Forza Motorsport 6 – Review

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One of the things that has become apparent since we’ve had Forza Motorsport 6 in our lives is that Forza Motorsport 5 was a bloody well made game for an Xbox One launch title. Forza 6 pushes the franchise forward in an interesting, if not slightly pretentious, way that takes some of the best things from Forza Horizon 2 but also gets rid of some of the best things from Forza 5.

The biggest addition to the game is the Mod system so let’s get this out of the way now. The Mod card system is excellent. It brings a brand new dynamic to the game that isn’t a full trading card or cheat system but a good way to give yourself more of a challenge for more reward or allow you to bump up the difficulty without completely destroying your races with overly zealous drivatars.

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The way the system works is pretty simple. You buy the pack using the in-game currency or win them from levelling up. They come in three types, the dare mods which add a great difficulty like forcing assists or specialist views, the crew mods which add a buff like extra grip or power but can also add track specific buffs, and the boost mods that will give you extra rewards like driver XP, affinity or money payout. As long as you’re clever about it, it can really up your game progression and you don’t really need to keep purchasing these packs. Some of them expire but some of them stay, and you can sell duplicates that you don’t want. Also, you don’t need to use them at all if you don’t want to. It’s a very good system that so far is very removed from the micro-transaction hell of previous iterations.

The game itself is, again, a wonderful display of the power the Xbox One can achieve with exactly the same level of 1080p 60fps detail seen in Forza 5. Which also begs the question of how much actually has improved. Well, quite a bit, especially now we have two new modes to race in. The ultra wet weather is an excellent addition to the game which I’ll go in to more detail about shortly, and the night racing is great at showcasing those reflections and curves in the excellent car models. Night racing is also rather tricky too, especially if you’re on a track with minimal lighting and end up smashing your headlights out in a needless collision.

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The thing is that whilst other things are visually better and further reaching in their weather effects (the dynamic nature of both Project Cars and Driveclub are well known), the wet weather effect is a testament to how good something can be with just a singular focus. Whilst it is very over the top (and quite possibly way too much for what you’d actually be allowed to race in with certain formulas), it is definitely the best representation of wet handling that I’ve played. Not how the car handles in the wet but what happens when you hit water. I know this because I drive and have done this myself and spent a good five minutes after trying to calm my heart rate down. When you hit water your car has no connection to the road anymore. The weight of the vehicle makes the tire sink in to the standing water, pulling it like the tide pulls you about on a choppy day in the ocean. You then have no grip, a car in the wrong direction and no control. That’s what Forza has expertly managed to replicate.

The differences then from Forza 5 are mostly in the type of racing available, but there are some other subjectively positive changes. A few cues have been taken from Forza Horizon 2, the most obvious one being the wheelspin function when you level up, which is also the best way to make money and get cars. The handling does feel slightly more arcade based than previous games which again feels very inspired by the aforementioned spin off. Some people might not like that but the more puritan car appreciation is still in the game.

Which leads me to a bit I miss. Top Gear. Never thought I’d say it but the Forza 5 presentation with the trio of Clarkson, May and Hammond was excellent fun and only appreciated when you don’t have it. Their quips and love for cars are accompanied brilliantly with great shots of the cars. But in Forza 6 this has mostly been replaced by a scaled down look at the different racing disciplines with static pictures and racing drivers/voice overs not being able to pull off the jokey sass when introducing people like The Stig (the entire dialogue is completely recycled too). And in fact it’s the presentation that gets the good, easier to navigate UI for car selection and shopping, and the choice of Forzavista locations, that also lets it down by not doing enough to live up to the almighty passion the game tries to communicate about the cars.

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The showcases are a little bit copy and pasted from the previous game but some of the newer additions like the high speed chase and the manufacturers showcases are great fun. The online modes are fun as well, although if you’re not in a club or can get enough for a private lobby then it can get a bit like car pinball. The rival challenges are great and the photo mode is once again incredibly powerful (as you can see by the shots I’ve included here. All me, thank you), which is combined with great community support and competitions for these ancillary features on the forums.

The pretentious nature of the game that makes the appreciation of cars the sole focus does come up a soft thanks to that. It’s also not a million miles away from Forza 5. But if you can see the screen shots, and love this kind of game then it’s the best one out there that isn’t pure racing or arcade based. It feels different enough thanks to the lessons learned from Forza Horizon 2, and it looks absolutely voluptuous. And, if we’re honest, who doesn’t want to race around Indianapolis at 200mph, or cruise Brazil in a LaFerrari?

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Forza Motorsport 6 adds a lot to the already established franchise and takes some of the best things from Forza Horizon 2, and some great new modes including the wet weather. It still loves cars to cringe-inducing amounts but that only happens because of the light presentation which is missing this time around. It’s still the best all round simulation based racing game for the Xbox One though and with a bit of the previous games presentation, or more dynamic environments it would be the best racing game full stop.

