Sunday, 18 June 2017

Post-E3 2017 [Gaming]

E3 finishes for another year, and it has honestly been a bit... bland. EA really want to push Star Wars Battlefront 2, such is the fact nearly everything else felt rushed. As you probably saw with my post of EA’s conference, that footage of Battlefront 2 in action really had me impressed. It feels massively improved, in gameplay and mechanics, and if everything else looks as great as that did then… Consider it a vital purchase and a possible chance of beating Pandemic’s effort back in 2005. I’ve said before, but Pandemic really set out to get the core mechanics down before expanding with new modes between their first and second games. EA threw a lot of things in, found what worked and improved on what didn’t, and hopefully coming out with a better game. Time will tell.

My main focus, as ever with E3 these days, was staying tuned in to the Nintendo Treehouse livestreams. It was here that it felt Nintendo put the focus, as while the Spotlight had announcements and trailers, so too did the Treehouse – even if less of them. However, the focus was in the games themselves, and showing why they are worth your time, bringing those who make them on stage for a chat. Throughout the three days, we got in-depth looks at Super Mario Odyssey, Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle, and Splatoon 2. All three offered new pieces of information, and new levels and modes. Metroid: Samus Returns on 3DS was announced, offering a 2D adventure in conjunction with Prime 4’s 3D gameplay on Switch. Along with it was further proof – if any was needed – that Nintendo are definitely not stopping support of amiibo. A squishy Metroid and Samus in her pose from the GBA Metroid 2 cover. Before that was a look Super Mario Odyssey themed amiibo, with Mario, Peach, and Bowser in wedding gear. Other game announcements include a port of Mario and Luigi: Superstar Saga, with an extra tag of + Bowsers Minions owing to a new mode added that expands on the story of the main game. On top of that was… Sushi Striker: The Way of Sushido. A puzzle-action fighting game, the idea is to match plates and sushi types to attack, with combos offering more power.
As well as looks at Fire Emblem Warriors, Xenoblade Chronicles 2, and rather surprisingly the new Yoshi Switch game, Nintendo was making a big push for ARMS. Since it released on the Friday, that push was certainly needed. After all, what makes a better impression than showcasing the game in a tournament with pro fighters? Nintendo had three of these tournaments on the first two days. The largest of them was the Splatoon 2 Invitational which took up over two hours, and featured some real close matches. Wednesday had Pokken Tournament DX at the start and ARMS of the last. These two lasted around an hour and a half, and allowed the winners to battle the producers as a finale. The competitiveness is still high, even if the seriousness isn’t. While other eSports go for high stakes and prizes, Nintendo’s Invitationals are more focused on allowing pros to have a good time providing some entertainment for the masses. I’m not saying the stakes aren’t high in these, but with the ARMS and especially Pokken Invitationals, there was a more friendly rivalry feeling than any serious focus.

Since I hardly mentioned them within the Pre-E3 post, both Sonic games are looking a lot better than previously. Sure, the Sonic Forces trailer seems to want to mess with established canon – though I’m not one to really comment much on that – the gameplay itself is looking great. Through all three levels we have chatter from the extended cast, filling out this world a bit more as the fight continues. Modern is being told of a sighting of Shadow as commentary about the battle unfolds, Classic listens in on banter between Tails and Eggman as he fights the latter, and Hero is following orders to distract the enemy while something happens at the Chemical Plant. Mania, on the other hand, showcases yet more gameplay of its side-scrolling goodness, and we get to hear the Chemical Plant mixes for both Act 1 and 2. I’m absolutely loving both.

Yes, there was plenty more, and seeing a bit of The Crew 2 in action has been great. There was also the weirdness of Devolver Digital which… Well, let’s not get into that. With E3 now over for another year, for me the D23 expo is looking to hold some interesting info about both Star Wars Battlefront and Kingdom Hearts 3. Yes, while the latter wasn’t technically at E3, a trailer was showcased at a Kingdom Hearts specific event that happened, with confirmation that it would next be shown at D23. Battlefront 2 was also confirmed to appear, which means July is going to be a great month for that. Since I have ARMS, I’ll be covering that in a post, and in non-gaming news A Look Inside the Morphing Grid for Lightspeed Rescue and Time Force will be posted soon, leaving Wild Force and Ninja Storm for July.

