hardware side of things by announcing Project Scorpio.  Yes, it’s 18 months or so until the console will be released (I suspect it’ll be revealed middle of next year sometime) but I’d say announcing Scorpio will really put the heat on Sony and it’s PlayStation Neo console which, I think, is due for release late this year. Microsoft are really gunning to win the console wars and build the “most powerful console ever” and looking at its speaks, it is indeed a powerful machine. It’ll be interesting to see whether Microsoft’s announcement yesterday has PlayStation worried about its Neo.

As far as games go (and let’s face it, that’s why people buy consoles/play PCs), though, for me, Sony won the battle, if there is such a thing. I love both consoles but personally, I felt that PlayStation’s games seemed a little fresher, a little more exciting.

I was pleasantly surprised to see a much older (but a bit of a dick towards his son) Kratos in the God of War reboot, The Last Guardian which seems to have been in development for decades finally got a release date, Horizon Zero Dawn looks incredible, Hideo Kojima’s new game Death Stranding which featured a naked Norman Reedus (from Walking Dead fame) wondering why he’s on a beach,  there was a very Last of Us-esque game called Days Gone which features zombies in an apocalyptic setting, Detroit Become Human (the next game from David Cage) and then there was the PS VR stuff which, frankly, made my eyes pop. I was even enthralled with the Call of Duty VR stuff that I didn’t know was actually Call of Duty until near the end (oh, and I’d easily buy a copy of Infinite Warfare just for the remastered version of Modern Warfare which has, without a doubt, the best COD mission ever in All Ghillied Up). Oh, and there’s a Batman Arkham VR game [breathe, breathe]

PlayStation has a new PS4 coming out called the Neo but nothing was show at its press event. I wonder whether PlayStation will reveal more at the Tokyo Games Show?

Looks, there’s something for fans of both consoles but for me, if I had to pick a console which had the strongest line up of games coming out, I’d put my money on PlayStation. I also liked how most of PlayStation’s press event was game footage and trailers rather than people standing on stage talking.

This is not an exhaustive list of every game announced but just those that caught my attention. Anyway, enough words. Here’s some moving pictures. Enjoy.

 

God of War (PS4):

Horizon Zero Dawn (PS4):

Infinite Warfare (ship assault):

Days Gone (PS4):

Halo Wars 2 (Xbox One):

We Happy Few (Xbox One):

Gears of War 4 (Xbox One):

 

Thoughts on what PlayStation and Xbox showed today?

Gears of War 4 MP beta

I was lucky enough to get early access to the Gears of War 4 MP beta which is happening now.

I tried to get some game time in on Sunday afternoon but there was literally no-one playing. I had better luck last night, NZ time, though, as obviously more Americans were awake and joined in.

Coming from The Coalition (much of the team worked on previous GOW games), Gears of War 4 takes place 15 years after GOW3 ended and stars JD Fenix, who is the son of GOW main character Marcus Fenix. The full games is scheduled for release on October 11.

I’m not great at MP games (regular readers will have read my piece on how my fingers just can’t keep up these days) but I played a few rounds of MP Team Deathmatch on Sunday night and my lack of MP skills didn’t disappoint but a nice touch is that once all you’ve used up all your allocated spawns you can’t rejoin the game so eventually it just becomes one against those on the opposing team (if they’ve whipped your team’s butt). The beta has three maps: Foundation, Dam and Harbour,  two game modes: Team Deathmatch and Dodgeball and there will be an open beta from April 25 to May 1.

New features include active reload all the time now, not just when you need to reload, and if you get it right it gives you a nice little XP bonus and you’re also able to pull an enemy from behind their cover and shank them. I didn’t manage to do any of that: I was too busy remembering what buttons did what on the controller it’s been so long since I’ve played any GOW MP matches. The full game will match players with a similar skill level, which suits players like me, and weapons in the beta include the lancer/hammerburst, gnasher shotgun, snub pistol and combat knife (useful for stabbing things). Chainsaw duels are here, as are the executions.

Here, watch this five-minute clip of me dying a bit but actually get a kill (or two, I think) in.

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