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Great new weather and night racing

Mod system is easy to use and fun

Good lessons from Forza Horizon 2 in wheelspins

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Presentation lacking from last year

Not enough of the weather across the available tracks

Not a million miles away from Forza 5

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Because in my mind the rating system works like so. Forza 5 was an 8/10. This is better. I’d rate Forza Horizon 2 as 9/10 though as that was a near perfect game. Forza 6 is excellent but with a bit more work on the weather effects, more dynamic feeling and more of the atmosphere of Forza 5‘s Top Gear presentation and Horizon‘s accessible party vibe, it’d be perfect.

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Minecraft Story Mode Ep.1 – Review

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Minecraft: Story Mode is the new adventure from Telltale Games. If you’re a fan of Telltale’s more hard hitting, difficult choice-based stories like The Walking Dead then you might want to look away as this probably isn’t for you. However, if you like a good fun story with a slice of Minecraft, and Minecraft that has a narrative direction, then you’re in the right place.

In our interview with Telltale Games’ Laura Perusco, she explained that this is what they do, “interactive stories,” and after Tales of the Borderlands they decided to look at what they could do with other video games and thus this game was born. But just to write it off as another Telltale Game would be a fools errand. To set the scene, you play as Jesse. It’s the day of the EnderCon building competition and you are going with your friends and your pet pig Reuben to build something awesome. The prize for winning this is to meet Gabriel the Knight, one of the four heroes of the land and part of a group called “The Order of The Stone.” The comparisons to modern day convention culture and the massive success of the game in various online media is evident and it’s quite enjoyable to see it played out in an actual narrative.

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Even for me personally, some of my favourite YouTube videos on Minecraft are one’s that have involved some hilariously hammy role-play that makes things enjoyable, but there’s no ham to be found here. Not unless you consider Reuben to be food. The story does the normal multiple choice speech options that will either enamour you more with your fellow characters or cause issue at a later time. And as far as the quicktime events go, there isn’t many, which is probably to help less experienced players enjoy it with others (kids playing with parents for example).

In fact it’s this family thing that is a bit weird for the more serious player. Firstly, it’s not Minecraft, it looks like Minecraft and there’s occasional points where you get to use Minecraft objects like chests, crafting tables and swords, but it is not Minecraft. It’s also not the dark and morally disturbing game that some of Telltale’s stories have been in other franchises.

The positives of this is that the story can indulge in comedy and expression a lot more than previous franchises. There’s some great voice acting going on here from the cast, both with the male and female versions of Jesse, and Reuben the pig is quite possibly the best pet character in a game this year.  He’s charming, and, depending on your actions, all kinds of adorable. The dynamic between the friends is good and potentially venomous as well and there’s a love interest (presumably, certainly a mutual “you’re pretty” thing) between Jesse and Petra which is not changed or any different regardless of what gender you play as. Good on you Telltale.

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The criticism is that this is more of a Minecraft animation at times than a game. It takes so many visual queues from media around it that it kind of loses Minecraft itself. You’ll notice visual styles that people like Captain Sparkles and the like have made popular on YouTube over the years. But the problem is that it kind of loses the fun and soul of playing Minecraft. Which is fine if you don’t want to actually play Minecraft and go in to a more comedic thing. At one point, Telltale use their own speech system to implement a joke, which was a pleasant surprise when I noticed it, but could be easily missed.

So is it a step too far in the wrong direction for Telltale? Is the formula getting stale? It’s certainly stretching the formula a bit, as was found during the Game of Thrones series, and others are now doing it just as well with Life is Strange being a prime example. But this game isn’t the same as those other franchises in so much as it is designed to be for family entertainment and a bit more for everyone rather than fans of a particular franchise or fans of the game. If anything it’s Telltale-lite. It’s kind of reminiscent of the early games like the Sam & Max, Monkey Island games, etc. But it has a much better narrative and a much better gameplay dynamic.

Of course we end on a cliffhanger and I’m not spoiling any of the episodes story other than you set off on a vast quest across the world of Minecraft to reunite the Order of the Stone, the title of this episode. It’s definitely a good game and a lot of fun for families and people who want to engage with Minecraft in a relatable way, which is great if you have kids that enjoy it, or you enjoy Minecraft anyway. Otherwise, it’s probably not for you.

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Minecraft Story Mode is only in its first episode and i’m sure it will have a lot of visual treats the longer we go on. The story is already a lot of fun but it really isn’t the usual kind of story that you’d expect from Telltale. It’s very family friendly and it’s very light on the actual game interaction. It is also quite far removed from Minecraft as a game. But it is enjoyable and worth playing just for Reuben the pig, this year’s best game pet.

