Wednesday, 11 June 2014

E3 2014: Ubisoft Highlights


The second of the big publishers to display their wares, Ubisoft once again recruited actress, gamer and voice of Lana on Archer Aisha Tyler to host their show. So what should we expect to see from one of the quirkier publishers within the industry?

Straight out of the gate we got Far Cry 4. Continuing it’s open-world tradition, the game once more features a mentally unstable antagonist for players to take on alone, or with friends.

For the tween-age girl in all of us Just Dance is getting a new edition. While in itself not earth shattering news, it comes with support for smartphones as well as the ability to record your own dance moves and share them around the world.

The game itself got demoed at the Microsoft show, but Ubisoft showed of a Cinematic trailer to give some more background to the post-pandemic world the story takes place in.

Driving games are surprisingly under-represented this year, but one of the biggest is Ubisoft’s team racer The Crew. Comprising a compressed version of the entire USA, it’s possible to conduct coast to coast race events that take up to two hours to complete.

The latest installment in Ubisofts biggest franchise, Assassin’s Creed Unity is the first game to be designed only for the next-generation systems and PC, meaning 360 and PS3 owners will have to upgrade if they want to experience everything it has to offer. As revealed during the Microsoft conference up to four players can take on Assassinations and other missions together, all to the backdrop of Revolutionary France. Launching later this year Unity looks to be the next major step for the series.

Returning to the fitness game trend of several years ago, Shape Up aims to bring competitive and video game elements into the mix to help give motivation to those who find traditional fitness games dull.

Perhaps the most thought provoking and interesting game to come out of any of the conferences, Valiant Hearts – The Great War delivers an experience of World War I, a conflict gaming has traditionally not visited before. Presented with reverence and based on real letters from those who fought in the trenches, Valiant Hearts looks to be a title well worth investigating more.

Easily the biggest surprise of E3 so far, it was also the most welcome. It’s been six years since we last had a Rainbow Six game and while it’s not clear exactly how the single player elements of the game will play out, the multiplayer gameplay show above looks utterly fantastic.

Overall Ubisoft had a very solid show. Some interesting new titles and some follow ups to old favourites should keep Ubisoft doing very well for the immediate future.

Coming up in the next 24 hours I’ll go over what Sony had to show, as well as the announcements and highlights from Nintendo’s Digital Event and Treehouse Live.

Tuesday, 10 June 2014

E3 2014: EA Highlights


Following on from the Microsoft show, EA put on their own spectacular to show off their upcoming titles.

EA were first up, and started things off with a behind-the-scenes look at the DICE developed Star Wars Battlefront. Promising an authentic Star Wars experience it’s not expected until 2015.

Following on from the trailer shown at the Microsoft conference, Bioware demoed gameplay from Dragon Age Inquisition.

But it was their official announcement of a new Mass Effect that drew the biggest response as Bioware teased some details for the return of the Sci-Fi RPG franchise.

As much as EA is associated with Battlefield, Fifa, Madden and Need For Speed, it’s very easy to forget they also make The Sims. The newest version promises to create weirder stories and the ability to design your Sims’s personality.

UFC kicked off the first of the EA Sports offerings. Playable Bruce Lee was one of the highlighted features.

NHL continued the Sports offerings, with increased visual fidelity especially within the Stadiums.

Taking a break from people hitting each other, Burnout and Need For Speed developers Criterion step away from fast cars to extreme action. Taking inspiration from Youtube videos of extreme sport stunts, Criterion are hoping to be able to forge something around the idea of multiple vehicles as shown above.

Utilising the DICE developed Frostbite engine, PGA Tour takes a new step within the franchise. The introduction of “Fantasy” courses, creates fresh opportunities to give players new places to play.

Admittedly catering more to the US market than anywhere else, Madden 15 revamps the Defensive options open to players as well as introducing new replay options.

Moving into eSports territory EA highlighted their very own MOBA game, Dawngate.

Teased briefly last year, the sequel to critical, if not financial success Mirrors Edge looks to be back in 2015.

With a final look at Sports games, FIFA 15 promises to have players with memories, which will affect how they interact on the pitch.

Wrapping things up was highlight of the show, Battlefield: Hardline. Taking the basics of Battlefield and mixing it with Payday, players take on the role of either the Police or Terrorists in objective based multiplayer.

Overall it was a strange show. While there were no disappointments it was very safe, with no big surprises or reveals. Mass Effect, Criterions new title and Battlefront are too far away to get too excited about yet. So good looking games, but just a touch under-whelming overall.

Coming up soon, I’ll take you through Ubisoft and the future of Assassins Creed, The Division and more.

E3 2014: Microsoft Highlights


Another year, another E3. As usual Microsoft were first out of the gate with their conference, looking to continue clawing back Sony and PlayStations’ early lead in this new console cycle. Going into the show it was clear that there was only really one direction for them to take. Games, games and more games. No TV, Kinect or User Interface distractions, just pure games. So did they deliver?

The short answer has to be a resounding yes. With an opening promise to show nothing but wall to wall games, the new head of Microsoft’s Xbox Division Phil Spencer more than made up for previously disappointing shows at prior E3s.

What exactly did they show that made a compelling case for Xbox One? Read on to find out.

The new Team American: World Police game…. Oh wait, actually it’s Call Of Duty.

As predictable as the Sun rising and setting, there is a new Call Of Duty title on the way. Developer Sledgehammer games first title in the series jumps straight in with an all new take on the biggest franchise in Interactive Entertainment. Set in 2054 it arms players with some futuristic, but plausible, new weapons and technology, much of which is already in development in some shape or form. It looks sufficiently bombastic, with a few additions that wouldn’t be out of place in Titanfall and seems to be a rather fresh look at the fatiguing franchise. Oh and Kevin Spacey plays the baddie.

