The Living, Breathing World of The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt


Geralt’s Grandest Adventure

If there’s one thing I take away from checking out The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt at E3, it’s that CD Projekt Red are on track to create a huge living, breathing world.

With the use of a new game engine, Wild Hunt aims to be the RPG that CD Projekt Red have always wanted to make. Due to limitations of the previous engine, the developers had to make a choice. They could make a game that had a deep, interwoven narrative structure with branching outcomes, but had a smaller world. On the other hand, they could create a big expansive world, with a barebones narrative.

What I was shown during the 45 minute hands-off demo was a world that felt like it exists even when you’re not around. A world that is alive. A world that is in trouble.

One thing leads to another…

Geralt’s main point of call during this demo was the city of Novigrad, a city that has something for everyone, no matter their race or social stature. As Geralt approached the city walls, it was evident that CD Projekt Red have spared no attention to detail when the creating the world.

From the way the land is shaped, the world isn’t simply a flat plain with some hills in the distance, hills, gullies, ditches and uneven terrain give the world an authentic feel. This terrain is then used to dictate where objects and buildings are placed within the world. Farms make use of what flat terrain there is to plant crops which flourish in specific areas, while being situated close to water for survival and irrigation. Houses are situated in any free space possible, whether that be just off the main path, or on the side of a ditch if need be.

Monsters come in human form too.
Monsters come in human form too.

Novigrad has much to offer, as it’s the biggest in the world of Wild Hunt. Lucky for us there is plenty of Witcher’s work to be taken up on. In the demo, Geralt is collecting on said Witcher’s work, as he has the head of the Griffin he fought in the latest cinematic trailer for Wild Hunt.

Geralt arrives at one of the local watering establishments to claim his prize: information on an ashen-haired woman he is searching for.

As we know in many games, things are never so straightforward. Instead of getting a simple answer, Geralt was told to venture to a swamp region in No Man’s Land, and search out a creature named Johnny who was seen in the woman’s company.

All about the journey

With our next objective known, Geralt sets off to this swamp region. As we left the city, I noticed the A.I. react in various ways. A rainstorm rolled in as we left the city walls, and people scrambled to get inside or find something to shield the rain. We were told NPCs react in various ways, all depending on weather and time of day. So while one player may experience a busy street or path to navigate, others may find they are the only souls on the road.

What this amounts to is that players will get varying experiences from one another.

We are then told by the devs that in the interest of time, Geralt will need to fast-travel to the swamp region, as it would roughly take 15 minutes real time to traverse at full horse gallop. If that’s not a sign of how big the world is, I don’t know what is.

It's not all sunny skies and rainbows.
It’s not all sunny skies and rainbows.

In no time at all, Geralt makes his way to the swamp region in No Man’s Land, a dull and brooding place in stark contrast to the bright vistas we had just experienced at Novigrad.

Using his keen monster tacking skills, Geralt easily is able to locate traces of Johnny, in order to follow them to his current location. Upon locating Johnny, Geralt discovers he is a godling (a small, Gollum-esque creature), and it’s quite difficult to pry any information out of him. It turns out that he’s lost his voice. Well, stolen to be exact. A group of  harpies are responsible, and in true RPG fashion, Johnny needs you to retrieve said voice before he can help you.

Geralt then sets off to the harpies’ nest, with Johnny in tow. Along the way, we are able to see Geralt’s magic in action, as a pack of drowners emerge from the marshlands. All your favourites from the previous games return, and look much better this time around. Igni really looked dangerous this time around, effortlessly incinerating those pesky drowners.

After that little mishap, Gearlt continues on his way. The brooding marshlands then give way to breath-taking views of mountainsides. What amazed me was this seamless transition with no loading time. It really made it feel like a coherent world, instead of a bunch of unique areas pasted together. And with a keen sense of timing, the devs chimed in to tell us everything is explorable, with no hidden barriers.

