Posts tagged " wii u "

Watch Dogs First Impressions

May 29th, 2014 Posted by News Archive, Nintendo, PC, Platforms, Playstation, Xbox 1 comment

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Developer: Ubisoft Montreal
Platforms: 
PC (played), PS4, PS3, Xbox One, Xbox 360, Wii U
Release Date: May 27, 2014 (Wii U TBD Fall 2014)
Engine: Disrupt Engine

Ever since its stunning reveal at E3 2012, Watch Dogs has become the poster child for next gen. Even though that demo was running on the PC, as was confirmed multiple times by Ubisoft, it gave a tantalizing glimpse into what was in store for both console gamers and PC gamers with lower end machines.

The game was even set to launch alongside the current generation as a launch title, Sony going so far as to have a Watch Dogs bundle (which looked sick, by the way). However, it was delayed to allow for further polish and refinement (this seems to be going around lately).

As soon as I saw this game in action, I knew I’d be playing it on PC. I knew that between E3 2012 and launch day, I’d have to upgrade my PC if I wanted the absolute best, premium experience of Watch Dogs. And so, two years later, my PC now contains:

CPU: i7 3770k @ 3.5 GHz
GPU: EVGA SC 780ti with ACX Cooler (I have overclocked this further)
RAM: 16 GB DDR3 @ 1666 MHz

I am currently running the game on full Ultra with 2x TXAA and injected 16x anisotropic filtering via Nvidia Inspector. Additionally, my PC is hooked up to my TV and I’m playing the game from my couch with an Xbox 360 controller. You can use these specs as a benchmark of sorts if you’re trying to figure out what performance you can expect from your own rig. My own performance will be mentioned later on in this piece, so sit tight.

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Now, let’s dive right into my experiences. The best way I can describe Watch Dogs is that it takes the best elements of GTA, Splinter Cell, and Assassin’s Creed and combines them into one amazing experience.

At the time of this writing, I have played roughly eight hours of the game. In that time, I have done a few story missions, drove around downtown and Pawnee, hacked into people’s bank accounts and robbed them of $75,000, hacked into phone conversations, went trenchcoat and iconic cap shopping, hacked into a few ctOS towers, ran around in blind panic as another player hacked into my game, and took a trillion screenshots.

Oh, I also hacked a train, jumped onto its roof, and escaped the police. What makes this more impressive is that I didn’t plan it. I was running away from an event, desperate to find any escape when out of the corner of my eye, I saw a train pull into the station. In a dead sprint, I hacked it to prevent it from leaving the station as I belted towards it. With seconds to spare, I reached the train and landed on its roof. Turning back, I saw the police officers I left behind, smiling to myself.

These types of situations aren’t rare in Watch Dogs. In fact, the amount of density and detail to the world is staggering. Just yesterday, I spent an hour simply listening to people’s conversations. No two conversations were the same, and a lot of these conversations lead you to some pretty interesting stuff.

And that’s perhaps the best way to nicely sum up my experience so far: detail.

The world is absolutely brimming with detail. The NPCs in Watch Dogs are the most believable AI I have ever come across in an open world game . They all act and behave uniquely, yet respond to the player and the environment all the same. You can tell they have their own lives. I encourage you to spend five minutes, pick a random street corner or a park, and just watch the NPCs. You’ll see what I mean.

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On top of the amazing AI, there are simply so many missions in Watch Dogs, ranging from fixer missions, hacking missions, gang busts, crime prevention, and the random missions that crop up by listening to NPCs. Each one feels unique and creates a real sense of excitement upon its undertaking.

I’ve only dipped my toes into the multiplayer component. I was hacked twice by other players. I managed to find the perpetrator on the first occasion. It was pure luck. The second occasion was marked with me running around the streets of Chicago in a blind panic, desperately trying to locate the other player.

I failed spectacularly. However, despite my complete incompetence, I really love this take on multiplayer. You’re not sharing the world with others like in an MMO per se, but you feel a sense of connection to other players enjoying the game. The sense of tension and excitement it creates is very real and a welcome inclusion.

Perhaps my only “criticism” of the game so far is the driving. I understand that Ubisoft is going for a more arcade feel here, as is the case with other open world games, but vehicles simply feel sloppy in the way they handle, plagued by perpetual understeer. Compared with its most obvious rival, GTA V, the driving in Watch Dogs is pretty lackluster. I say this after having driven various different vehicles ranging from hatchbacks, motorcycles, sports cars, and a dump truck. Yes, a dump truck. It was baller.

