Tag: e3

Platform: PC/PS4/XB1
Developer: Ubisoft
Release Date: 15th March 2019

I’ve always been a big fan of The Division. Even way back when they were drinking the multi-screen-experience kool-aid I was high on the game.

Tablet play never came for The Division but what did was a game world caught between the realism of an impressively, albeit grungy, rendered Manhattan and the supremely unrealistic bullet-sponge like nature of enemies you’d encounter. It also seemed to lack an end-game, or did at least at the time of its release, and while Destiny was going strength to strength with its own set of issues The Division chugged along with a less than stellar retention rate. Continue reading

Platform: PS4
Developer: Media Molecule
Release Date: TBA

Dreams was described to me as if it were an onion.

On the surface it’s a cute game that sees you playing through the “dreams” of a jazz musician. The dreams you play each vary in both style and genres going from platformer to flight simulator and more.

Deeper down you can play dreams created by other people. Bringing their work into your version and experiencing the worlds they’ve created.

Beyond that you can take the dreams you’ve played and build on them. Move objects, grow their worlds, add new actions and manipulate their sounds, everything is customisable. You can play and change them as little or as much as you like.

Then at it’s core are the tools to create your own dreams from nothing. In fact this is exactly how the dev team at Media Molecule created the game. They used the same tools that you have at your disposal to create the levels you experience on that first onion level.

It’s hard to describe Dreams in much more detail because quite literally anything is possible in it, if you want to dedicate the time to it. It’s similar in concept to Media Molecule’s prior franchise “Little Big Planet”, user generated content taken to the nth level.

Join James Croft, Anthony Agius and Raj Deut as we discuss E3 from the long-long ago, busted keyboards on MacBooks, Samsung sexting your whole crew, HealthEngine sending your deets to the ambulance chasers, and Amazon Prime: Australian Special Edition.

Leading contender for longest video game title at E3 Ubisoft’s latest Tom Clancy branded venture, Ghost Recon: Wildlands, was one of the first I saw this year. On display at both Microsoft’s and Ubi’s booths the game was clearly a major drawcard for many attendees and reminiscent of The Division’s early showings in alpha builds in years gone by.

Set in modern day Bolivia Wildlands places you in an enormous open-world environment where you and your elite Ghost team are at war with a military backed Colombian drug cartel called “Santa Blanca”. It’s open world is a far cry (no pun intended) from the series’ former direction and in changing tact allows the player the opportunity to approach each mission from a variety of different angles.

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The size of the game’s map is ridiculous. It’s daunting size and sheer magnitude makes the introduction of a variety of vehicles more than welcome. Cars, trucks, motorbikes and even the odd chopper are all at your disposal to facilitate your travel amongst the amazingly diverse and gorgeously rendered Bolivian countryside.

The game is damn gorgeous too! I feel like I’ve said that about everything I’ve seen this year but what they’re able to do with years-old tech that’s in current-gen consoles is incredible. What The Division has done for inner-city Wildlands is set to do for the country side and they’re certainly not short on environments to tackle. The Bolivian setting is said to include everything from mountains to rainforests, deserts and even island archipelagos.

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In my play through I was teamed up with another two show-goers and one member of the dev team who acted as a quasi team leader of sorts and guide through the demo. Having the dev act as our lead was helpful. Quite a bit actually, in fact I’d almost say too much and that worried me a little. Earlier I’d watched a group of four go through with no dev or any real communication between them or one acting as a team leader. What ensued was a mess of typical internet-like proportions and nothing short of a helicopter ride to nowhere and barely short of a CoD spin-and-shoot spammer. Don’t worry, you won’t need to co-ordinate the impossible in organising four people to play or stuck with randoms, you can enjoy the game all by your lonesome with AI playing the absent roles. Thank god.

The game mechanics are solid, as you’d expect from a title in the Ghost series, but still to be refined. Superficially awe-striking details in minutia became evident as the gameplay continued. Kill boxes in need of adjustment, headshots no resulting in insta-kills and alike. With the title still heavily under the Alpha banner though it’s what you’d expect.