Some stunning landscapes await fans.
Some stunning landscapes await fans.

See that mountain? You can scale it. That island off in the distance? Take a boat out there. Or if you’re desperate you can swim. Hearing statements like these really gets the RPG fan in me excited.

We spy the harpies’ nest on top of a mountaintop, thanks to the harpies themselves circling them. The player has a few ways of reaching the peak, much like the remainder of the game having multiple paths. You could just simple waltz up the path into oncoming danger, or you could think smart.

Witcher 3 has a lot more verticality this time around, whereas the previous two entries were more like flat canvases. Therefore, Geralt is able to navigate a cliff-face in order to sneak up on the nest. Upon reaching the top, Geralt only has to deal with a couple harpies who have stayed to guard the nest. Instead of using his trusty silver sword, Geralt debuts a new weapon: the crossbow. Perfect for engaging aerial monsters, the crossbow was the right tool to ground the harpies, in order for Geralt to be able to dispatch them with his trademark sword.

Geralt is then able to claim his prize, this time being Johnny’s voice contained in a bottle. Upon restoring the gift of speech to the young godling, Johnny can’t help out much regarding the whereabouts of the ashen-haired woman, but can take Geralt to someone who does….

Prepare to Hunt

With that, our time with Witcher 3: Wild Hunt came to a close. It was truly an amazing world to visit, one that is seamless and coherent. One that seems to continue on with or without your presence. The guys at CD Projekt Red told us that everything reacts to the world around it. Certain monsters may only appear at either day or night. Some quests may only be available when a person is present during a particular time of day. No longer do NPCs or enemies sit around waiting to dote on the player anymore.

What’s more to say? Come the 24th of February 2015, I for one cannot wait to jump into the shows of the legendary White Wolf, and see what this living world has in store for me.

© Daniel Geikowski 2014

Post-E3 2014: A Look at What Nintendo Had to Offer


Nintendo’s Line-Up at E3 2014

Unfortunately Nintendo stopped doing media conferences a few years ago, but that didn’t stop them from showing off a great line up. Nintendo had a lot to offer, and some would say they needed to, with the Wii U having lack-lusted sales since it’s launch, and certainly disappointing in comparison to the Sony and Microsoft’s sales of the PS4 and Xbox One.

Here is a line up of what Nintendo had to offer at E3 2014.

Super Smash Bros Wii U logoPreview: Hands-On

Thoughts:  Super Smash Bros. has to be the game for Nintendo this year. There’s not much to say that hasn’t already been said about Nintendo’s fighting franchise, all that can be said is this incarnation of Super Smash Bros. for Wii U is certainly worth the wait.The 3DS version also looks great, but takes a little getting used to with the different style of controls that you’d be used to for your typical fighting game, only a 2-player battle system was available at E3.

Several announcements were made throughout the day by Nintendo, including the use of NFC (Near Field Communication) on the Wii U gamepad, calling their system ‘Amiibo’. Nintendo are now making NFC enabled toys with their franchised characters that can be used in multiple games, including both Super Smash Bros. and Mario Kart 8 to name a few.
Other announcements made were several new characters available in Super Smash Bros., including Mr. Game & Watch, Pac-Man, Palutena and the use of Mii’s, which will have 3 different types of fighting styles, although, unfortunately, were not playable at this years E3.Super Smash Bros. for Nintendo 3DS will be available on the 3rd of October, 2014, with the Wii U version doesn’t yet have a exact release date, Nintendo are aiming for a holiday 2014 release.

Yoshis Woolly World logo

Preview: Hands-On

Thoughts: Surprisingly, out of all the platformers Nintendo have available, there isn’t a Mario game in sight. However, Yoshi does return, in woolly form.

Yoshi’s Woolly World is the same sort of gameplay you’d expect from a Yoshi dedicated game, thankfully, unlike the Yoshi’s Island titles, there is no baby Mario to cater for.

