Posts in Platforms

Opinion: Xbox One – The console that used to be different

July 21st, 2014 Posted by Platforms, Xbox 4 comments

Last week, Microsoft took yet another step in becoming just another game console. Microsoft confirmed for multiple outlets that they will be doing away with their Xbox Entertainment Studios division, thus adding another of the features initially announced with the console to list of throw-aways. Yet while the collective gaming community cheered as a result of the move, I was left upset.

People didn’t cheer for good, hard working individuals losing their jobs as a result of this move. The cheer was that it put an end to one of the Xbox One’s major defining features — one that a lot of gamers and consumers felt should never have been there in the beginning. I, on the other hand, was left with a question: why do I own a Xbox One now?

Don’t get me wrong, the primary use for my Xbox for me is gaming. I’ve played pretty much all of the exclusives on the system so far and I left E3 more excited for Microsoft’s Holiday lineup (especially after the game I was interested in on PS4 disappointed me). However, I didn’t choose the Xbox One over the PS4 in the beginning purely based on gaming. If I wanted pure power, I have my PC. If I wanted a gaming console that gave me the best graphics over it’s competition, the PS4 would’ve been the way to go in November.

I bought the Xbox One because it was different. It was different than the PS4 in a number of glaring ways, and it was different than it’s predecessors. To me, the Xbox One felt like a step into the future. Yes, I know people will read that statement and scoff, but bear with me for a few more paragraphs. The Xbox One, at one point, meant a different, more versatile version of it’s predecessor. To me, the PS4 was just a more powerful PS3. It did nothing differently. It still doesn’t do anything different. It plays games. You can watch Netflix and use other entertainment apps. Just like a PS3.

Gaming should have always been the number one focus by Microsoft, but the other features and ideas they had were what defined this console for the software giant. Ideas such as original programming that is only available as a Xbox user made me think that the console was worth the price. For families, who often buy these consoles as family devices, this for some could make the purchase more enticing.

The original vision of the Xbox One was clearly etched in it’s originally confusing naming convention. The Xbox One was your all-in-one-gaming-and-entertainment-system, as every press release reminds us. It literally controls my entire living room. I step into my room and say “Xbox On” and by the time my controller is in hand, my cable box, TV and console are all on and it’s signed me in by simply seeing me. It still does all these things, for me. But now there is an entire wave of Xbox owners, thanks to the Kinect-less package, that don’t experience this. A section of the fanbase that, while it’s better than launch, still have to fumble through the OS because the menus are still clearly meant to be navigated by voice.

When the console was revealed back in May 2013, I’ve stated multiple times I was on board with the policies and changes Microsoft was making to the console space. I was ok with the company focusing on more than just gaming, because for me, this purchase was about more than gaming. If I am going to spend 500 dollars of my hard-earned money, the console I am buying better do something drastically different than the console I’ve had the past 8 years. PlayStation 4 didn’t, but walking away from the Xbox One reveal, you could not deny that Microsoft was trying to change that landscape.

Now, fast-forward seven months since launch, and the console we have is a shadow of the version Don Mattrick stood in front of proudly. Now, what we are left with is a box that is more powerful than a Xbox 360 and PS3, but can’t catch the other console it competes against in pure power. There is no denying it: the Ps4 is simply a more powerful system, and now that both consoles essentially do the same thing, why would you spend your money on an inferior system. Especially if they are now the same price?

A lot of people are happy with these changes. A lot of people said Microsoft has earned their support back as a result of them backtracking and retracting their ideas. I would have more respect for Microsoft if they had just stuck to their guns at this point. Now, with the loss of XES, my Xbox One has lost another part of what made it unique. It is slowly, but surely, becoming nothing more than just an inferior PS4 in every aspect.

Please don’t read this as “Bradford is leaving Xbox!” No, not in the least. I will still continue to support Microsoft with my money because I still enjoy the products they produce. But as someone who bought into the initial vision and enjoyed the fact their “next-gen” console truly did something different than last gen, I can feel nothing more than just sadness over my purchase now.

Witcher At SDCC

July 15th, 2014 Posted by News Archive, PC, Platforms, Playstation, Xbox No Comment yet

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The Witcher will be all over SDCC, according to a recent press release. You’ll be able to meet the voice of Geralt, Doug Cockle, as well as discover more information about the Witcher comic from Dark Horse. You’ll also be able to hang out with CDPR at the Geek and Sundry lounge.

Looking for a schedule? Look no further!