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[tab title=”Good Points”]

  • Great amusing story
  • Awesome use of Minecraft visual style
  • Reuben the pig

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  • There isn’t a lot of stuff to actually do
  • Doesn’t have as much Minecraft interaction as you’d expect
  • Could be stretching the formula a bit too much

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Well, it’s a fun enough game and I mostly enjoyed it for Reuben the pig. But if I’m honest, it made me want to play more actual Minecraft. It’s fun and certainly good for families and people who want to sit around as a family and play an easy game together. But it doesn’t leap out as much as other Telltale games have. It’s a great use of the franchise, especially for the target audience, but not enough for a larger audience.

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Minecraft Story Mode – Interview

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Last week, we got to play the Minecraft Story Mode with Laura Perusco, the Creative Communication Manager from Telltale Games. You can read our review of the game here shortly.

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Sean Cleaver – Minecraft story mode, it’s lots of fun. It’s been worked on for quite a while. When did you first get the project germinating, how did it come about?

Laura Perusco – It basically came from, you know how we’re doing Tales from the Borderlands? Well that came first and we were already working on a video game that’s set in the world of another video game. We started thinking about what else we can do this with. A whole bunch of people in the office play Minecraft or have kids that play Minecraft, and that’s something that doesn’t have a story. People were just creating their own stories in that world. So we had the idea of reaching out to Mojang and floating the idea of doing a game. This was way back before Microsoft brought them out so our contract is with Mojang.

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SC – Minecraft is a very precise visual style because of what it is. But you’ve also managed to find a cinematic style out of this. There’s a lot of YouTube videos that have done these small animations. You seem to have created almost a movie out of it.

LP –  That’s pretty much what we do. We do playable stories, so our games are often thought of as playable movies or playable TV shows. Just the aesthetic of the world of Minecraft is very unique in and of itself. So we actually built a lot of the environments in Minecraft first and exported them to our engine, so it would absolutely, unequivocally Minecraft. Then we added a little bit to make it look more cinematic like depth of focus and changes and stuff like that but it’s all Minecraft. Absolutely.

SC – You’ve got your main characters, a band of four if you will, it’s a very traditional…

LP – And the pig.

SC – And the pig. I’ll get on to the pig now. The pet pig, Reuben. This year seems to be the year of the Dog for video games, every game has a dog and everybody loves them. You’ve gone with the pig and he seems to be much more charming than any dog that I’ve seen this year so far in a game.

LP – Reuben is my favourite character I actually had new business cards with him on. I think something that’s really cool about Reuben is that no one ever thinks of eating dogs in video games and that’s a new dynamic that comes up because pigs in Minecraft are always thought of as food. So it has that interesting dynamic.

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SC – I don’t think I’ve ever though about having a pet pig in Minecraft. I don’t I ever use them for food either but there you go. I quite like the idea with the story building on, a bit like what Minecraft really is, the convention scene. Creating Minecraft fandom within Minecraft itself with Ender Con and the Order of the Stone. What drew you to create that story out of it? Was there a lot of going around, looking at Minecraft, looking at the world, looking at the real life interactions with Minecraft? And are there plans for any more?

LP – The community around Minecraft is so important. That’s the reason for its huge popularity. There are so many videos online and people creating their own stuff. That’s what Minecraft is, it’s about creating things and sharing them. So we knew that was a huge part of the licence.  I actually went to Minecon in London to show the trailer and that was fantastic.

There’s so much love around this game that we wanted to put something like that in there. You might have noticed but the people who come on stage to introduce Gabriel at Endercon are Lydia and Owen, their director of communications. They voiced the characters too. But the thing about the characters in this game is they don’t know they’re in Minecraft. They don’t have any meta awareness or some other real world. As for more? We hope people play it and people enjoy it but beyond that, anything can happen.

Minecraft: Story Mode by Telltale games is available now on Xbox One, Xbox 360, PS3, PS4, PC and Mac.

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Days Out – EGX (Eurogamer Expo)

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In a new, irregular series of features, TheGameJar goes and visits gaming events and lets you know whether or not they’re any good, how much of your wallet you’ll have left and if you’ll enjoy them.

It’s true that the forced move from the well known and relatively easy to get to Earls Court to Birmingham was a bit of a sticking point for Londoners (myself practically falling in to that catchment area). When I say easy to get to, that’s a geographical and logistical misnomer. Because Birmingham and the N.E.C. in particular is the most connected place in the country outside of London. In fact its location makes travel and attendance easier for everyone across the country.

What it doesn’t do however is help justify the cost of travel. I booked my ticket in advance on Monday for the Thursday (I could only afford to attend for the one day). This cost me £22 but it was a timed return, so I left my home town at 7:05 and had to get the 20:05 train back. Any other choice would have thrown me up to £75 for a single ticket and £158 for an open return. There are of course cheaper ways to do it with more advanced booking, group tickets, driving yourself and even using the 10% discount code EGX put on for Virgin Trains. But compared to my incredibly open £25 London travel card from last year which allowed me to go in to central London, see sights, eat slightly less overpriced food, and enjoy a beverage by the Thames, it is an extortionate cost. One that sadly is completely out of the control of the organisers and, it seems, anyone that doesn’t own a train company.