Gameplay is also familiar to previous Yoshi titles, but you can’t help but feel that it’s inspired by a previous Nintendo title, Kirby’s Epic Yarn. You’ll find yarn balls to collect, enemies to defeat, and even loose threads to pull to reveal secret areas or alternative routes.
Yoshi’s Woolly World is set to be released sometime in 2015.

Mario Party 10 logo

Preview: Hands-On – Just new mini games

Thoughts: The game you play with your friends that ruins friendships is back! Mario Party 10 for Wii U is not only the first Mario Party game in the series to be in HD, but also introduces Bowser mini-games, where someone in your group can play as Bowser, using with Wii U gamepad, and face-off against four other players. In one example, the player controlling Bowser is able to shoot fireballs in set directions, where every other player attempts not to get hit.

Mario Party 10 is also set to be released sometime in 2015.

Hyrule Warriors LogoPreview: Hands-On

Thoughts: Pair up two beloved franchises, The Legend of Zelda and Dynasty Warriors and what do you get? Nintendo’ and Tecmo’s latest offering, Hyrule Warriors.With an all-star cast from The Legend of Zelda series, featuring Link, Zelda and Midna, as well as other characters to be revealed at a later date.Those familiar to the Dynasty Warrior series will feel right at home playing this game, as the game style is very similar.

In Hyrule Warriors, and can protect and reclaim landmarks seen in previous Legend of Zelda games, defeat classic enemies as well as some new ones, collect rupees and other items from chests (in classic Legend of Zelda fashion) and even team up with a friend, with local co-op mode.

The game looks, feels and plays great. and will be available September 26, 2014.

Splatoon Logo

PreviewHands-On

Thoughts: A bit of a wildcard of all the Nintendo announcements, rather than relying on an existing franchise, Splatoon is Nintendo’s third-person shooter. You join in on a four-on-four watch, which involves you to not only to defeat your enemy, but to claim as much ground in your own team colours as possible.When I first saw this, I admittedly didn’t think much of it, and thought it was a strange release for Nintendo. However, playing it on the showroom floor, I had epiphany, I really enjoyed it.In a world full of violet shooters, like the Call of Duty and Battlefield series, Splatoon is a breath of fresh air into the genre.Your character basically has two modes, your standard shooter mode, and squid mode, which allows you to move a lot faster (in your own paint colours), hide from enemies and refill your ink tanks.Splatoon is set for release in the first half of 2015.

Mario Maker LogoPreview: Hands-On

Thoughts: Despite being such a simple title, I was really looking forward to Mario Maker when I first heard about it. In the E3 version, it had it’s limitations, as it still seems as if it’s in it’s early stages, but still has a lot of potential. Whether you want to make a infinite 1-Up machine, recreate well known Mario levels, or you’re just a glutton for punishment and want to make ridiculously difficult levels. You can even view them in either classic NES Mario Bros. style, or in the style of New Super Mario Bros. U.Mario Maker (working title) is set for release in the first half of 2015.

Captain Toad LogoPreview: Hands-On

Thoughts: Originally a mini-game in Super Mario 3D World, Captain Toad gets a full fledged game on the Wii U. In Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker, you lead Captain Toad on his own adventure through a variety of maze-like stages to find all the hidden treasures and gold stars. Vastly different to your typical Mario game, Captain Toad doesn’t really have any abilities, he’s slow, he can’t jump and he has no powers, so you have to use use the Wii U Gamepad which gives you a closer perspective of the the dangers and hidden items. Although Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker was originally a mini-game in Super Mario 3D World, it will be interesting to see how this plays out as it’s own featured game. Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker will be available in the later half of 2014.