* The first ever consumer preview of The Witcher 3:
Wild Hunt at the The Witcher Panel. Featuring Doug Cockle, the voice of Geralt of Rivia; Paul Tobin, House of Glass writer, Dark Horse, Nick McWhorter, VP Licensing, Dark Horse, and Rafał Jaki, Witcher Franchise Director, CD PROJEKT RED and special guest–video game journalist Geoff Keighley.
Thursday, July 24th, 10-11AM, Room 6A, San Diego Convention Center

* The Art of the Game Panel, hosted by Dark Horse, featuring Rafał Jaki, Witcher Franchise Director
Friday, July 25th, 4-5pm, Room 7AB, San Diego Convention Center

* Geek & Sundry Consumer Lounge at Jolt’n Joe’s Gaslamp, 379 4th Ave, San Diego
Thursday, July 24th, 2:30 PM – 3:30 PM – The Witcher Trivia Madness,
Friday, July 25th, 10 AM – 11 AM, The Witcher Adventure Game Sneak Peek,
Friday, July 25th, 11 AM – 12 PM, The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt Live Demo.

In addition, all Witcher Panel attendees will receive a special, SDCC limited-edition postcard featuring Witcher artwork by Simon Bisley.

The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt releases on February 24, 2015 on PC, PS4, and Xbox One.

Alien: Isolation Pre-Order Trailer Available Now

July 10th, 2014 Posted by News Archive, PC, Platforms, Playstation, Xbox No Comment yet

Alien: Isolation (read: not Aliens Colonial Marines) has a new pre-order trailer available now. As a quick reminder, if you pre-order the game, you receive two downloadable bonus levels in which the cast of the original Alien film lend their voices and likeness.

If you’re entirely new to Alien: Isolation, this first-person survival horror. The player will find himself alone and scavenging as he’s hunted by the Xenomorph. Using your resources and your wit, you must find a way to survive.

Catch the pre-order trailer below. Alien: Isolation launches on October 7, 2014 on last gen, current gen, and PC.

Defenders of Time – Hands on at the Four Lights Studio

June 29th, 2014 Posted by News Archive, PC, Steam No Comment yet

For those who don’t know, this isn’t my normal day job. My writing for QGN has been completely in my spare time for the past few years. I actually work at a musical instrument store here in Las Vegas. So imagine my surprise when at E3 I met a game studio who’s office is literally right across the street from one of my stores. For the past year, Four Lights has been developing their upcoming debut game, Defenders of Time.

DoT is a tower defense game in which the player usually follows the normal tower defense mechanics. However, Four Lights has thrown in a couple of twists to the genre that really give the game a much deeper strategy, as well keeping you on your toes every second of the game. While you still need to defend waves of creeps, both on the ground and through the air, instead of setting up your defense and hoping it’s enough to last the round Defenders of Time has you constantly changing the shape of the battle field in real-time. You’ll re-route enemies, sell towers to replace them with more powerful or alternate versions, and so on to complete the game. Instead of solving one static puzzle at a time in the game, you will be forced to solve puzzle after puzzle in the game as you defend your map’s exit points.

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Redrock – one of the many maps i can’t help but think was inspired by nearby Red Rock Canyon

The art style actually lends itself well to identifying your towers and other elements on the game map. Reminiscent of 50’s style Americana, affectionately called “Chrome-Punk” by CEO John Flury; the bright colors of your towers as well as neon of the creep paths make it so an experienced player will be able to tell at a glance what the strategy is for the oncoming wave. For instance – Black Tower seem to do great DPS, and their upgrades are either good against flying enemies or armored ground troops. Blue puts a slow on enemies causing them to stay near your towers longer. White boosts your effectiveness in their area, as well as helps see stealthed and phasing units as they get close to your towers.

The battlefield changes constantly, really making you stay on your toes. Enemies don’t just come from one side of the map and exit on the other, either. Multiple different entry and exit points make you keep on your guard. Focus too much on one area and you leave the other other exit open to leeching. It’s a game all about balancing your focus, and multiplayer really makes this an especially rewarding challenge if your team happens to come out on top.

At E3 I only experienced the single player. I was unable to get back to the Four Lights booth as I had other appointments to attend to, but we made it a point for me to get over to the studio since it is so close to home to try the multiplayer. One of the downfalls of multiplayer tower defense games is the inability to communicate effectively. Four Lights knows this, and has implemented features in the game to help groups out.

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One of the Towers in the game, showing off the 50’s “Chrome Punk” art style.

Each team comprises of four people, three players and their commander. The Commander helps shape the overall strategy of the defense by placing markers for towers as well as ghost towers so players know where to line up the defense. They are also responsible for sending the creeps against the other team. The rest of the players combat the enemy commander as they try and shake off your defense. One of the great features of the game is integrated VoIP, making it so you can talk to your teammates easily. You also have control over their volumes so if one player’s mic is too hot, just turn it down in their menu. Forget to plug in your mic before the round starts? No matter, just plug it in and once your PC recognizes it you’re good to go! (Which I think is awesome. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had to restart LOTRO just so my Mic would work.)

Another feature is the ability to draw on the UI and the map. This way you can literally show your teammates where those towers need to be, or where an enemy is exploiting a vulnerability in your defense. The feature comes in handy especially in hectic situations where you need to quickly show your team where towers need to go or where to re-route a ground or flight path. I didn’t see it too much in my gameplay, but that was likely because, according to John,  the development team has been playing together for so long they no longer need to talk to implement their strategy.