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Most importantly it was fun! The vehicles are awesome, the shooting feels good, the parachuting out of a chopper you’ve just decided to stop flying mid-air is exactly as much fun (and chaos) as it sounds. Elements from a bevy of games all seem to have an influence beneath the covers of what, if played in the right way, is an advance and very tactical squad based shooter.

I’m really excited to see the final product. I think for those who enjoy the team based action of last year’s Rainbow Six: Siege and can put together a group of friends you’re likely to be the ones who get the most out of Wildlands. If you’re a little more aloof in your matchmaking and want an open-world to go shoot up for the sake of it this may not be the one for you.

Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon: Wildlands is set for release March, 2017.

Stop me if you’ve heard this before. A global pandemic devastates the majority of the population and only a small few are left in a semi post-apocalyptic world fighting to live the life they can. Those whom weren’t killed by the virus have been turned into mindless zombies called “Freakers” and if they’re not trying to kill you then the human’s that remain likely are.

I know, I know… it’s been done. Not to mention it’s been done really damn well too. Naughty Dog’s “The Last of Us” sits proudly atop my “favourite games of all time” list and the zombie fatigue is real but none of that stopped me watching the trailer shown at Sony’s E3 media briefing and my mind screaming “I WANT THIS GAME!”

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Developed by Sony owned Bend Studio (makers of the infamous Syphon Filter series) Days Gone puts you in control of Deacon St. John. Deacon is a drifter and former bounty hunter who prefers a life of solitude over life amongst the camps created in the two years since the pandemic. His motorcycle serves as his mode of transport to traverse a huge open world that covers America’s Pacific North West. An area Bend Studio and it’s team should know well, being based in Oregon it’s their own backyard.

The first thing that struck me about the game was just how amazing it looked. The environments are gorgeous, not only in the endless spanning vistas but in the detail of the structures and character models too. Since their last full console release Studio Bend have been working on Uncharted mobile titles and it would appear a lot of that Naughty Dog magic has rubbed off.

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In my developer presentation I got to see them revisit the same area that Sony showed during the media briefing earlier in the week. This time it was approached slightly differently however. The same key spots were hit to trigger different events but the ensuing horde chase was stretched to show interesting interactions between Deacon and the environment as well as the use of some new and crafted weaponry like a molotov cocktail.

The most impressive part of both versions of the demo isn’t the gameplay or graphics it’s the ability for the PS4 to power the Freaker horde. When Studio Bend’s technical director Christopher Reese said he wanted to ”push the PS4 somewhere it’s never been before” he wasn’t kidding. Built of a “heavily modified” version on the Unreal 4 Engine I can’t begin to fathom how it’s working in a way to model that many AI or how they deal with obstructions be it their fallen brethren or environmental obstacles. All that whilst keeping a solid frame rate and looking amazing too… Bravo.

My demo concluded in the same way as everyone else’s; Deacon stranded atop a silo of some sorts. A lot of questions around the gameplay like “What if I just turned around and went back to my bike?” or “Can I run back to my bike or away from the area after the horde arrive?” were met with a similar – “We’ll let you know more soon” and that was that.

 

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What I did find out is that the game will be a single player story driven title only. There are no plans for a multi player component at all. They also confirmed you may revisit areas like the lumber yard shown in the demo again if you wish and that being an open world game the weather would change and could affect how you might approach the same challenge depending on that. Finally the team eluded to the bike playing an “extremely important role” in the game but wouldn’t say anything more. We saw gauges for fuel and it could perhaps serve as a roving inventory store but we’ll have to wait for more details to be sure.

I went to E3 this year looking for a title to get excited about now that The Division had been released. For many that was Horizon: Zero Dawn, for me it was undoubtably Days Gone. What sucks about that though is it’s a long ways off, with no release date set as yet. Expect Days Gone to make another round of E3 before getting into anybody’s hands.

Steep was announced at Ubisoft’s media briefing earlier in the week billed as a new genre of video game. I’ll be the first to admit that I saw it as SSX Tricky meets a Go-Pro advertisement so I was pleased to be proven wrong after some in-depth hands on.