Bayonetta 2 HeaderPreview: Hands-On

Thoughts: The Witch is back. Bayonetta 2, being developed PlatinumGames Inc, published by Nintendo, and with Sega acting as an advisor, due to being owners of the franchise.Although on a Nintendo console, Bayonetta 2 certainly hasn’t been toned down to cater for a younger audience. Bayonetta 2, much like it’s prequel, still features the same style of gameplay, over-the-top weapons and Bayonetta’s climax techniques.Featuring a new two-player online co-op mode called ‘Tag Climax’, as well as online quick matches, where you can wager ‘halos’, the in game currency and prove yourself against your online partner. Bayonetta 2 is set to be released in October 2014, and as mentioned before, is a Wii U exclusive.

Also bundled with Bayonetta 2 is the original Bayonetta, which was never released on a Nintendo console. As an added bonus, Bayonetta will have additional Nintendo themed costumes based on Link, Samus and even Princess Peach.

What wasn’t on show?

Both The Legend of Zelda (Wii U) and Star Fox (Wii U) were only shown via Nintendo Direct, and only offered a small glimpse of what may be the final product.

Both games have no set release date, but may be released sometime in 2015.

©2013 Yvan Zivkovic

E3 2014: World of Tanks: Blitz Preview


Tanks on the go!

At this year’s E3 the Wargaming team showed off their new mobile title, World of Tanks Blitz. The game is going to be released globally on iOS on June 26th, with an android version coming in the future, and will allow players to compete and battle tanks just like in the core World of Tanks game, but on their tablet or smart phone.

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The version of the game I got to try out was the current version from the soft launch in Nordic countries, played with a fast connection speed in the United States. Upon opening the app I could choose my tank from the garage and upgrade it’s components with permanent and single use items (via the in-game store), much like in the PC version of the title. It all felt very familiar, and the intuitive and simple touch controls work great to both manipulate the camera and to customise your tank.

Battles play out against real opponents in teams of seven vs seven, I played against real people participating in the Nordic soft launch version. World of Tanks players will be well at home here, this app shares a lot of similarities with its PC counterpart once again, the main difference being that maps are much smaller in size for faster paced on the go gameplay. An especially neat feature of the app is the ability to customise the controls in the user interface, with each of the virtual buttons and analogue sticks able to be scaled or moved to allow a comfy and personalised layout for every player. The touch controls lend themselves well to the title, allowing both new and experienced players to jump in and do battle.

In terms of loading and lag, I had no issues with either. Even from a connection in the United States to Nordic servers it was easy and fast to find a match, and in-game assets loaded up in no time. As the game releases worldwide we should see plenty more players jumping on to the servers, but thus far both the game and servers seem to perform well on mobile devices. Wargaming has said that the app will even be playable on older devices such as the iPhone 4 and iPad 2, which is great for gamers that haven’t grabbed the latest iOS device.

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The game will launch with three playable nations at first, Russia, the United States of America and Germany, with more to be added in the future. You’ll be able to use your existing Wargaming.net account for this title, and it will even incorporate friends and platoons as well as Facebook integration for invitations and sharing.

World of Tanks Blitz is free to download and play from the App Store now. You can find more information on the official site.

The Devil’s Men: Daedalic Entertainment at E3 2014


New Announcements From E3 2014

The Devil’s Men is Daedalic Entertainment’s newest title, revealed at E3 2014. In the vein of games like those produced by Telltale and Double Fine, The Devil’s Men takes this blend of branching stories and point and click adventure to a new place; steampunk England in the 1800’s.

Revolving around the lives of two young women, Adelaide and Emily, the story takes these characters through the investigation of a series of strange murders in the seaside town. The player will take control of both women throughout the course of the game, tackling puzzles and choices as they try to unravel the mysteries and keep the balance of power level between the duo. Choices made will drastically change the outcome of the story, as well as usually benefiting one of the two characters, providing both a vast amount of replay value as well as personal dilemmas for the player.

The game’s visuals and presentation immediately draw people in, it has a very lovely style to it. While the environments look 2D they’re actually built in 3D from the concept images, similar to games built with the UbiArt Framework, then placed in the scene for the characters to move around and interact with. Even in the early build shown the transitions between rooms were really smooth and the basic character animations looked great. While there was no voice acting thus far the small portions we saw worked well with just the text, and the environments surrounding Emily and Adelaide felt very real and immersive.