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Ok, I can’t hold it any longer. Time to talk about graphics. In short, this game is absolutely gorgeous. Playing this game on full Ultra settings at a buttery smooth 60fps is stunning. I have not experienced a single hitch in stuttering, freezing, crashing, or any other issue. On my end of things, the game runs flawlessly.

How does this game compare to its E3 reveal? To put it simply, it looks better today than it did at E3. This idea that somehow the game was downgraded is partially true. Yes, it was downgraded to fit on the new consoles, but the PC version actually looks better than it did at E3. Is it drastically better? No. But every little element has been improved a little bit over the E3 demo. All these little improvements add up in a big way.

If you are the type of person who does not like hearing objective truths, now is the time the stop reading. Almost everything from the E3 build has been incrementally tweaked and given a polished sheen. Shaders are more accurate, behaving realistically to lighting and weather. Lighting is more concise, providing even more accurate ambient occlusion by way of HBAO+ (which did NOT exist at the time of the E3 2012 demo).

Reflections are even more realistic, reflecting not just obvious light sources such as headlights, but also secondary and tertiary light emitted from neon signs and even Aiden’s smartphone. The water is just so damn good, tessellated to perfection. Incidence refraction helps drive the incredible realism of its properties. The water reacts not just to objects such as boats, but also to the ambient weather. It reflects literally everything, including ambient occlusion shading from its surrounding environment. Just take a look at the screenshot at the top of this piece. It’s truly ridiculous.

The sheer amount of detail and polish in the visual and technical elements of Watch Dogs simply cannot be overstated. On full Ultra, it’s far superior to the current gen console versions and indeed, better than the E3 2012 build. To deny this only showcases ignorance and a blatant lack of respect for the developers’ years of work.

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In short, I am having a blast in Watch Dogs. The incredibly immersive gameplay, genuinely believable AI, awesome weather system, myriad of activities, and stunning visuals all come together brilliantly to provide a fundamentally thrilling experience.

By borrowing core elements from GTA, Splinter Cell, and Assassin’s Creed, Ubisoft have created a truly fun, dynamic, and consistently intriguing game. I am constantly amazed every time I pick up my controller and boot up the game. I experience something new every single time. I can’t wait to spend more time in Watch Dogs.

 

Forget About Last Gen

February 27th, 2014 Posted by News Archive 5 comments

Does that title anger you? Does it anger you because you don’t have a new console yet, or because you are still playing on your old one? Does it anger you because you may think that we don’t need new machines yet?

If I have elicited such a response from you, I’ve done my duty and perhaps doomed the necessity of this piece. However, if you are confused by this admittedly ambiguous preamble, I encourage you to keep reading.

The console business is just that – a business. As of May 2013, cumulative sales for the Xbox 360, PS3, and Wii were 254.2 million units, with this figure undoubtedly higher as of this writing. As of late last month, worldwide sales figures for the PS4 and Xbox One were 7.2 million units. Again, this number will be higher as of this writing and again, this is irrelevant. The real point is that these numbers illustrate one irrefutable fact. The install base on last gen consoles is substantially larger than that of the new consoles.

From a business perspective, the decision to develop on the platforms with a larger install base is quite clear. Larger install base means more consumers. More consumers means more money. At the very core of our industry, this is what business means. And from such a perspective, I can respect the decision.

However, I am not in the console business – at least on the actual business side of things. I am a consumer. And it is in this mindset that I write this piece. As a consumer, as a proponent for our industry, as a gamer, developers should forget about last gen.

Let us consider for a moment the longevity of the last gen consoles. Xbox 360 released in 2005, with the PS3 and Wii following suite in 2006. When the 360 released, I was a senior in high school. In that time, I have graduated high school, graduated college, and am currently in the second job of my career. All of this in a span of just over 8 years.

8 years.

When these machines were released, specifically the 360 and PS3, they were the technical crown jewels of their day. Now, however, my phone will trounce them both. They are positively ancient by technology standards.

