Metal Gear Solid: Nostalgia

I recently downloaded the Metal Gear Solid 2 & 3 collection that has been added to the Xbox Game Pass. My love of these two games stems back over a decade to me being 12 or 13, playing these games religiously and determined to beat them. Picking them up again all these years later I expected to be thrown out by the graphics and controls, but I knew the story would get me back. 

The controls did completely throw me. They’re so unique to MGS to me that having not played anything like it for years they don’t feel natural at all. Shooting is done with a face button, not the trigger or bumper buttons like everyone has grown accustomed to. The movement is bizarre, you can run, or you can crawl. There is no crouched movement in either game. You can crouch, but it’s only a static pose. It’s bizarre.

After some teething problems, I was back into the stealth mechanics. What I didn’t remember was being so bad at any kind of fight. There is a real sense of fear here about being caught that just doesn’t exist in the latest game. Metal Gear Solid 5 allowed you to play stealthy, but also gave you the weapons, and more importantly the controls, to take on an army. There is no such capability here. You have a couple of seconds between being spotted and the guards calling in reinforcements. Once that happens, you’re toast unless you get a little bit lucky and can bottleneck the enemies.

Once I got used to the controls, I sped through the “Tanker” mission on MGS2 and then enjoyed the 25-minute-long cut scene between that and the next time I had control of the game. Sometimes I wonder if Hideo Kojima just wanted to make a high budget TV show but couldn’t get funding so turned the huge sprawling story into a game series. There is so much lore and story in this world it rivals any franchise in complexity. It doesn’t always make sense, but there is a core story that is equal parts genius and crazy.

Getting onto the Big Shell and taking over as Draco Malfoy’s hot cousin Raiden, I started to really get that nostalgic hit. The colours and the environment of the Big Shell are burned into my brain from the countless hours I spent trying to figure out where to go. This is a game from a time when googling something was slightly more complicated than pulling out your phone. In fact, I don’t think I even had a mobile capable of that at 12. Polyphonic ring tones were the big thing.

It’s a badge of honour that I completed these two games in my early teens with no help from a guide or a website. It was all me, and that is something I don’t know if I will ever do again. Nowadays if I get lost in a game, I can find out exactly where I need to go within seconds. I remember spending what 2-3 hours was probably trying to find a way to navigate around the map. It probably wasn’t that hard, but it took me time. I learnt the ins and outs of every strut, every bridge, every section had its own secrets and I stumbled around and learnt them all. By the time I got to the later parts of the game I could do anything with Raiden. The thought of going up against any of the boss fights now terrifies me.

To shoot you must hold X, Press RB to manually aim and then let go of X to let the bullet fly. I used to do this with deadly accuracy in seconds. Now I press x, I hold RB and instantly I am panicking aiming around like a madman and almost certainly losing track of where I am aiming. I am sure if I continue playing, I will get back to where I was, but I am not sure I have the patience in the modern gaming world.

My point here, as much as I ever really have a point, is that I don’t know if we will ever experience this type of purely Stealth based game again. The controls feel like they’re intentionally restrictive when it comes to combat, to force you down a path to play a certain way. That kind of thing feels alien in today’s world of player choice and agency.

I am normally all for games giving you choice. Letting you play “Your way” is a pretty standard thing for the big games now, even games like Uncharted and God of War give you the options to be stealthy or to use difference combat styles. Spiderman lets you be stealthy or just dive into a fight. Even Call of Duty and other first-person shooters now encourage you to find your own load out and make it work for you. Metal Gear Solid 2 and 3 have no such options. You’re going to be stealthy or you’re going to be dying a lot.

I wonder what this would look like if it was made today. A game completely dedicated to stealth, and where the combat is so difficult that you actually care about avoiding it aside from horror games. I am sure there is a blind spot and there are games where this happens, for instance Horizon Zero Dawn gave me a sense of fear when sneaking past the larger enemies. Once I was confident though I was running up to their face and slapping down every creature I found.

Will I play through all the two games? Certainly not.

Am I glad I spent the time indulging in the nostalgia of them anyway? Definitely.

ChAzJS

 

Single Player Cinema

It’s been a slow news week so far in terms of entertainment, which means I have reverted to just sitting and waiting patiently for Borderlands 3 to arrive in 10 days’ time. There is a load of films in cinema’s I need to see but have missed the boat on a lot of them. I may have to start going alone which presents its own problems. 

It’s an odd experience, but essentially, you’re in a dark room watching a film, and whether or not someone you know is with you doesn’t change the actual viewing experience. It just changes the before and after. The only film I have ever been to see on my own is Mad Max Fury Road a few years ago and I really enjoyed it.

I am not sure why I feel a little uncomfortable going by myself, maybe if I go more it will normalise it for me and I can then fulfil my stupid dream of seeing every film that comes out. In fact, that is the only way I would ever be able to see every film. In fact, I might even go tonight by myself, just for the hell of it.

