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An encounter with fate, nay, …

Usual rules: 3 tries per person. Winner gets to propose a gameSketch. x5 multiplier for first timers. Newcomers: you may ask for 3 freebies even if you didn’t yet guess anything. Outstanding credits: Firefish x32, 47Crows x12, Ange, PettyX90 x7, 47Crows x7, Haikuhunter x10, Jaco x99, Pori x2, Tarpo x5, player347 x9, Diana x6, Radu x45, VideoGamesAsArt x2 , thegazer x9, BiaHawks x7, rsocu x5, Teofil S. Awaiting scenes from you guys.

 

ARMS – HaikuHunter Review

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The genre of Fighting Games – which is not to be confused with Beat ’em Ups – can be tracked back to 1976 when SEGA released their game Heavyweight Champ. Nowadays, Fighting Games have become a wide field of competitive sensation that even got its own popular event every year called Evo that’s a profitable championship with tens of thousand viewers watching as pro Fighting Game players compete against each other in different games. Those game can get as technical as the long running Tekken series but can also be much less about combo crafting and more about tactical mind games like Nintendo‘s popular Smash Bros. series. The genre has grown a lot since the rivalry of Street Fighter and Mortal Kombat and it’s terminology as well as the abstract ideas behind them can be quite intimidating for newcomers who want to get into them. ARMS tries to extract the core idea of Fighting Games and transform them into something more digestible without scaring off players familiar with the genre. Can it do to Fighting Games what Mario Kart did to Racing games? Let’s see…

 

 

The name ARMS could not be more fitting to this game that puts its fighters with their extendable arms front and center. The idea is to play a game of spacing and strategy, resulting in tactics born from action and reaction in a kind of rock, paper and scissors style. Punches can be blocked, blocks open an opportunity for throws and throws can be cancelled by punches, but there are almost always means to use those actions and trick your opponent; you could block for a prolonged time only to wait for your enemy to start a throw and then quickly punch them. This leads to many situations where the game quickly gets to its meta mechanics of risk and reward, trying to outplay your opponent with witty tactics and unpredictable behaviour. But that doesn’t mean skill is not involved. ARMS is a very dynamic game where composure can make all the difference in a close battle as you try to pull off actions as you intended and not starting to mash buttons (if playing with classic controls) or moving the JoyCons furiously (if playing with motion controls). Its also useful to have a general strategy, a battle plan, set up that you always can go back to. Such strategies would depend on the arena you are fighting in and the character of you opponent which means that knowledge of the game’s content will definitely come in handy and make you a better player. It’s worth noting that the motion controls work very well and while I prefer my sticks and buttons, this is definitely not Wii Sports Boxing 2!

 

 

ARMS‘s cast of characters consists of 10 different playable fighters that differ in weight, speed, special abilities, design and ARMS available from the start. Most of them are iconic and well designed, easily noticeable and will without doubt spawn interesting cosplay in the future. Like the characters in many other Fighting Games though, they lack deeper personality and so it’s difficult to see them as more than fancy tools that you want to get familiar with. Part of this is the lack of proper and interesting single player content, especially compared to something like Injustice 2‘s great campaign mode. The only reasons to keep playing the single player tournament is the AI – which is quite capable in the middle levels and is able to destroy you at the higher levels – as well as the fact that you need to beat the tournament at least on difficulty level 4 (of 7) to unlock the competitive ranked online mode. Other than that the only thing I got out of the mode so far are coins which you can also get by playing other modes like the online party mode where a lobby of up to 12 players will be thrown at each other in combat scenarios of 1vs1, 2vs2, 3vs3, 4vs4 or even player vs boss AI. The single player mode can be played cooperatively though which is a great way to ease your friends into the game! Combat modes range from classic fighting to target destruction, basketball (where your goal is to punch or throw your enemy in the basket) and volleyball. It’s a much more interesting and fun mode to learn about different ARMS and characters and to farm coins. And farming coins you will do. A lot. Every character starts with a set of 3 different ARMS that you can select from before every battle for your left and right arm separately. Those ARMS are mostly fine for learning the basics of each character but once you found your main character you will want to get more to broaden your selection and thus your strategic options. Acquiring them is done by playing a mini game in which you will need to destroy targets and once in a while get the chance to punch a box which will grant you a new ARM for one of the characters. This mini game can be played in a short, medium and long variant and playing them will cost you 30, 100 and 200 coins respectively.

 

 

The problem with that is this: not only are the ARMS itself random, the character they are for is randomly chosen as well (although the chance is increased to get an ARM for the character you’re playing the minigame with) which means you will spend a lot of coins to even unlock a complete set for the character you want. The number of ARMS you unlock is also tied somewhat to your performance in the minigame and also the maximum amount of boxes that will appear differ, which leads to the next problem: I have seen 3-4 ARM boxes in short, 8-11 in medium and 18-22 in long variants of the minigame. This means one ARM will cost you between 7.5 and 10 coins in short, 9 and 12.5 coins in medium and 9 and 11 in long variants (according to my own experience, other players may have different numbers). To me this means that the short variant is pretty much the best one which I also have to save up the least for and it overall reduces the danger of completely messing up because with one bad run, you only waste 30 coins instead of 100 or 200. To me, it’s not a good adaptation of the system used in Mario Kart 8 especially because you’re not exactly awash with coins. Technically the game is very solid, with great use of color and specular materials and it runs at a rock solid 60 frames per second which is absolutely key to such a fighting game; the exception is the 4 player splitscreen where the game has to compromise with 30 frames prer second but this mode is only good for casual party gaming anyway. The arenas are varied and the soundtrack is quite catchy but still not nearly as good as Mario Kart 8. The game’s mechancis work great and are a lot of fun to explore and apply and the depth of this game becomes apparent after the first few fights. It’s certainly the most unique fighting game available which says a lot when you have other fighting games that are brutal or cute, have Superheroes and -villains fighting each other as well as over the top Anime characters and even drawn stick men.

