One part Kill Bill, one part Uncharted, Ghost of Tsushima has got to be one of the most anticipated titles on show at E3 this year.
The Samurai set open world adventure is a masterpiece in cinematic game creation from the studio Sucker Punch that up until now was best known for its ok but not astonishingly received series Infamous.
In a behind closed doors preview Sucker Punch’s Cinematic Supervisor, Billy Harper took us through the gameplay shown at Sony’s press conference yesterday along with a deep dive on the game’s systems and mechanics that we can expect to see in its final release – whenever that may be.
You play as Jyn, one of the last surviving samurai warriors, doing what he can to defend his homeland against the invading Mongolian horde. Branded as an “RPG with action elements” the game exists in a very detailed and very expansive open world confined to the island of Tsushima. It can be played in a variety of different styles and whilst it has a guiding narrative it doesn’t dictate the order in which much of the game is played.
It does follow a linear structure however, with no branching narratives and many of the outcomes pre-ordained, such as the illusion of choice in not killing Jyn’s betraying companion Masako shown at the end of the gameplay trailer.
Gameplay is similar to that of The Witcher 3’s in that there’s mounted traversal of its expansive world as well as a hybrid sword based combat system that allows you to fight one or more enemies with a variety of short and long attacks as well a dodging and parrying. Duelled combat, again highlighted in the gameplay trailer, is its own unique system. It’s slower and more methodical relying on an analysis of your opponent’s movements and attack style to perform moves that turn their attack against them.
Another highlight from the duel worth mentioning is the physics and system involved in the environment surrounding it. The gorgeous autumn hues of the fallen maple leafs covering the surrounding area of the battle are all individually rendered and react to character movement. With each step, swing and parry the leaves swirl around them in one of the most mesmerising and unique ways I’ve ever seen in a video game.
Environmental interactions don’t stop there though. As Jyn walks through mud it sticks to his clothes and feet. If he rolls to avoid an attack through a puddle that mud then sticks to his clothing and in becoming heavier actually changes the way it moves as he does or the wind blows over it. It’s the game’s unique and extremely detailed approach that takes what could be an incredible game and turns it into a cinematic marvel & a beautiful homage to the film genre it draws so heavily upon.
Gorgeous to look at, beautiful to play, Ghost of Tsushima cannot come fast enough. Sadly, my guess is that wont be until very late 2019 if not the year after – if in which case it is that far away, would be a beautiful swan song to the now long in the tooth PS4.
This sequence/shot was inspired by the film 7 Samurais
Duelled combat has its own unique game system
Everywhere the light touches you can travel to in the game
Mud and blood interact with the player and their clothing
It’s official, E3 2018 has begun and while I may have been late and still halfway across the pacific when EA kicked things I was still following along courtesy of Air New Zealand’s in-flight WiFi. Thank you technology. Anyway, enough about me booking flights on the wrong day and onto the games!
Everyone wanted more details on Anthem and details they shall have, along with a little unrealistic E3-demo action.
For starters we now have an official release date, Anthem will arrive on PC, Xbox One & PS4, February 22nd, 2019.
There’s a decent story behind the game, it’s being made by Bioware after all so I’d expect nothing less, but it sounds very Destiny-esque with the evil “Dominion” trying to use a power force known as the “Anthem of Creation” that you and your Anthem playing buddies are going to do your best to stop.
You can play one of four classes but if they’re anything like Destiny’s variants we wont see a great deal of difference, which I really hope isn’t the case.
Battlefield V got some decent air time occupying the front end of the presentation. Details around the game’s new destructible elements dominated the demonstration with tanks and other forces making small work of buildings. For those of you old enough to remember it appears we’re finally getting some of the goodness from Bad Company back again.
It was also announced the new World War II set shooter will have a new mode they’re calling “royale reimagined”. Unsurprised.
Star Wars is a big part of the EA stable and it wouldn’t be an EA press conference without them reminding us of it.
Battlefront II will continue to see some love with new modes, maps and hero characters like General Grievous coming from The Clone Wars.
The bigger news came via a side interview with Respawn president Vince Zampella during the presentation. Call Jedi: Fallen Order Zampella revealed that you would indeed be playing as a Jedi and that the game takes place between Revenge of the Sith and A New Hope.
Due for release November 2019 there were no other details, images or videos shown of the upcoming title.