Ah, you might say, but both of these platforms have produced amazing games very late in their lifecycle. And you would not be wrong. Halo 4 from 2012 and The Last of Us from 2013 are amazing games. They pushed the aging silicon so incredibly hard. But again, this is not my point. To me, the only thing this represents is optimizations that were necessary in order to stay within the incredibly low hardware ceiling.

This isn’t a good thing. I constantly think about what these late lifecycle games would have looked like and performed had they been developed for more powerful hardware. I firmly believe that the core gameplay would have in fact improved. With new power, the developers would have been able to realize their true vision for the game instead of struggling to find spare of bits of memory. And of course, the visuals would have been markedly better.

Today, the new consoles are out on the market. This is the perfect time for studios to come out with new IPs taking full advantage of the extra power. This is a good thing. Rather than continuing to cling on to ancient hardware, new ground can be broken. Emergent technologies can be explored and new technologies can be developed. This is progress and is at the heart of the technology industry which video games are very much a subset of.

As a gamer, I don’t want more experiences on my old machine. I had 8 long years of that, and this is not a complaint. I enjoyed the games for those 8 years. But no longer should it be acceptable to continue to develop on those consoles. I can point to several cross platform, cross generation titles that feel distinctly “held back” simply because they were released on older hardware, and I’m not only pointing at the visuals.

Assassin’s Creed IV and Call of Duty: Ghosts are just two such examples. You get the feeling that if they weren’t shackled to older hardware, Ubisoft and Infinity Ward could have done so much more. Larger world/maps, fewer to no load screens, more intelligent AI, and of course, much improved visuals.

Just recently, I learned that developer Turtle Rock is not developing Evolve for Xbox 360 nor PS3. They site a negative impact to gameplay as the primary reason. However, looking deeper, they explain that the negative impact to gameplay would have come from the technical limitations of those machines:

“We’re out in nature, where there’s trees, bushes, rocks, there’s a lot…It’s a high density of foliage and props…. In Evolve, if you fade trees and rocks, now the monster can’t hide. We’ve changed the gameplay.”

This makes me happy as it is indeed encouraging news. As 2014 continues, I’m sure we will see fewer and fewer cross generation titles – and this is a great thing.

Not only will this put the focus on developing technologies for these new machines, but it will also force adoption from consumers. This may sound anti-consumer, but really, it’s to our benefit. The more consumers who use these new machines will encourage more and more developers to develop on them. This in turn creates more and more new experiences. This is good and absolutely necessary for the health of our industry. We need to move forward, not linger on the past. We need to embrace new hardware and new technology with open arms, not cling on to the safety of the well-known.

If you’re not moving forward, you’re falling behind.

Super Mario 3D World for Wii U

December 20th, 2013 Posted by News Archive, Nintendo, Platforms No Comment yet

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I recently went diving back into the Mario universe after about 20-something years away. My journey actually began with New Super Luigi U, on account of Luigi being my favorite Mario brother. Unfortunately, after not playing the series for so many years, I was pretty terrible at the game. After doing my own research, I discovered that New Super Luigi U is actually a more difficult version of New Super Mario Bros. U. The game follows the same world progression, but the courses have been redesigned to be much more difficult, and the game only gives you 100 seconds to complete each course. At first glance, 100 seconds might seem like plenty of time, but I found myself failing quite a bit due to the time constraints. Another downside to both New Super Luigi U and New Super Mario Bros. U, is that the character selection is very limited. Female gamers will, in some instances, be turned away, due to the fact there isn’t a single female playable character in those two titles.

Being that New Super Luigi U was a bit too difficult to ease me back into Nintendo platforming, I decided to take a look at Super Mario 3D World for my Wii U. I went into the game having done very little research, and I was expecting a standard platforming experience. Instead, what I found was actually a unique and refreshing crossover from Super Mario RPG: Legend of the Seven Stars and the latest platformers. In this game, the world is very much 3D and there are often times multiple paths to cross courses. The plot appears to be based around saving numerous tiny fairies, that everyone’s favorite Koopa has kidnapped and placed in jars. Standard Mario rules do apply; clear a castle, save a mushroom person (in this case, fairy).