 

 

Conclusion: 2 (on a -5 to 5 scale). ARMS is one brilliant idea flawlessly executed but not backed up with a lot of content. Nintendo has already promised future free content updates and the first new character is about to be released, probably with a new stage as well since every character has its own signature stage. The unlocking mechanic is something that I feel holds ARMS back although it means to keep players engaged. We will see if ARMS has some legs through its updates (like Splatoon) and I hope it will get enough attention from the fighting game community so this can become a returning franchise for Nintendo. Right now its a great game to enthrall new players interested in the genre but only features enough to keep veterans around. It gets better with every hour played but probably loses a lot of players in the process. It’s like a very tasty sausage, cut down at both ends.

Humble Dark Souls 2

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Wow, what a fantastic deal for this legendary game.

15 Game Companies That Went Bankrupt

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Interesting.

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Galactic trading and exploration…

Hopefully an easier one this week, as the last 3 are still unguessed.

Usual rules: 3 tries per person. Winner gets to propose a gameSketch. x5 multiplier for first timers. Newcomers: you may ask for 3 freebies even if you didn’t yet guess anything. Outstanding credits: 47Crows x12, Ange, PettyX90 x7, 47Crows x7, Haikuhunter x10, Jaco x98, Firefish x31, Pori x2, Tarpo x5, player347 x9, Diana x6, Radu x45, VideoGamesAsArt x2 , thegazer x9, BiaHawks x7, rsocu x5, Teofil S. Awaiting scenes from you guys.

 

My E3 findings

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I originally planned to do some step-by-step recap of the E3 conferences, with ratings and stuff. But after Void’s wonderful postings for each show and FireFish’s great (if not exactly mine) opionions (which you can read HERE) I decided to go for a more loose and essay-like recap and what I took away after some days of digesting, dislodging from imminent hype and getting things straight for myself. Let’s go, shall we?

 

Microsoft is trying to catch up…

I think no one watching the Microsoft show got a feeling of confidence from this company that managed to lose the goodwill and following of many million players of the 360 era in merely 12 months. Microsoft has since been unsteady in its decisions regarding the XBox and this was more obvious than ever at this year’s E3 show. It knows the PS4 managed to pull ahead immediately because many player’s (like myself) just wouldn’t buy a less powerful console for $100 more. They thought Kinect and TV functionality would be great technical investments and were all wrong about it. Now they announced what will be the most powerful console on the market but are again $100 more than the PS4 Pro while the redesigned XBox One S and PS4 Slim are sitting comfortably on mass market pricing. They also lost a lot of exclusivity deals with 3rd party developers and because their 1st party output is not even close to what SONY and Nintendo can do (and are doing) they decided to show just a load of games (many of them Indie and AA games) with some sort of exclusivity while trying to emphasize on the message that multiplatform games will look best on XBox One X.

 

…but they are still failing.

The problem with all of that is this: the 3rd party games shown don’t compete with the high production value exclusive games of SONY nor do they look as exciting gameplay wise as the exclusive games of Nintendo. They exist and that’s just not enough. Microsoft is also running into a problem with the XBox One X’s performance. While it manages to have 50% more GPU performance, the CPU is built upon the same bad architecture that PS4, PS4 Pro and XBox One (S) are based on. What does this mean? It means that while 3rd party games may be able to pull of a true 4k instead of lower resolution or checkerboard rendering of the PS4 Pro the results simply won’t be noticeable most of the time. The CPU is just not powerful enough for a 100% framerate increase compared to the PS4 Pro which means you will indeed get similar results in the end. The only games that normally profit from such a supererogation are 1st party exclusives that are built specifically for the platform – of which the XBox One X just doesn’t have that much. Forza 7 in 4k at 60 fps sure does look and will play impressive but a racing game alone won’t sell the console. That’s why Microsoft was trying to explain that any XBox One title will benefit from the performance because XBox One X will render them automatically at a higher resolution. That’s great but honestly no reason even for 4k TV owners like myself to pay $500. What’s also great is the cooling and form factor but I am being honest here: my XBox One S is the slickest and quietest modern console I have ever owned. The XBox One X may be even slicker and quieter but even I as someone who gets bothered by cooling noise easily (why, SONY, does the PS4 Pro need to be so noisy sometimes?) doubt the XBox One X will be a significant improvement over the XBox One S. And so I just cancelled my preorder of the XBox One X. Just now as I am writing these lines. Yup, Cancelled. What Microsoft needs to do is to heavily market the XBox One S as well. That’s a console you can get for $200 to play games like Forza, Gears of War, Halo, State of Decay, Sea of Thieves, etc. if you’re interested in them and don’t want to bother yourself with Windows 10 PC gaming. What Microsoft also needs to do is get some AAA high quality exclusive games again. Not timed exclusives and not with some exclusive content. They are doing a lot right in terms of coss buy (with Windows 10) and cross play (with Switch and Smartphones even), backwards compatibility (how much I wish I could just pop in my PS3 copies of Ni No Kuni and the Metal Gear Solid collection in my PS4), development tool quality and their id@XBox program. But if they really want to be a worthy contender to SONY again, they need to up their game (pun intended) and start getting those heavy hits in.