Re-routing the ground paths and flight paths is essential to victory in this game. Towers by themselves are not too powerful, it’s when you route the creeps around as many towers as you can that you start to see their effectiveness in groups. By placing a tower near a path you alter the maze based on where you placed it. If you want to block off a section and re-route your creeps back up towards your towers, you can. The only thing you cannot do is completely block the path so that the creeps no longer have a way to the exit. Most tower defense games will also penalize you by not allowing you to sell towers once a wave as begun, or when you do sell it your return isn’t anywhere near what you paid into the tower. Defenders of Time has complete resell, meaning you place a tower and need to change it, you get back 100% of what you paid into it. No longer are you penalized because you made a mistake, if you identify that mistake you can fix it and be more effective as a result.

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Babylon, inspired by the Hanging Gardens. The blue line is the path that the players have re-routed.

I will be honest, I was a little overwhelmed during the first match. Just learning what all the towers do will take some time, but once I started to get the hang of certain ideas and strategies I was able to start placing and upgrading towers based on the situation. We won game one, and moved on to another, more complicated map. John warned of the potential to focus solely on the left hand side of the map that the right side becomes so undefended that you are scrambling to get some towers over there until it’s too late. I figured because I was on a team of devs that this wouldn’t happen.

Nope.

Within the first minute we started to leech lives at that right hand exit, causing me to immediately panic. I placed a few towers and was able to stem the flow till another teammate came and routed the path more effectively. But that rush of an ever evolving playing field really gave me a jump. It was then I realized that I will not be able to simply rest and survey my section of the map while the creeps fell near my towers. While I’m focused here, the enemy commander is exploiting a weakness elsewhere. Ever evolving, always thinking strategy – my kind of game.

The third map John asked for us to have a challenge, as developer Issac was ripping apart the enemy team’s defenses each round. So Lead programmer, Curt Hartung was asked to command the opposing team. We played on a map that literally didn’t have textures yet called Vortex. If there was ever a time I can say that visuals didn’t matter, it’s this. While the game boasts some amazing artistic and technical talent, with some of the team members working on titles such as Command and Conquer, Need for Speed and EVE Online, as well as movies such as modelling for Transformers; the gameplay didn’t suffer one moment because the map lacked textures. We still had a wild and crazy match, where Curt’s team (my team) ended up winning in a stunning comeback. John was pointing out to me as I played that both teams were susceptible to flying units, yet neither commander had used them yet. Issac burned our team down to about 8 lives out of 50, while his team hovered in the mid-30s. I looked at the other team’s layout (a cool feature so you can see what they are doing and maybe grab some ideas from their tower placement) and noticed that they had a lot of green towers (good against ground), Tier 2 black and blue towers (blue for slowing, black for the ground unit DPS) and some white towers in case Curt used phasing creeps. I could, even though I had only played for about an hour at this point, see the vulnerability as well.

Curt saw it too. Almost instantly the enemy life total began to plummet, while we stayed at 8. After the match, Issac revealed that he knew we were weak against flying, but he wanted to finish the job with ground. An achievement might actually be born as a result of this!

Defenders of Time is the first Tower Defense game in a while I’ve literally really looked forward to. Their willingness to make fans happy is also a great reason to keep any eye on the Four Lights team. While single player will be free to download, multiplayer is really where this game becomes fun. The multiplayer mode will be available for $20 and it will unlock the rest of the maps, as well as the ability to play online against others. If you have friends who don’t own the game, you’re in luck. A cool feature will allow you to let your friends join in your game, regardless of whether they own it.

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The idea is to bring players in and build that developer-player relationship that’ll be beneficial for all. Maps released will be free downloads, and if the team decides to do any Expansions later on, those will be reasonably priced as well. Players can also rejoice knowing they will never see a micro-transaction within the game as well.

Keep an eye on the little studio in Las Vegas as this type of game developing seems lost in our industry today. When everyone is completely focused on ways to get the most money out of the consumer, it’s refreshing to talk to a development studio who really wants to make a great game first, and continue to make consumer-friendly games as long as they are around. I honestly would have paid double for this game, but $20 is a great price point for a lot of gamers. They will get a great game to play with your friends, and if they don’t own it – no sweat. Quite a way to get the consumer happy with your studio, and one that doesn’t seem to be a simple marketing ploy. In talking with John and the rest of the team, their main concern is making a quality game people will want to play, and it comes across in every way.

Defenders of Time will be available on Steam this fall with Four Lights shooting for a September release. Beta should start around the end of August. Keep up on all the details with the development on their Steam Greenlight page as well as their official webpage.