A Screenshot from “The Devil’s Men”

In the small demo shown at E3 the game’s Author and Narrative lead Kevin Mentz took us through one section of the game with two different decisions made previously, displaying the branching narrative.

In the first scenario we were put in the shoes of Emily, trying to retrieve some incriminating evidence from the police inspector’s home. This happens after Adelaide was given the choice to either forge evidence to save Emily, or to give the incriminating evidence to the inspector. After breaking into the cellar you collect the evidence then return upstairs in time to overhear a secret that will be important in the future.

In the second playthrough the evidence was secure with Adelaide, so Emily must visit her to get it back, negating the need to break into the inspector’s cellar. This played out very differently but it still brought about the same end; the reveal of a secret that will shape a choice later in the game.

The Devil’s Men will be released in Spring 2015 on PC and Mac, with more information to come at Gamescom.

Daedalic also showed another two games at E3 2014, Blackguards 2 and Fire.

Blackguards 2 is the sequel to Daedalic’s original strategic RPG The Dark Eye: Blackguards, taking place a few years after the original. It will feature both returning and new characters, new enemies and locations as well as revised gameplay. It will launch in early 2015 on PC and Mac.

The second title, Fire, is a puzzle game set in the stone age. You control the caveman ‘Ungh’ as he tries to return fire to the village after letting the village fire go out. The game is designed around solving situational puzzles by clicking and tapping on the environment. It’s quite a neat little game that will work especially well for on the go play. The game is coming to PC and iOS, launching by the end of 2014.

© Jayden Perry 2014

Day Zero at E3 Vive la France, Vive Ubisoft!


Ubisoft are a company that has managed to buy up enough IP to cover every genre and this years E3 showcase is a testament to the sheer number of big titles in development from the French powerhouse.

Firstly can I just say that Aisha Taylor is such a great host, her stage presence and attitude really sells the Ubisoft brand as fun and awesome and she keeps it interesting. It’s nice to have a fan on the stage rather than just a developer or an awkward paid actor (I’m looking at you Samsung, the Galaxy S4 announcement was a cringe fest)…

But now to the important part, the games…

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FarCry4:

Ubisoft came straight out of the gates with footage from Far Cry 4, not a lot of footage but enough to get me interested. I was very late to the Far Cry 3 train but I enjoyed it immensely once I got around to playing it. Far Cry 4 looks like another strong entry in the series determined to tell a different story to that of Far Cry 3, the footage was brief with game-play being reserved for the Sony Conference but the setting and characters allude to an interesting story with maybe even a little political intrigue thrown in. As Dan Hay, Creative Director said in the Post-Show Pagan Min is not the bully like Vaas but that friend that would always get you into trouble, and then wink at your mum. I think it would be a huge misstep if Ubisoft avoided the real world politics that underscores the turmoil in the Himalayas, I also hope there is some emphasis on surviving the cold either through the need to take shelter or the acquisition of cold weather gear. Regardless of the answer to those questions the teaser was effective I’m psyched to see more.

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Just Dance 2015:

Changing tone quite substantially, the next game on show was Just Dance 2015. I can never really get excited about dance games, they have a huge market but I just don’t see the point in dancing to on screen prompts. What might be impressive if only for the way the technology is adapted to other games in the new Just Dance Now App, which allows a seemingly unlimited number of players to dancing competitively on any screen and across any type of connectivity. The developers stated that this is a huge step for multi-device latency free multiplayer and I think choosing the Just Dance platform is a good way to develop the technology before it becomes available in more technical games. The demo used a large group of participants to show off how the app worked but I could not tell how it was scoring them, I think their phones became akin to Wii remotes. I like that Ubisoft is trying to push the boundaries of what can be achieved with smartphones and games and I think with games like The Division allowing a tablet player to interact in real time the stability of this technology will make or break its appeal.