 

SONY is trying to deliver…

SONY’s show was pretty much what I expected. Many gamers are a bit frustrated because of the great E3s of 2015 and 2016 but here’s the catch: both years SONY announced a lot of titles that are far far away. It’s like a mortage for hype and SONY knows which is why they were focusing on stuff that comes out this year and next year. And that stuff has been announced already. Last of Us 2 is still very early in production and preparing an E3 showing does cost a lot of time and money which Naughty Dog already invested in Uncharted: The Lost Legacy. But PS4 is still a great primary platform for gaming with full 3rd party support and a lot of high budget AAA productions. They also try to push VR further (which is completely uninteresting to me at the moment) but they need to keep that going. It felt a little bit like when 3D and the Vita sections started to shrink. I hope I am wrong because VR could get really interesting to me with the next generation of hardware and the experience developers will have earned with VR by then.

 

…but needs to be careful with that rising arrogance.

I feel like SONY should focus more on features that are not only for the majority of gamers. Being able to change the PSN nickname is a feature that people are demanding for years now, backwards compatibility is another. SONY also tries to explain why they wouldn’t allow cross play with other platforms than the PC with reasons of protecting kids which is insane considering both XBox Live and Nintendo are far more protective than Steam or PSN itself (on Xbox One you can set exactly what your kids can play, how they can interact online – on PS4 it’s just all or nothing). Everyone is aware that SONY just doesn’t want the competition to profit from their big PS4 playerbase. That’s nasty and not exactly for the players, but it’s reasonable from a business point of view. Just don’t pretend you have your own player’s well being in mind when that’s clearly not the case. At least be honest so it won’t be as comical when you should need to make some exceptions in the future (because your version of Minecraft will be worst because every other platform – including Nintendo Switch! – is connected and DLC will work across all of them as well).

 

Nintendo learned a thing or two from SONY…

“How to win an E3 in 25 minutes” has already become kind of a meme. Nintendo’s show – 3 months after the Switch’s release – was decent with Xenoblade 2 and Mario Odyseey releasing this year and Yoshi and Kirby coming 2018. But what really excited many fans was a logo and some spoken announcement. Metroid Prime 4 and a main Pokemon game are both coming for the Switch. No one knows when exactly, but they are coming. Nintendo took a page out of SONY’s playbook here because those kind of announcements are very unusual for Nintendo. The company likes to announce games that are already pretty far in development and can be shown off easily, yet neither Metroid nor Pokemon had even some alpha status kind of screenshot or gameplay trailer. Nintendo finally understood that sometimes fans just want to know that the thing they are asking for is coming. Acknowledgement. It’s important.

 

…but will still not compete directly with SONY and Microsoft.

Nintendo is doing a lot right lately, which even got them some praise from 3rd parties. Still, the Switch – with it’s unusual premise – will not be able to compete directly with PS4 and XO. We will certainly see more and more 3rd party games coming to Switch as sales of the system continue to grow (especially from Japan where the Switch is the best selling gaming platform each week since its release) but developers will be very careful which game they will spend their ressources on. Games for Switch need to benefit from the portability so the ports will be reasonable sidesteps instead of unwanted steps backwards. Skyrim is the type of game that definitively makes sense because of all the content that can be leisurely be experienced on the go or at home (like Breath of the Wild). Call of Duty that you really need to focus on and get everything from its blockbuster audiovisual presentation? Not so much. Anthem with its online community focus and high quality graphics? Neither. And the problem is this: as Phil Spencer from Microsoft already mentioned more than once more and more games are planned as a service to keep players engaged and connected and monetized. The Switch is pretty much the opposite of that; sure: games like Mario Kart and ARMS (that I am planning to write a review for artsygamer on) are much less interesting when not played online, but they work great with local multiplayer as well which was one of the Switch’s design goals apart from being able to take it with you and play on the go.

 

For me, nothing has changed.

This year I am coming out of E3 just as I went in. Sure, new and exciting games like Wolfenstein II have been announced. But my gaming setup will not change. The Switch will still be my daily companion and primary platform for all games that are great to play on the go, the PS4 is still getting sweet AAA games exclusive to the platform and Microsoft is still trying to transform XBox to something that goes beyond being a hardware platform while still trying to keep the hardware relevant and competitive somehow. The biggest surprise to me was honestly how much fun Mario + Rabbids seems to be and that Ubisoft is able to deliver a good E3 show in general. Everything else I pretty much knew before. That means not many pleasant surprises. But that also means almost no unpleasant suprises as well. To me, that’s enough to be a good E3. But for next year, I want more again.

E3 2017 wrap-up

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At some point, as I realized that this E3 is less exciting than what I remembered from some of the past years, I decided to keep track of the highlights in each conference (very subjective, mind you, so I skipped games that I personally found irrelevant). Thing is, some of the conferences were packed with games, yet they lacked a good presentation, while others were the opposite. And I wanted to have a more clear view of the entire picture.

