Favourite games of E3 2015

Uncharted 4, PS4, 01 EU 23/06/2015 (1920x1080)Best of E3 round-ups: they’re so subjective, aren’t they? But that’s not going to stop me doing one of my own.

Not being present at E3 2015, or played any of the games on display, a small selection of some of my personal favourites seems the most honest way to approach things. What follows are 10 of the games that impressed me at this year’s E3. Continue reading

E3 2015 news highlights

Nintendo, E3 2015 booth, 18/06/2015, by emr9801 (2048x1152)Given the number of announcements in the two weeks prior to E3 2015, I was afraid the show itself would struggle to offer up many surprises this year. But that didn’t prove to be the case. First Microsoft stepped up with its broadest line-up since the early days of the 360. Then, Sony follow it with a trio of well-wishers’ most wanted. And elsewhere new ideas are blossoming for the next generation systems at last.

Previously, I’ve felt pretty underwhelmed by all three of the current-gen consoles. But this E3 has given me, and others yet to pick up a PS4, Xbox One or Wii U, reason to take notice again. Here are some of my highlights from E3 2015. Continue reading

Introducing Moments We Remember

Chronicling stories of how gaming has changed us – one moment at a time
Gaming at home, Aug 15, 2009, by Maria Morri (1920x1080)I’m about to embark on a journey with this post – and I’ll need your help. This journey will either lead to a honeycomb of new tales and new faces, or it will peter out and be assigned to the graveyard of faded feature ideas. So on that jolly note, here goes.

Real-life story features in game magazines and websites are some of my favourite. They are the ‘My Favourite Game’ articles. The community spotlights that were previously so common on GameSpot and IGN before social media killed forums. The career spotlights in the likes of Develop magazine. Or, occasionally, the one-off posts by guest writers who give you a whole new perspective on a game or genre. Continue reading

Conservative consoles: probing the shortage of original exclusives on PS4 and Xbox One

Xbox One / PS4 comparison, Nov 20, 2013, Mark Farrell (1280x720)The complexities of the modern console game have not had a positive effect on the number of original or exclusive titles for PS4 and Xbox One owners to play, so far, this generation.

This week, Naughty Dog told PlayStation fans, via the PlayStation Blog, that Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End, Sony’s flagship PS4 release for this holiday season, has been delayed until 2016. Giant Bomb’s Jeff Gerstmann wrote an article about how scant both PS4 and Xbox One’s 2015 retail release lists currently look. Granted we’ve not been hit with the annual dollop of E3 announcements, but, despite grand promises, the current generation of game consoles have been plagued by a dearth of specially-created software worthy of their processing power and feature sets. Continue reading

E3 2011 thoughts

E3 was entry different for me this year, since I was helping MCV and Develop cover news from my desk – and struggling to keep up with video feeds thanks to my unreliable laptop! As a result, I didn’t see much of the live video coverage or hands-on previews. From the press conferences themselves, there weren’t too many surprises. I’m intrigued by the Wii U. Still lots of questions to answer and a need to see if third-parties will actually make good on those promises, but I like the idea of having a device that interacts with your TV in that way. Continue reading

E3 2010: Aftermath

Gaming’s biggest media event stormed into LA last week bringing with it plenty of chest-beating smack talk, a massive electricity bill, parties for attendees to schmooze and booze one another and a weird circus-themed press event.

E3 this year appeared to have returned to its former glory, and there was no shortage of exciting titles and announcements to add substance to all the glitz.

Miyamoto Factor + 3D
I certainly did not expect this going in, but from their press conference alone and the surprises they managed to keep, Nintendo came out on top for me personally. Admittedly, their Zelda: Skyward Sword live demo wasn’t the best icebreaker, but they went on to show game, after game, after game. I didn’t expect to see GoldenEye, and though I know it won’t recapture the original’s ‘right time, right place, right people’ feel, it’s one nostalgia trip that I’m feeling. Then there’s Epic Mickey – a title I’ve been intrigued by since I first laid eyes on its Game Informer cover. Seeing Warren Spector demonstrate the paint and erase mechanics had me sold. The art style is gorgeous and I love the idea of meeting canned Disney characters. If this doesn’t come to PS3 or 360 at some point it’s yet another reason for me to buy a Wii.