The lack of movie going recently has meant my main entertainment has come from streaming services, and re-watching Brooklyn 99 or my other love, gaming. Apex, Rocket League, Siege, FIFA, and to an extent, The Division 2 are all games I have been regularly jumping between. I am screaming out for a story based single player game though, the kind of which are not on the horizon anytime soon. The upcoming releases are Borderlands 3, FIFA 20, Ghost Recon Breakpoint and Call of Duty: Modern Warfare: Not that one this is a new one.

All of those have some single player element to them, but there is no single player game until the 25th October when The Outer Worlds finally drops the same day as the previously mentioned COD:MW:NTO. I will no doubt play all these games but honestly there is a big problem that I think every game is going to have for me in the next 7 months until April 2020. That problem is that none of the games I just mentioned are Cyberpunk 2077.

I have never been this intrigued by a game on so many levels. The world that Witcher Developer CD Project Red is making looks so immersive and diverse I don’t think we have seen anything like it before. The same goes for everything from the graphics, the art style, the customisation options and the gameplay itself. It’s a weird time when this is the biggest game and the news about it dominates the zeitgeist when it hits, but so few people have played the game and know what it feels like. Everyone has just kind of agreed and accepted that this is the best game of the generation and honestly, I don’t know how anyone can argue from what we have seen. Maybe the game will come out and feel terrible, but I just don’t think that will happen.

Until then we must make do with what are hopefully some very good games starting with Borderlands 3 next week. I don’t know why but now my excitement for that has died down. It may be because every time Gearbox are in the news it’s a 50/50 chance it’s because their leader Randy Pitchford has done something moronic again and I am not pleased to be giving that man my money. I know people say vote with your wallets on these things and don’t buy the game he is associated with, but the issue is that Borderlands 3 isn’t made by him, it’s made by a brilliant team of developers who deserve the support.

A slow news day means a shorter blog today, but hopefully something big drops soon or I might revert to ranting about Arsenal and how Harry Kane is an Olympic class diver.

Thanks for reading!

ChAzJS

 

 

Future stuff.

Another day, another thing for the internet to be a little mad about. In this case it’s about a video game set in the future when humans are transforming their bodies using technology. The game in question, Cyberpunk 2077, has revealed that you will not be able to pick a “Male” or a “Female” character at the start of the game. 

At first, maybe this sounds a little odd. When you think about it a little more and especially in the context of the world that Cyberpunk 2077 is set in, it makes perfect sense. They are making a character creator within their game that allows you to mix and match body type’s and voices to make the character exactly how you want them. So, you can make a 7-foot, huge behemoth of a man, and have him sound like a girl. It will probably lead to some very interesting creations in the game, with so much freedom, but it can also allow for you to just make a woman or man if that’s how you want to play it.

The game is based on an old-style tabletop role playing game, meaning normally you would create a character to represent you in that format of the game. With this game they are clearly trying to allow you to go to that same level of extreme detail and make the exact character you want. If you want to make an exact recreation of yourself in this world, you can now do that whatever gender you identify as. As far as I can tell, it only makes the game more inclusive, and that’s no bad thing.

Cyberpunk 2077 is probably my most anticipated game since Grand Theft Auto 5. The games developer, CD Project Red, have shown in recent years they are excellent at huge open worlds with interesting characters. The Witcher 3 was an incredible feat, widely acknowledged as one of the best games of this generation. I played it for 30-something hours, and I enjoyed it, but it didn’t quite grab me enough to warrant the hundreds of hours required to really get through the bulk of that games content. With Cyberpunk, they have completely got me. I have never seen a game even attempt the things they are doing with their world building, and the futuristic, Blade Runner inspired future they are creating looks like it’s going to be a load of fun to play around in.

From one fictional future to another (sort of), the latest Terminator: Dark Fate trailer dropped over night and I am not sure how to feel about this film. It looks fun, but the Terminator franchise has a mixed history and in recent years it’s been failure after failure for me. The storyline’s have become too convoluted and I am not sure anyone is sure where things were left. This film appears to be ignoring the majority of the films and just going with the comprehensible story from T1 and T2. Terminator 2 stands out to me as the best film in the franchise by so far that it’s makes the later films irrelevant. That film is one of the best movies ever made, and it still holds up today.

The decision for the franchise to return to that storyline and redevelop it from there should make for an interesting movie. Dark Fate looks good, however so did a lot of the other sequels we have had. I remember seeing trailers for T3 and thinking it’s going to be the best movie ever. I was only 9 or 10 at the time, but still. It looked so cool. Of course, what we got was odd at best, and although it has its moments it never for a second felt like it was fit to follow the greatness of Terminator 2.

My hope is that Dark Fate can take us back to that feel. I am not saying it needs to be better than its predecessor’s to be worthwhile, of course not, but it needs to be a fun ride and have some cool action sequences, whilst giving us a healthy dose of nostalgia. It’s not very often a franchise can survive three stumbles, so for me this is the final chance for a Terminator sequel. If this doesn’t work, I can see them scrapping this world, and leaving it 5 years before rebooting the franchise with The Rock.