A quick overview:

  • Microsoft, Ubisoft and Sony are in the end the top scoring conferences.
  • Microsoft was for me the hardest to rate and even the reason why I made this list: it had so many games presented without hype, that by the end of the presentation I forgot 90% of them. But when looking back, they really did have quite few cool games like Metro and Shadow of Mordor, etc. At least when compared to the other conferences…..
  • Compared to Microsoft, Ubisoft presented fewer games, but man, was their conference just so much more fun! I decided to give them points for that because I think a good conference should get us enthusiastic even about games that we’re not that much into. Otherwise, I’d just follow those 5 games that I truly love and watch their youtube trailers.
  • Sony’s presentation style I found again somewhat mediocre. A bunch of games which we’ve known about before, like Detroit and God of War. I mention these two because seeing more game footage was a bit of a disappointment in both cases.
    • Detroit gave me the impression of more of a psychological game in the first trailer, while now it seemed like you’re playing with militants for a specific cause, meaning that you’ll be revolting in the street and doing big actions for a cause that you might or might not relate to (and yes, I know some of you will say that it’s a game where you take decisions – but I somehow doubt it won’t be like most games: lady character: “Here, want to burn out and destroy this plaza, violence is the only thing they understand?” me: “No, I believe in peaceful reasoning”, lady character “Ok, then I’ll smash everything either way, this needs to be done”, me: “….”).
    • As for God of War, there’s a reason why I like it: it has, like almost no other game, these incredible huge scale environments, totally unrealistic as such, but a wonderful representation of ancient Greek mythology. There is never anything plain in that game, it’s all over the top (and yet well made). And the character is ruthless. This trailer did have some cool monsters, but it lacked the scale and felt like they went for more realistic and for humanizing Kratos. Which is a shame imho…
  • EA and Bethesda: both decent, but not extraordinary. Ea actually had one game that I am interested in: A Way Out. I’m surprised to see a well made split screen game with a captivating story! As for Bethesda, Wolfenstein and Evil Within were the highlights. It’s more of the same, but I liked the two games so I’m happy to see the continuation. By why was the Bethesda conference so ..silly? Whyyyyy? I have very little patience with my precious time and if I was there I even imagined I would have walked out, just so that they feel my reaction. To be honest I’m tired of having all this silliness around grown-up platforms and games. It’s a bad idea to start with to call these “games”, but rubbing it in makes it just annoying.
  • And then there’s Nintendo. To be honest, the only reason why I was interested is because I now have a Switch and I was hoping to see some bigger games coming in the future. Well, I don’t think I got much of that, but I can’t tell for sure since I was hypnotized by whatever crazy colors for ADD kids they were showing on screen :D

 

Yakuza 6 Trailer

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I was hoping to see this advertised at Nintendo’s conference for the Switch…

Nintendo E3 2017 Conference

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Again I feel like I have to apologize, I don’t really get/like Nintendo, and I’m not their target audience I guess, and of course these are totally my own personal points of view and it’s totally okay that others feel otherwise, many many millions of people in fact :P With that out of the way, here’s my thoughts to the Nintendo conference with the same things in mind as the MS, Sony, Ubisoft and Ea ones:

– Reggie still looks silly to me, and age has hurt his image even more in my eyes from the original Wii times as I can’t stop looking at his strangely twitching upper lip. Plus the strange fake backgrounds…

– Not just him but others too felt like men in suits who don’t actually play games but are executives who are selling toys to kids or their parents.

-, -,  + Xenoblade Chronicles 2 looks silly to me, but feels like there might be a big world there

-, – ,  + Kirby: totally uninterested, but seems decently made and i hear there’s Kirby fans out there. Kirby’s Epic Yarn felt much more stylish to me though.

-, -, + Pokemon: not interesting but it’s nice that it’s there for those who like it and i hope it’s more indepth+story than the mobile city exploring even i tried out

+, -, – Metroid 4: great that it exists.. but JUST SOME TEXT!?!?! that was lame. This could’ve been the one game I might be excited to play on my Switch.

+, -, – Looks cute… but for 5 year olds

-, + Fire Emblem Warriors: looks silly to me, but I can imagine they’ll put lots of story and world there, even if in that style

+, + – Zelda DLC: great that they’re making it, afraid though that it might be just NG+ kind of stuff with re-threading and challenges instead of new world regions.

– Splatoon 2 : whatever (multiplayer)

+ Rabbids + Mario, they’re cute. But probably won’t make time to play it.

– Rocket Leage : whatever (multiplayer)

+, +, –  Mario Odyssey: I like the variety of the worlds, bit still don’t know if I’ll make time to play it

It says though something about my great disappointment with this year’s E3 that I actually started with hopes that Nintendo will save it, which was of course silly given my own tastes and interests for more grown up games. But overall i’d give the Nintendo conference a 2 on a -5 to 5 scale. I didn’t find anything to really excite me, nothing of the 3rd party publisher rain I was hoping for, but on the other hand I think for their own audience Nintendo probably did a decent job. I’m curious how some people who really love Nintendo felt about it.

Sony E3 2017 Conference

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-, + stage music was pretty cool, but i wanted games

+, – Uncharted Lost Legacy, looks good by itself, but a lot of “been there, done that”, with Drake and with Lara, feels very samey without the personality of Drake or the familiarity of Lara.

