Age Daily: Post E3 shit fest

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One thing that defines our industry is the almost tribal nature the platforms hold. On one side sits the already crowned kings of this Generation Sony with their expensive and brilliantly marketed PS4 whilst the wounded behemoth Microsoft slowly nurses it’s bruised but unbroken Xbox One back to health. Of course Nintendo showed up fashionably late, brandishing its self-proclaimed “COOL” whilst being stuck in sequel hell unable to gain any mainstream love it seems. Where is the might PC master race in all this? I’ll tell you where, sitting in their parent’s basement struggling to get their £1000 monster to boot up after filling it with pirated games. Coz you know PC gamers don’t actually need to pay for games they are just entitled to download them for free.

So the fallout from all this is the yearly “WHO WON E3” bullshit. The yearly dick wagging that takes place followed by the major industry sites running the same contest and giving out pointless awards for Best in show, best of E3 blah blah blah. None of this matters and does nothing but remove us further from the 10 course buffet laid on for us to gorge, binge and consume. From every angle we have cinematic trailers that would make Hollywood swoon, gameplay to wet our appetites and promises that even better games are coming.

To answer the yearly Bullshit question #1 “Who won E3 2014” is pretty obvious really, we did. Every single gamer on any platform (not PC) has wont the fucking jackpot. I’ve watched E3 for many years now and never before have the main 3 nailed it, got it spot on and just flat out delivered exactly not just what I want, but what gaming needs.

Sure viewers can point out the over reliance on established IP but that’s missing the point completely. For every The Last of us, there will be 5 COD games, 2 Halo games, 5 Mario Kart’s it’s just the way the industry goes. These Sequels keep us hooked, keep gaming in the spotlight so the wonderful experiences like TLU, Flower, No man’s Sky et al can innovate, deliver the unexpected and amaze us.

Seeing Halo at E3 was huge for Microsoft, Sony knew it was coming and had The Last of us ready and waiting and Nintendo had another Mario title. That’s 3 Epic franchises laid out for us what more could a gamer want?

This will of course be missed in the online shit fest that is IGN where sensible debate turns into a 3 sided argument of negativity and abuse. Sony, MS and Nintendo could have given their consoles away free and the trolls would still pick shit up and throw it at the walls. So for this one night\day ignore the comments section, don’t reply, pay them no attention just head online and enjoy the awesome spectacle that was E3 2014.
It’s great to be a gamer

Age: Daily E3 2014 a bit of dissapointment?

Everyone else, it’s another game rant – one I was asked for, rather than an organic one. Be warned.

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“I need some words,” spluttered Joe in his barely intelligible, degenerate, rote impersonation of human communication. “About E3!”

Here, then, are some words.

I haven’t watched all of E3 because I have a life and no one pays me for this shit. Having said that, I have seen a few bits and pieces. I am left…cautiously optimistic.

As I’ve said elsewhere, so far I’ve been underwhelmed by the new generation. With one or two notable exceptions, the translation to more pixels and extra particle effects hasn’t really felt like the generation leap I wanted it to. It seems reasonable to opine that this is because so many of the games thus far have been simultaneously developed for the last generation; they’ve had that foot firmly in the past.

Hopes are, however, high that towards the end of this year, there will be enough new consoles in public hands that big new generation exclusive titles will become viable. Now, they’ve been trailed forever, of course, but usually with pre-renders and we’ve been bitten by that before. This time at E3, however, we’ve finally seen some in-game footage of some of the upcoming behemoths.

The Division looks lovely. Watching the Assassin’s Creed: Unity game play made me happy inside and it looks like they’re focusing fairly closely on making it generally awesome. Far Cry 4 looks very pretty and as long as I can still spend hours infiltrating enemy bases, I’m happy. Oh and Crackdown – I LOVE Crackdown and I want more even if it looks the same as it ever did.

But here’s the thing; so far, they all still look very much like very, very pretty versions of the games we’ve already played. Perhaps that’s unfair and, certainly, it’s probably difficult to show off the more exciting and subtle things on a big stage, but…The Division looks like a cover shooter; Far Cry 4 looks like Far Cry 3; Assassin’s Creed looks like…well, ok, it looks like co-op Assassin’s Creed which is what I’ve always wanted – that and some friends to play it with.

So there’s some promise from E3. It seems like the next gen shine might finally be becoming a reality; perhaps Ryse will not retain it’s ‘Most Epic Awesome Looking Thing Ever’ title for long. We’ll have to wait, however, to see whether or not there’s more to this next wave of titles than good looks alone.