I’ve been playing this game with my girlfriend and one of the key things she enjoyed was the ability to play a female character; namely, Princess Peach. She was, however, disappointed that Princess Daisy was not a playable character in this game and only one female character was available at all. Another point that she really enjoyed was that this title added a new power-up. In this case it’s a giant bell that turns you into a furry in a cat suit. Once you have on the cat suit, you can climb walls and prolong falling if you’re against a surface for a brief while. It’s not entirely fail proof, though. After a few seconds of trying to climb, the suit will lose traction and the characters will slide down the surface, comically embedding claw marks on the way down. In addition to climbing ability, being in the cat suit also grants the ability to claw enemies, rather than only being able to jump on them to defeat them without any power-ups.

koopa

The challenge with this game seems to be right where it needs to be. When playing as a team, we shared a pool of extra lives, which can be a bad thing if the person you’re playing with is careless or has really bad luck. If the team is out of extra lives and one person dies, they must wait until the other person either beats the course or dies before their character is granted 5 extra lives and continued. Some really unique mechanics also come into play with this game, such as the ability to lift your partner onto your shoulders and hold them there until you decide to throw them. That ability is very helpful in some circumstances, but more often than not, I’ve found when trying to throw a fireball, I’d actually just thrown my girlfriend off of a cliff. Fortunately, the game comes with an automatic bubble that it puts characters in when they’re panned out of the camera view and it floats them back to their partner. This meant that my girlfriend only actually died about half the time when she was thrown off of a cliff.

This game also does something unique by rewarding the player with the top score at the end of the course with a crown. The crown can be knocked off of the other player by enemies or by friends. The person wearing the crown at the end of the match gets an extra 5000 bonus points, but that’s the only tangible reward at all. I imagine a group of friends would have a lot of fun with the crown, but if you’re looking for two player co-op to beat the game, don’t expect to keep a partner by competing for the crown.

All things considered, I would recommend Super Mario 3D world to anyone looking for a good Mario game. The graphics are very nice, the gameplay is solid and runs smooth. The game even autosaves your progress after each course, which is very nice and helpful. Yet again, Nintendo has produced another game that made me proud to throw my money at them.

Nintendo Direct 12.18.2013 Wrap-Up

December 18th, 2013 Posted by News Archive, Nintendo, Platforms No Comment yet

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The end of the year Nintendo Direct has hit us today and with it comes announcements and coverage of 13 games, some new and interesting tidbits came out today to tantalize every Nintendo fan’s greatest dreams. The video is crammed full of information and is hosted by the Nintendo Global President, Satoru Iwata, also featuring an appearance by Reggie Fils-Aime, the President and CEO of Nintendo America.

The video can be viewed HERE but we’ll break it down right here for easy viewing.

The presentation started up with something brand new in the works, a future title in the Legend Of Zelda Franchise tentatively titled “Hyrule Warriors”

This game is far more of the hack and slash feel of other titles like Dynasty Warriors than previous Legend Of Zelda titles have been in the past, including all out battles of hordes of opponents on the field at one time. The game retains the Legend Of Zelda feel and even includes enemies easily recognizable to veterans of the series. This title is planned to release on the WiiU.

RELEASE THE DODONGO!

Coming next year to the 3DS from the Kirby Franchise, Kirby Triple Deluxe!

The game, just like all Kirby games in the past, follows a very simple yet ingenious model of side-scrolling and powering up Kirby through the use of his insatiable appetite to consume and take on powers of the enemies he encounters, which a few new have been added to Kirby’s repertoire with this title. This game also includes a mega ability which is particularly useful at key points of the game to surpass normally impassible objects, much like the use of ultimate abilities in Kirby’s Return to Dreamland for the Wii. On top of all of this, which in all honesty is enough to make for a great Kirby game, there is a new key gameplay mechanic in store in the use of multiple layers of land to allow Kirby, and sometimes enemies, to traverse between the foreground and background tracks actively to complete puzzles and move along the world in new ways.

Enemy on a separate foreground track than Kirby in the background.

This game is out of the box a great addition to the Kirby line simply due to the gameplay of the main game, but this game has even more to offer. Two more games are included which explain the title and really make this a triple deluxe game. The next game within this package is Kirby Fighters which allows 4 players to link up and duke it out with their favorite power ups or even allows one player to go head to head with NPC’s for a bit of extra practice.

Super Smash Kirby!

Rounding out the trio of games in Kirby Triple Deluxe is “Dedede’s Drum Dash” which allows you to take on the role of Kirby’s biggest all-time enemy King Dedede in a rhythm game that allows you to recreate some of the iconic Kirby musical scores from this and previous titles.