The Witcher 3 E3 2014 Demo – Glorious Doesn’t Even Begin…

June 19th, 2014 Posted by News Archive, PC, Platforms, Playstation, Xbox No Comment yet

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A lot has happened since we last saw Geralt of Rivia a year ago. The game, originally slated for a 2014 release has been delayed in order to make the game better, which in my estimation last year, was already intensely good.

What a difference a year makes.

Last year’s closed door demo seemed to be all about showing us how your choices greatly influence and affect the world around you. Geralt saved a village from a devastating monster at the behest of the villagers. However, the monster that was killed served to, in the end, protect the villagers in a way. Less than four months later in game, the village is destroyed and its inhabitants slaughtered by bandits who might not have come previously thanks to the monster threat.

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All of Novigrad is yours to explore…

This year the spectacle was the world itself, as well as showcasing the combat system more fully. The world of The Witcher 3 is teeming with life: villagers, villains, and monsters all roam independently and have their own day/night activities unique to their character. Inside the stone city of Novigrad we could see grocers handling wares, stable boys hard at work; the city was massive and the role the NPCs played helped convey enormity of the city in a more believable way.

I think this is in complete contrast with other games that boast large, living cities. A perfect example of this would be the Assassin’s Creed series. In Ubisoft’s highly popular series, the cities are indeed massive and boast many inhabitants onscreen. However, they don’t seem to do anything really other than move in groups, carry a crate, sit on a bench, and so on. With just the snippet of the city we saw in the demo room, every NPC on screen seemed to have a purpose for being where he or she was, not once giving the impression that they were just simply placed there for fluff.

The visuals were jaw-dropping, as has come to be expected from the screenshots and demos we’ve seen on stage during the Microsoft press conferences the past few years. While the demo this year was indeed running on the Xbox One hardware at 900p, the demo in the theater looked noticeably better, which leads me to believe it was running off a PC. No confirmation on this, but the frame rate was completely smooth, and while there was minimal screen tearing it can easily be attributed to the fact it was an alpha build and not the final product.

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While these screenshots are obviously pre-rendered, I can assure you the in-engine versions are just as jaw dropping.

We were dropped in the moments after Geralt killed the Griffin and was on his way to receive his payment for the job. In the world of The Witcher 3, payment doesn’t always mean gold. Geralt is looking for someone, and the person who wanted the griffin dead has info on where to look for her next.

We are sent to No Man’s Land in search of a child-like monster named Johnny. Instead of riding our horse there, the developer playing the game used The Witcher 3’s fast travel system. According to our presenter, had we used a horse, sprinting at full speed the entire way would’ve still taken our hero 15-20 minutes to traverse the terrain. To further illustrate how massive the world of The Witcher 3 truly is, Geralt stood upon a large hill overlooking the area we just traveled to and espied a tree in the distance. While not in the background, it was almost at the edge of the draw distance from where we stood. Our presenter told us that Novigrad was about 14 to 15 times farther in the distance. I know it’s not easy to judge distance when you aren’t seeing it in person, but trust me, we had gone a long way, and we were only about halfway across the continent. If that.

We discovered Johnny, the godling that Dijkstra mentioned when we provided him the Griffin head. It seems Johnny has seen the ashen-haired girl we are searching for. Problem is, Johnny has lost his voice. Choice clearly plays a significant role in The Witcher 3. We could choose to continue on our own and try to find her ourselves, or do what makes more sense and help Johnny get his voice back. Then he can tell us the information we need to know.

We are led to a Harpie roost, and it is here we see how there are multiple ways and angles to approach our target. We could find a pleasant path leading up to the top, or we could simply “pull a Shank” and parkour it. Our demo-er totally parkours and simply climbs the side of the mountain to the top.

Oh, and the developer specifically pointed out that Geralt can jump now too. So there’s that.

After reaching the top combat ensues. The harpies are not too keen on us trying to take back the voice they rightfully stole. Unfortunately for them, Geralt is able to dual-wield a crossbow with one of his swords, making the flight advantage a Harpie would normally have completely obsolete. With a mixture of ranged, Witcher Magic and melee, the harpies are quickly dealt with.

Combat in The Witcher 3 is completely fluid. You react to your opponents moves by evading, dodging and counterattacking. Need a bit of crowd control? Simply use a one of your Witcher skills to give you an edge. Fire or knockbacks seem to work wonders as well, making the arsenal you have all the more deadly.

After you get the voice back for Johnny, you find out that it might’ve been better to have him voiceless. The godling bemoans that the ashen-haired girl interrupted one of his favorite activities (defecating to the sunrise, I might add) and ran to an orphanage down the way. You follow him to that orphanage where you are tasked, yet again, with ridding the local area of a monster in exchange for information from the three ladies who seem to run the place.

The children in the orphanage seem to be well taken care of by the old lady, whom Johnny calls “Gram,” so we decide to help the Three Ladies out. It is here that the developers decide to showcase the meditation mechanic. Through meditation you rest and speed up time. This will affect quest availability as well as some monster spawns.