Halo: The Master Chief Collection

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To the surprise of approximately nobody Microsoft and 343 industries officially announced the release of the complete Master Chief Collection scheduled for November 11th. Containing Halo 1, Halo 2, Halo 3 and Halo 4. Intended to bring fans and new gamers backup to speed with the Chiefs story there is also a large amount of lip service paid to the Halo community.

Chief with the bomb

With Halo 2 getting the Anniversary treatment we get to play the campaign in full 1080p running at 60fps in co-op.We get to give the defend the Mac installation and give the covenant back their bomb. I’ve played this mission dozens of times on both the Xbox and PC and it really is brilliantly paced and great fun add a friend and it’s even better. Hidden throughout the game will be terminals that add to the story and help flesh out the narrative that was easy to miss and often confusing. I wonder what they will do with that ending i remember the first time i finished the game, i was shocked at the terrible way they ended the game i appreciate they ran out of time but damn that was a kick to balls.

If they could address the ending it would be good for the series there was obviously more content that didn’t make it into the finished game including that E3 gameplay demo that took place just before you boarded the Scarab in New Mombasa.

Apart from a quick screen shot nothing was shared on the Arbiter missions No word on how the Arbiter missions will be handled i expect a second voiceless Elite but these were largely forgettable levels skipping them would be of little consequence.

 

Not only does Halo 2 get the full anniversary 1080p treatment we also get complete unaltered access to its seminal multiplayer exactly as it was on the original Xbox, button glitches and super jumps included. For those who like me spent 100’s of hours online playing BR’s on Sanctuary or Oddball on Lockout you’ll no doubt be as happy as me at this announcement. Halo CE Anniversary was a wonderful re-mastering even down to the atmospheric score but its multiplayer component was squandered in the Reach engine.

 

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Halo 2’s multiplayer had a unique atmosphere a mix of frenetic combat and genius level design Bungie never quite matched in Halo 3. Lockout is a standout map on any game considering its simple layout of BR tower, Sniper tower, Green lift and Library the epic games that played out on there still make me laugh now. I have some great memories of that map, peek shooting from the BR tower, rushing Snipe with the shotgun or sword and being super aggressive with the sniper rifle. It was so unforgiving you missed a shot and you really were in trouble such was the high level of skill involved.

I can’t wait to get back into the fight

Halo 3 and Halo 4 but both will get the same 1080p treatment along with the inclusion of Skulls, Terminals that advance the story and maybe so special goodies that 343 aren’t ready to discuss yet. Also in the package is the Halo CE Multiplayer which I have to say I didn’t expect. The original had 0 net code it was a LAN only game that helped launch competitive gaming and moved the industry away from Quake and Unreal Tournament. In fact it’s so popular it’s still played at the highest level today and inclusion is fan service of the highest order. Done right Halo CE is a viciously challenging game the 3 shot pistol gives no quarter much like Halo 2’s BR you miss and you’re done.

With so much content it makes sense that 343 have decided to bring it all onto 1 Disk with every chapter unlocked and launched from 1 single menu. No more swapping disks, loading chapters or multiplayer maps just straight into the action. I can’t wait to the play Final run from Halo CE, give the covenant back their Bomb in Halo 2, bring down a Scarab in Halo 3 or hand the Didact his ass back to him.

Halo start screen

The final piece in the gigantic package is the Live Action Series Halo Nightfall. Ridley Scott is on board as executive producer with Sergio Mimica-Gezzan as Director and Paul Scheuring as writer. This is not the huge budget Spielberg series that is due in 2015, Halo Nightfall is a smaller budget series that is likely to be released in episodic format leading up to the release of this Collection.

Halo Nightfall

It’s also not going to feature the Chief instead focusing on another Spartan named Marlowe one not encountered in any fiction I’ve read. This begs the question is Marlowe the other Spartan pictured in the Halo 5 images? This would make sense as it leads directly into the events of Halo 5, he is clearly a huge part of the story or he wouldn’t be front and centre.

On the subject of Halo 5 did I mention we get Beta access as part of the package? Not bad ey

 

Plenty more to come from Halo and E3 keep an eye out for more!