But that still wasn’t the half of it. My knowledge of Nintendo’s core franchises is limited, but even I couldn’t fail to recognise some of the names. I’d be tempted to give Kirby’s Epic Yarn a go, so impressed was I with its visuals and gameplay. Of course, the elephant in the room was the 3DS – I’ve been highly sceptical of it since its announcement a few months back. Can a glasses-free 3D handheld actually perform? Much to my amazement, the answer from the majority of technology media appears to be “yes.” But it’s still the games that matter and, oh boy, did Nintendo bring the heat. Ridge Racer, Metal Gear Solid, Resident Evil: Revelations, Assassin’s Creed, Super Street Fighter IV, Star Fox 64 3D, Professor Layton and the Mask of Miracle, and Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time 3D are all in development for the 3DS.

Back in the 90s, my brother and I yearned to own an N64 – we saved up but never bought one in the end – as well as PlayStation. I can still remember the excitement of getting a Game Boy Pocket and later a Game Boy Advance. But in the years since then my interest in Nintendo has dipped considerably. I seriously doubted they would able to affect my latency. How wrong I was. Nintendo’s conference was personally the most surprising of the show and actually left me excited about first- and third-party Wii and 3DS games.

I need to find a job soon, because a black Wii is actually looking like an interesting proposition, and, if the price is right and that 2D-3D slider works, even the 3DS too.

It Only Does Ersatz Events
I had very mixed feelings about Sony’s conference this year. I felt it was good, they certainly had the most to show and left me fairly impressed with a large portion of it. But, apart from Gabe Newell announcing Portal 2 was coming to PS3 and David Jaffe finally admitting Twisted Metal was his secret game, there was nothing that surprising.

Fortunately they did manage to convince me that the Move games they have in mind are engaging for both sides of the gaming spectrum (unlike Microsoft’s Kinect, which we’ll get to later). Sports Champions is a good introduction and I’ll give Heroes on the Move, Killzone 3 and LBP2 a go. Besides, if they didn’t do it, Kung Fu Rider did, because when was the last time you rode a swivel chair down a busy Tokyo highway in an effort to escape the Yakuza?

As for the traditional stuff, I’m quite excited to see more of Killzone 3 (just check those rolling waves in the gameplay videos). LBP2 is also looking really sharp, especially with refined control and an ambitious new ‘game making’ tool. inFamous 2, awesome, but why has Cole changed so radically? Gran Turismo 5… well, finally. And Dead Space 2 with Extraction (even though I’m still not done with the first)? Yes, please.

However, I also felt there were some poor spots that didn’t sit well after watching and waiting so long. Kevin Butler’s arrival lightened the mood, but it couldn’t relieve those awkward moments in Sony’s conference. Gabe Newell looked more than a little uncomfortable on stage – and not just because his mere presence clearly contradicted his previous outspoken judgments. I wonder if his Portal 2 announcement will actually signal a sea change for Valve, making them put their full efforts behind both the 360 and PS3, or is this just a one-off deal?

Also, I don’t care for the new ‘Marcus Rivers’ PSP campaign (featuring child actor Bobb’e J. Thompson) – the ads come across as arrogant and worst of all they’re not presenting audiences with a diverse range of games which has been the PSP’s issue all along outside of the core market. PlayStation Plus also received a muted response and I’m not surprised. So you could get £200 worth of PSN content (themes, early demos and betas, minis, PSOne classics and full PSN games), but the content is loaned and will only remain accessible for as long as you subscribe (for the x amount that they are yet to disclose). Thanks Sony, but no thanks.