After meditating, we encountered werewolf, thanks to the nighttime that had set in. The time of day will also alter certain beasts and their powers, giving you a different challenge for the different time of day. Using a sigil called “Quen” (the other four are Igni, Yrden, Axii and Aard), Geralt deflected some of the blows of the werewolf and quickly dispatched of it and the adds it called into battle. Eventually we stumbled upon the monster we’d been tasked with killing.

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Fighting a werewolf in No Man’s Land: dangerous, but nothing a Witcher can’t handle.

Again, choice became a factor in this interaction. The monster pleaded with us, telling us to not heed the command of The Ladies; that it was trying to protect the children at the orphanage from them. It begged us to not kill it, though we had heard about it’s atrocities from the Elderman and the nearby village the Tree Spirit has terrorized. The game gives us the choice as well, meaning we can go a completely different path than we entered the room with. Do we heed the call of the Tree Spirit and risk the lives of the children at the orphanage if the Tree Spirit is lying? Or do we listen to the Elderman and the nearby villagers who speak nothing but evil about the spirit? In the end, we performed the task we came here to deal with and killed the Tree Spirit.

I can’t stress how great the game has looked up to this point as well. I truly believe that this game, more than any other, will showcase the vast gap between the PC and the current-gen consoles. I remember vividly sitting in Microsoft’s Media Briefing as CDPR stood on stage to showcase the game, thinking to myself that the game looked better last year. If this was how the game has progressed in a year, I honestly wasn’t impressed. Turn the clock forward a few days to the CDPR closed demo and we see the first in-engine vista as Geralt makes his way to Novigrad. My breath was taken away. This looked nothing like what I had seen a few days earlier.

This isn’t to say the game will look bad on the console, far from it in fact. I truly believe that when The Witcher 3 releases in February it will be the best looking game on both consoles. That being said, remember that PC technology will have advanced, and GPU’s will be more powerful at that time as well. The gap between consoles and PC will be vastly noticeable, and it could mark a trend we will see throughout this generation as a result of console hardware remaining stagnant and PC hardware ever-evolving.

All in all, The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt remains at the top of my most-anticipated game coming out of E3 this year, and if the rest of the game is as beautifully executed as the 45-minute slice the developers showed us, fans are in for an experience that won’t be rivaled for many games to come. Look for more content regarding the game in the coming months.

Oh, and come to think of it, the orphanage seemed to have a shortage of children upon our return…

 

 

Totally Heroes Episode 48: We Got Socks This Year

June 17th, 2014 Posted by News Archive, Nintendo, PC, Podcasts, Totally Heroes No Comment yet

The Heroes are back this week and give you their E3 post mortem. They bring handy charts into the mix and dissect Microsoft, Sony, and Nintendo’s presentations and tell you exactly what they did right and what they did wrong. Plus, your QOTW satiates your Need for Speed!

We apologize, but there is no podcast version of this episode at this time.
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Sid Meier’s Civilization 5: Beyond Earth First Impressions

June 15th, 2014 Posted by News Archive, PC 1 comment

Space: the final frontier. Blatant Star Trek quote? Yes. Best way to describe the feeling you get exploring a world in Sid Meier’s CivilizationBeyond Earth? Also yes.

The hugely popular series is leaving the confines of our world and venturing forth into the unknown this fall, and while I could not get hands on with the title, I was enthralled during the ten minute presentation at the 2K booth. Most Civ games end with creating a spaceship capable of moving on to distant worlds, and Beyond Earth picks up the story when you’ve settled on that new world.

The game takes the same view as Civ V: beautifully drawn visuals, hex tiles and engaging exploration. In fact, the exploration is heightened since you never know what you will encounter. Barbarians make the previous games interesting, alien lifeforms make Beyond Earth more intriguing.

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As you move your explorer across the map, you will encounter these aliens throughout your travels. The aliens and lifeforms in Beyond Earth react to your level of aggression: coexist peacefully and they will leave you alone, come to close and they will protect themselves. The environment isn’t without its own intrinsic hazards as well. Clouds of gas litter the landscape. Leave your units in them for a turn and they will start to take damage.

Along your travels you will come across resource pods from Earth. These are pods that were sent to the surface of your planet before your settlement and act along the same ways as we remember uncovering ruins might. Technology and gold rewards might be the reason for seeking out these pods. Fossils and other ancient alien artifacts can also be uncovered and some times you might be rewarded with an alien unit fighting for your civilization.

You can choose between three different affinity alignments in order to govern your people: purity, harmony and supremacy. During our presentation, our civilization had taken the affinity of supremacy, which is exactly how it sounds. We learned from the mistakes of the past and are determined to make sure the Human Race is able to move on from this planet easily and pain-free. By embracing advanced technology we make it so the human race will survive no matter what calamity might befall the planet. Harmony seeks to co-exist with the planet, which supremacy sees a little near-sighted. By this co-existence, Harmony players are able to tame and domestic the local wildlife. Purity tries to maintain the cultural and historical heritage of the old Earth, and therefore is usually an isolationist. These players specialize in turtling, or building powerful defensive structures and making the new planet more like Earth.