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It doesn’t help that there is practically nothing else to do. It’s like that Tom Hanks movie “The Airport” where the guy can’t leave. The N.E.C. is Birmingham only because it isn’t close to any other major city. It’s barely in Birmingham and there is literally nothing to do. I’ve added this paragraph after reading a Midnight Resistance piece on the same event which says that the loss of the community focused events, like podcast/website community meet ups, are the real casualty here as no one can meet anymore. There’s no where to have little meet-up events and the lack of those fun, semi-industry meet ups and drinks is a real shame. As someone who runs and owns a site in the same vein, I heartily agree, and there’s never going to be any convenience for sites like us to arrange a meet-up, and we’ll never have the finances to independently arrange it. Obviously you can’t blame Gamer Network for this, this is their event for their brands. But that’s another conversation for another time.

Before I go on to the more positive sides, I do have some very practical niggles about the venue itself. The N.E.C. is a veritable maze of oversized airport-esque craziness. That’s not a problem as long as you adequately signpost where the heck you are going from the station. There was one sign that said which halls it was in, about the size of an A3 poster once you’ve traversed the long concourse from the station. Then there were occasional people pointing you in the right direction. Other events were nicely signposted with cardboard cut outs of Police Officers for the emergency services show pointing you the right way. It was like the event was a dirty afterthought for the conference centre at times. So after getting my press pass, I went to the  Wetherspoons pub in the centre to get a coffee and some breakfast (much needed after a two hour train journey). There was a few people at 9:30a.m. on this Thursday already drinking. Now, I’m not an old fuddy duddy but any alcohol before 10am is only allowed socially if you’re in an airport before going on holiday. This was a family event for video games and if you’re that desperate to have a pint with your mates, then you’re probably not going to have a good time.

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Ok, the event itself was… Alright. I had a few appointments for interviews which basically gave me no chance of playing any game. The EA both is very typically busy at all times but as the event opened, the queue for Star Wars Battlefront was over an hour long. After I finished an interview, it was three hours long. This is the same for pretty much everything with a few exceptions for what is essentially ten minutes of gameplay. This is normal for events of this type but I found myself mostly watching games by looking over the shoulders of those playing. If I had a family and was paying for this, I’d need to meticulously plan this otherwise it would be utterly frustrating. I saw a tweet this morning where someone had listened to the VideoGamer podcast whilst waiting in the queues. It’s a bit silly really.

It’s mostly silly because we’d all hoped the move to a bigger venue would mean that the expo would be… Well, bigger. But most of it only felt bigger in the aisles and walkways. The idea, we all thought, was to allow for more gaming, more fun and ultimately more of an experience. But to be honest, it didn’t really feel like that was the case. Playstation had a rather large and cramped area with two loud presenter type people more obsessed with spinning a prize wheel and garnering attention away from the Xbox stand, who were also shouting rather loudly about their game footage and drawing a crowd in a slightly larger area under the promise of free things. And they weren’t alone with YouTube Gaming doing the same although their streams and content was actually quite good, including the Gamer Network owned teams, along with Cam and Sebby, showing off games with developers and watching footage of games like Total War: Warhammer and people playing Destiny.

The problem is with these events is that the games that are supposed to take centre stage get hidden behind personalities, available space and consumer demand limitations, and the apparently more beneficial longevity of the swag generation. Stick around for this whole presentation and at the end we’ll throw T-Shirts at you. In the case of the YouTube stand, people just appeared at the right time like a sixth sense. If you’ve ever been on a boat or in a harbour where you lean over the edge with some food and suddenly lots of tiny sprats appear like a swarm of locusts in a field… That’s what this is. Maybe I am sounding old here but it’s an atrocious sight to see human beings baying for branded garments for no other reason than them just being there.

The Indie area on the other hand is cramped, busy and interesting. Pretty much like it always is, and if you are more interested in this then EGX Rezzed at Tobacco Docks in London is probably better for you. But it’s fun as long as you can get around it and look at the interesting games there, although having been to many events this year, I’ve seen a lot of the same games over and over again by now. But there are good things to be seen here.

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Then there’s the awesome community around games that really love just going there to see friends and have a good time. Cosplay had a smaller stage this year but it was great to see so many people being involved and enjoying it. The Rock Band 4 stage, compared by our great friends at Xtreme Gaming, was a great interactive and fun experience to get involved with (even though the surrounding people were probably sick of hearing Tribute by Tenacious D so many times). The retro gaming area is always fun and incredibly easy to get on to the old consoles and have some fun as well.