After writing that thinking it’s ridiculous, maybe I am onto something. It also reminds me I really need to get to a cinema soon and check out Hobbs and Shaw, that movie looks like a ridiculous film, and I am all about it.

Also why has there not been a Back to the Future film in my lifetime. Back to the Future 3 came out in 1990. We are approaching 30 years and there’s not movement on a sequel with Marty McFly’s kids? Or a film where a couple of late teens today find the Delorean in some old shed, and then when they floor it they end up in 1995 and their parents are walking about in shell suits and Friends is a relevant show and not super awkward to watch like it is now.

Hollywood are sleeping on this one.

Anyway, that’s all from me for today, have a great weekend! Unless you’re a spurs fan in which case I hope we (Arsenal) absolutely batter your team.

‘Til Monday!

ChAzJS

This Week In Gaming – 01.06.19

Finally This Week in Gaming is back and its new day (Saturday rather than Friday) means I can get ALL of the week’s news to you without missing Friday’s stories. This week was a packed one for three huge games, Activision shooter Call of Duty, Crystal Dynamic’s Avengers game and Metal Gear creator Hideo Kojima’s Death Stranding in more detail than ever before. All the information on those three and the usual waffle below.

What I’ve been playing

I spent most of the past month not really playing any games. The lack of new releases that interest around this time of year left me with nothing driving me to any game, and I ended up playing a bit of Football Manager and the odd game of Apex. That was until me and a few friends decided to dive back into Ghost Recon Wildlands.

Ghost Recon was in the news a few weeks back for the next instalment that was announced for later this year, and that sparked me back into thinking about the countless hours I have spent in the Wildlands world, systematically clearing bases, or at least attempting to before someone drops the ball and we have to fight through it the hard way.

It’s far from a perfect game, but the gameplay is fun with friends, its challenging, and it’s filled a hole in the calendar. With nothing major on the horizon for me I am growing increasingly tempted to dive into the Witcher or God Of War again, with the former never really grabbing me and the latter an absolute masterpiece. Either that or I will just be on football manager screaming at my laptop as my youth team striker misses a chance to put Arsenal top of the league.

Call of Duty comes back to today

Rumours started early in the week that the next instalment in the massively popular Call of Duty franchise was going to be titled “Call of Duty: Modern Warfare”. Not to be confused with “Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare” which is the game we got way back in November 2007. That right, 2007. It has really been that long since that game. To be honest, the name of the game doesn’t really matter, its Call of Duty. It will sell well, but this year the developers have decided to react to the slowly declining sales figures by rebooting the most popular sub-franchise in the CoD stable.

The trailer is intriguing, and seems to show series favourite Captain Price being all Captain Pricey, which I am very happy to see. The trailer did get me interested, and then on Thursday the embargo lifted for E3’s Judges Week, and Kinda Funny’s Greg Miller went through what was shown to the press at the pre-E3 Showcase event. Go and watch the video on YouTube for the full details, but he does go into some spoilers for what was shown that I will leave out here. Greg talked about a change of approach when it comes to the campaign, that right we are getting a full campaign, and he spoke about scenes that sounds like they will be up there with the “No Russian” level from back in the day.

In fact, this new direction is incredibly exciting and it sounds like the touch of some of the Ex-Naughty Dog developers that are working on the game is bearing some tasty looking fruit. The old Call of Duty campaigns were excellent, but over time became a mess and the consistent story told over the first few games eventually meandered into a bland mess.

All of this single player goodness is wonderful, but perhaps the most shocking news is that the game will have no season pass. The developers will be dropping updates for the game for free, with new maps and other gameplay items being added throughout the games life cycle. In an industry that has historically ignored its fans; the recent trend of listening to what people want is really refreshing, led by Epic games and Fortnite. The game releases October 25th, and for the first time in a long time, I am really excited for the next Call of Duty.

Death Stranding: Kojima Unleashed

Hideo Kojima created my favourite gaming franchise. Metal Gear Solid is an unbelievable, crazy, frankly ridiculous world and the stories are almost impossible to comprehend without hours of googling and reading Wikipedia stories. But I have done the hard time, and to me it was an incredible journey that got cut frustratingly short. The Konami/Kojima split was nasty, but Konami’s loss has been Sony’s gain.

They took the madman and let him out of his straight jacket. Death Stranding looks, from the nearly 9 minute long release date trailer, like something only Hideo Kojima could possibly come up with. There are babies in Jars, ghostly apparitions, walking, Ladders that can extend themselves in seconds, more walking, a cool looking bike, and a cast of famous faces that could combine to make one incredible Hollywood blockbuster film. Mads Mikkelsen Norman Reedus and Guillermo Del Toro are the most recognisable faces, and those of you who are big industry fans will know Troy Baker, the man behind a thousand of your favourite video game characters.