Then came the indies. Yarny is back with a new co-op adventure in “Unravel Two”. It was made very clear that whilst demoed for two players the game can be played alone and brings more of the whimsical woollen platform adventure we fell in love with.
In a nice little (and very un-EA) twist Unravel Two is available immediately!
Lastly in a throw back to simpler times the beloved Real Time Strategy series Command & Conquer is making a return. This time its in the form of a mobile game in Command & Conquer: Rivals.
RTS is the perfect genre for a mobile platform, this makes total sense to me. I’m probably not going to rush to buy it when it’s released but I think it’s a smart move and interesting to highlight it at E3 as more and more people engage with mobile gaming.
Fire TV Cube is a hands-free 4K Ultra HD streaming media player with Alexa, allowing you to control your TV from across the room. Just ask Alexa to turn on the TV, dim the lights, and play what you want to watch from over 500,000 movies and TV episodes.
The Cube is essentially a mashing of an Echo speaker with Amazon’s Fire TV stick & a universal remote to control your TV & cable box.
Unfortunately for us Aussies Fire TV is a North American thing and the Cube is the same. It’s a shame because the new product has a lot of promise and in having it plugged into your TV means you get contextual responses similar to the Echo Show but then at the same time doesn’t require the TV to be running and works as a regular Echo also.
The new Fire TV Cube is on sale now and ships June 21 for US$119.99 to North American customers only.
Sonos has unveiled a new soundbar speaker that, in an industry first, will be compatible with Amazon’s Alexa smart assistant, Apple’s Siri and Google’s Assistant.
Significantly cheaper than the original Playbar the new Beam will retail for A$599 and be available in July.
Other differences include the smart speaker capabilities (obviously) as well as the input on the rear being a single HDMI port instead of toslink/optical in. It does come with an adaptor however to convert HDMI to optical should your setup not support the HDMI remote control functions and you don’t want to waste/use a HDMI port on your TV or receiver.
The new Beam, reportedly has a solid level of sound quality however anecdotally the Playbar remains king.
Sadly the new version also doesn’t include support for Dolby Atmos, which many have been holding out for. It appears the battle for a lower cost has won out in order to see Sonos engrain itself in more consumers’ lives.
As impressive and as nice as it is to see the new product emerge I’ll likely be giving it a miss. Not hitting the mark on Atmos and providing a sound quality that doesn’t improve on my existing Playbar doesn’t coerce me to up/down-grade. Event Sonos’ own creative lead Jedd Derderian doesn’t think you should stating that “[Sonos] don’t believe in the replacement cycle…”, suggesting users buy the Beam to add on to their current setups instead of replace what they have.
I know, I know it’s ludicrous to even imagine at this point but stick with me here.
Imagine Apple update the Mac Mini. When Intel released a new CPU every year they put it inside it. When the crazy, mind-blowing, never thought it would happen deal of Intel and AMD putting their tech together in a single integrated graphics solution came to fruition that Apple, whom already has relationships with both companies, took advantage of that and used it in their machine. Then on top of all that they put not one, but two thunderbolt 3 USB-C ports, two HDMI ports, two DisplayPort ports and say… hmmm… I dunno… seven? Yeah why not… seven USB ports essentially making both the front and backs of the machine a cornucopia of inputs and outputs.
Then for shits and giggles take out the SSD & RAM, make it run Windows and put it in a black box with a ghastly illuminated blue skull (that you can thankfully disconnect) and you’d have the Intel Next Unit of Computing (NUC) 8, Enthusiast Edition.
Intel’s NUC lineup has been going gang busters since its introduction. Small, compact, and in this case – gaming orientated – PCs that pack a punch both in power and their wide range of connectivity options. The new NUC 8, is no exception. The 221 x 142 x 39mm unit is smaller than my mouse pad and yet kitted out with the latest of Intel’s 8th-gen core i7-8809G CPUs it has more brain power than my gaming PC.
The new integrated AMD Radeon Vega RX M graphics also mean that it’s no slouch in the graphics department either. Capable of pushing out a 4K HDR signal at 60Hz with full HDCP 2.2 support the “little NUC that could” can even serve as your VR rig whilst being compact enough to sit alongside your living room TV without being intrusive.