Who knew giant hammer-toting penguins had rhythm?

The next upcoming game featured for the 3DS system is Yoshi’s New Island!

Releasing Spring 2014, this game takes on reminiscent styling of Yoshi’s Story for the Nintendo 64 along with the gameplay of the original Yoshi’s Island for the Super NES and is even produced by Takashi Tezuka the creative director of the original game. This title will include all new eggs, all new powers, and a range of enemies ready to be taken down by Yoshi and Baby Mario.

That shy guy is about to get ate!  Dang Yoshi, you scary!

Up next in the video is “Chibi-Robo: Photo Finder” for the 3DS system.

Making full use of the camera capabilities of the 3DS, this title takes on your world by giving quests to literally find shapes and designs in your every day life. Quests are handed out to allow you to take an image of ordinary objects then the Chibi-Robo takes the image and, in regular augmented reality style, uses whatever image you took to complete its quest in game. The game is far more than just augmented reality though including an array of in-game mini-quests and games to enjoy which are necessary for story progression. Chibi-Robo: Photo Finder is scheduled to release to the 3DS e-shop on January 9th.

Chibi-Robo waking up.

A special surprise was announced during the confirmation of Pokémon Bank and Poké transporter.

These two applications are not truly games, rather, Pokémon Bank is a tool to allow owners of Pokémon X or Y to transfer Pokémon they own onto a server to store up to 3000 pokemon at a time and at any time it can be used to transfer Pokémon back and forth between the server and Pokémon X and Y at an estimated cost of only $5 a year. Poké transporter is the tool to allow owners of previous Pokémon titles to move their beloved Pokémon forward into the latest generation, this is a one way trip though and will not allow Pokémon to be returned to previous titles and requires generation 5 games to be used (Black, White, Black 2, or White 2).

OMG, he stole two other people's starters!

These two tools will release on December 27th and a free 30-day trial will be available for anyone with the corresponding Pokémon games up to January 31st 2014. But wait! there’s more! Anyone who uses Pokémon Bank between the release and September 2014 will receive the extremely rare Pokémon Celebi, previously only legitimately obtained through limited distribution and will be obtainable even by those using the free 30-day trial.

Tears of excitement?  I think so.

Presented by Nintendo America’s CEO and President, Reggie Fils-Aime, Bravely Default’s gameplay systems were discussed in a bit more depth.

This turn-based fantasy title, which releases February 7th, is a bit more than what it seems, allowing players to gain benefits while on the go with the announced system called “Sleep Points”. These points are gained for hours not spent playing the game, rather, allowing it to enter sleep mode by closing the 3DS system. During this time, if you come across any other players of the game, you will gain the use of special characters to summon in battle when you do return to the game. Sleep Points will also be available in game as a potion for purchase with 3DS e-store currency which can be obtained through the use of real world currency in the 3DS e-shop or at retailers.

Additionally, a demo will be available January 2nd 2014 on the 3DS e-shop which includes a completely free side story not included in the main game where you can earn item packs that transfer directly into the main version of the game and allows you to keep any friends made or special characters obtained during the demo.

Returning to Nintendo Global President, Satoru Iwata, and announcing the next upcoming addition to the Donkey Kong Franchise:

Donkey Kong Tropical Freeze is set to release on February 21st and breathes life back into the Donkey Kong titles. The game looks very similar to previous games such as Donkey Kong Country where Donkey Kong has another of his crew along to assist in completing dungeons, pitfalls, and puzzles. Previously known, Donkey Kong will be joined by Diddy Kong and Dixie Kong, but announced today, he will also be joined by the elderly yet spry Cranky Kong. The game does have elements that seem to be ripped right out of previous incarnations but without a doubt this title will be all that and more, even allowing the player to step out of the side scrolling action depending on the area.

I think Nintendo has something against penguins at this point.

Sega announced two new DLC for its recently released game, “Sonic Lost World”.

The first of the two Nintendo-exclusive DLC releases today and takes on an awesome mashup of Sonic’s favorite loops and straightaways mixed in with the beautiful world of Yoshi’s Story, complete with shy guys and yoshi eggs!

Two great tastes that taste great together!

And the second DLC which will release next year was released only with an image to give you a hint at what’s to come!