I’ve expressed my dislike of this inevitable 3D revolution before so Sony’s heavy focus on the technology only served to make me more nervous. I’m still tentative about the whole idea, and while the 3DS has swayed me, I’m still not convinced its place is in the living room. Sony showed Killzone 3 which looked stunning (even from the 2D feed), but can you really see yourself wanting 3D in every upcoming game? Playtests of MotorStorm: Apocalypse have suggested the 3D can get extremely choppy if it’s not implemented correctly and Sony and other third-parties have already admitted that frame rate takes a significant hit when outputting in 3D. Until I witness 3D on a variety of games firsthand, I won’t be convinced.

There was no word on Last Guardian or even the existence of Resistance 3 which was disappointing, but I was pleased with the majority of Sony’s conference – even if I’ve spent most of this section expressing my displeasure with the bits I didn’t like.

Fatal Kinect-ion
I watched all of Microsoft’s half-hour press conference and I couldn’t help but feel utterly disappointed. I should have stopped watching after Gears of War 3, Fable III and Metal Gear Solid: Rising – incidentally, those games look incredible. Since Peter Moore and J Allard (and to an extend Robbie Bach) decided to call it quits with Microsoft, their entertainment division has had so many changes that Microsoft really lack a public face for Xbox. For all Microsoft’s millions, Don Mattrick’s attempts to seem “hip” and everyone’s best bud, from film directors to guest developers to you and me at home, just comes off feeling lifeless and corporate. None of the suits during Microsoft’s conference seemed to have any stage presence at all, preferring to read from the teleprompter and play it safe. (Note that Kudo Tsunoda doesn’t wear a suit. Should he be the next face of Xbox, the new Peter Moore? No. But would it be a laugh? Yes.)

If the hosts were bad, the Kinect games were worse. After all this hype, after telling us that this will revolutionise gaming Microsoft show up will a bunch of Wii clones and voice controlled DVD playback? Poor. JoyRide was a game that looked quite fun last year, now as Kinect title it looks cumbersome and needless. The only demos that I was remotely impressed by were Kinectimals (which looks like it could have huge appeal, even if most children don’t react to Skittles as neatly as that girl did) and Harmonix’s Dance Central (I play SingStar and Guitar Hero with friends, so this could make party nights even better).

Ubisoft’s Your Shape: Fitness Evolved could be a wildcard for the casual market, but still no official price from Microsoft. $150 is the word at present and if it stays that way then I’m beating my chips even more heavily on PlayStation Move winning the motion control struggle this winter. The announcement of the “new Xbox 360” didn’t do much to peak my interest and nor did their sudden jolt of generosity for the industry insiders they were so eager to please with free systems. Microsoft coming out with the Xbox 360 S now is a slap in the face to their existing customers, since it has built-in wi-fi and whisper quiet internals. But the fact that they could only mimic existing motion games, with Kinect’s casual, low-end experiences, proves just how disconnected Microsoft are. I don’t normally say this but… “Epic fail, Microsoft!”

Sports Giants and Fitness Assassins
I missed EA and Ubisoft’s streams but I read the reports. Need for Speed Hot Pursuit could be something. I certainly have faith in Criterion, but just hope EA give them breathing room and don’t get overly protective about their ‘precious’ brand. For the second year running, Ubisoft have disappointed me by omitting Beyond Good & Evil 2 from their conference and not even commenting if it is still in production. I’m both stunned and bewildered that Ubisoft have managed to make titles that appeal to core gamers (Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood, Ghost Recon: Future Soldier) and new audiences (My Fitness Coach, Just Dance 2). But they really miss the boat with their conferences. Perhaps they’re interesting for investors but certainly not for gamers.

There are a lot of exciting games coming from third-parties too this year: Portal 2, Dead Space 2, Enslaved: Odyssey to the West, Brink, Crysis 2, Fallout: New Vegas, Okamiden, Driver San Francisco, Epic Mickey, Metal Gear Solid: Rising, Comic Jumper: The Adventures of Captain Smiley, Child of Eden.

I’ve more to say on many of the topics discussed in this post, particularly 3D, motion control tech and the oversaturation of shooters on display, but I’ll leave that for another time. It was no 2005, but E3 2010 proved that this generation has a good few years to go yet.