My time with the game was limited. To the point there was a timer on the screen telling me exactly how much longer I had left before I’d be cycled out to let the next few through. I did have a dev in my headset ear helpfully whisking me through a bunch of different play styles and that’s what I’ll focus on.

I began my session rigged up for a wingsuit run. Perched atop a snowy vista it was nothing more than a matter of “push forward to leap” and away you go. Flying down a gorgeous mountain side the trees scream past as you continue to build speed furiously battling with the currents of wind attacking you from every angle. The movements feel right. A motion of the thumbstick to the right and a glide of your character’s body, a pitch forward, a dive, a pull back a small increase in elevation relevant to your speed. They’ve done really well in capturing that control from best I can tell and I can only assume have done so with the help of actual wingsuit-ers?

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Whilst you may choose to follow a defined path and do your best to set a best time you really don’t have to. The mountain is at your mercy and that’s the beauty of this “game”. Instead of throwing a series of increasingly more difficult obstacles and routes you can choose your course of action and make your own fun just as you would on a real mountain side. You might not be in a wingsuit, they’re for crazy people who, unlike in a game can’t press “Y” to restart their run and plummet to their untimely demise.

A click of a button and my over the shoulder developer has clicked out to reveal the entirety of the mountain you have access to play on. It’s big. Really big and shit, rotate that stick and the mountain’s in 3D and there’s more around here. There are a lot of places to start your run in either wingsuit, snowboard or skis.

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Jumping over to one of the black runs on the other side of the mountain all of a sudden I’m snowboarding down a heavily skilled area over ice, rock and snow. My demo buddy in meat space racing with me virtually in beautiful detail as the snow makes way for our boards as they cut through it.

We begin to learn how to perform some basic tricks as we launch our virtual selves over in game ramps. All of a sudden the game starts to seem quite familiar. A pull down of the thumbstick and a flick to the top sees my snowboarder launch themselves into the air. Rotating it one way or another and then using bumpers for grabs and alike Steep’s snowboarding elements an homage to the beauty that is Skate.

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As my playtime timer ticks away and my guided runs jump from point to point all with different obstacles and challenges to overcome I find myself lost in the beauty of the game. Such a simple premise so beautifully executed Steep could turn out to be a little sleeper hit if priced correctly.

Is it a new genre? I think that could be taking things a tad too far. Is it a tonne of fun that has a lot of replayability and in-depth skill systems to it? Definitely! Keep Steep on your radar and do your best to ignore the blatant Go-Pro tie ins.

Had you blinked during Microsoft’s E3 media briefing you very well may have missed The Turing Test’s showing amongst the raft of indie darlings this year. Tucked away amongst the heavy hitters like Cuphead and We Happy Few was a bank machines setup dedicated to little known “The Turing Test”.

I’ll be the first to admit I knew nothing of the title, the same could be said for Cuphead last year and Below the year before. I’ve always found Microsoft’s indie projects to contain the true darlings of the show. The same could very easily be said about PAX’s indie pavilion where I tend to spend the majority of my time.

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As you begin playing The Turing Test very little is explained. Your surroundings appear to be the surface of some alien planet with your only course of action to be entering a near space station. Inside a room with exits obscured or not working. Nearby lies a small cube the game indicates can be picked up a large “X” appearing on screen as the reticle of your first-person-view hovers over it. Now holding the cube its silhouette hovers in front of you as you walk it to the nearby door. Next to the door a socket the size of the cube in your possession sucks the silhouette towards it and as you release the item it appears solid in place. A whoosh emanates through my headphones as the door opens to my right and I enter the next room.

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If that sounds eerily similar to a game you may have played about five years or so ago you wouldn’t be the first. The Turing Test certainly has a definite Portal feel to it. Through each door lies another room with an increasingly difficult puzzle to solve to reach the next. The game differs itself in the mechanics of the puzzle solving. The cubes that power doors and machinery contain a small orb of power that as the game progresses can be sucked out and shot through holes in the wall into awaiting sockets. You’ll also find machinery such as a factory like magnetised crane that comes in handy moving the cubes and much, much more.