Tuesday, 13 June 2017

Nintendo Spotlight: E3 2017 [Gaming]

Nintendo's short and sweet Splotlight paid off in a way. It still had talk involved, but with three days of Treehouse, they can afford it. Xenoblade Chronicles 2 was shown off first, with a slightly more anime look than previous games. This one doesn't have a date, and neither does a new Kirby Switch game which is coming in 2018. A previous Direct showed off three Kirby games for 3DS, so it's good to know one is coming to Switch. Pokken Tournament was talked about a bit, but the bigger news is that Game Freak are working on a main-line Switch game. This wasn't revealed during the Pokemon Direct last week - which revealed Ultra Sun and Ultra Moon as well as Gold and Silver on the 3DS Virtual Console - which means they were saving it specifically for this point. Nothing can be shown, as it's probably only recently started development. A new Yoshi game in the style of Super Mario 3D World looks to be bringing some interesting concepts, but again it is a 2018 game. Metroid Prime 4 was also shown to be in development with a title reveal.

Skyrim on Switch has Zelda items in it, and that gave way to Breath of the Wild DLC. Showing off the first pack, which gives the Trial of the Sword, Master Mode, and several helpful additions. The Champion's Ballad is the second, and it was teased. Those four champions are also getting amiibo.
Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle was shown again, and Rocket League is coming to Switch with cross-play on other platforms. There's also Nintendo themed items with this version, which launches later in the year.
Super Mario Odyssey has a vocal theme. Completely unexpected. The game itself is looking fantastic. Mario's hat can control certain items and enemies, and the trailer featured a lot of new stuff. It's also got a release date of 27-October.

I'm not talking the Treehouse reveals here, but already it's going strong with a lot of information on Mario Odyssey, and a 2D Metroid game on 3DS. Both games are looking strong, and many more reveals are set to be made during these streams, so if you have any interest look them up when you can. As I said, the Treehouse streams are where the bulk of Nintendo is these days, and it showed with their reveals. Most Spotlight games were 2018, giving those closer to release a larger focus on the stream. Don't forget about the tournaments Nintendo have as well, with ARMS, Splatoon 2, and Pokken Tournament DX.

Monday, 12 June 2017

Ubisoft Showcase: E3 2017 [Gaming]

Ubisoft jumped straight in with the game everyone knew was coming. Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle. And they got Miyamoto on stage to talk about it. Ubisoft were basically given the freedom to take Mario to a place he’s never been before. Such is the result of this game. A strategic RPG that brings the rabbids into the Mushroom Kingdom, where some partner up with Mario and co. while others seek to wreak havoc. The game’s battles are about fighting these rabbids in turn-based combat that actually has some depth with positioning and such. New attacks and weapons can be unlocked through game progression, and this is Nintendo’s big August game, with it releasing 29-August.
Assassins Creed Origins got another trailer, and a release confirmation of 27-October. The Crew 2 showed off an epic trailer with cars, bikes, planes, and boats, and is looking to be the biggest racing game yet. This is looking as though it will be my racing game of the year. If… it was releasing this year. Dated for Spring 2018. South Park: The Fractured But Whole got a trailer to reaffirm its date of 17-October. There’s also a South Park phone game called Phone Destroyer.

Just Dance 2018 is obviously coming, and as usual is shown through a live stage dance. At least they gave us some good stuff beforehand. Starlink: Battle For Atlas is looking to jump into the Toys To Life business too late. Working with a crew to build ships and explore the open-world galaxy, it’s looking like an okay game.
Steep is getting an expansion to bring Olympic content to the game on 5-December. Far Cry 5 is coming, bringing its crazy action to consoles. And as a finale – Beyond Good and Evil 2, acting as a prequel to the first game. Skull & Bones is another pirate action game, with a better focus on fights.

I don't usually pay much attention to Ubisoft games. Yeah, Steep impressed me last year when it got announced, and I've been having fun with it. Just free-roaming down the mountain. While I liked what The Crew offered, I had Forza Horizon to play through. However, The Crew 2 is offering more types of races, and I'm always up for more vehicle racing. As well as that, Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle is looking a lot more interesting than the rumours were making it out to be.