AGE Feature: Light at the end of the tunnel

Guest piece from Matt Maddock

 

the light

Muttering self-indulgently about gaming, pretending like anyone out there gives a damn about anything I have to say, is just one of my pass times. I also self-indulgently scribble pictures and show them around on the fridge-door that is Facebook, looking for validation from people I sort-of know. In the dim and distant past, I self-indulgently studied physics at university and had a pretence towards being a scientist. I still like science, engineering and technology, but I have self-indulgently admitted that I don’t have the disposition to make the world a better place through the application of the greatest of human developments to the understanding of the universe.

No, now I just use my education to complain about sci-fi movies and get overly excited about arcane technology. One technology I was excited about was the new generation of console hardware. With the exception of Ryse, which genuinely looked freaking awesome, and the load times when fast travelling through Infamous: Second Son, I’ve been kind of…underwhelmed by the games as yet. Sure, Black Flag is gorgeous, but it was gorgeous on last gen machines too. Thicker smoke and bluer water are nice and all, but they’re barely a reason to have shelled out for a new machine.
Then I took an actual look at some of those games that haven’t really impressed me much. Watch Dogs, for example. Now, don’t get me wrong, it’s a great game; the mechanics and interactivity of the city are a pleasure to play with, but to look at, it really doesn’t shine much. Except that it kind of does. There are high res textures all over the shop. It’s smooth and fluid and shiny, but when it’s moving, there simply isn’t time to appreciate that. It looks exactly like a last-gen game, but with some bigger numbers written down in the specs. That’s fair enough, but I don’t feel like I’d have been missing much to play it on my 360 instead.

But today I read something that gives me hope: http://www.ign.com/articles/2014/06/03/a-sunday-drive-with-forza-horizon-2-ign-first?page=1 ]

 

forza horizon 2

 

Ralph Fulton, the creative director on Forza Horizon 2, said some wonderful things about their intentions for the game. Let me quote a headline for you:
“We believe next gen beauty isn’t about poly counts,” says Fulton. “It’s not about texture resolution. Those are last-gen concepts. Next-gen beauty is about light.”

As an aspiring arty type, that statement along brings me great joy. See; light isn’t like detail. The light of a scene affect every single thing seen within, but it does so in broad strokes, with niceties of colour and tone, with movement and shadow. It suffuses a thing with emotion without worrying about lines and dots per inch and anti-aliasing. The first time I remember really seeing light play its part in a game world was in GTA IV, when the entire feel of the city could be switched just by changing the angle of the sun. GTA V didn’t work nearly so well for me. Sure, the models were sharper and those all-important polygon numbers were higher, but the near constant Californian sun was a flat, uninteresting player.

So, you see, I don’t believe that poly-counts and render resolutions alone will make the new gen sing. As demonstrated by Watch Dogs, that gets lost when things are whizzing past you. Light, though, doesn’t need you to look at it, because you can’t look without it. It’s everywhere and it is a thing of beauty and dazzling emotional power.
When the original Xbox and PS2 gave way to the 360 and PS3, it was like the game designers were suddenly free to build the game mechanics they wanted to. There were so many flops leaking out of the processors that they could combine mechanics like never before, weave game types together seamlessly and refine control schemes into the slick, intuitive interfaces we all expect today.
With this latest generation change, perhaps, I hope, I wish, the artists will start to get the same freedom. The shadows and the glints, the dust and the darkness that speak out of any great artist’s work will find a way to translate into practical models for game designers to use. I urge you to read the second section on page 2 of that article above, because the things they are trying to do with the graphics engine are astounding. As an artist and a scientist, I would happily pay just to get the lighting and atmosphere simulation in my sweaty hands, even without a driving game tacked on the end.

Game quality, as the old adage says, is about a lot more than graphics – and that’s true…but graphical beauty is about so much more than poly counts and resolution. If developers keep thinking like this, then maybe this generation will beget something truly beautiful, in every sense of that word.

Can’t agree more with this thanks Matt for another great article

Wolfenstein: The New Order Review

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Todays guest post comes from the wonderful Matt Maddock

So; Wolfenstein: The New Order first impressions…

First up, I should admit to some bias. I am a sucker for a single player, story driven game. There’s been some mumbling in the press about the fact that W:TNO has no multiplayer component and how that seems like an anachronism, but I have to say…thank buggery for that! I’ve played and loved many single player games that included a perfunctory and forgettable MP component that did nothing but take effort and budget away from the SP campaign.

W:TNO has no such confused motivations. All of the effort is right there for the single player and that is a wonderful thing.