The beauty of The Turing Test is in the complexity of its simplicity. An oxymoron for sure but a proven winning formula that had us all ploughing through Portal as time sped by. I picked up the controller to pass five minutes before my next appointment, I put it down nearly twenty minutes later, now running ten minutes late! It hooks you in with that “just one more room” loop with just the right difficulty vs reward curve.

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I enjoyed every second I had in the world, I want to know more about the backstory and the reason behind it all. I’m really excited to see the game’s release this coming August. The Turing Test is definitely on my playlist and if you enjoyed Portal it should be on yours too!

As an Australian I just had to play this game. Borrowing from a multitude of landscape around the country Forza Horizon 3 brings a new drop-in/play-anywhere style of gameplay to this latest instalment of the arcade racer franchise.

Also a new addition is Microsoft’s “Play Anywhere” feature enabling the game to seamlessly continue between both PC and Xbox platforms.

I was given the opportunity to play on PC, the graphics incredibly detailed as you’d expect. That wasn’t to say the Xbox One wasn’t holding its own by any means. Right next to me where a string of XB1s belting out the same series of tracks in gorgeous detail. Playing on the PC using an XB1 controller and then later on an XB1 itself I was just as satisfied.

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Whilst the game is set in Australia it’s by no means modelled one to one on an actual section of Australian roads. One of the courses made available for example, had you driving through what looks to be stilted homes of far north Queensland only to crest a mountain and diving into the sandy beaches, 12 Apostles at your side. Australia may provide the source material for many of the games landmarks and settings but that’s where it starts and ends. That is of course excluding the excruciatingly horrid Australian accent that you kind of expect but hoped wouldn’t be in there narrating one of the NPC’s in the now infamous helicopter drop in race you saw in the trailer.

I spoke with a member of the development team who all but confirmed the source of Australia was meant only as a setting rather than a recreation. Surprisingly the demo tracks were quite Victorian heavy, the Yarra Valley, the Apostles, what looked like Geelong’s beachfront and then Queensland and the rainforests. Absent were the obvious Sydney international icons such as the Harbour Bridge & Opera House but I’m sure we’ll see them in time to come.

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The cars look incredible. Microsoft have never shied away from their detail when it comes to their car modelling and the attention to detail is second to none. I do get the feeling that we’re almost running out of room to push this forward though. They look so incredibly real now between it’s bigger brother “Forza” and Sony stalwart & counterpart Gran Turismo car models are so beautifully detailed they’re as if they came out of the manufacturer’s own CAD files.

As far as the actual gameplay goes, it’s just plain old fun! The Horizon series is unabashedly an arcade racer and shouldn’t be taken as anything more. The game allows you to sit behind the wheel of a multitude of different vehicles, not just your standard supercars. If you have the interest to race in trucks, off-road buggies and more (similar to Dirt 2 & 3) then this will be right up your alley. If you’re after a hardcore car simulation steer clear, but then you probably already knew that.

Forza Horizon 3 is as close as we’re getting to the awesomeness that was Burnout in this generation of console and with a heavy emphasis on friendly rivalries this is a title you’ll want to be playing with, or rather against, friends in. Look out for FH3 in September this year!

In the already overcrowded world of online arena shooters like Overwatch and “that-one-no-one-remembers-since-Overwatch-came-out” (Battleborne), former Epic #1 Cliff Bleszinski and his new studio Boss Key Productions decided to join the fray with their version: LawBreakers.

PC only LawBreakers is taking aim at a more “specific” market not only through its limitation of platform availability but in gameplay and the mature graphic nature associated with it.

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As you’d expect with an arena shooter there are different character classes available, loosely following the regular tank, scout, etc models we’ve all seen since Team Fortress 2. Of course LawBreakers has its own names for them (Titan, Assassin) and introduces some of its own focusing on the verticality of the game like the Vanguard. Each class of course includes its own set of skills and weapons.

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The main difference beyond amazing graphics and the general gore that will likely earn the title an M rating in the land down under is that of gravity, or rather the lack of it. At the centre of each map is a “core” where gravity doesn’t exist. Also equipped as special weapons/skills on cool-downs for certain classes is the ability to knock or elevate opponents with a gravity lifting impact.

