Saturday, June 14, 2014

The intimate moments of the Battlefield Hardline beta

Battlefield Hardline is a much more intimate Battlefield. The take on cops and robbers from Visceral takes the Battlefield formula and layers it onto the streets of LA. Instead of jets, tanks, and boats, Hardline fits the mold of the Battlefield series onto urban environments that will only appeal to a fraction of Battlefield fans, but those fans are in for a treat.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

A look at the next Mass Effect and a new game from BioWare

EA's E3 presentation this year was a bit different. While most games were known quantities, some were given stage time even though they're barely into production and were still at the conceptual level. BioWare gave a look at what it's working on for the next Mass Effect game, in development at the BioWare Montreal studio, while the BioWare Edmonton studio gave a look at their new game not set in any previous BioWare franchise. It's a nice to see the early stages of development rarely seen, but at the same time, it's a bit disappointing for a studio like BioWare to come to press conference with nothing substantial to show. There currently is no date for the next Mass Effect game but presumably, it will come to the Xbox One, PlayStation 4, and PC, while BioWare's other untitled game is still sparse for platforms or timeframe.

Destruction and tactics play a role in Rainbow Six: Siege

Like they have for the past two years with Watch Dogs and The Division, Ubisoft left their last secret for last its E3 presentation this year with Rainbow Six: Siege. After the development limbo that Rainbow Six: Patriots was in, Ubisoft decided to go back to the drawing board and create something more inspired by the tactical roots of the Rainbow Six series. Siege is a multiplayer first game that relies on teamwork and communication in a Counter-Strike styled round-based shooter. Destruction plays a big part, and though the demo above runs on the Anvil Next engine, the small scale of the environment like a two-story house allows the team to create much more dynamic destruction that can give players tactical advantages in a standoff. Rainbow Six: Siege is scheduled to release in 2015 for the Xbox One, PlayStation 4, and PC.

The many meanings of X in Mortal Kombat X

After spending their time with Injustice, NetherRealm Studios is returning to the Mortal Kombat franchise with the 10th installment, simply called Mortal Kombat X. The announcement trailer above shows off the vision they're going for with brutal hits and interactivity within stages. GameSpot has a video of gameplay which was shown during the Sony E3 presentation. Creative director Ed Boon stated Mortal Kombat X is a continuation from Mortal Kombat in 2011 and the story goes as far 25 years into the future, introducing some new characters such as D'Vorah, Ferra/Torr, Kotal Kahn, and Cassie Cage, the daughter of Johnny Cage and Sonya Blade. Mortal Kombat X is releasing in 2015 for the Xbox One, PlayStation 4, and PC.

Concrete is no match for the Batmobile in Batman: Arkham Knight

Rocksteady returns to its Batman series with Arkham Knight, taking a more original approach with a new antagonist and incorporates the Batmobile. The gameplay video above highlights how the Batmobile moves, especially in combat with its ability to strafe left at right. When in driving mode, the power of the Batmobile shines through, plowing through barriers as if they were made of styrofoam. And while the Scarecrow is being positioned as the main villain of the game, the Arkham Knight looks to be taking the role of making Batman's job harder as he takes a more militaristic approach to crime in Gotham. Batman: Arkham Knight was originally slated for late 2014 but was pushed back to 2015 when it will come for the Xbox One, PlayStation 4, and PC.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

The Division paints a gruesome picture of Christmas in New York

Ubisoft gave another look at their upcoming MMO shooter The Division at both the Microsoft E3 presentation and its own E3 presentation this year. In the gameplay video above, a team cascades down on a base of operations, taking it from opposition through teamwork, tactics, and planning. A careful eye will spot one of the players on the team of four is supporting through use of a tablet as he uses drones and turrets. Ubisoft also released a cinematic trailer, as seen below, highlighting the narrative connotations for why the players will be fighting in The Division. The use of stop-motion and the small ambient details paint a picture that lets your mind fill in the gaps of how gruesome life is after what remains. The Division, which originally was slated for a late 2014 late, is now pushed back to 2015 for the Xbox One, PlayStation 4, and, thanks to a petition, PC.