OH, WHAT COULD IT BE?!  The anticipation is killing me.

Speaking of DLC, Wii Sports Club will be receiving more than just its two previous games; golf has arrived!

All WiiU owners that received the October update will have the game pre-loaded on their systems which allow a free 24-hour trial to allow you to test out the game before making a decision to purchase or not. The added golf game will include the previous 9-hole course from the original “Wii Sports” as well as an additional 9-hole course recreating the NES game “Golf US Course”. The game will utilize the WiiU Game Pad to allow users to line up their shot by looking down into it as it’s set on the floor.

Remember to wear the Wii-mote wrist strap!

Also new to the Wii, but something that will be very familiar to long time nintendo gamers, comes NES Remix!

Now available on the Nintendo WiiU e-shop, NES Remix will take iconic and favorite scenes from classic NES games and give them a face lift by adding in new features, twists, and challenges. The game will allow you to race for the best times and scores on any of 16 included games and post online to compete with friends.

A collection to be proud of

Reinventing the classics is not new hat with Nintendo, or even reinventing reinventions as we see here with the remake of the Wii remake of Dr. Mario, the WiiU Dr. Luigi.

The game takes on the same old Dr. Mario game, but has new additional game modes and online capability as well as a few changes to the multiplayer game. The first new game mode allows for Dr. Luigi to use two pills at once instead of just one, dropping the pills in a “L”-shaped pattern.

With that sly look on his face, Dr. Luigi may kill those viruses by breaking their hearts.

The second new gameplay style included in Dr. Luigi is called “Virus Burster” mode, specifically revived from the Nintendo Brain Age series. This mode is particularly unique due to its integration of the WiiU Game Pad to get up close and personal with the game while a full verison plays simultaneously on your television.

You can have viruses in the palm of your hand!

Now, the moment we’ve all been waiting for, the game that will make of break the WiiU, the one and only Super Smash Bros!

Next year we will expect to see the WiiU and 3DS incarnation of Super Smash Bros to grace our game library. The lineup is ever growing and over this previous year announcements have been made that this game will include the Animal Crossing Default Villager, The Wii Sports Instructor, and Mega Man for the first time.

Today’s announcement brought another fighter into the lineup for this massive battle royale:

Two for the price of one!

Rosalina will be joining the roster and is joined by her star companion, Luma. The two characters are commonly known for appearing in the Wii games Super Mario 3D World where Rosalina was a playable character as well as appearing in Mario Kart Wii and Mario Kart 7.

And speaking of Mario Kart, the next installment is on its way in spring of 2014!

Mario Kart 8 will include brand new features, such as air ports with actively flying planes, crafts that float, fly or even stick to walls, and tracks with objects and pitfalls ready to crush, zap, or send your racer to a nasty fall. The racer roster is massive and includes many of the fan favorites from previous games in the series. This installment will include new vehicles and graphics that are surprisingly fluid and eye popping in comparison to everything else on the WiiU console.

Sonic ain't got nothin' on Mario with an ATV.

On a personal note, from a lover of all things Nintendo, I can say I was pleased with all the great news released in this year end Nintendo Direct and with what was shown, I’m hopeful and inspired to believe that Nintendo will retain its place in gaming.

all images courtesy of Nintendo Direct 12.18.2013

Nintendo Direct Announced for 12.18.2013

December 17th, 2013 Posted by News Archive, Nintendo, Platforms No Comment yet

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Nintendo announced today that tomorrow morning, December 18, 2013, at 9 a.m. EST the company will be hosting a Nintendo Direct video presentation. This time around, they’re going to be covering titles that will be launching for both the Wii U and 3DS in the Spring of 2014. Titles to be showcased in this presentation haven’t been named, but according to director Masahiro Sakurai, Super Smash Bros. won’t be a Spring 2014 title, so it’s safe to count that one out. Stay tuned to Quest Gaming Network for highlights from tomorrow’s Nintendo Direct!