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The Division:

Speaking of The Division, it was time for another trailer, this one aimed at telling the story of the decline of New York. I noticed a pattern at this point of the conference it seemed that because Ubisoft works across so many platforms it has rationed its content out across the major players so there is only really teaser footage left for their own show. That said the trailer is beautifully executed, the “tragedy is invisible” concept it well played out with the time-lapse visuals and the trailer did well to establish the dynamic relationships between The Division operatives, the non-combatant civilians and the various militarised groups in the city. I’m sure more footage and game play will emerge as E3 continues.

the-crew-logo

The Crew:

Shifting gears (see what I did there) once again, it was time for The Crew, Ubisofts gigantic USA road trip simulator or what I’m calling Gumball Rally The Game. I love a great car game and I think of late many have lost touch with what it means to make a racing game, you need lots of cars, lots of customisation, lots of roads and you need to be able to play against your friends whether it is local or online. I don’t know yet if The Crew supports split screen multiplayer but I think this is an important feature that is too often removed from modern racers. The fan-based approach seems like a good investment from Ubisoft as they have already commented that fan involvement has lead to various new modes and achievements in the game. The only other thing I can say is that I am excited to see where this goes and with the open beta opening July 23 and the game set to launch on November 11 I hopefully won’t be waiting too long to find out.

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Assassin’s Creed: Unity:

Now to one of the filthiest parts of history, Paris late 1700s, the revolution is in the air, Lorde’s haunting vocals creep over scenes of the violence and depravity, the streets are caked in grime and blood, heads are leaving necks at an alarming rate, its time for Assassin’s Creed Unity! This is next-gen Assassin’s Creed and it is instantly recognisable, the parkour is at District B13 levels of speed and dexterity, the world seems dark, I can almost smell the putrid air and then there is the group of Assassins. I am reminded of D’artagnan and the Three Musketeers as the group jumps into the fight dispatching foes and watching each other’s backs, it looks great. Again minimal gameplay but what we did see was interesting, stealth is going to be key in the city, the buildings are small and cluttered with may rooms and levels, windows are going to be your friends and everyone is much quicker to shoot now. There is also seemingly a lot to do in the way of side quests and tasks, the demo showed no fewer than 4 or 5 side quests in a short walk down one of the streets towards an objective. I have a feeling the parts in Paris will be great but I am not sure about the reality/Abstergo storyline, truth be told I haven’t played Assassins Creed 4 or finished AC3 and I lost track of the gods and men and aliens storyline so I hope they find some meaningful way to use the real world this time.

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Shape Up:

Back to casual game territory we have Shape Up.  This new fitness package aims to make the workout into a game, which if history tells us anything is easier said than done. The game-play featured a guitar hero-esque rhythm game that required players to move their legs in time to the cues as if they were playing a piano with their legs. The visuals are quirky and I think parents will buy this in droves for their kids in a desperate bid to make them exercise. The second game was a push up competition, it was exactly as advertised doing push-ups in front of your TV with your Kinect sort of moderating your form, it is not a hardcore fitness app, like the UFC or Nike branded games before it but I think it will achieve its goal if only for younger gamers and the inebriated.

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Valiant Hearts:

It seems that unfortunately many have forgotten the horrors of the First World War, where Nazi Germany has dominated the scene as far as war games are concerned and Gallipoli informs Australia’s national identity, recognition of the horrors of the Western Front during WW1 has taken longer. Valiant Hearts looks to change this by partnering up with documentary filmmakers to incorporate actual archival photography and documents with a cartoonish aesthetic to tell the stories of the heroes and heroines of the Western Front. The trailer looks depressing and I can imagine that those that choose to play this game will really feel for those young people who lost their lives in some of the most brutal and unforgiving combat the world has ever seen. I commend Ubisoft for making a game about this era of modern warfare and hope that it manages to convey the horror and futility of war.