A conceptual look at the next Mirror's Edge

It's been a year since DICE showed off anything about the next Mirror's Edge game. Rather than show a normal CG trailer, they elected for a more conceptual look, talking about some of the ways they're building off the first Mirror's Edge. The main things they focus on are movement through the environment, looking at the world as a puzzle to solve through parkour. That parkour also plays into combat, using acrobatic moves and geometry to get the upper hand against enemies. The video doesn't show a gun in Faith's hands at any point, only in enemies', so hopefully it will stay that way into the final game. While DICE didn't announce a release date for the next Mirror's Edge, it is known that it will be coming to the Xbox One, PlayStation 4, and PC.

The dual sides of combat in Dragon Age: Inquisition

BioWare showed off more of Dragon Age: Inquisition at the Microsoft E3 presentation with a focus on the action gameplay, as seen in the new trailer above. During the EA E3 presentation, however, they went deeper into the mechanics of combat, highlighting the tactical mode, where combat can be paused and the player can issue commands as in previous Dragon Age games. GameSpot has a video showing more action-orientated combat where the camera takes an over-the-shoulder third-person view of the battle. Dragon Age: Inquisition releases for the Xbox One, PlayStation 4, and PC on October 7.

Monster hunting finally comes to The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt

Geralt of Rivera, the White Wolf, is a Witcher, a monster hunter. But beyond narrative concessions, there hasn’t been much actual hunting of monsters in a Witcher game. That changes with The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt. GameSpot has a video of the gameplay segment CD Projekt RED showed off during the Microsoft E3 presentation, where Geralt sets off tracking a griffin. Using his heightened senses, he follows the griffin through an area of the open-world called No Man’s Land, until finally coming to battle with the griffin. The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt is the conclusion to CD Projekt RED’s Witcher series and releases for the Xbox One, PlayStation 4, and PC on February 24, 2015.

Square Enix announces two new Tomb Raider sequels

Not only did Square Enix announce a sequel to 2013's Tomb Raider, Rise of the Tomb Raider, during the Microsoft E3 presentation, but during the post-show on Spike, they also announced another sequel, Lara Croft and the Temple of Osiris. The announcement trailer for Rise of the Tomb Raider shows Lara with a therapist, talking over her frustrations and anxieties over what happened in the previous game. It might be an interesting framing device if that's how Rise of the Tomb Raider is structured, but it works well enough for the trailer. Supposedly, the name Rise of Tomb Raider implies there will be a lot more focus on tombs and exploring in the sequel than the first game. Lara Croft and the Temple of Osiris, however, is a follow-up to Lara Croft and the Guardian of Light, which I reviewed when it came out in 2010. It's an isometric puzzle platformers with twin-stick shooter controls, and with up to four player co-op now instead of just two, I can only imagine how complex and intricate the puzzles will be. Rise of the Tomb Raider is scheduled for holiday 2015 for, presumably, the Xbox One, PlayStation 4, and PC, while Lara Croft and the Temple of Osiris has no date announced yet, but has been confirmed for the Xbox One, PlayStation 4, and PC.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Assassin's Creed Unity features co-op and crowds

While Assassin's Creed is an annual franchise, it still finds way to set itself apart each year. This year's Assassin's Creed Unity does that by moving the setting to Paris during the French Revolution and introduces a new assassin, Arno Dorian. Unity has a big focus on crowds, as can be seen in the singleplayer demo above. Navigation seems to be streamlined as well, making the transition from rooftop to ground quicker and smoother. But Assassin's Creed Unity also incorporates a co-op feature, a natural evolution of the Wolfpack mode from Assassin's Creed 3, allowing you to go on missions with three others to create interesting and new assassination techniques. You can see a demo of a co-op mission below. And because Assassin's Creed games always have trailers set to succinct music, you can also watch the Assassin's Creed Unity cinematic trailer set to Lorde's cover of "Everybody Wants to Rule the World." Assassin's Creed Unity releases for the Xbox One, PlayStation 4, and (tentatively) PC on October 28.