– sound problems in the presentation

-, + When i saw the Guerilla games logo for a moment i got excited there’s going to be a new Killzone… but then it was Horizon… which i guess is okay

– sound problems, kept switching streams, broke the immersion

+, – Days gone: looks good, and it’s nice to see gameplay, but it wasn’t as cool as the last one. I was hoping to get an open world vibe, but instead got a linear segments like Last of Us vibe

– presenter, with my lack of excitement for what was shown felt a bit pushing it with the “you should catch your breath” after stuff that didn’t feel that spectacular. Good, of course, but not breathtaking.

+ Monster hunter, some interesting setup, interesting dinosaur growth, so so world

+, – Shadow of the Colossus, for a moment i got super excited at a new game, and then same old places… still looks great, but disappointing, I wonder if they’ll get a backlash for just that/if others felt like i did.

– Marvel Vs Capcom looking silly and low fidelity to me, at least the way it was presented here.

+ Call of Duty WW2 nice that they’re making it, but looked a bit bland to me.

– VR games look so dated… and Skyrim again… loved that game, but i played it like 5 times already… how disappointing with so many presentations this oldie is still the highlight. With each one there is a little spark, but then I tend to be disappointed, and then i remind myself… oh, it’s VR quality … VR has come to mean substandard quality to me :P

– weak of Sony to not mention at all Vita or Ps3. Even a 30 second montage (say instead of that orchestra) would’ve helped their case for having a bigger platform including a mobile, but instead they let it rot.

-, +, -, –  God of war: the game could be okay in itself, but i feel they’re stepping and destroying a character they’ve crafted so well over so many great games (just finished an old one, still replaying others). In all games Kratos was portrayed as ruthless and manly casually killing innocents who simply were in his way, now he’s a father of a kid and they’re trying to project a whole new identity on him in contradiction to the old one. Add to that that all the God of War games were a cinematic experience, with brilliantly placed cameras on rails, with epic things in the background… this looks to be a diminutive whatever 3rd person hack & slash with some cheesy narrative. I feel they’ve missed what made the old games great, the fascinating and complicated Greek mythology, gone, the epic setpiece moments nad feeling of scale as you realize your whole world happens on the back of something huge, unique unlovable and yet interesting endearing protagonist, gone… instead they’ve added an old man and a kid and family drama. And instead of the fascinating greek tragic characters encountered along an epic journey, they put in a joke character. Sad for the series :( Does look interesting at times, so at least it’s going to be a high production values. Also the serpent thing was an interesting design.

+, – Detroit: interesting social tensions. The world looks very bland and generic. I’m afraid the choices will be skin deep and in fact still be a “you fail or succeed” instead of how to do things.

– Destiny 2: when it started out this game started with an original world, with old russia, with an interesting fiction. By now with all the MMO-ing it seems to have degenerated into dumb big obvious antagonist with a Warhammer vibe and loot grinding.

-, + Spiderman: there’s some nice dynamics, i think it’ll be fun to play, feels somewhat Batman Arkham City in posibilities of play, however with less coolness, more bland politically correct world. Nice environmental interactions, though who knows how few of them will be kept in the free roaming

Overall I found the Sony conference passable, nothing bad, just nothing impressive. I’d give it a 1 on a -5 to 5 scale. Decent, though far beyond what I was hoping. No price war surprise, no big surprise titles, no internal studios mega magic, no shocking 3rd party support (where’s Reddead, a new Gta or a new Elder scrolls?)… at least MS had a new console to announce… they had just games, high quality as we’ve come to expect, but nothing surprising. I’m unimpressed.

Ubisoft E3 2017 Press Conference

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+ I was impressed with the showmanship from beginning to end, pretty much all the presenters looked like interesting often impressive serious people. And the kick off the conference with a french guy and a japanese guy talking funny english, that in itself was brilliant, not to mention… wow Myamoto!!!

+, – Mario + Rabbids, quite funny stuff, made me think maybe Ubisoft will be for me that company which makes the games for Switch that I don’t trust Nintendo to do good enough, cool minions type of humor. On the downside the game itself might be a high budget Ios/Android game with branding… what it did get me thinking is how cool an Xcom game would be for the switch instead, as the gameplay seemed straight out of there

+, +, – AC origins, can’t wait to play it, nice trailer, but unlike MS conference no gameplay to speak of and more importantly I was again struck at how low-detail (animations/textures) the pedestrians in the crowds seem.

+ The Crew 2 trailer, man, so much kewl, it reminded me again why i think only Ubisoft and Blizzard have the knowhow to make such CG trailers, so professional, pacing, video, music, they make some really good trailers. Add to that the showcasing of planes and boats and and a pretty world witch I now trust them to make… lots of respect. i’m not a car guy, but to me this was sooo above all other car games at the show, to be precise the order of how much i was impressed with : The Crew >  Need for Speed > Forza in terms of what was shown at E3

+, – Skull & Bones again, maaan, they sure know how to make a cg animation. Almost movie quality. Unfortunately seems not only distant but also the kind of game i don’t care for, multiplayer-ish. Seems to me like they’ve taken the naval warfare from AC games and are applying multiplayer styles from For Honor. Great artwork but I’m not tempted to keep grinding online in clans

– Just Dance, not interested, but not as lame as last year’s push or when that was with the annoying black lady

– Starlink don’t really know what to make of it and it’s distant, but looks good

– Steep, sports stuff… whatver

-, +, + Farcry 5 I find nasty the politically correct propaganda attack on religious people and on independent minded groups but I’m sure i’ll have tons of fun in that game and looks fantastic. I don’t expect nearly as much as the awesome africa of 2 or places of 3, but still, it’ll probably be good.