I couldn’t begin to tell you what the game is about, or what the gameplay is going to feel like, but I know for sure I am 100% sold on this. I will buy it day one, and let the insane journey commence. It’s with a heavy heart that I say goodbye to Metal Gear Solid, but this new, intriguing world that Kojima has shown us looks like it could be something really incredible. Or it could be a jumbled mess, who knows! It releases on November 8th a lot sooner than I expected.

The Avengers 

There have been rumours about the mysterious “Avengers project” that Square Enix have been working away on for a while now. Well developer Crystal Dynamics (who made the recent Tomb Raider games) have unveiled the official title and a few details about the gameplay have been leaked. The title, rather predictably, is Marvel’s Avengers.

There is no confirmation on gameplay yet, but the leaks suggest a game that is an action adventure game where you can choose an avenger and use them throughout the game and possibly improve their skills. I have seen it described as “Tomb Raider meets Destiny” and that is a really intriguing thought.

I have no idea what to expect really, but a Destiny style live service game where you play as your favourite Avengers is an incredible idea. If they package that in with a kick ass story we could be onto something special. My worry is that due to the wide range of abilities between the Avengers characters, none of them will feel quite as good as they should. Spiderman felt perfect in Marvels Spiderman last year because they spent so much time getting him right, has that same attention to detail and feel gone into every one of the Avengers characters? Will Thor’s hammer feel as good as Kratos’ Axe? Will Iron Man’s suit feel as mobile as Anthem’s Javelins? Will Hawkeye’s Bow be as fun as Aloy’s from Horizon? The truth is nobody will be playing as Hawkeye so that last one doesn’t matter. But the rest does, and if they don’t get it all right it will struggle to maintain a player base for very long at all.

More will be revealed about all 3 of these games at the upcoming E3 show starting 10th June, all the news and my reaction to it will be posted on here over that week, so keep your eyes peeled!

Until next time, thanks for reading.

Chaz

 

This Week In Gaming – 05.04.2019

This week Jason Schreier, the best journalist in the gaming industry drops a huge story about Anthem, Borderlands 3 gets a release date and the next Assassins Creed may have been leaked in The Division 2. All that plus the usual waffle this week in gaming. 

What I’ve been playing

I’ve had a busy week, so I have only really played more of the same. Apex and The Division 2 continue to dominate my gaming time, although I am getting the hankering for a single player experience. With Days Gone just weeks away I am trying to hold out for that, but some of my old favourites are calling me.

All the Borderlands news has made me tempted to jump into Borderlands 2, but on top of that my all time no.1 favourite game of all time Skyrim is sitting there on my Xbox and PS4 dashboards, tempting me to dive back in and replay through all of the stories I know back to front. I think I can hold out for another few weeks, with the satisfaction of those sweet sweet Apex Legends Wins and the satisfying grind of The Division sustaining me.

I look forward to updating you on my 500th Skyrim play through next week.

Kotaku Anthem Article

If you are reading this you probably have somewhat of an interest in the Gaming industry. If you do, I suggest you follow Jason Schreier on Twitter. He is the top journalist in the gaming industry in my opinion. His latest excellent story comes from Anthem developer BioWare, and 19(!) anonymous sources who detailed the troubled development of EA’s much maligned game.

I encourage you all to go over to Kotaku.com and read the article, but the general story is that the game suffered a very confusing production process, with several decisions not being made until as late as 12 months before the games release. These important creative decisions combined with the problem that EA’s game engine Frostbite brought with it made the game a development nightmare. The issues are plentiful, but not particularly new to the triple A game development world. The story sheds light on the conditions that people are working in within the games industry and that sometimes the heads of these companies need to take a step back and look at the bigger picture.

BioWare is a studio that has the potential to produce the very best games we see. They created the excellent Mass Effect series as well as the Star Wars epic Knights of the Old Republic. They then saw more success with Dragon Age Inquisition, which insiders cite as the worst thing that could have happened due to the incredible crunch the studio went through to produce the Dragon Age game.

Crunch, if you don’t know, is the name for the big push developers make to finish a game by a deadline. It’s been a part of the games development cycle for years, but over the last few years we have been seeing a swell of discontent towards this process, as it really does have an effect on the mental health and happiness of the people who make the games we love so much. It’s a huge issue, and I personally think games should be given as much time as they need to be complete. If stories like this lead to better decisions from the people in positions of power at the big companies than I am all for it!

Borderlands 3 Release Date & incredible box art unveiled

With last weeks PAX event confirming the existence of Borderlands 3, 4 days later Gearbox have revealed that the game will be in people’s hands on 13th September 2019. Just 5 months away. This is excellent news to me, and I am glad they are going with the unveil and quick release approach being my preferred method, against the “Tease a game for years” method adopted by games like Last of Us 2 and Death Stranding.

They dropped a new trailer online, which showed off the characters and the villains, along with more shots of the environments we will be seeing in the game. Borderlands 3 looks like it’s going  to be by far the biggest one yet, and Guns with Legs certainly does seem cool, but I am not sure we are getting anything really new aside from the planets and the characters. My only question is; Is that Enough?