The game will also feature quests, and while the narrative is still primarily driven by the players, the quests serve as nudge in different directions. Also new is an amazingly complex and rich Technology Web. Each technology is steeped in real tech that is currently available now, or will be made available in the future as we look towards our own future. Each technology also has its own leaf technology for the different affinities, adding even more depth to the game’s inner workings that Civ fans have come to love with the series. Expect many hours pouring over the tech web deciding which direction to go in your quest for domination, regardless of your affinity of choice.

Each affinity has their own victory conditions, as well as your normal victory conditions usually associated with the game. Our demonstration had us vying for control over some valuable resources on a nearby continent named Firaxite. This resources is one that all affinities can use, but has special use by those of the Supremacy tree, as it is a base mineral in construction of  certain units. Only problem is that when our civilization colonized the nearby continent, our Harmony brethren colonized alongside and took the resource under their city’s boundaries. We see this as a threat to our way of life, and see Harmony as a threat to this. Since we want to make sure that Supremacy isn’t attached to any one planet, but is able to become mobile if the time arises we need to abandon this world like we did Earth, Harmony’s attachment with the new world is seen as short sighted and weak. War with them as a threat to our way of life was inevitable, the need for Firaxite gave us a reason.

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After wiping out the Harmony armies around one of their cities, we used our naval vessels to bombard the city. Eventually, within the end of the turn, we held the city, forced Supremacy on the local inhabitants whether they liked it or not and came into possession of the valuable resource.

The entire time this was going on, I was reminded of all the Civilization games I have played over the years. From conquering the entire planet in Civ III, to making the space shuttle that would take my people into the start with Civ V; the gameplay seemed as familiar as ever, but the setting made it feel like a whole new world. That might be because we are exploring just that, and honestly I cannot wait until the game launches this fall. You might not see me write an article for weeks as a result.

Just remember, where Harmony fails, Supremacy leads all!

Sunset Overdrive Hands On Impressions

June 13th, 2014 Posted by News Archive, Platforms, Xbox No Comment yet

Sunset Overdrive is all about movement: Stay still, and you die. The game combines rail grinds, wall running, hanging grinds, long jumps and more to traverse the world of Sunset City in style. Combine this with wacky guns, bright color scheme, and a narrative style that doesn’t take itself too seriously; you’re left with a uniquely chaotic experience that will completely overload your senses.

And it’s awesome.

Our demo started with 8 of us teaming up in the game’s Chaos Squad multiplayer, and chaos doesn’t even begin to describe the action that plays out on screen. Chaos Squad takes place in the same open environment as the single player game, and the more chaos you acquire, the harder the end waves will become.

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Explosions, and big ones, are a constant occurrence in Sunset City as you embrace the Awesomepocolypse.

I started off my gameplay just trying to get a feel for the controls. X is used to grind, press it again and you can switch between a normal grind and a hanging grind. A is to Jump, RT to shoot and so on. The controls seemed really fluid – the mapping really lent itself well to learning the game. There were no wacky button combos to do certain things, which was nice to see.

As far as visually, I couldn’t really tell what kind of resolution the game is running, but I can tell you the frames were fluid. I never noticed any lag or slowdown, especially when things became even more chaotic in front of me. Another nice thing to not-see was screen tearing. There was none. In fact, I’d venture to say that the stylized shooter was possibly the smoothest running game I got my hands on all week.

I mentioned that the game doesn’t take itself too seriously? I meant it. As evidenced by what I still think is the quote of E3 (“Of course you can – it’s a f***ing video game!” UPDATE: The LA Times headline might take the cake now, though), There were moments where I would grind into the edge of the map and bump into one of those pesky “invisible walls…only this game the wall was quite visible. Once you hit it, the area would flash a static blue and in stylized block letters the game would make you all too aware that it was an invisible wall you just met.

As far as the gun play goes, you do simply feel more powerful and awesome when you are moving. Grinding along powerlines and building edges, wall running, jumping, somersaulting – not once did I feel at a disadvantage by staying so active. In fact, it was when I was on the ground that I felt the most vulnerable. The world seems to slow down around you when your character is caught flatfooted. Thankfully, the world of instant traversal is only a few jumps away. Just don’t let the OD’d get to you first!

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I think at one point we had a couple of these on the map at once. Propane launchers and Dragon Pistols FTW!

The weapons you get go from standard to downright wacky. From a simple assault rifle to a gun that fires LP’s, Sunset Overdrive will boast some of the most unique takes on weaponry in video games today. During an extended grind around the battlefield, I found myself switching from my Dragon Pistol (which fires fireworks) to a shotgun, to a massive Boomstick to take on a Herker that just dropped nearby. All while switching from a normal grind to a hanging grind. And changing directions. While wall running. You get the idea.