The thing is with this event is that it’s a little too big for what they’re attempting to do. Sure you can go and and have a little shop around as there’s lots to buy, you can even go and get some food and a coffee at a price not too far removed from the previous venue. You can go there and have fun if you’re patient and organised. You can even play the games that aren’t out yet if you want to wait in queues for long enough, or go and discover a gem. But with the game release silly season coming up, the cost of getting and staying in Birmingham (if you are doing multiple days) may not be worth what you get from it. If we can get better deals on travel and accommodation, then this would be a much better proposition than it currently is.

Images taken from Eurogamer and Indigo Pearl’s Twitter Feeds

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Gamescom 2015 – Day One


It’s been an interesting 24 hours here in Cologne. Europe’s premier games conference and industry trade fair is buzzing with people. Today is the calm before the storm where industry and press get to see some things before the peoples of Europe come and wreak absolute carnage. How much carnage? Well the organisers are expecting around 400,000 people approximately. That’s just under the population of Cardiff.

We start today with yesterday. Xbox’s annual briefing gave us some new glances into things we’ve been waiting for, such as Halo 5 Guardians, and Rise of the Tomb Raider. The latter of which we were treated to a secondary demo of after the breifing. Lara Croft’s adventures seem to follow the exact same system and style of the 2013 remake. Some have criticised it for being and Xbox exclusive (which we now know it isn’t after Winter 2016) and that Lara was a bit too indestructible. Honestly, whilst she certainly takes some pubishment, you don’t feel that she’s immune to the physicality she endures. The game has a frenetic and terrifying way of creating urgency in how you react against obstacles and big crazy events like collapsing caves. It does look good and we can hardly be critical for wanting more of the same and getting it.

Crackdown 3 appears to be the most technologically progressive out of the games we’ve been shown. The use of Microsoft’s cloud servers in delivering a better in-game experience is nothing new (we found out last year that Dead Island 2 was due to use the system). But there doesn’t appear to be a game that has ever been so reliant on it. The 100% world destuction is an ambitious ask for a console that has begun to find its gaming feet but it raises some questions. Will this be unplayable offline, will this be reliant on server connections being stable, will the amount of players cause lag and issues? The 4 player co-op sequel is in the pre-alpha stage so it’s going to be a while but what we’ve seen is impressive. The 100% destruction is based on actual construction with elements in the buidlings. There’s no empty shells with textures, every shatterd pane of glass, broken concrete, collapsed steel pillar and brick is a physical element in itself, with each building being based on its own server as to not interrupt gameplay. The demo we saw with ultimate destruction used 12 servers in addition to the Xbox One. Is it too ambitious? We’ll see next year hopefully.

We saw new game Scalebound (a rather jaunty hack and slash with dragons), debut some gameplay, and we saw some almost blase news that Cities: Skylines (the Sim City rival/usurper) will be making it’s way to the console. But the biggest new annoucement was a sequel we were all hoping for and from a studio that we really should have predicted. Halo Wars 2 is coming and it will be developed by Total War studio Creative Assembly. I for one am sad that it isn’t in house with a reformed Ensemble Studios but I’m more exctactic that it exists with a studio that has such pedigree.

Quantum Break was given more of an outing and we saw an expansion of the third person gameplay to something that looks quite like a rival to inFamous and the like. Remedy studios appear to be brilliantly keeping their TV style presentation for the game with Aiden Gillen (Game of Throne’s Littlefinger) sticking to one accent alongside a great cast. The gameplay does look excellent but we need to see some more, less demo-y gameplay now, and maybe even some hands on time.

We also had DVR announced (if you have that much memory left then teach me your ways), a new keyboard peripheral and backward compatibilty for Games with Gold. So your Xbox 360 Games with Gold from now on will be playable on the Xbox One. None of your previous ones sadly and there’s no telling how that’s going to limit the game choice but apparently everyone is on board so, we’ll see.

The next morning EA held a conference which, from the social media reaction, hasn’t really been well received. We have more news on FIFA 16’s Ultimate Team mode, a new Sims 4 expansion, some Mirror’s Edge gamplay, some Need for Speed and, most importantly, a new trailer for Star Wars Battlefront. To be honest, we weren’t expecting much from EA than what they had already announced at E3, with a new Battlefield game being slated for 2016. I personally didn’t see it as I was busy checking out Dark Souls 3 (a preview of which will come next week) but here’s the trailer for Star Wars Battlefield.

We also has a press conference from Blizzard which introduced new characters to Heroes of the Storm including the monk from Diablo, along with some gameplay refinements. We also saw a new standalone expansion to Starcraft 2, Legacy of the Void, new Hearthstone cards and more news on Blizzard’s first person shooter, Overwatch, including new maps and their 16th character – carnival loving Brazillian Lucio.

There’s still some noise to come from Blizzard with the reveal of the new World of Warcraft expansion and I’m going to be deep in halls checking out all that I can so stay tuned to our Twitter for more and more reports over the next week.