Fast cars go fast around roads. Apparently

A new Forza Horizon title was shown off in trailer form and looks to continue the spin-off from the main Forza  line. Expect to see a brand new day/night cycle and dynamic weather when it launches September 30th. Also, free Nurburgring track DLC for Forza 5 available now.

Become the beast

A new trailer for co-operative shooter Evolve shows off a brand new monster. From Turtle Rock, the team that created Left 4 Dead before being snapped up by Valve, it promises to be at least as good as it’s spiritual predecessor.

Friends that slay together, stay together.

While most details of the next-gen Assassin’s Creed title, Unity, were divulged at Ubisoft’s own show later in the evening, Microsoft were given the world-premiere of the four player co-operative gameplay that it includes. Up to four players can take control of a highly trained Assassin and work together to take out targets.

No one expects the Dragon Age Inquisition!….. Sorry, it’s late.

The latest installment in the Dragon Age franchise from RPG specialists Bioware, launching later in the year.

If there was one Xbox One exclusive that had me interested prior to the Microsoft show it was Sunset Overdrive. From Resistance and Ratchet & Clank creators Insomniac Games, Sunset Overdrive is manic, colourful and very over the top. Gameplay is fast and varied, with multiple options for navigating around the world, as well as many different ways of dispatching the various mutants and survivors you encounter. It’s certainly peaking my interest in what it has to offer.

Award for biggest smile of Microsofts Conference goes too.

I wouldn’t normally have included an announcement of DLC here, but I have for the simple reason that the trailer is just so full of win. Available now.

Return to Albion in Fable Legends

Lionhead demoed some footage of their upcoming multiplayer action RPG Fable Legends. The game allows four players to fight their way through encounters controlled by a fifth player, who can place monsters and traps to try and hinder the heroes.

Create and share your own games with friends and the rest of the world.

Returning after it’s debut at last years show, Project Spark gives players the ability to create their very own games that they can share online with other players and friends. In addition it will also include the return of classic Rare character Conker, though it’s not yet clear in what capacity this will be.

One of the brand new games showcased was beautiful platformer Ori and The Blind Forest. Looking to have a touching storyline it’s being developed by Moon Studios for Xbox One, 360 and PC.

The return of the biggest Xbox exclusive will provide a great entry point

It was next to impossible to NOT have some form of Halo announcement at E3. While Halo 5 was notably absent, the Master Chief Collection for Xbox One, provides an amazing entry point for newcomers to the franchise as well as a fantastic value proposition. The collection will launch in November and contains:

  • Halo: Combat Evolved Anniversary Edition
  • Halo 2: Anniversary Edition
  • Halo 3
  • Halo 4
  • Live Action Series Halo: Nightfall produced by Ridley Scott
  • Access to Halo 5: Guardians Beta

All run from within one unified menu system, players can create custom playlists of levels, mixing and matching from each of the titles within the collection. Also included are every multiplayer map released for the games, as well as the original Halo 2 multiplayer. Speaking of Halo 2, it’s been given a full re-master, so each game on the disc will run at 60 frames per second at full 1080p HD. This astounding collection will ship on a single disc for $60 (So expect £45-£55).

From the creators of indie hit Limbo, Inside will be launched first on Xbox One.

Inside, wasn’t the only indie game Microsoft had to show off though. Several different titles were revealed through the above trailer. Particular highlights for myself included Cuphead, Mighty No 9 and Below, each of which looks to bring something fresh and exciting to their respective platforms.

Stupid name, but can’t wait for the game

When SquareEnix released their Tomb Raider reboot last year, none were more surprised then myself when it turned out to be absolutely excellent. So I was very happy when the sequel was announced and teased above. Shame about the name though.

Geralt, what a dude

The Witcher series of games has always passed me by so far. I completely missed the original title, and I’ve had the critically acclaimed sequel “Assassin Of Kings” waiting to be played for quite some time. But I think I’ll be giving it a proper go after seeing more of the newest installment. A dark fantasy world, with engaging combat and RPG elements puts it high on my list of games to look forward to in 2015.

A rebirth for a little known Xbox title, Phantom Dust was shown for the first time. While not much is known about it right now, it is slated to be released in 2015.

Another title originally revealed last year, little has been seen of Tom Clancy’s The Division since. But here we get some live gameplay footage of the multiplayer cover shooter with tactical elements. It’s certainly one to be watching over the next year.

An announcement and a trailer were all we got for Platinum Games newly announced Scalebound. Be sure to expect their signature style as well as substance as we see more in the future.

Awww yeah!

If there was one early 360 title that I loved unconditionally it was Crackdown. After a disappointing 2010 sequel Microsoft are finally bringing back the original super-powered open-world game. This was the big one for me. Not Halo, Sunset Overdrive or any of the others. Crackdown. Nothing is quite as much fun as being an over-powered agent of justice, especially when you work for the shadowy and sinister “Agency”. If Microsoft can bring more titles like this to the Xbox One in the next few years I’ll be much more inclined to get one.

So there we go. Microsoft’s offering for the next year or so. They achieved exactly what they had to do, which was show off nothing but games.

There may have been a lot of multi-platform titles, but they had some good exclusives and set the bar high for the rest of the show.

Join me in the next couple of hours as I share highlights from the EA and Ubisoft shows, as well as Sony’s 2am blowout from this morning. Capping it all off with Nintendo later this evening.