All in all, the chaotic fun that was Sunset Overdrive was over too quickly (which the LONG line of people behind us were glad to see – no one likes lines at E3) and I was left yearning for more. In fact, if I was only there to cover Microsoft, I would have likely got right back in line for another go at the game. It was an absolute blast, and refreshing. In a world where we see many annualized, gritty realistic shooters, it was nice to see something so different and unique that it makes owning a Xbox One worth it. It is also to see a game studio such as Insomniac get back to their roots – making witty, funny and wholly unique games that really make the rest of the industry take a step back and reflect on the sheer amount of creativity wrought by the developers in Burbank.

Look for Sunset Overdrive this fall, only on Xbox One.

BATTLECRY – Hands On Impressions

June 12th, 2014 Posted by News Archive, PC 1 comment

The battle was set. My duelist seemed eager to take on the Royal Marines Tech Archer in front of me. I ran towards my enemy, using a nearby grappling hook to vault myself across a break in the terrain, quickly closing the gap. Out of nowhere, a giant blade collapsed upon me. Within seconds I had been picked apart by the Tech Archer as I tried to evade this new foe. To my dismay, escape was not in the cards and my Cossack Duelist fell to the ground in a lifeless lump, only to respawn seconds later to try it again.

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This is BATTLECRY, a new IP by the eponymously named studio BattleCry Studios. BATTLECRY is an alternate history game set in a world where there is no gunpowder. The World Wars have happened centuries before and the countries of the world decided in the aftermath to limit fighting to designated “War Zones.” During the time of BATTLECRY, these War Zones have become political tools for countries to resolve conflicts.

The game is a fast paced, frenetic 32-player combat game, featuring a painterly art style that really lends itself well to the overall feel of the world. The foreground is popping with detail, while the background fades into simply essential shapes. Really adds a level of depth to the world, making you remember that there is more out there than just the War Zone you are currently trying to stay alive within.

Thanks to a historical event in the world’s history known as the “Pansophic Revolution,” weapons are given more deadly power than before, taking the space normally left by gunpowder. The team at the studio felt that they really needed to create a rich history for the world, to give the game much more depth than your traditional battle arena game.

As I sat down at one of the Cossack stations, I noticed something that a lot of fans would really enjoy – native gamepad support. I tried both setups and found that I actually prefer the gamepad over the mouse and keyboard. Now when I was playing the Tech Archer, I did find my self gravitating back to the mouse, but mostly I stuck with the 360 pad in my hand and seemed to do well.

For not being a hyper-realistic, graphic intesive game, BATTLECRY is beautiful. The style is akin to what we see in games such as Team Fortress 2, but don’t let that fool you. the world looks great – the war zone is popping with detail truly showing the grittiness of the world around. Gritty, yet striking at the same time. The art style reflects a sort of “industrial” environment, but with a sort of melancholy that permeates around every corner. This is an area where you know you could die any minute, but yet the fighters seem to accept and embrace that thought. The art style reflects that as well.

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Though being a beautiful game, you won’t find to many light or bright colors around, with the exception of the occasional yellow from the Cossacks. Browns, tans, blood reds, oranges – all of these give the world a distinct look, and one the compliments it perfectly. The characters are also beautifully crafted, each faction having their own distinct style. The Cossacks dress in yellows and whites, and look and feel more rugged than the Royal Marines. The Marines represent the majesty and discipline of the British Empire, and their red and blue, neatly trimmed uniforms perfectly convey this.

The game developers wanted to make sure map flow was paramount. Movement is everything in BATTLECRY and if you find yourself standing around too long, you’ll likely end up dead. Fast, fluid motions really help you around the War Zone, and the hint of verticality really led itself well to manuevering around the field. I will say, this was by far the most impressive to me. This is not hyperbole by any stretch, but I honesty felt as if I was playing Titanfall, minus the wallrunning.

The combat was also pretty fluid. For being an alpha build, I was surprised at how well the game handled and felt, especially on the gamepad. Each character has two main attacks, as well as some special abilities. The enforcer, for instance, and turn their sword into a shield to block oncoming blows. The Duelist (which became my favorite pretty quickly) can use the technology from the Pansohpic Revolution to charge their blades and shock the enemy. The Tech Archer unleashes devastating attacks from range and uses her skills to get out of a hairy situation if the enemy can close the distance.

I played two games of BATTLECRY and was hooked. This was the arena style game I had been hoping for. There have been a couple of other titles here at the show that were along this same concept, but I honestly think Bethesda has struck gold here, especially because the game is Free to Play. With this model, anyone can jump in and join the fight quickly, and from what the dev team was saying at the show, the “paid for” features will be a long the line of skins, and not anything that will make you have an advantage over another player.