I love the borderlands games, they’re great fun and at the time were groundbreaking for the Co-op RPG genre. However so far Borderlands 3 seems like they are just giving us another Borderlands 2, but with more guns and more locations. To me, that kind of update is DLC level content not enough for an entire game.

I am assuming there are going to be a lot of small touches that will make the game smoother and more diverse in terms of class choices and gameplay styles, but so far we haven’t seen anything that’s made me really think this is a PS4/Xbox One game rather than a PS3 or 360 one. There is a gameplay demo coming in a few weeks so lets hope we see something then that wows me a little.

Assassins Creed Ragnarok

What a name that would be. One of my personal favourite games of 2018 was Assassins Creed Odyssey, and I have been toying with going back to the game regularly to see whats ben updated. Ubisoft confirmed there wouldn’t be an immediate follow-up, as they were focused on supporting the world they’d built with that excellent game.

Eagle eyed gamers have spotted posters in The Division 2 picturing a Viking holding a globe like ornament. Nothing in that right? except when you zoom in you can see the ornament is the infamous Apple of Eden from the Assassins Creed franchise. This poster along with concept art leaks with the title “Assassins Creed Ragnarok” attached to them have led to the assumption that the next game in the time hopping series will be set in the norse world of the Vikings.

On paper, it all makes sense. They are some of the most famous sailors in history, so the boat mechanics perfected in the last few AC titles are easily implemented, and the norse mythology is some of the most epic and ripe for storytelling we have available to us. On top of that, they were famously savage fighters, meaning the hack and slash gameplay perfectly suits the style of that time period. Comparisons may be made to the masterpiece that was God of War, but I think they are to wildly different games. AC has evolved into a sprawling, multi layered, branching story role-playing game set in a huge world with a hundred of hours of gameplay there for the audience’s enjoyment. God Of War is a much smaller story and I expect the follow-up to be a similarly intimate in nature.

I really hope this turns out to be true, but time will tell. Ubisoft have a history of hinting at future games in their current releases, so I think this has a pretty good chance of coming true.

Until next week!

 

 

Google Stadia changes the Game

19th March 2019 will go down in history as the day Google arrived in the gaming industry. Google held their GDC press conference where they unveiled Stadia. It is their new video game streaming platform. I will try to go over the main points but I urge anyone who has a keen interest in the games industry to go and watch the highlights of the conference on YouTube.

Stadia allows you to play top end video games using any screen, and using any controller, all via a Google Chrome browser. There is no need for a box, you can play everything regardless of the processing power you have available to you. Everything is done in Googles own data centres, and then streamed to your device.

At launch, which is yet to be confirmed exactly but will be 2019, Stadia will be able to stream at 4k, with HDR at 60 fps. If that’s gibberish to you, that is the best picture the current top end TV’s can handle. Google has built the data centres so that they can keep up with technology as it advances, meaning when 8k and  120 fps becomes the accepted level, Stadia will be able to get there with no hassle for any consumers.

All of these stats might not mean much to you, but to put it in terms that make a little more sense, one single instance of Stadia is more powerful than an Xbox One X and a PS4 Pro combined. That is impressive on its own, but Stadia does not just allow you to access one instance at a time. If the game requires it, there will be several processing units dedicated to your game, meaning the processing power is essentially limitless.

Developer Heaven

This news must be absolute heaven for developers, as it now means they no longer have to scale their ideas to the consoles they are being released on. To date this has never been the case, even PC gaming is limited by the most powerful PC’s as they run on one single processing unit. Right now we are pretty much at the limit of what video games can be on console with things like The Last Of Us 2 and Red Dead Redemption 2 the top end of what is achievable on these platforms.

On top of all the power, google announced a slate of tools for devs to utilise Stadia as best they can. I am not versed enough in the developer world to know what the applications of these services will be but by all accounts they seem incredible. It’s made me incredibly excited for where games are heading. Streaming technology allows devs to make games that can allow for 100s of people to play simultaneously. The example they used on stage was taking battle royale games like Fortnite from 100 players up to 1000, which is an insane idea.

Sharing is Caring

On their new controller is a share button, which is nothing particularly new. The special thing Google have is that they own YouTube. The share button now allows you to share your game as it’s being played around the world to anyone and everyone. This could change the way people watch video games, and must be a huge issue for streaming platform Twitch.

You can also share moments in games, and your friends will be able to jump straight in and play that exact game through their own device. It’s hard to make much sense of the amount of applications this technology has and it’s all part of this new platform.

One idea that really showed how innovative Google are being with this was the ability to jump into a game with your favourite youtuber from the channel as you watch them. If that doesn’t make sense, imagine you are watching a youtuber laying Apex Legends, you can click on “Join game” and it will put you in a queue to join into the exact game you are watching. That opens up a whole new world of interaction with content creators on YouTube and other platforms.