Wii U for Me

December 6th, 2013 Posted by News Archive, Nintendo, Platforms No Comment yet

 

Recently, I decided to take a good look at the current generation of gaming consoles that are available. Naturally, the new stars are the Xbox One and PlayStation 4. Both of the newest consoles offer a limited selection of exclusive titles that aren’t available on any other platform, but the majority of titles that are in their library are also available on Steam for PC users. While I was interested in seeing what the console world had to offer, I am primarily a PC gamer. That being the case, I couldn’t find a solid reason to purchase either of the two systems. That caused me to expand my horizons, so to speak, and take a look at what Nintendo was up to. Around this time the Wii U was about a year old, so it had plenty of time to build up a library. The case with Nintendo was that the Wii U had the opposite going on for it. Most of the available titles were only able to be bought on the Wii U, and most of the crossover games have exclusive features not available in their PC counterpart. I decided right then that the Wii U was indeed worth my money; it offered something I couldn’t otherwise experience.

Let me paint the picture for you. It was the Wednesday before Black Friday and I started to look at the different sales papers for specials. The last three years I had purchased the last generation of consoles during Black Friday specials; I got a Wii in 2010, a PlayStation 3 in 2011, and the Xbox 360 in 2012. I went into this experience fully expecting to find a basic Wii U for under $200 for Black Friday. Unfortunately, I didn’t find any noteworthy sales. Most of the sales had included extra games or another controller; the price was unchanged. So, I decided that getting a $20-40 value wasn’t worth fighting the lines on Black Friday. I went to the local Best Buy that night and started searching for a Wii U. They had one bundle available with Super Mario U and Nintendo Land. After researching online, I had decided I wanted to get the limited edition Zelda Wind Waker HD Wii U. At that point, I left Best Buy and headed for the local GameStop, where I managed to secure the second-to-last one they had in stock.

After taking my Wii U home and investing several hours into Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker HD, I can firmly say that Nintendo definitely knows what they’re doing. They’ve taken a game that was great in it’s original form and made it even better. Enhancements over the original include features like HD graphics (obviously), Miiverse integration, and expanded content.  The Miiverse aspect actually allows for players who have a registered Nintendo Network account to write messages using the touchpad on the center of the controller, place them in a bottle, and toss them out to sea. Then, other players can actually find little bottles along the beaches with random messages that other players have sent. They even went through the trouble of adding a little ‘Spoilers’ tag so that you can turn off the ability to receive spoilers if you don’t want them.

I’m very happy with my Nintendo Wii U purchase. I feel as though I’m getting a solid experience that I couldn’t find elsewhere and I very much look forward to writing more about my hands on experiences over time. If you own a Wii U or are thinking about getting one, feel free to let me know what you think about the console in the comments!

 

Ubisoft Shows Off Anvil Next Engine

September 12th, 2013 Posted by News Archive, Opinion 2 comments

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As a gamer who constantly hungers for prettier and prettier graphics, I find it incredibly disappointing when high profile games are released with their tech completely ignored (I’m looking squarely at you, Battlefield 4 with your Frostbite 3). It is frustratingly rare that a studio openly talks about their tech and proudly shows it off to the public.

Fortunately, the folks up at Ubisoft seem to have heard my plea and released a video (bottom of page) showing off their massively overhauled Anvil Next engine . Keep in mind, these features really aren’t anything new for us PC gamers. However, this is a big leap forward for the consoles. Furthermore, because these consoles are essentially PCs (thank god for x86), these kind of features on consoles will ultimately benefit PCs the greatest.

So, just what are these these features?

Sea Engine

Black Flag will feature an all new sea engine, allowing physically based equations to simulate realistic wave behavior. On top of this, multiple shaders will provide necessary depth and color to water. This is absolutely necessary for a game taking place in the Caribbean. And yes, the water is tessellated.

Fully Dynamic Weather System

This is something that will surely take immersion to a whole new level. For example, rain is made up of thousands of particles – all of which are indepently lit!!! In addition to the rain, compute shaders are implemented to react to wind direction and intensity. Screen space reflections (basically real-time reflections) are also used to further provide realism by reflecting the surrounding environment. Finally, physically reactive volumetric fog lit in real-time (similar to that in Metro Last Light) helps drive that immersion home.

Real-time Global Illumination (finally!)

Finally, we get real-time global illumination (GI) in an AC game! GI allows light to behave in an incredibly realistic manner to help drive physically accurate lit environments. The GI in Black Flag allows for multiple bounces, which is critical for indirect lighting. What is indirect lighting? Basically, light bouncing off surfaces behaves based on the properties of the reflected material. Meaning, light bouncing off of a green ball will be slightly green, and not pure white. In addition to these real-time bounces, Anvil Next also features real-time GPU baked lighting. This allows the game to map light on static objects in order to reduce cost.