Naturally an integrated GPU, whether it’s AMD’s or not is still no match for a full tower’s performance however it did remarkably well in the play testing I did. Bethesda’s Wolfenstein 2: The New Colossus had no issues running at a smooth 60fps with medium settings at the full 3440 x 1440 resolution of my Acer Predator 34″ Ultra Wide display. Pushing things towards the game’s higher settings did of course slow things down but had it been plugged into my TV at 1080p there would’ve been no issue, a nice balance point before embarking on 4K, which despite being capable of is not overly realistic.
With each game I tried I was surprised by how well the NUC performed. No I wasn’t playing in 4K with Ultra settings on but this thing costs less than a graphics card that could do that and by having slightly less detail you got a really competent & reasonably priced gaming PC.
Other games I took for a spin included PUBG, Rainbow Six: Siege and The Witcher 3. All of them performed similarly with The Witcher being the hardest on the little guy chugging to the point I scaled down to 1080p at medium in a couple of spots.
While the NUC itself is quite comprehensive it’s also very bare-bones. Just like its predecessors the new model comes with no drives or RAM pre-installed. Immediately you’ll need to invest beyond its sticker price should you not already own an appropriate SSD and RAM, which some will consider a good thing and others bad.
In terms of drives it makes use of the relatively new m.2 connector meaning you’ll need an SSD like Intel’s Optane m.2 series to use as a drive. I tested the unit with two 800p SSDs which were ri-donk-iously fast booting into Windows in a couple of seconds.
RAM wise there are two slots with the unit supporting up to 32GB of dual channel DDR4 RAM in total.
Both the RAM and drive slots are easily accessible with an included Allen Key along with a pictured instruction guide stepping you through the process of popping the machines backplate and having at its guts.
The greatest annoyance of this setup/installation process, and of the machine entirely in my opinion, is its illuminating skull. When opening the case you’re required to disconnect the small jumpered lead that controls the light being switched on and off. It’s fiddly and a pain that blocks you getting to where you need to be immediately.
It’s also ugly. I understand it was a brand aiming the NUC towards gamers from Intel’s beginnings of the line with its Skull Canyon model but it seriously needs to go.
Speaking of Skull Canyon the new Hades’ size absolutely dwarfs its predecessor. It’s still small, don’t get me wrong but the new version with its emboldened processor and GPU means adding fans and thinking about airflow effectively forcing the chassis to grow.
It’s nothing to be concerned by and to illustrate the fact Intel include a VESA mounting bracket which will mount the NUC smack bang on the back of your display completely hidden away.
I can see the Hades NUC being used for a lot of situations beyond the gaming world it’s being marketed to. Just like the Canyon before it, which found many homes in areas like small business, home computing and other inventive low powered needs outside gaming the Hades shouldn’t be pigeon holed as purely a budget gaming box.
A great use case for the Hades would be for streamers for example. Quite often more professional level streamers will employ a second PC to handle the ingestion and production of their stream before being routed out. The NUC 8 could be that perfect box acting as a go between as well as being a portable solution for effective gaming-on-the-go whilst travelling perhaps.
That doesn’t mean the NUC 8 isn’t a capable gaming rig, it more than is. That fact it’s VR capable is more than enough to qualify it of that. If you want to squeeze even more out of it though you can even spring an extra couple of hundred for an overlocking ready version that can be pushed even further to take it deep into the next level. That’ll cost you a few extra hundred bucks though, the more expensive version comes with a more powerful RX Vega M GH GPU that has the ability to be easily overclocked instead of the standard RX Vega M GL GPU on the cheaper version.
Despite comparing it to the Mac Mini at the beginning Intel’s NUC 8 is really an orange that can’t be compared to an Apple. A better comparison would be Valve’s ill-fated SteamOS boxes, the new NUC 8 Enthusiast is everything they should’ve been and more.
NBN Co is adamant its CEO did not blame online gamers for causing congestion on fixed wireless.
Yeah but you did mate.
Days before Bill Morrow specifically identified gamers as being heavy users of the NBN that in turn are causing congestion and issues for other users on the network.
In a statement to a parliamentary hearing Mr Morrow said “While people are gaming it is a high bandwidth requirement that is a steady streaming process”.
As the NBN PR team are now all too painfully aware, gaming uses little to no bandwidth in comparison to the average Netflix user and have been heavily back peddling since.
Today in a statement from NBN Co the company suggests that Morrow merely used them as an example of a “heavy user” and not the root cause in contrast to his specific remarks.