The future is here

Stadia is being built to give developers the tools to make anything they want, and let gamers play it however they want. Watching the stream felt odd, and the ramifications of this announcement will be felt around the entire games industry. Stadia Games and Entertainment is their own first party, focussed on making Stadia exclusive games, and that’s another example of how google are approaching this.

Microsoft and Sony will have been watching this conference and from all reports I know of, they will have been a tad worried about the new competitor on the block. Consoles are such a key part of the gaming industry right now, and have been for such a long time. Google today showed us a glimpse at a new world. A world without boxes. There’s no price point, and it requires a good internet connection but they are the only barriers to entry we are yet to find out about. They promised more will be revealed this summer, and I will bring you all the news on the site when it happens.

Stadia launches this year. Over to you Microsoft and Sony. Google has arrived in the games industry.

This Week In Gaming – 08.03.2019

This week we have Microsoft cutting out their discs, EA announcing no conference during E3,  and the new PS4 firmware update that allows you to play on your mobile. That and all my usual waffle about what I have been playing this week below. 

What I’ve been playing

This week has been a movie week for me, and therefore games have taken a bit of a back seat. I did however manage to finish off Anthem, and get my first win on Apex Legends. Two games I have written a lot about over the last few weeks. Apex continues to be a game I want to play more of, whilst Anthem is very much the opposite.

Anthem sits in a very weird place for me right now. I do like the game, in fact I like every part of the game. When combined though, something just doesn’t feel right. I am left with the opinion Anthem is a really good BioWare, single player game, with the multiplayer looter shooter components strapped onto the game to make it into a live service. It has great characters, but if you’re playing through the game with friends in your party you will miss the majority of the best moments in the game.

Enough about the games I played, and onto the news this week!

Microsoft leaving their Discs out

Brad Sams at Thurrott.com (full story here) has revealed Microsoft’s plans to release a new Xbox one which will be the first of the major consoles to launch without a disc drive. The new all digital Xbox is being released with the aim to lower the barrier to entry for customers into the Xbox ecosystem. This news is the latest in a number of customer friendly stories that have come out around the Xbox system in the last few weeks, and I for one think the signs are positive, as I have mentioned before.

A digital downloads only console is another sign for me that Xbox is keen to really shock the industry with its next platform. If they are planning for Xbox Scarlett to be available as a service, it will of course not have a disk drive. This new level of Xbox could serve as the gateway drug for a lot of people into this new world, a world without having to get up off my butt and find the case for the game I want to play.

rumours suggest the targeted price for the digital Xbox is less than $200 (Post Brexit that’s just a cool £30,000.00) so it seems the idea is to get this xbox in as many homes as possible and get their foot in the door before the next-gen. The question I have is whether or not this move is a little late in the day. By now, if you are a PS4 only owner you are heavily invested in their system, and unlikely to want to change. The low price point may be enough to provoke one or two impulse buys, but I just cannot see this making a dent in Sony’s stranglehold over Xbox when it comes to active consoles on the market.

That thinking does lead me to believe that once again Microsoft are playing the long game, possibly taking a hit financially here, to gain favor with the public and increase their public image with the next console war on the horizon. They do not have an exclusive game to attract fans like Uncharted or Spiderman, but they have a Game Pass which will give Digital only Xbox owners a huge range of games to play from day one. My guess would be each digital console will come with a few months Game Pass included, just to get people’s toes in the water of the Xbox well.

E3 weekend loses another conference

E3 was the major event of the year in the gaming industry up until just a few years ago. It’s one of those events that I have followed and enjoyed all of the news and content that comes out of the show. Over the last few years the event has seen its guest list of companies throwing press conference has steadily shrunk, down to the point where now E3 is just another event, along with the PAX events and even San Diego Comic Con. It is still the biggest event of its kind, but the gulf has largely disappeared.

EA left the official show a few years ago, and launched their EA Play weekend to coincide with the week of E3. Each of these events to date has featured a key press conference, with game announcements, trailers and unveilings presented in the same manner Sony and Microsoft have done for years. They have now decided to pivot to streaming events for different games, a move which I think only EA could pull off.

EA as a publisher boast one of the widest ranges of games on its roster. Alongside franchises like Battlefield, Anthem and Apex Legends, they have the entire flock of EA Sports titles like FIFA and Madden. This huge range means a more focused stream approach should allow viewers to just tune in and watch a good showcase of the games they are most interested in. At present, fans of battlefield have to sit through a whole EA sports section, which could be featuring games they have no interest in.

It opens up the old debate of “Does the industry still need E3?” and for me the answer is a resounding Yes. The show is a focal point for news announcements as well as a place we can see the full diverse range of video games. Here’s hoping nobody else pulls out of the show.

PS4 Firmware Update might hint at their plans

Now this story is almost entirely speculation on my part, but I had a lot of fun last week with the Xbox predictions, so here is my thoughts on the direction Sony might be heading with their next console. The most recent firmware update to the PS4 allowed for access from iOS devices. Now this has been possible for a number of years on Sony’s own mobile devices, but this is the first time we’ve seen PS4 games accessible outside of their own ecosystem as far as I know.