The combination of PC controls, the lack of gravity and the speed at which it runs means gameplay is fast and furious and whilst there’s no sign of Vin Diesel I wouldn’t be surprised if he popped up down the track. The character and environment modelling look gorgeous and you can really see how Boss Key have taken the no holds bar approach to making this look and run incredibly well on a well spec’d PC.

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A new Domination-like mode called “Turf War” was unveiled at E3. Taking the normal three-point domination approach Turf War adds a twist. Players capture a point and are awarded a point for holding it. Once all are captured they reset after a small period of time where none can be captured. During this reset time you’re free to roam and setup your next capture or defence of one. It’s hard to explain, when they went through it in my briefing I just nodded and smiled like an idiot so I’m sure I’ve done a terrible job too. After a couple of rounds it starts making sense and you realise just how exciting the change makes things.

The game is currently in Alpha and lucky few have access to it at the moment. Expect a lot more information including characters, maps and gameplay modes to come out as they ramp up aiming towards a Steam Early Access release around August this year.

Sony put on a show. Backed by a full orchestra Sony’s E3 media briefing for 2016 was by far the most succinct and on brand message sender of all I attended. They stayed true to their word and made no mention of the heavily leaked PlayStation Neo but instead double downed on their commitment to PlayStation VR (PSVR) and its ability to work with current hardware, which – according to rumours – may be true albeit at less than desirable frame rates.

50 PSVR titles are said to be in works for the release of the hardware which was finally given a solid release date and pricing: October 13th US$299. Australia’s release has been confirmed as the same day too.

Whilst not all 50 titles were revealed (or re-shown) some more AAA affiliated highlights were such as Final Fantasy XV VR Experience, Batman Arkham VR (with Mark Hamill returning as the Joker) and a Star Wars Battlefront “VR Exclusive Mission” which we only saw brief footage of a tie-fighter but could very well link into the trench run models we saw in EA’s Star Wars “behind the scenes” footage yesterday.

No VR title stirred the room more so than the reveal that Resident Evil 7: Biohazard would be fully playable via PSVR. The gameplay shown looked scary as fuck and reminded me very much of the now cancelled P.T.

But PSVR was definitely not the whole story. In fact it wasn’t even the first thing shown. That fortune was bestowed upon the new God of War or as I prefer to call it, God of War: Single Parent. Kratos, now aged and a father, is the soul parent for his son after his mothers death. In the gameplay footage we see them hunting and whilst aesthetically Kratos has aged his physical prowess has not been affected defeating a troll in the gore cinematic style we’ve come to expect from the series. Interestingly not Quick Time Events (QTEs) were displayed during the footage but it remains to be seen if they’re completely gone or not.

The largest and most impressive display came from not so much a game but the introduction of a long time Sony friend. Hideo Kojima was introduced to a deafening roar of applause and cheering, walking from the depths of the stage forwards as his new “Kojima Productions” logo lowered from the ceiling behind him. Speaking rarely in English he introduced his new title “Death Stranding” (yes that’s not a spelling mistake) in which Norman Reedus (Darryl from The Walking Dead) takes centre stage. In true Kojima fashion the story is going to be an out there one and interestingly PlayStation don’t have the trailer on their official channels but you can catch it in all its glory over on IGN’s here.

The games didn’t stop there though. Other big reveals included Insomniacs apparent open-world  title for Spiderman as well as a lengthy, somewhat redeeming gameplay section of Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare. Horizon Zero Dawn was of course shown off too with an extended gameplay section that to me makes it look more and more like Far Cry the digital de-evolved edition than anything else.

The surprise of the show for me though was “Days Gone”. A title I’d not heard of before during its initial showing early on in the briefing I’d dismissed as “Far Cry: Bikers Edition” (I compare a lot to Far Cry apparently) but had it redeemed when Sony closed out the show with an extended gameplay capture.

All in all Sony brought it. They filled their show with games and announcements that wowed the crowd but as Patrick Klepek wrote on Twitter just after the event. As exciting as their showings were the majority are years away and whilst Microsoft’s presentation may not have had those moments almost everything they spoke about is out later this year.

Also they announced The Last Guardian will be out in October. Bird-dogs for everyone!