+ Beyond Good and Evil 2 i gotta say i wasn’t that huge a fan of the original, unlike everybody in the world it seems, played it on the ps2, but never loved it, so I’m surprised just how much i liked this trailer. The production values, the subtleties, the character… this is truly cinema material, better maybe than the last high budget animation movies I’ve seen. They managed to drop the old characters I wasn’t super looking forward to but instead invent these new and fun ones, and all wrapped in so much “cool factor”. I’m surprised myself because I know they should qualify as “silly to me, yet i found it cool/entertaining.

Overall I’d give this conference a +3 on a -5 to 5 scale, not because I found so many great games I’m excited about, but simply because I thought they had great showmanship, pacing and all that kind of stuff. It was simply entertaining from beginning to end for me.

 

Bethesda E3 2017

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– found the beginning incredibly lame. From the kids and families to the whole badly drawn/silly Bethesdaland graphics, found it horrible. I laughed hard in approval when the very smart woman I love that I got to watch it with said whoever had this idea for the presentation should be if not fired at least moved to a whooole other department. The only way I can imagine this as justified is as a PR stunt to humanize the otherwise and disarm critics of otherwise violent games

+ Doom & Fallout 4 VR, yep, that’s a reason to consider VR! Finally full games … I’m curious if one can play them without puking.

– Elder scrolls online focusing on player reactions to a (n old) trailer, found it lame

– elder scrolls CCG, might be good, but underwhelming in this context

+, – Skyrim on switch, on one hand exciting to finally have a serious game on the console, on the other hand… presented in that silly style…

+, +, – new Dishonored content, Daud, promising story= yeaayy!!! Downside: seems like cg animation, no gameplay, no location, particularly surprising given the September launch timeframe. Not a good sign.

-, – Quake Champions (though I played the heck out of quake 3 as Anarky) damn, yet another online class based team shooter a la Overwatch, even worse instead of letting it rise or fall based on it’s merits as a game it’s presented with actors and the mandatory politically correct token woman shown winning. Game might be okay but I’m rating here the presentation so for me it was a negative.

+, +  The evil within 2: cool surprise, cool cg, lots of symbolism, multiple mood changes, at times it felt like a Alan Wake wannabe, at others like a Quantum Break attempt, and it even had some Death Stranding weird simbolism before returning to the game in which the actual gameplay/locations were a mixed bunch

+, +, + Wolfenstein 2 epic legendary from the surprise, the world, the cg, the media references, the humor, and then the great looking gameplay and environment design, all wrapped in great presentation. Simply stellar.

+ I was repeatedly surprised by all the games being for this year. Was expecting some kind of at least tease for an elder scrolls, but i understand why it’s smarter to keep the iron hot for titles which are imminent and this was of the conferences I’ve seen so far quite unique and impressive. Was there anything not launching this year?

Overall I’d give it a +3 on the impressions, great games, even if presented in what I found to be lame silly packaging.

gameSketch 360

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A rusty neo pirate lands on a lovecraftian foggy island

 
Usual rules: 3 tries per person. Winner gets to propose a gameSketch. x5 multiplier for first timers. Newcomers: you may ask for 3 freebies even if you didn’t yet guess anything. Outstanding credits: 47Crows x12, Ange, PettyX90 x7, 47Crows x7, Haikuhunter x10, Jaco x98, Firefish x31, Pori x2, Tarpo x5, player347 x9, Diana x6, Radu x45, VideoGamesAsArt x2 , thegazer x9, BiaHawks x7, rsocu x5, Teofil S. Awaiting scenes from you guys.

 

Microsoft Conference E3 2017

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– pricing on the Xbox One X : i think they’re doomed

+, – they showed a lot of games, which is something they learned from past Sony success with that, however it was vast majority indie games many of which just made me laugh when they kept putting their branding of ultra HD : you’re looking at huge pixels… NOTHING will make that smoother :P Similarly with other indie looking games, no amount of antialising will take them into the realm of realism or into that of quality pixar stuff :(

– Anthem: worst fears came through, it seems they’re going for yet another multiplayer grinder

+, –  Metro was great (a Stalker would’ve been better) but it’s not theirs

+, – I can’t wait to play the next Assassin’s Creed, but i didn’t see that huge revolution i was hoping for.. and still not MS exclusive. I was not impressed with the crowd simulation/characters in the world, though i did appreciate the environments.

– Forza they kept talking about how great it looks, looked to me just as good as the other N racing games in the last years. And not a step forward “dirty realistic world” kind of good but the same kind of super sterile “clean” graphics (eg. not approaching realism)

– Sea of Thieves… funny presentation, but so-so game & gameplay & world

– Mordor, can’t wait to play it, but not only not theirs but actually looked to me worse, more washed out and silly characters than the original. BAD signs, afraid they could sink it down the drain like they did with Watchdogs

– a lot of the titles were 2018

– the environment destruction one was not just stylized and unimpressive but they actually dared focus live acting which is always a bad sign

– they organized pretty bad, i think at some point they had like 3 games in a row which in my mind blended as they all felt like the same: the hunger games, bunch of people, who makes it last. One looked more interesting than the other but I’m not much into that and the whole push into the commentator sports i still find lame.