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Evolve – Review

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Having played Evolve back at Gamescom, I had a few worries. Come the Alpha and the recent open beta, I still had them. Come release day, I still had them. The thing is, I’ve heard a lot about Evolve. A lot of people have talked to me quite passionately about how good it was and how excited they were for it. Yet whenever I combined those conversations with my worries over the game, the answer was always something like “it’ll be fine come the release” or “it won’t be an issue.”

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[Satirists predict 2015’s Black Friday Sales]

Evolve is an online multiplayer team hunting game, or an asymmetrical multiplayer game. The idea is that you work as a team of four to hunt a monster, or as a monster to defeat the team. You do this across a variety of maps, which are essentially alien landscape arenas with some vestige of humanity.

As the monster you walk around these arenas eating things so you can evolve your powers of destruction, and kill your hunters/destroy objectives. As the hunters, each of you has a dedicated role: Beat the crap out of the monster, trap it, shield everyone and call air strikes, or heal the idiots who just charge far away from you. You then stop the monster by death or by preventing it from completing its objective within the allotted time.

The problems I had are these: I worried that the game was too reliant on its online component (something that was a complete failure during the PS4 alpha for various reasons) and that not enough people would be interested. I was worried that the game wouldn’t have enough to do in it for it not to become ultra repetitive. I was also worried that the console versions would become very redundant very quickly. Leaving the game to the PC market only, and even then to dedicated people, and that it didn’t have the longevity of the Left for Dead series, Turtle Rock’s previous ventures.

What I have found when looking at other reviews is that people have completely misunderstood a lot of the information surrounding the game. There are massive criticisms from users on Metacritic and Steam over microtransactions. This needs addressing, as at present there is absolutely nothing in this game that is behind any kind of pay-wall to allow you to play it fully. The only thing that could be counted as such is a special edition monster only available to certain packages. There are many downloadable skins available for the game. That’s it. That will undoubtedly change with further DLC but the game isn’t requiring it in order to play, nor is there any pay to win solutions.

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[“Do you think this’ll make the Hunters Calendar next year?”]

From what I can tell so far, the problems for the PS4 that were apparent in alpha have been resolved. The game has some pretty decent matchmaking that doesn’t leave you hanging around too long. It was the top selling game in the UK last week too, so there’s obviously people playing it. There are offline elements but the need for people to be playing the game, so that you can get the best experience, is evident. However there are ways that the game tries to overcome this people quota issue.

In fact, it takes a leaf out of classic PC FPS gaming. I feel the game becomes quite similar in this regard to things like Quake 3 Arena and Unreal Tournament, although given the developers PC pedigree it’s hardly surprising. If there isn’t enough people then the game will put in bots – AI controlled characters – to fulfill the roles. It’s quite clever in that it will help keep the online game alive even if it hasn’t filled up with actual players. It also makes up the majority of the solo play as well. Plus the AI isn’t ludicrously stupid for either you or the monster. It’s nowhere near the excitement of playing with other humans but it will do while you’re waiting for them.

This is where Evolve is at its best though. When you have a full party of people who know their roles and can communicate via chat, this game is a tactical masterpiece. The monster is a wild card and getting things exactly right is incredibly rewarding as an experience. Sadly it is rare that it occurs at the present moment. I’ll come on to the characters themselves but the way that people have been playing the game, in my experience, is very console specific in the run-and-gun style. Which can make games a tactically inept cat-and-mouse chasing simulator. If the console audience is ready to adapt their style of play and ability to communicate better then this game would truly be revolutionary. Unfortunately I still haven’t fully experienced that yet.

The positive is that Turtle Rock has given the people all the right tools to do it. In this regard they have a created a fantastic game, even if it is slightly limited by the built-in desire for online play and future DLC. The game modes are very simple and easy, yet are challenging enough to not become dull and repetitive in a short space of time. The Evacuation game mode is the highlight here. It’s masked as a solo campaign option but the five mission stages that you can complete (win or lose) is best played as a night event online in a party with friends. It’s amusing if you’re all together chatting and it is a separate enough entity that you could just do that once every few nights with your mates without ever leaping too far ahead.

Evolve 5

[And here we see one of natures most homicidal, sociopathic creatures… And what they’re hunting]

Graphically the game runs very well and with stable frame rates. The art design is excellent and creates some incredible alien worlds that science-fiction filmmakers would kill to have. My only criticism of the level design is that it can be very Monster-centric, making the early level hunters struggle to get around.

I’ve not seen many issues relating to Internet connection but there are certainly things that the game could patch like the in-game volume. It’s incredibly loud, louder than any game I’ve played, straight from the intro video. The in game sounds are also so loud that it eclipses the party chat in volume, which is a pretty key element. But these are all patchable things that can be easily addressed.