Microsoft Showcase: E3 2017 [Gaming]

Microsoft put up an excellent fight and came away stronger than EA ever could hope this E3. Scorpio has a new name – the Xbox One X. A focus on power, to bring the best looking games possible, even on 1080p screens. Compatibility, to allow all games and accessories to cross over to the more powerful hardware. Craftsmanship, allowing all that power to fit inside a shell smaller than the original One. A liquid-cooled vapour chamber allows server-scale cooling in the console. All this for $499.
The Xbox Backward Compatibility program gets an upgrade in the form of original Xbox games being released soon. Crimson Skies will be one of the first on the service, and these games are being reworked to look their best on Xbox One.

And as for the games… Well. Forty-two games, twenty-four of which are console exclusive. Ready to count them down?
Forza Motorsport 7, bringing Dubai into its roster of locations, and the Porsche 2018 GT2 RS into the 700+ car roster. Dynamic weather has been improved, and everything looks crisper. Skybox, lighting, road surfaces, and much more.
Crackdown 3 finally gets a release date of November 7, the same day the Xbox One X launches worldwide, and looks absolute chaos in the neon-lit city. Super Lucky’s Tale also launches November 7, and is a more cartoony-looking game. A 3D platformer in the style of Yooka-Laylee, it follows a fox on an adventure.
Sea of Thieves got an in-depth gameplay showcase, as the players explore a sunken ship for treasure, as well as an island. Players can launch themselves from cannons to battle the crews of other ships in combat, and hunting for treasure on islands will bring forth enemies that protect said island treasure.
Assassins Creed Origins explores the first assassins in Ancient Egypt, as they sneak, climb, and attack their objectives, using a literal birds-eye view in the form of an eagle to scout from the sky. Player Unknown’s Battlegrounds is coming to Xbox One later in the year, as is exploration-based game Deep Rock Galactic.
State of Decay 2 is coming Spring 2018, with a new game Tacoma coming August 2. The Darwin Project looks to be a survival game, where players hunt each other in a winter setting. Players being an actual term, as this is an entertainment program, where control is given to the director – who effectively can turn the entire battle just for fun.

Nine games down then, and quite a few more to come. Metro Exodus takes first-person gameplay and applies it to exploration. Black Desert is looking to do roughly the same thing on a smaller scale and in third person.
An urban city at night with pixelated characters in a 3D world. This is The Last Night. A 2D game with a paper-made style shows a man with a guitar running across landscapes in The Artful Escape. Code Vein has armoured people taking on creatures. Retro game Cuphead gets a release of September 29.
Square-Enix takes on a Life Is Strange prequel following Chloe in a three-part episodic game exploring her past. Dragonball Fighter Z takes on chaos with 3v3 matches in its 2D fighting. Ashen has battles with spiders and other shadow creatures, with talk of reclaiming the light from the dark.
Minecraft is going on an expansion. Crossplay across all platforms is coming, as well as a new massively-detailed texture and lighting update for those who want to swap from the simple pixel textures. All that is coming in the fall. Middle-Earth: Shadow of War expands the world of Mordor, giving the ability to recruit people and attack fortresses.

That takes us up to twenty games. If Crimson Skies is among that number, that is twenty-one. Anthem from EA makes twenty-two. The gameplay from this shows a massive world to explore as people called freelancers, who protect humanity using armour dubbed Javelin exoskeletons. These are customisable, and they seem to have a class structure as different types of suits work differently. The massively-online multiplayer game looks to have a grand scale attached.
As for the rest of the games… They were a part of the sizzle reel for ID@Xbox games. Those shown looked diverse, so it seems there is at least going to something for most people.

Microsoft certainly focused on the games, though I defy anyone to say they weren’t tired of always seeing or hearing ‘exclusive’ before nearly every single game. I’m still undecided on Forza Motorsport 7, and several of the games looked as though they’d interest me. However, I’m going to wait for more information. As for the… how are we shortening the name? XBO-X? I’ll stick with that. The XBO-X itself is certainly an interesting piece of hardware, but is it really worth the upgrade? More power in a smaller form factor is great, but those who will benefit most are those already with the screens to match.