What’s interesting about this to me is the fact that some people at Sony are still working on mobile integration even this close to the announcement of the next console. Could Sony’s next console be able to be played remotely from anywhere? I doubt it, but why on earth are people there still working away on this type of unrequested feature if the technology behind it wasn’t going to aid with their next console. I have never seen much fanfare around playing games via mobile. As our phones become more and more like small PCs, the possibility of me actually enjoying a big blockbuster game via a mobile is increasingly likely.

There are absolutely no details of the PS5, and Sony has no reason to rush it out. I am, as you may have been able to tell, absorbed by the mind games both companies are playing. Right now Xbox has all the work to do, and they seem determined to do it. Sony is in the dangerous position of being on top of the mountain, with everything to lose. The next round of consoles may be the last we ever see, with a digital only world fast approaching, so the winner of this final bout between Xbox and PlayStation may find themselves as the leader of the pack for a long time.

And of course, Nintendo will always Nintendo.

Anthem – Review So Far..

EA owned studio BioWare have a long history of single player, character driven, branching story path games. Mass Effect is well-known as one of the most beloved series in the gaming world, and that studio’s new property is a very enticing prospect for a lot of fans. However, being the first “Live service” type game BioWare have attempted, there is a lot of skepticism over how well everything will work and whether EA have affected the choices being made by the developer too much from above. 

As a big Destiny player, I went into Anthem with my expectations in what I feel is the right place. I know this game has micro transactions, but they are all cosmetic, and the suits themselves are so customisable in terms of pain jobs that the options really don’t matter very much. I also went in knowing there would likely be connection issues and game bugs, as well as little quality of life defects which were all present in the first Destiny, and still present in Destiny 2. These types of games are sold as a platform for players to enjoy for a long time, not just one 20-30 hour play through.

That being said, I still had pretty high expectations when it gets down to the feel of the gameplay, the production design of the world, the lore, the characters, and the story. I played a few hours of the demo a couple of weekends ago and the flying felt fun, but the small slice I got was tough to judge thoroughly on the gameplay. The world certainly looks beautiful, with lush jungles, stunning waterfalls and cool looking javelins to look at as they zip around the environments. But does it all click together?

Javelin. 

The games core gameplay is designed around 4 different classes, each with different abilities. At the time of writing, I have used the Storm and the Ranger, with one the Colossus unlocked. 2 of my friends have been using the Interceptor and the Colussus, so I am aware of their abilities, but I stuck mostly with the Storm class, as they suit the way I want to play.

With different elemental abilities, varying from shooting ice or fire at enemies to calling down lightning strikes, Anthem certainly does a good job of making you feel powerful. Despite there being a wide variety of guns in the game, I found they was almost a secondary weapon. The abilities refresh quickly, and there is a deeper than it first appears combo system at play during the encounters. Mastering these combos is never really explained, but as I play more I am beginning to get a feel for how you are supposed to play the abilities in tandem, not just with your other abilities, but with other players.

Being with other players is a key part of Anthem’s design, as the game regularly warns you should you choose to set your privacy settings to private and play missions solo. The game does not scale things down for you, you’re on your own and you have to do everything the usual 4 person squad would have to do. This makes some levels impossible, like the challenging Strongholds. I got over my desire to solo every mission with Destiny, so it didn’t bother me having 3 other people jump in on missions in Anthem.

Javel-out

Anthem’s hub world, similar to the divisions home base, is a single player area for players to walk around, interact with characters and pick up missions. All of this is done in first person, which to me eliminates the point of you picking a character model right at the beginning of the game. It’s most similar to the ship in Mass Effect Andromeda, with a range of characters in their positions, ready to talk to you about any number of things. One of the things it doesn’t do that Mass Effect did so brilliantly, is make all of them interesting. There are 1 or 2 dull characters on your ship in mass effect, beyond that they’re all engaging, unique, interesting characters.

So far in my time with anthem, the reverse is true. There are a couple of interesting characters, but only a couple who I am really invested in. It’s not as if the voice acting and animations are great, they all are as good as you will see in any big video game these days. My problem is that the game thrusts a few characters at you and kind of expects you to understand references they make which I feel will only make sense if you read all of the entries in your bio.

With a few characters, like Owen and Faye, they deliver some intriguing characters who actually seem to have an arc of their own. Their dynamic, and their relationships with your character make for some of the more entertaining cutscenes and I hope a few other characters develop in the same way they did in my play through.

Teething Issues

Turning on Anthem for the first time this weekend, I expected to run into a lot more game crashing bugs and glitches, but I have only had to reset the game one time, and I have only disconnected two or three times. All pretty impressive for a game that struggled in its beta/demo, but then they will argue that is exactly why they did the beta in the first place.