The characters or Hunters all have a different element to them. There’s four classes (Assault, Trapper, Medic and Support) and each of them have an important role to play. Which is where the need to play tactically really becomes necessary. The characters individually don’t have enough attacking power to just spray the screen with bullets. So you have to actually work together to get in to the best position to use everyone’s abilities. It becomes tricky when the environment starts working against you due to your failings and you realise that some kind of balanced personal weapons for each character is not only useful but completely non-existent. It’d be nice to have something that can tackle animals and such without your team having to bail you out or leave you for dead.

The rub of this is that more characters and monsters unlock the more you progress in the game. They are very typical of a 2K game release; slightly humorous and cliché meatheads/rednecks/smart-asses that come complete with occasional funny dialogue and cut scenes brimming with banter. They aren’t original at all, especially the first medic Val who could have been stolen straight from Resident Evil, but they are all entertaining enough in the short term that you rarely feel they make much of a difference to the game. Their weapons however do. The Assault character’s guns obviously occupy the role of a tank. The Trapper has some excellent things to help the hunt without being offensively anemic. The medic is very poorly equipped for a fight but essential to keeping your team alive, so smart monsters tend to target that role first. The Support or the buffer role is a bit weak but has a powerful yet cumbersome air strike ability. Together they work very well but if someone gets too far ahead then it can get very lonely and very deadly incredibly quickly.

Evolve 3

[Maybe he should try some Listerine?]

The monsters all have different attacks and abilities with the Goliath, Wraith and Kraken (Ed – every game has a bloody Kraken now, is Lovecraft out of copyright or something?) heading up the available line-up, unless you are rich enough to buy the special edition with the Behemoth. I personally love the Goliath’s fire breath that satisfies the inner need for me to be a dragon. The Kraken has enough lightning for me to scream Return of The Jedi Emperor quotes.

The only tricky thing with the monsters is finding a safe enough place to evolve and unlock more powers. Generally you are already on the run at that point and it feels like birds are everywhere. But you find yourself playing, again that key word, tactically. You know you’re one monster so you have to adapt, learn the map, work out how to separate the team and who to target.

The thing is that the game provides a lot of satisfaction as long as the right people are playing it at the right time. It’s like when you play an online FPS mode and come up against a clan. You are obliterated, utterly embarrassed and become incredibly jaded with your experience. For the most part, Evolve is an incredibly successful attempt at a complex style of game that challenges gamers to be better gamers and rewards them for doing so. It also is incredibly well designed, balanced and well thought out for the style of game it is. Normally the word “hunt” would go in the same sentence in gaming as Cabela or Duck. The only thing that lets it down is that it is reliant on communication, good teamwork and the collimation of that to create its online experience. Which is something that console gamers (I’m sorry for pigeon holing us but its true) so often lack. But it will challenge you and if you have a group of friends that all have the game then you will definitely have fun and if you’re willing, it will make you a better, more tactically thinking, gamer. After all, it’s evolution baby!

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[tab title=”Summary”]

Evolve is a very good game that certain audiences, in my opinion, aren’t ready for. The PC market should love it as should parties of gamers. There’s a lot of noise about DLC and things that aren’t included in the game, as well as it’s longevity. But the game itself is an excellently produced “asymmetrical” multiplayer game. The weapons and characters are all interesting to play as and the environments are great.

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[tab title=”Good Points”]

– Excellent gameplay that challenges gamers

– Interesting weapons and character roles/monster abilities

– Not totally dependent on Online availability

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[tab title=”Bad Points”]

– Potential DLC costs a big factor

– Hard to find a good team of people regularly

– Even with bots it does have a limited longevity on console

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[tab title=”Why an 8?”]

For all the noise surrounding the games content issues, it needs to be pointed out that they are not the game. The game itself is excellent and if there was more to the formula that could survive outside of the multiplayer design, then it would be one of the best. Whilst there are short term solutions to that, the experiences I’ve had on console haven’t been showing the game to its best ability. Maybe that will improve as a core group of fans develop. But the vehicle itself, the game, is great despite its limitations.

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This review is based on the PS4 version of the game.

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Xbox Report – GamesCom 2014

halo 5 feat

It’s that time of year again where the post-E3 glow has faded and another mid-summer pep up is needed to remind you to spend your Autumn cash. However before we go in to anything, I feel that, given the fallout from earlier, a glossary is needed for your understanding. So here we go:

Exclusive: A game or DLC that is only available on one console.

Timed Exclusive: A game or DLC that is available on one console for a period of time before being released to other consoles/platforms.

First on Console: A game that may already be out on other platforms but will appear on this console first, before others, with a time not determined.