Sunday, 11 June 2017

EA Showcase: E3 2017 [Gaming]

EA really hit it out with Star Wars this year. Everything else was within fourty minutes at the start. So before we get into the main event of Star Wars Battlefront 2, let's run down everything else.
Battlefield 1 gets new content in the form of In the Name of Tsar. This expansion is adding six new maps, focusing on the eastern battles of Russia. FIFA and Madden get shown with a focus on eSports after.
Need For Speed Payback gets gameplay, and it honestly looks like an upgraded Hot Pursuit. Driving and taking others out to reach the mission objective, and swapping to another car due to story points. It looks great, though feels as though it lingers a bit too long on vehicles during a takeout at the minute. It certainly looks good.
A new EA Originals game - A Way Out - is a co-op adventure that's locked into splitscreen. If one person is in a cutscene, the other can still play. There's going to be a lot of gameplay elements involved, and the story should be strong. Madden was shown again, with screens from Microsoft's Scorpio. The reason for the talk is a BioWare game built for Scorpio. Anthem. A teaser gives an idea of what to expect, but the full reveal will be at Microsoft's conference.
NBA Live 18 talks about The One. Playing on the Streets or the League will build your rep and your skills, enabling you to unlock new gear. It feels fully connected, so there should be a lot to get into with this one.

And now... the main event. It felt as though it was building to this moment, even if there was still a lot of talking. Star Wars Battlefront 2. The voice of Iden Versio takes to the stage to recap on things we know of. Skirmish returns, multiplayer and single player are big focuses, and the game itself will be three times the content of the first. John Boyega shows his face in a video to announce the first free content update will focus on The Last Jedi, with both Finn and Phasma being added. A video is shown with devs and players talking about how the game is being built to be better, and we follow into a gameplay trailer. Then, this is the first gameplay of Battlefront 2, showcasing the Assault of Theed.
Clone vs Droids. The Republic are defending in this mode, needing to take out an MTT that the CIS are driving to the palace gates. We see the improved gunplay, the improved flight controls. There's showing the vehicles in play. And not a single token on the map in sight. Extra units are available through battle points, that you earn throughout the battle. Each time you are killed the points you got are added to the total, and on the spawn screen there is a list of available extra units. These are the vehicles, special classes, and heroes.
The droids manage to defend the MTT, and it blows the palace gates open. Now the second phase begins inside the palace itself, with vehicles not allowed. This brings more special classes and heroes into play, and we see Darth Maul tear down clones, with Boba Fett covering fire. The normal classes come into their own here, as heavy classes cover doorways while officers help buff their units. Jet-troopers come into action, using the jump packs of the first game to traverse wide gaps. Rey gets into the action, striking against Maul.
The entire game certainly feels as though it has been worked to make the best experience possible, and it looks a whole lot better than the first game. While we've yet to see the deeper customisation of abilities and classes, what has been shown has certainly proven they have listened. It's a bit of a shame multi-seat vehicles aren't around, but the fact those vehicles are as diverse in their weapon options as the soldier classes is a plus.

EA know their sports games will sell, and it really did feel as though Battlefront 2 was the big event. It was even said at the beginning that Battlefront will have a full half hour dedicated to it. As such, everything else felt more like teasers. Even Need For Speed. If I had to guess, I'd say EA are really wanting to prove they can do justice to the Star Wars license.

Sunday, 4 June 2017

Pre-E3 2017 [Gaming]

June will always be the biggest month in gaming, simply due to E3. This time we have Nintendo hoping to have success again the same as last year, Microsoft revealing the Scorpio in full, a huge multiplayer event for EA, and a few interesting things from the others. So let's jump into this in the order I'm most excited for things, which of course is going to be Nintendo first.