What Anthem does struggle with is a few little choices that were made when it comes to the menus and end screens of missions. Changing guns is something you do regularly in these games, and yet Anthem not only hides such a trivial task behind 2 loading screens, it also restricts you to only using the guns and abilities you depart with. Forget to equip that new assault rifle or new Ice attack? You will need to end your expedition, sit through the loading screens to get back to Fort Tarsis, then another one to get to the Forge menu.

The end of each expedition is a cumbersome affair. You get your experience points and rewards laid out, all in comparison to the rest of your squad, and then you’re given the choice of Fort Tarsis, The forge, or the Launch Bay. The one option missing from this is the ability to jump straight into another mission. Regardless of how short the mission was, you have to go back and then redeploy from the home base every time. This kind of thing is something that I can see them adding in with a substantial patch in a few weeks or months, but I do wonder how this has been overlooked.

At times these little quality of life touches in a game are overlooked, but when they are not there, you feel like something isn’t quite right. The comparison is being made a lot between this and Destiny, but I do feel right now they are unfair. At launch, Destiny 1 and 2 were vastly different. Right now, Destiny 2 is a well oiled machine, and its audience know exactly what the drill is. Anthem needs time to find its audience, and it needs support from BioWare and EA to make sure they listen to the fans and make the right choices.

So my thoughts so far…

Anthem is a game that feels a little under baked to me. There are some excellent ideas here, and I seriously think in a few months with the support of BioWare we could be looking at a really special game. The Stronghold levels are excellently designed, mini raid levels that are rewarding and still challenging. It’s those missions I want to see more of. I am about 20 hours in, at level 20 and I am pretty sure I have plenty of game left between now and the end of the main story. I have heard the end game content in Anthem is great, which bodes well. Right now it’s pretty much exactly what I expected from the game, but for people not experienced with Live Service games like this or Destiny, it may feel a little weird to you.

It’s an odd thing that only video games as an entertainment medium can deliver, but Anthem is essentially in its infant steps right now. Give it some time, and I think this could become something be great.

Played on Xbox One

Gamertag: ChAzJS

 

 

My Most Anticipated Games of 2019

Gaming is fantastic. If you’re not into it, get into it. There is a game for you, whether it’s a 2D platformer in the vain of the old Super Mario and Castlevania, or a sprawling open world like The Witcher 3. It’s the biggest entertainment industry in the world, and here are my most anticipated games coming in 2019. 

Anthem – 22nd February 

BioWare have made some of the most popular games of the last 20 years, from Star Wars The Old Republic to Mass Effect. Anthem is their newest idea, looking like a mixture of Iron Man suits and Destiny, which sounds great to someone who has sunk a lot of hours into Bungie’s shooter in the last 12 months.

Mass Effect Andromeda was widely considered to be a rare miss for BioWare, even though I personally thought it was a decent game. Decent doesn’t cut it nowadays though, and Anthem needs to really hit for both BioWare and publisher EA to get them back in the fans’ good books.

Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice – 22nd March

From Software develop games I never play, but something about the trailer for their newest effort got me interested. It looked stunning for a start, and the combat looked unique. It’s very early days at this point in terms of what I know about the game, but hopefully we see something special from the developer.

I haven’t got into Bloodborne or the Souls games, as their live die repeat gameplay doesn’t appeal to me, but I am hoping this game is a departure from that hook, and they go for something new like Guerilla Games did a couple of years ago with Horizon Zero Dawn.

The Outer Worlds – 2019

With no confirmed release date, I am hoping this manages to stick to 2019. Coming on the heels of the failure that was Fallout 76, and in the void created by no Borderlands 3 announcement, the creators of the Fallout franchise Obsidian are bringing their new IP, which looks to combine the lessons learnt from Fallout with the fun and whimsy of the Borderlands franchise.

This is possibly my most anticipated game of the year, as at the moment it’s the only single player game I am 100% in for. Days Gone and Sekiro both look decent, but at this point there isn’t enough to get me to commit to buying them. In one excellent trailer, The Outer Worlds convinced me to buy with a lot of confidence this is going to be a very fun game to play.

The Last of Us: Part 2 – 2019 (Hopefully)

Naughty Dog are the kings of single player gaming experiences. Crash Bandicoot was the PS1 mascot, Uncharted was the premier single player adventure game, and until last year, The Last Of Us was considered the Jewel in PlayStation’s library. God of War showed us things can still improve, and in one swoop Sony Santa Monica’s God and Son story laid the challenge down to Naughty Dog.

The Last of Us: Part 2 may not make the cut for 2019, but I sincerely hope it does, as Naughty Dog have shown time and time again they can exceed the lofty expectations fans have for their games. We know very little about the game, but it’s bound to be another evolution on the last few Naughty Dog games, with Uncharted and The Last of Us’ gameplay influencing each other in the last few games.

There are bound to be a lot of games this year that surprise us, as God of War did last year, so hopefully we get something similar again from something like Days Gone. Thanks for reading, please share on Facebook and Twitter if you liked this!

ChAzJS