In the same hearing Morrow is quoted as saying a few more gems stating that, “No-one designs a network to where everybody uses it at the same exact time” and falling back to innovations such as the iPhone as being something no one could predict in the failing network.
Ironically “innovation” was the catch-cry of the currently elected government who’s switch to a multi-technology-mix ensures building a network for today and NOT tomorrow, effectively predicting the endorsement of the CEO’s sentiment.
Unveiled at Computex 2018, the Asus ZenBook Pro is the new pinnacle of Asus’ premium laptop range, and it comes with an attention-grabbing new feature: a smartphone-sized touchscreen in the place of the regular touchpad.
They’re calling it the “ScreenPad”. The Verge has a full hands on preview and their reviewer describes it as being “not terrible” it’s hardly a glowing endorsement.
The ScreenPad is controlled via a cursor and not just a tap and activate sort of deal, which when you think about it makes sense because it’s still being used as your mouse/touchpad.
I’ll reserve judgement until I get hands on myself and hats off to ASUS for innovating. At least they didn’t remove a bunch of keys that people rely on to do it!
Apple’s World Wide Developer Conference kicked off in San Fran overnight with their customary keynote setting the tone for the days ahead. As expected there was plenty of information on Apple’s OS front with both macOS and iOS receiving plenty of attention. Absent (and pretty normal for WWDC) was the lack of any hardware announcements with Apple generally opting to do this at smaller, more intimate press events.
Performance was something Apple wanted to make a big deal of on iOS. The new iOS 12 will make a number of under-the-hood improvements to make the operating system run faster and preserve battery life. Of biggest importance though, the improvements promised for the iOS to come to older phones that Apple have been accused of ignoring in the past.
Animoji got a love of love, tongue detection, new characters and their own take on Samsung’s animated person called Memoji, all are things I’ll likely never use but popular amongst iPhone X users.
Apple’s move into “digital health” follows Google’s almost to the letter with an Apple spin. Called “Screen Time” the new feature will collect a series of metrics about how you use your iOS devices and sync the stats across all you own. Once a week a report will be issued with details on how many times you’ve picked up your device, what apps prompted you to the most, what you spent the most time using and more. In addition to reporting Screen Time will allow you to set time limits on your own app usage however unlike Google’s you can dismiss the timer and snooze it to remind you again later.
A demo of Apple’s new ARKit 2 which allows multiple people to participate in the same AR space together meanwhile FaceTime gains support to handle conversations with an impressive 32 people at once.
Finally, iOS’s notifications are finally getting cleaned up. The bird’s nest is being simplified into groups meaning your notification centre becomes useful again in the best way.
Betas for iOS 12 are available now for registered developers with the final expected to come this September.
macOS “Mojave” joined the dark side, clearly not watching the prequels! “Dark mode” will turn your status bar and dock black as well as areas of apps depending on whether or not the developer has made use of the standard UI libraries.
Probably most significantly however was the announcement that many of those annoying apps you can’t delete from your iPhone are now coming to macOS. While that’s not particularly exciting in its self the fact that it’s Apple’s way of saying “hey guess what, we’re combining iOS & macOS” and we’re testing it out with our own (shitty) apps. The apps making the migration leap include Apple News, Voice Memos, Home, and Stocks
If your desktop is icon-hell with a million things all over the place the introduction of desktop “stacks” might be something you want to invest in when the new macOS releases in October. Stacks allow you to create piles of files on your desktop which fan open when clicked on, similar to folders that you place in the dock.
Taking a leaf out of iOS 11 macOS is getting a new screenshotting system that will allow you to markup your screenshots via Quick Look potentially a death knell for a slew of 3rd party applications. There will also be a lot of new “permissions” being requested akin to iOS. Apps will need to request your permission before using details like your location and other details.
Lastly Safari is getting even more security conscious blocking Facebook and other third party trackers straight out of the box.
Beyond the two operating systems Apple announced updates for WatchOS in the form of walkie-talkie functionality and a teeny-tiny WebView for devs to push things like a restaurant’s menu to. Watches will also get a new Podcasts app that people have been screaming for now since what feels like the dawn of time. My only hope is that with this and the changes behind the scenes to allow it, third party devs like PocketCasts can do the same and this doesn’t mean forcing me back into Apple’s Podcast app.
Lucky last, Apple TV get support for Dolby Atmos. Apple will update their catalogue immediately for titles that they can, my only wish now is that Sonos comes out at their conference this week and announce they support it too.