Call of Duty jumps into the future with Advanced Warfare

Sledgehammer Games is finally getting their hand in the Call of Duty series this year with Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare. As the name implies, the setting is pushed into the future to 2054 where exoskeletons, hover bikes, drones, and jetpacks are all part of your arsenal. The gameplay trailer, titled Induction, debuted at the Microsoft E3 conference and highlights the new engine designed specifically for current-generation consoles, while High Moon Studios is working on the previous-generation versions. Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare will release for the Xbox One, PlayStation 4, Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, and PC on November 4.

Monday, March 17, 2014

The spirit of Need for Speed

Over the weekend, I saw Need for Speed.

Typically, movies based on video games turn out to be a mess, mostly because the cast and crew try to strike a balance between being faithful to the source material, while also trying to make it open to wider audiences who generally have no idea about the game it’s based on. For example, the last movie I saw based on a video game was Prince of Persia back in 2010, and as far as I remember, there were no ostrich races in the 2003 game.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Diary of an Assassin - Twelfth Entry

Welcome to Abstergo Entertainment.

Every Assassin’s Creed game has some kind of modern-setting component to it. The first Assassin’s Creed had small intermission sequences with Dr. Vidic and Lucy resulting in a more-questions-than-answers ending with cryptologic glyphs. Assassin’s Creed 2 had Desmond training to become an assassin leading up to a confrontation with Dr. Vidic once again during the end credits. Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood had you renovating the Villa Auditore and traveling under the Coliseum to Santa Maria in Aracoeli.

Assassin’s Creed: Revelations took place entirely within the animus with the exception of a cutscene at the very end. Assassin’s Creed 3 finally realized Desmond as an assassin in the modern day, jumping off skyscrapers in New York and a mission in Brazil before heading back to Abstergo to rescue Desmond’s father and take out Dr. Vidic.

The modern setting of Assassin’s Creed 4: Black Flag takes place at Abstergo Entertainment, the game studio branch of Abstergo that’s hinted in the multiplayer mode of Assassin’s Creed 3. You play as a nameless employee gathering memories from a ‘generous donor’ (Desmond) to create a new pirate game. Yes, this effectively means Black Flag is taking place within itself as Abstergo Entertainment is a weird pseudo-replacement for Ubisoft Montreal, even though it’s specifically noted that Abstergo Entertainment is working with publisher Ubisoft.

It sounds bizarre and silly, but it works meticulously. The studio is littered with copies of Assassin’s Creed 3 and Assassin’s Creed 3: Liberation, a few nerf guns, even an Assassin’s Creed 4: Black Flag art book. They even take it a step further; as you explore the studio, you’ll find market research and focus group testing on prospective protagonists for their next project, as you can see above. It’s probably the most fantastically simulated game studio I’ve ever seen.

What makes this all work as a premise is the perspective. Whereas in previous games you’ve always played from an assassin point of view, Black Flag is through the eyes of templars. They view themselves as the ones doing good, with the assassin order corrupting minds. Ultimately though, the modern day story is a stop-gap. By the time you finish scrubbing through Edward Kenway’s memories, and a trailer is produced for the project you’re working on, the only thing that’s happened between the templars and assasssins is you handing off some Abstergo data to Shaun and Rebecca.

Monday, January 13, 2014

Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance review - slice and dice

I’ve never played a Metal Gear game before. The closest I’ve ever come is playing the beginning of the original Metal Gear on the NES, which held my attention for all of about five minutes before I took the cartridge out and replaced it with Super Mario Bros. 3. Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance, a spin-off of the Metal Gear Solid series, recently released for PC almost a year after its console release, and for someone like me it’s the perfect window into the Metal Gear series.