– hard to tell what all that extra power is used for, they didn’t have for me a single title that would make me think “wow, this physics is amazing, this water simulation is truly something i doubt any other console could do” or anything like that. And if I a graphics guy feel like that I wonder how many of the general public will care or see enough of “that amazing power” they keep talking about”. PC hardware specs people… maybe? For me I was more interested in the occasional indie game with a well done animation/art style, and i wouldn’t be surprised if many customers will notice that also more than “hey, check it out, if you reaaaaly zoom in on the edge of this car’s outline, you might if you strain your eyes see a huge difference to that care on ps4”. To me all the pixels in the world make no difference in comparison to say a more interesting public in the background with say more interesting animations/personalities.

+ Great to see them sticking to the Xbox backward compatibility, a point where Sony really screwed up massively  (multiple times already, and they’re still not admitting it). It’s at the time possibly my biggest respect point towards Microsoft.

Well, i gotta say I expected much more. I expected to give it a 2-3 at least yet in the end i thin kit’s just a 1 so with the disappointment it felt like a 0. Of course it’s not and they had good stuff, I just expected so much more. We were just itching for an excuse, any excuse really to get us to buy an Xbox One, been planning to for so long…yet we saw nothing worthy, the power was not used to any mindblowing effect, and the small differences they might or might not have is to us not counterbalanced by the asymmetric controller + sony ecosystem + all the optimizations and releases 3rd parties will make to the much bigger install base of the ps4 which unfortunately with the announced pricing and (lack of) features don’t think will be challenged. We’ll probably get one anyway… but we’ll feel bad about it :P Currently for me Quantum Break is the only thing that MS really has that I think i might care about or am at least genuinely curious.

PS: upon reconsidering the many games I am modifying the grade of my impression to 1.5 because indeed a lot of games were show. Can’t give more because I still can’t shake the impression that the presentation wasn’t that great. I found Phil Spencer rather lame and the whole aura he gave thing didn’t feel entertaining or well paced, and that despite the good games like AC shown.

How did you find it?

Sonic & All Stars Racing Transformed (WiiU game)

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Remember Sonic? A cult figure of the 90´s, surely the most famous hedgehog across virtual reality and the main star of the SEGA game factory. For some of us, there is no need for description: we know Sonic, we basically grew up with him, playing the fun speedy games on those vintage SEGA consoles. Back then, you just had one or two arcade games, the luckiest of us maybe even more, and you were either a Nintendo or a SEGA kid. For all those who don’t know about Sonic, you can take a leap back to the past here.

Since 1991 – the year when Sonic emerged – a lot has happened; the entire game industry evolved so fast, facing revolutionary progress as well as numerous trends, like gaming on mobile devices or using VR equipment. As for the content dimension, one popular trend is definitely the racing game. Racing games are fun, entertaining and challenging, and can be played as a single player or with more people at once. And there are many out there. After a comprehensive review of Mario Kart 8 Deluxe written by HaikuHunter, here is my review about the dynamic and colorful racing game feat. Sonic in “Sonic & All Stars Racing Transformed”.

“Sonic & All Stars Racing Transformed” was released by SEGA in 2012. The Wii U version came out in November 2012, followed by PC versions for Windows in 2013 and iOS in 2014, and ultimately Xbox in 2016. Critics evaluated the game positively. The Wii U version however got minus points due to some issues in the online gameplay, but there are plenty of offline challenges that compensate. In multi-player mode, further players can easily join the game, provided they have a controller and a display port.

 

What´s special about the game?

 

As the title anticipates, it´s all about racing transformed. The racing car of each character can transform into a flight plane, for air racing, or a boat, for cruising on water. In one race, chances are that you must activate up to all 3 transformations. One of the things good to learn quickly are stunts, for example spinning in the air when taking off a ramp, or drifting in curves. This gets you bonus points and extra speed.

In the “Career” section, the game offers four different modes: world tour, Grand Prix, timed race and single race. These are meant to train your racing skills on different levels, from bronze (easy) to gold (difficult). When you finished a set of races on the bronze level and made it to the podium (top 3), you unlock them in the silver mode, where the competition gets tougher. What I missed here was more variation between levels; after racing through the same scenery several times, you kind of wish more challenging stuff on the next level. In a way, there is a higher difficulty through the fact that in the silver and gold levels, the sceneries are mirror-inverted and the competitors are more fast and furious. If that does it, then you will probably not get too bored seeing the same scenery over and over again. But still, as a single player, you kind of expect more pepper.

If you play as a single user, you can configure whether you use the Pro Controller or the Wii U pad as a main instrument. To make the most out of the game, I definitely recommend the handier Pro Controller. In this case, the Wii U pad will simultaneously show the route map and your position on it during the race. The competitors and the overall ranking per race are also displayed. Personally, I don’t really look at these stats while playing, in order not to get distracted from the race.