I’ve played several hours of the game. With most shooters these days I’d feel like I was a good half-way through, but I have the very clear impression that W:TNO’s plot is just finding its feet. There’s been no impression that the developers have rushed the player through any section just to get to the next. The levels are expansive without feeling wasteful, secrets littered about, hidden well, but not frustratingly so. I was surprised to find a good selection of alternative routes that I could take through any given fire fight, although my relative inexperience with the game meant that many circumstances turned into messy spray’n’pray gunfights when they could have been something far slicker…but by the end of last night I was beginning to feel on top of the mechanics and was starting to use them as I wanted to.

The gunplay is meaty and rattling, the weapons feel like dangerous pieces of machinery and they have a satisfying effect on both enemies and scenery. Alternate fire-modes and dual wielding are but a d-pad press away. You can even dual-wield the DMRs if you want to. The sights kick about convincingly and the balance between subtle inaccuracy and power makes them feel right in the diesel-punk 1960s of the game world.

The story itself is well told (so far, at least). It’s a strange, slightly uneasy mix of comic-book heroics and genuinely brutal cruelty. BJ Blaskowicz, our meaty protagonist, could easily be drawn as a bland, faceless cipher for the player, but some nice writing and characterisation lend his blank stare a genuinely rather unsettling thousand-mile colour. He’s lost too much and he no longer has any compunction about fighting and killing to retain what little he has left. Oh, yeah, and vengeance. There’s a healthy dose of that in his motivation too, which is always a good drive for a game lead.

So, all in all, I’d give it a hearty recommendation. The game mechanics are nothing special and nothing new, but they are completely competent and work well for the game they’re attached to. The story – clearly the focus of the development team – is unhurried, compelling and well rendered, although I’m not far enough through it to really comment on the quality of the plot arc. The diesel-punk world is vividly drawn with plenty of fantasy, but it has so far stayed on the right side of believable (allowing, obviously, for some suspension of disbelief).

Perhaps most importantly, I want to get home and play more of it!

Age News: Halo 5 officially confirmed

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Microsoft have finally announced Halo 5: Guardians set for release Autumn 2015 and running on a brand spanking new engine built especially for the Xbox One. Of course no real information was given but this does beg the question of what 343 manager Bonnie Ross was talking about when she stated at E3 that Halo for Xbox One “definitely begins in 2014 with a giant leap, rather than one small step.
We can expect further information at E3 this year and possibly even some glimpses at the game if 343 are feeling super generous but I’ll be happy with a bad ass trailer and knowing whether Halo 5 is the Chiefs Story? It wouldn’t surprise me if Halo 5 wasn’t a continuation of the Chiefs Story and started a fresh with new Spartans and a new Halo story line. Maybe the Chief’s story will be told via the incoming TV series and not this Halo title.

Lets hope we find out at E3

Age Daily: Microsoft unbundle Kinect & Drop price

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It’s finally happened, one more backtrack from Microsoft this time involving a core X1 component, yes haters can stop hating Kinect is going to be unbundled from the Xbox One, well done now back to your cave. Kinect was the distinguishing feature of the Xbox 1, sure it can be frustrating but it can also add to the experience in ways the competition cannot match. Removing it from the bundle simply reduces the base level of Kinect units in the wild for developers to target. Those Kinect experiences may no longer happen or worse be held back from their true potential due to the uncertain future of Kinect. If I was buying an X1 right now I would still choose one with Kinect, sure there are very few current titles that support it other than the pretty horrid Kinect Sports Rivals but there is the pretty great Xbox Fitness that shows enormous potential.

The other side of the argument is two fold really and hit the major issues potential buyers have with the X1 being the price and the much published inferior performance when compared to the PS4. Now I have my own opinion of the PS4 and it’s fair to say I’m not a fan of the console or of Sony but they have a clear lead in the early stages due in part to the reserved 10% that MS have put aside for Kinect functionality. Removing Kinect from the console in theory will release that 10% allowing Developers to bring their engines and titles closer to the PS4. This is all great but we know the X1 is capable of 1080p 60FPS as they did it with Forza and that is with a ton of physics and particle effects thrown in & MS have stated on numerous occasions the console is capable of this and more in the future. So we lose Kinect in future games all to close a gap in a truly irrelevant pixel race. Anyone who decides on a console based on how many dots should really think hard about their life.

The price drop is a nice touch but in all fairness £350 for a next gen console isn’t bad. That’s less than a high end PC GPU and won’t make you invisible to the opposite sex.

Anyway this topic has already bored me to tears.

Well done you moaning bunch of cunts!!