 

So here is the big news of the day:

Rise of the Tomb Raider, the sequel to the incredibly well received Tomb Raider reboot of 2012 and the definitive Next-Gen editions, will be an Xbox exclusive. You might well have already seen the meltdown that this has caused on social networks and a fairly glib press release from Crystal Dynamics as to their reasons why. The facts are this: Sony’s twenty year relationship with heroine Lara Croft is at an end. The numbers we are assured add up, despite 10 million PS4’s being sold and supposedly outselling the Xbox One 3:1 along with the previous game outselling on PS4 2:1. I’m sure more will come over the coming months to explain what is seen as a very corporate and business based move.

Xbox One - WhiteSecondly is the big news on console packages that are being released. FIFA 15 will come with a console package as will, curiously, Sunset Overdrive with an exclusive white console. These are the standard Xbox One’s compared to the package shipping with Call of Duty Advanced Warfare.

So far, you’d be forgiven for thinking that the new Call of Duty was an Xbox One exclusive. It’s not but the communications certainly feel that way both in magazines and in the press. The timed exclusivity of DLC for Xbox is the only thing about the game that is completely Xbox for the time being. However the new package of a custom skinned Xbox and a digital version of the Day Zero edition along with a custom pad and (this is the big unit shifter) a 1TB (read that TERRABYTE) hard drive. That is actually a pretty sweet package and the single player gameplay footage looked very good. You may have many comparisons already but none of your games have Jason Statham sound-a-likes saying “bastards” after the Golden Gate Bridge is reduced to rubble.

In fact that swear made me note how the trailer for Sunset Overdrive was censored for saying ass. The console package is a strange one for this exclusive as there is an uncertainty about the game, if it is as good as it promises to be and if Xbox are putting way too many eggs in their basket. It looks very colourful, crazy and anarchic. But so did Brink… Remember Brink?

Of course you want to know about Halo and what we learned. Well, not much that we didn’t already know. We got to see some excellent footage running at a slightly weird 60 fps (weird as I’m so used to not seeing that in a Halo game) and that the new Netflix-esque Halo Channel (a newer sibling of Halo Waypoint) will give us exclusive game reward based content, social experiences and a whole lot more, including of course Halo Guardians.

The best news though is that the silence has broken over Quantum Break. Ever the coolest dude on planet earth, Sam Lake graced the stage and presented a time-bending third person action adventure where you can manipulate your world to your advantage in an effort to fix time, which has been broken by a big mean corporate baddy. Think the bullet time mechanics of Max Payne, or the Lucasarts game Fracture or Sierra’s Timeshift, with a story kind of like The Philadelphia Experiement (younger readers may need to search that one) that meets Quantum Leap/Sliders. But it looks pretty cool, even if we aren’t entirely sure why.

Fable Legends gave us a peek into the eye of evil, allowing us to play as THE bad guy, as opposed to playing a guy making evil choices. Forza Horizon 2 looked and played like a glossy Need for Speed Rivals cum Burnout with a bigger car set. Infact they also released the first ever Rolls Royce for a racing game and the new Formula E Renault Spark car for Forza 5 for free download, the latter of which is actually sitting in front of me in reality.

The casual mentions of Grand Theft Auto 5 were there along with a load of exclusive footballers for FIFA 15’s legends in Ultimate Team. Presented by Peter Schmeichel who effortlessly picked himself and his countrymen, the Laudrup brothers. The new mode has the England legends of Sir Bobby Moore and Alan Shearer along with Irish man mountain Roy Keane and Jay-Jay Okocha… Yes, you read that right.

The big kudos has to go to ID@Xbox, the indie game division. Because the line up for that is outstanding. All of these will be first on console (see your glossary) and include such big hitters as Plague Inc. Goat Simulator, Smite, Speed Runners (that should be excellent on consoles) and the fantastic Space Engineers. All of which have lit up steam and YouTube for the past year. There’s also Fruit Ninja Kinect 2, Frontier’s exclusive SteamRide (a Rollercoaster Tycoon/PAIN hybrid) which is an interesting development given the big IP that Frontier currently have that has been touted to grace consoles in future, and the very very quaint and exciting prison RPG The Escapists from Team 17, who will also be giving their back catalogue to the Xbox. Another indie exclusive is the beautiful art platformer Ori and the Blind Forest for which will also come to PC with its Trine/Child of Light-esque visuals and reality warping puzzles. Very pretty.

Down on the floor I got to get a hands on with Call of Duty, Halo 2, Forza Horizon 2, Minecraft Xbox One edition and Dying light along with some lovely demonstration gameplay of everything else. Keep your eyes peeled to TheGameJar and our twitter feeds throughout the week.

We got to see some videos of other games which were certainly interesting but not exclusive. The big story here though is the massive coup, if you want to call it that of snagging Tomb Raider away from what’s seen as its rightful home, new consoles and a great batch of indie games. The console maybe be statistically falling in sales to the PS4 but don’t count out the Xbox One yet. There is life and that life does indeed look very exciting.

[author]