Current position and ranking displayed on the Wii U pad

Characters

 

Besides Sonic, you can choose between an entire range of characters from the SEGA universe. Some of them are well known from the Sonic game series, like Sonic´s friends Tails and Amy Rose, Knuckles the Echidna, or his enemy Metal Sonic. There are also further SEGA figures like AiAi – the Monkey (Super Monkey Ball), BD Joe – the funky taxi driver or Ulala – the sassy reporter from Space Channel 5. Each character has his own strengths and weaknesses. While Sonic is the fastest and wackiest protagonist, Amy can fly more precisely, and with Knuckles you have a smooth ride on boat. Sometimes it´s wise to choose a certain character depending on the race ahead you. A curvy race can be mastered better with Amy than with Tails, while BD Joe can get very speedy on straight road. Personally, my favorite character is Amy Rose. She can face most races in a balanced way, especially on boat or plane, which are quite a challenge as a beginner. After some practice, I won many levels with Amy, it´s so much fun to hear her cheering “hurray!” and “wow!” on the way.

During the game, you can unlock some further, hidden characters. Among the figures that can be unlocked there are some more characters from the Sonic family (will not spoil the surprise here ;-)

Amy flying through a tunnel

Tails driving through a village

Sonic driving on a futuristic highway in the Lights City

Graphics

 

The game presents a very colorful visual universe, a vivid and intense journey for the eye. The diversity in the scenery leads the player through green landscapes, casino highways, winter nights, cities with sky scrapers, Japanese landmarks, rivers, seaside roads, industrial depots, flight platforms, mexican lava rivers, spooky ghost houses and many many more.

Each scenery sparkles in strong colors and is enriched by animated details, which boost your journey with extra joy.

 

Amy flying though a dream portal

Knuckles flying through old historic walls

 

Tails racing through a medieval city

 

Gameplay

 

Basically, you have quite straightforward controls to accelerate, drift, spin, use weapons. However, there are more tricks available for doing stunts, and the combinations of controls are not transparent, you have to discover them. This can be a challenge, I dare to say.

For moving forward, you use the same control, no matter if you race on road, on water or in the air. A race consists in 3 laps. Usually, the first two laps are quite the same, while the third one gets a bit more difficult requiring transformed racing. Before starting a race, you can choose an available gear for your character. For example, for a curvy route, you might go better with the “Balanced” gear than with the “Turbo” gear. The effects of each gear work differently for each character. As you advance in playing, more gears get unlocked for your character.

During the race, there are collectibles on the way: coins, surprise items you have to hit, in order to get a weapon that can be used against your opponents. The currently available weapon can be seen in the top right corner of the screen.

Here is my list with some of the coolest weapons:

Hotroad – a kind of enormous speed boost like fire gear; you must end it actively with a blast, to sweep the opponents in range away (but if you don’t activate it on time, it will blast you up, to your disadvantage, and slow you down; this happens after a few seconds, so you have to activate the blast quite quickly!)

All Star – a kind of absolute power state that lasts for a short time; you float with super speed accompanied by the character-specific song – Amy´s All Star has a fancy song and unleashes pink hearts while she’s drifting with super speed ;-) With All Star you can easily overrun some opponents at a time, quite a cool thing.

Blowfish – a big round fish to be released on the way, so the cars behind you bump into it – when this happens, they get slowed down. The fish itself has a funny face too!

Ice (Snow balls) – with snow balls you can shoot on the opponent in front of you (precision is required!)

 

On the road, there are glowing pink arrows that add turbo power, if you drive on top of them. On water and in air, these are pink glowing gateways – if you fly or swim through them, you get a turbo boost. It takes some practice to learn to drift successfully in a dramatic curve right after getting a turbo boost… But that makes the entire game so active and fun.

Obstacles like bees swarm, blowfishes, lightning bolts, spiders etc. are placed on the way to challenge your tenacity. The game is very entertaining and dynamic, each race and scenery is unique. Watch below Amy Rose mastering the Mexican “Samba de Amigo”…

…and Sonic ruling the race in the “Carrier Zone”:

By the way, with collected coins you can play casino (5 coins per chance) – if you’re lucky, you can win a pre-package for the next race, for example start your next race with a Blowfish or a turbo boost. :D

Play coins in the bonus Casino to get benefits and pre-packages for the next race

 

Summing up

 

+ Good gameplay, for Wii U very cool to play with the Pro Controller

+ Fun racing with collectibles and boosts

+ Diversity in available characters, more characters can be unlocked

+ Nice graphics, lively scenery, brilliant colors

+ Entertaining music and game voicing

 

– Loading: quite long loading sequences between races or game modes, can sometimes take up to minutes

– Not much diversity between easy and difficult game levels, mostly same sceneries (yet quite many, though)

– I would have loved a story, a story that twines everything together and establishes connections – for instance, a story around Sonic and his friends would have been nice.

– There is no central user manual or game rules directory. I had difficulties to find out how to shoot different weapons (some can be shot even to the rear, others just to the front). You just get some random hints while the game is loading, which is not quite enough. But perhaps it was intended like this, to challenge players.

 

All in all, I enjoyed playing this game. Driving Sonic is quite a speedy thing in this colorful game, just as usual. My great hope is that the next Sonic racing game will evolve around a story and maybe even combine racing with jump&run adventure – thinking further, I would love something like that – Sonic would be the perfect character for such a mixed fun hullabaloo.

 

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