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Diary of an Assassin - Eleventh Entry

Assassin’s Creed 4: Black Flag doesn’t waste any time introducing you to Edward Kenway. With the sound a boom, you’re on the deck of a ship, cannons firing back and forth in the middle of a storm as Ubisoft puts its naval combat front and center. There’s no cutscene to show who his family is, where he came from, or what his motivations are. Kenway is a pirate, out for riches and himself and that’s all you really need to know about him.

There is an exception to this, of course. There are a few flashbacks to his earlier life with his love Caroline Scott, showing how her father didn’t approve of Kenway. It’s a stark contrast to compare Kenway to the other assassins of Desmond’s lineage. I spent a good chunk of time getting to know Ezio’s family, and in turn, their deaths being his motivations for becoming an assassin. I spent even more time with Conner and his family. I spent time as his father, Haythem Kenway, Edward’s son, as Conner when he was a child and Templars killed his mother, as a teenager, and as an adult.

Altair is the only assassin who comes close to having as little backstory as Edward. I know Altair was a master assassin, before being demoted to a novice for breaking the assassin’s creed and essentially being too cocky, but before that, not much is known.

The short introduction to Edward is a far cry from Conner’s introduction in Assassin’s Creed 3, and almost feels like a direct response to it. For the most part, I liked Assassin’s Creed 3, particularly it’s time and place during the American Revolutionary War. But its long, drawn-out, and unreliable introduction set a pace that made the rest of it feel arduous. It’s near eight-hour introduction left me feeling like I was already halfway done with it before even starting. Assassin’s Creed 4: Black Flag slims the introduction to Edward and the Caribbean down to maybe three hours. Once you get your ship, it’s clear sailing from there.

Through the process of completing missions, recruiting crewmates, and upgrading your ship, it’s almost glaringly obvious Edward was written to invoke the vibe of Ezio, and I’m ok with that. Ezio is, without contest, the best protagonist the Assassin’s Creed series has seen, no small thanks to having three games dedicated to him. But Edward Kenway nicely fits in at no. 2. His selfish attitude and lust for wealth is just what was needed, and the way he plays sides, assassins and templars, makes his tale intriguing and unique among Desmond’s ancestor.

Intriguing and unique are also the words I would use to describe the real world setting of Assassin’s Creed 4: Black Flag, and it’s probably the thing I’m most excited to talk about, but I’ll save that for the next entry.

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Alien: Isolation - The difference an S can make.

Remember how terrible Aliens: Colonial Marines turned out to be? From its retconning narrative that conflicted with the films, despite its position as the official sequel, to its stilted animations and unspectacular gameplay, it unquestionably set a low-point for the Aliens franchise in video games.

Back in October of last year, Sega copyrighted the name of the next Aliens game, Alien: Isolation. The reveal trailer for it released today and it might be the Aliens game we’ve always wanted.

Alien: Isolation takes places 15 years after the events of Alien, where you play as Amanda Ripley, the daughter of Ellen Ripley. As a Weyland-Yutani engineer, Amanda takes a mission to recover the black box of the Nostromo, the last ship her mother served on. When Amanda arrives at Sevastopol space station where the black box is located, things start to go bad.

One of the main things that makes Alien: Isolation stand out from past Aliens games is that it has more to do with Alien than Aliens. It’s a survival horror game, not a first-person shooter. You don’t have a gun or any other way to defend yourself other than hiding in lockers or other compartments similar to Amnesia: The Dark Descent. There’s no HUD with a motion tracker, though you can hold one up to see if anything is nearby similar to the flashlight in Doom 3. And there’s only one alien on the space station, stalking you the entire time similar to Nemesis in Resident Evil 3: Nemesis.

Creative Assembly looks to be finding a way to capture the vibe of great horror games and combine them into Alien: Isolation. I never would have thought the developer behind the Total War series would make something so intriguing. Take a look at PC Gamer’s preview, which covers the built-from-scratch engine Creative Assembly is using and how the alien is completely AI driven, which makes sense given their Total War background. Alien: Isolation is scheduled for the Xbox One, Xbox 360, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 3, and PC sometime late 2014.