Nintendo are striking hard and fast this year after their success last year. And they have even more big games to show. With the Switch released and already being a big hit, it’s time to take that into overdrive. Super Mario Odyssey is obviously going to be a big focus this year, and there are tournaments for both ARMS and Splatoon 2 being live streamed. The Treehouse team is back in full force after the Spotlight presentation, with a full three days showing off games for both 3DS and Switch [where Spotlight seems to focus only on Switch].
As for what I want, I’m really going far out with this one, but I want to see Kingdom Hearts back on Nintendo hardware. Dream Drop Distance released in 2012, and since then Sony have had ports of most games, along with HD movies on those collections as well. Since Nintendo have never had the main series games, porting these over to the Switch would be welcome, even if the third main entry doesn’t reach it [though that certainly would be a bonus]. It’s not too out there of an expectation if Square-Enix really are confident in supporting the Switch, and they have shown they are certainly willing to.
In terms of the Switch itself – Virtual Console has to be a must. And yes, of course I’m going to say it – with Gamecube support. There are numerous games that could be brought to the service, and though complications will always arise, Nintendo had a strong presence with their own games on the system for it not to matter too much. However, recent comments about being unsure on whether to bring the service over makes me question whether it will happen at all. I'm also expecting something about expanding the Switch's UI, whether that being with themes, new apps, or expansions on the current eShop and other features.
As for games that are expected, Pok√©mon on Switch is going to be a big one if it gets announced, even if it is just a third DX version of Sun and Moon with HD graphics. Animal Crossing on Switch will also be a big game, as the series has found footing on handhelds better than a home console. Now, with the power the Switch provides, we can have a larger game on a handheld. Super Smash Bros. 4 is bound to get a port, combining both WiiU and 3DS games into one, and adding in a few extras, just as Mario Kart 8 Deluxe did. As definitive versions go, Smash 4 Switch should be a goldmine. While I’m uncertain if it will, I also want Mario Kart 8 Deluxe to get some more tracks and characters added through DLC. There’s the question of whether that would really show up at E3 though. Just as on Wii U, I’d expect an announcement on that to come sometime August.
As for those games that are already out in the wild waiting for release, Fire Emblem Warriors is following on from what Hyrule Warriors did, and should be full of references to its series just the same as Hyrule Warriors did with Zelda. There’s also the case of the other Fire Emblem games. The 2018 Switch title is yet to be shown in any detail, but hints as to what it includes could be shown here. Kirby is also another series getting two other games soon, and again we know more about one than the other. Kirby’s Blowout Blast was shown to be a 3D styled game where inhaling more enemies will increase your attack power. With over 25 stages announced, now is the time to show them. The 3DS title can’t be far off from release, leaving time for the next major game to also be revealed at E3. We know it will be a multiplayer focused game, but that’s about it.
For Nintendo@E3 then, we have the Spotlight event at 09:00 PDT/17:00 BST on the 13th, with the first day of the Treehouse immediately after. The Splatoon 2 World Inkling Invitational takes place on this day as well, starting 14:30 PDT/22:30 BST. The 14th has the second day of the Treehouse at 10:00 PDT/18:00 BST, with the ARMS Open Invitational starting 15:30 PDT/23:30 BST. The Treehouse on the 15th will start the same time as the previous day, and be the only thing on during that day.

EA have shown they are committed to providing the greatest Battlefront experience in the second game, having announced a load of content for it at Star Wars Celebration. Now it is time to show they have listened to fans, and show off not just the single player campaign missions in action, but a revamped multiplayer touching on those things that people have stated. For instance, the amount of modes and the power-ups on the map. Vehicles as tokens never felt right to me, making them feel more like bonus equipment rather than being actual tools of the battlefield. Same with the extra equipment like rocket launchers and thermal imploders. As for the modes, Walker Assault is practically the only mode I’ve played for the past few months, with the exception of DLC playlists. Walker Assault feels like it belongs in the game. As does Fighter Squadron, even if I’m still not too fond of the flight controls. The DLC modes went some way to correct the issue by making them more focused, but now it is time to go full out with it in the sequel. It’s already been announced that a multiplayer match of the game will be showcased, with The Assault on Theed sounding like a reworked Walker Assault as the Republic have to work to stop a Multi-Troop Transport from reaching the palace gates. Darth Maul and Rey will also be cutting through the troops as they work with their respective sides to win.
Away from Battlefront, it is possible the other games that have been in the works start appearing. I’m not going to talk about them until we’ve seen them, but I’m expecting some great things from them. Away from Star Wars, Need For Speed Payback will be showcased. They have teased what is coming, and it sounds like they might have a grip on finally perfecting the formula. As an added bonus, no always online restriction for this game. Should certainly be fun to see what comes out of it. With the trailer from a few days ago setting the tone, the gameplay should follow to really show how this game will work.
EA will have their usual sports games to show, but this time they have an extra FIFA for the Nintendo Switch. This hasn’t been included in the numbered entries for other games, and it is possible we will see why if it gets shown off. It could either be a Nintendo exclusive version featuring some wacky Nintendo character based teams along with the real deal, or it could just be a testing the waters deal for EA as a whole. Time really will tell on that front.
EA’s presentation begins E3 off on the 10th, with the main event starting at 12:00 PDT/20:00 BST, and The Assault on Theed multiplayer event happening at 12:30 PDT/20:30 BST.