You can unlock items and gear using an in game earned currency called iron. You also have the chance to earn some extra iron at the end of the match. Instead of just jumping to a splash screen and showing off the player scores, you can go up to the other players and shower them with medals, iron and salutes in a show of good sportsmanship. After a few moments a newspaper reel will play showing highlights from the match before. A definite twist, and a refreshing one, on the typical post-combat experience.

BATTLECRY is shooting for a 2015 beta, but so far it looks great. Fast and fluid, pretty yet gritty; BattleCry Studios seem to know what their doing, which is no surprise with vets from all around the industry in their ranks. Look for more info regarding BATTLECRY as the year continues.

Homefront: The Revolution Impressions

June 11th, 2014 Posted by News Archive, PC, Platforms, Playstation, Xbox No Comment yet

The revolution is not an apple that falls when it is ripe. You have to make it fall” – Che Guevara

This is the quote Crytek Lead Designer Adam Duckett used to describe the philosophy behind their upcoming game Homefront: The Revolution. Powered by the latest CRYENGINE technology, Crytek wants to get back to their roots by creating a game that is both of the highest visual fidelity, but also one that gamers will enjoy to play.

Set 4 years into the North Korean occupation of the United States, the KPA rule the land with an iron fist. Their superior technology, especially when it comes to drones and firepower, cause a unique dystopian setting for the player to romp around in.

Philadelphia was chosen as the setting for a number of reasons. It’s the birthplace of Independence, so starting a revolution in the city hearkens back to the 1770s. Also, the KPA know this, and have made Philadelphia their capital, further driving the knife into the side of America.

Crytek set out to create a free-roam city, one where you will need to use a mix of stealth and guerilla tactics to get through unscathed. They have also created a Philadelphia that changes based on your gameplay. As you interact with the city, or act within its boundaries, the game will react accordingly. Score a victory for the resistance and you’ll see the mood and tone in the city change to reflect that.

Crytek showed off some gameplay, and in pure CRYENGINE fashion, the game looks to have some of the highest graphical fidelity on the market today. Our first experience with the new version of their engine was seen with the Xbox One exclusive Ryse: Son of Rome. While that game is arguably the best looking game on the new consoles (at least until Second Son was released), we’ve never really seen the true potential of the engine.

Well, let me say: it’s glorious.

Philadelphia under occupation is a dark, gritty and grimy place. The lighting and shadows are simply superb. The level of detail in the world around you, down to the grains of wood on the table in front of our character was simply breathtaking.

We had one goal in mind: we needed to free some prisoners from the police station. When I say police station, I really mean Police complex. Our character, along with some other members of the resistance set off to accomplish this.

The game also makes use of your character’s smart phone, using it as a surveillance device to pinpoint enemies, security cameras and so on. Also, you make use of the phone to check your current missions, use the map, the camera can also be used as a makeshift set of binoculars, and more. Weapon customization is here, and it looks a lot like it did in Crysis 3.

War-torn, KPA-occupied Philadelphia looks amazing thanks to the fidelity of CRYENGINE

The combat is a lot like what we’ve seen before, though with some interesting twists. Cover combat is a must, otherwise you will see yourself mowed down by the superior firepower of the KPA pretty quickly. Infiltration, sabotage and subterfuge will be just some of the ways the game will have you accomplish your goals. You have to think like a guerilla fighter, just simply fighting your way through the map won’t do.

Stealth kills are in the game, and stealth is a large part of the game as the KPA uses their drones to seek out any potential threat. More than once we saw our character duck around a corner to avoid the drone’s scanner.

As the player approached the police complex, it was clear that we would never be able to fight our way there without some sort of diversion. One of the NPCs created that, giving us an opening. Still, though, it wasn’t enough. We needed more. Eventually, our character decided that they would likely never make it to the door alive, so another tactic was needed: sabotage.

By strapping a makeshift bomb to a RC Car, the player began to drive it slowly towards the main entrance into the complex. Making sure to keep it hidden, as well as to keep the armed guards from stepping on it, the RC car slowly made its way to the goal, eventually using a truck as mobile cover the rest of the way. All the while, you controlled the car with your smartphone in game.

I should stop and say that at no point did the game seem to stutter, until we got to the firefights. But the game isn’t due out until 2015, so based on Crytek’s track record, I’ve got faith the final product will be smooth…assuming your rig can handle the game.

I did speak with Adam Duckett right after the presentation and asked about their decision to bring it to Gen 4 consoles and PC only. It was simply based on their desire to get back to what they do best – creating great games that simply look the best. The limitations of the 360 and PS3 would have hampered that vision. The game is being built on PC, according to Duckett, so expect the PC version to look absolutely jacked.

In the end, the complete dystopian look into futuristic Philly has me enthralled. Sure, the cover based combat is nothing new, but to mix it with the guerilla tactics the game simply begs you to implore will make for a much more interesting experience as you slowly begin to unravel the KPA grip on mainland USA. Look for it next year on Xbox One, PS4 and PC.

Viva la revolución

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