Dynamic Navmesh

Navmesh refers to a collection of polygons (usually a surface) that tells an actor (player or NPCs) where it can walk. This is absolutely critical for Black Flag’s ship boarding to work properly. Dynamic navemesh in Anvil Next takes objects (like 2 ships interlocked in battle) and dynamically creates navmesh which can then be traversed by the player and NPCs.

Fully Dynamic 3D Foliage

Finally, this last feature takes immersion to a level unattainable by previous AC titles. You can expect a massive increase in foliage density, creating a lush, vivid, world. In addition, the foliage fully reacts to weather and player interaction, making hiding in the undergrowth that more viable.

All of these features massively boost the gameplay and more importantly (to this author at least) the graphics. I am so incredibly happy Ubisoft released this footage detailing their visual advancements. I can’t wait to to go exploring this beautiful open world when Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag releases on October 29.

QGN Today: Saturday May 4, 2013

May 4th, 2013 Posted by News Archive, Nintendo, Platforms, Playstation No Comment yet

After two busy days, Friday was a bit of relaxer heading into the weekend in terms of big gaming news. We have just a couple items on the list, but of course if you feel I missed anything, let me know.

courtest of sleepingdogs.net

PS3

According to Friday’s edition of the PlayStation Blogcast, Sleeping Dogs will be free to PlayStation Plus subscribers beginning May 7.

Square Enix’s open-word cop drama was well received by critics and fans alike, and is available on PS3, Xbox 360, and PC.

 

courtesy of digitaltrends.com

 

Wii U

Don’t get too excited, as it’s not official, but CVG is reporting that a 3D Mario game may be available on Wii U this fall.

The CVG article states:

“Discussions with retail chains at executive level paint Nintendo’s 2013 release strategy as extensive, with the headline draw being a new 3D Mario game released on Wii U by October.

“Internal discussions have helped restore retailers’ faith in the console, which has been hit by errors since launch. Global Wii U sales have fallen two million units short of Nintendo’s original forecast.”

Wii U hasn’t sold as well as expected, so a new Mario game be just what the doctor ordered for Nintendo.

Today’s Takeaway

Today is another example of what makes Sony’s PlayStation Plus service so remarkable. With deep discounts and free top-tier games available every month, the 12-month $49.99 service is one of the best deals in gaming. If you’ve been considering signing up for it and just haven’t pulled the trigger, I would recommend you do it right away. With games like Sleeping Dogs, Infamous 2, Darksiders, Little Big Planet 2, Uncharted Golden Abyss (PS Vita), Gravity Rush (PS Vita), and much more available for free, you’ll get your money’s worth almost instantly.

There likely won’t be a column tomorrow unless major news breaks. See you next week!

‘Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag’ Announced

March 4th, 2013 Posted by News Archive, PC, Playstation 1 comment

AC4BF_PC_4PACKSHOTS_FINAL.indd(Source: PC Gamer)

Platform: PC | PS4 | PS3 | Xbox 360 | Wii U
Release Date: Q4 2013

In a move surprising almost no one, Ubisoft (officially) revealed their latest entry into the Assassin’s Creed franchise this morning.  Titled Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag, this numbered iteration of the series takes the player to the first half of the 18th century.  You, the player, will take control of Edward Kenway, father to Haytham Kenway and grandfather to Connor Kenway – the protagonist in Assassin’s Creed III.

The new Kenway appears to possess the charisma of Ezio from AC II, but also some inward, selfish traits as well – one that this author greatly appreciates.  As you have no doubt guessed, Black Flag will be dealing with pirates along the Caribbean.  No, not the Johnny Depp version, but a more historically accurate, grittier version.  Again, this grittier, more historical portrayal is something that I deeply appreciate.

According to this IGN post, Game Director Ashraf Ismail says that Black Flag offers some truly amazing naval combat as well as a massive world featuring over 50 locations.  He wants the player to be able to look at a distant beach through his spyglass, jump off his ship, and swim to that beach – with no loading.  Now that’s my cup of tea!

Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag is due out this fall for PC, PS4(!!), PS3, Xbox 360, and Wii U.  Check out the trailer below and remember, for all your gaming needs, keep it locked here to QGN!

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