Microsoft are showing Project Scorpio this year, in even greater detail than they did last E3. Along with this are numerous games, with Crackdown 3 sure to be among them. Having first been seen at E3 way back in 2014 [with the title being revealed at Gamescom 2015], we know it will be massively larger than previous entries in the series with cloud-powered real-time destruction in multiplayer modes. It must have run into a few difficulties since, but with Scorpio on the horizon it should be shown off.
Forza Horizon 3 sure has been a blast, and while I haven’t jumped into the Blizzard Mountain and Hot Wheels expansions yet, I’m expecting a whole lot of new challenges from them. For the series at E3 this year, it is clear Motorsport 7 will be there. Again, it will be showcasing the extra power given by Scorpio, though as Microsoft are keen to express, the game will still be playable on Xbox One. I’ve put more time into Horizon than I have Motorsport these past few years, so it will be interesting to see whether E3 can draw me into the game. I’d much prefer a more open racer like Horizon, so if any get shown off [and Need For Speed is a possible contender] than I’ll probably be going for that instead.
There’ll be a little something for Halo fans at the conference that Microsoft has promised, but what that is no-one will know. Sea of Thieves should also be around, possibly with a release date. The multiplayer pirate game is Rare’s chance to show they can do something on a large scale again. There should also be some surprises. After all, showing expected things is well and good, but giving a surprise is much better. I’ve kind of given up asking for a new Midtown Madness at this point, and with Forza Horizon, open-world racing is already covered. I honestly can’t think of something from Microsoft that would surprise me, though if they want to hit up something that caters to me, I wouldn’t say no to an RPG of some type. We’ll see if they do have surprises in store when the presentation starts on the 11th at 14:00 PDT/22:00 BST.

I don’t usually follow what Sony do, owing to the conference time being so late for the UK and it being my least preferred platform, but there are a few things to point out. Sam Witwer is the main lead of a game called Days Gone, and he has teased it will be showing at E3 in a big way. The God of War reboot will be around, and so will the Uncharted spin-off The Lost Legacy. Playstation VR will likely feature at some point, and if Kingdom Hearts 3 and Final Fantasy 7 Remake are featuring anywhere at E3 it will more than likely be here. Sony’s conference takes place on the 12th at 18:00 PDT/02:00 BST.
Ubisoft will be showing off their usual stuff, with some South Park thrown in. Support for Nintendo is likely to feature, though the rumoured Mario x Rabbids game will more than likely be saved for Nintendo’s Spotlight. Ubisoft head the stage before Sony at 13:00 PDT/21:00 BST.

There is a lot to look forward to at E3, and while I’ve only focused on the main five here, there is a lot more going on. There’s the PC Gaming Show to look forward to. IGN always have something going on, as will other gaming sites. Announcements away from the conferences are also usually around, such as the cancelled Star Wars 1313 being a notable one. Unless they feature at one of the conferences, I’m expecting Sonic Mania and Forces to both have reveals like this. Below is all the times I’ve covered again in chronological order, but that’s all from me for now, so E3 hype here we come.

-EA – 12:00 PDT/20:00 BST [The Assault of Theed 12:30 PDT/20:30 BST]

-Microsoft – 14:00 PDT/22:00 BST

-Ubisoft – 13:00 PDT/21:00 BST
-Sony – 18:00 PDT/02:00 BST

-Nintendo Spotlight – 09:00 PDT/17:00 BST
-Nintendo Treehouse Day 1 – 10:00 PDT/18:00 BST
-Splatoon 2 World Inkling Invitational – 14:30 PDT/22:30 BST

-Nintendo Treehouse Day 2 – 10:00 PDT/18:00 BST
-ARMS Open Invitational – 15:30 PDT/23:30 BST

-Nintendo Treehouse Day 3 – 10:00 PDT/18:00 BST