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Rainbow Six: Siege:

Now lets blow some shit up! Big Boss of Ubisoft Yves Guillemot took centre stage to announce the next instalment in the Rainbow Six franchise Siege. From the outset this looks like a competitive multiplayer game, it is team vs team get in get out, play it your way fun. A few things to note from the trailer is that it is all timed, matches will run in timed phases, members of your squad that perish will not come back during a round, perma-death means you better plan well. Finally don’t be a hero! To be fair no one could shoot well in this demo especially not the player, perhaps this was to show how uncertain the game could be, but I think in the hands of more skilled players this game is going to be brutally difficult. I think it looks promising and I hope there is scope for user made modes and loadouts, I would love to see a knife and explosives only hostage situation, I’d love to see a stripped back no gadgets mode, I’d love to see flashbangs only. A game like this will only be as strong as the community that supports it and I hope Ubisoft is prepared to let the players run with their whims.

So that is it for Ubisoft’s 2014 E3 extravaganza you can watch the show here but I think it was generally a positive experience. They know how to put on a show; they know how to make a lot of very different games that appeal to a lot of different gamers and they have big franchises on their team. They change up the tone a lot though, from the depressing lows of The Division and Valiant Hearts trailers, to the upbeat and carefree nature of Just Dance and Shape Up, you have to applaud the French range of emotion.

Rocco Rinaldo ©2014

E3 2014: Halo: The Master Chief Collection vs Original Halo Series Screenshot Comparison


Feast your eyes on greatness

Even though this was kind of leaked prior to E3, knowing that this is real and will be released November of this year still fills me with excitement. In the past we’ve done a few screenshot comparison pieces specifically with Halo 3 vs Reach vs Halo 4 and it was interesting seeing how Halo had evolved on the Xbox 360. Now with both Halo: Combat Evolved and Halo 2 receiving the Anniversary treatment and Halo 3 and Halo 4 receiving bumped up textures and frame rates, we thought we’d do another screenshot comparison with the old and the new.

We’ve grabbed the screenshots we’ve used for the previous articles since no new Halo: Combat Evolved screens were released. Seeing as both Halo 3 and Halo 4 won’t be receiving the anniversary treatment, we can still compare both titles and the graphical leap that came from both games, being developed by two different studios as well. (Ed Note: PS: Yes, Master Chief is spelt incorrectly in the URL. Editing error on my behalf, and if changed will break various links around the web. Simple error easily dismissed, enjoy the screens)

Halo: Combat Evolved Original vs Anniversary

Halo 2 Original vs Anniversary

Halo 2 Original vs Anniversary Multiplayer

Halo 3 Original vs Halo 4 Original

Halo 3 Multiplayer vs Halo 4 Multiplayer

Once screenshots are released for both Halo 3 and Halo 4 receiving some bump up in textures and frame rate, we’ll definitely compare them with what we’ve got to see the improvements. For now enjoy the screens and in case you missed it, here’s the trailer that was shown during Microsoft’s Press Conference. Also it seems that The Master Chief Collection will be receiving a tonne of new features whilst including everything that made each game great back then. I seriously cannot wait.

E3 2014: Dead Island 2 Preview: “Cool and Kickass”


A New Direction for Dead Island

Set after the events of the original Dead Island and Riptide, the infection that started on the island of Banoi is now spreading all over the world. One such place that has fallen victim to this plague is California, and thus the United States Government has turned the state into a large quarantine zone.

They’ve also turned it into a ‘zombie filled playground’ for our new heroes to dive headfirst into. After the teaser trailer that premiered at Sony’s E3 presentation, we got to see that the new California is a much brighter and fun place than it’s darker predecessors. With Dead Island 2 the developers are opting for a tone described by them as “cool and kickass”; less dark and heavy than those before it but also not reaching the level of ridiculousness of Dead Rising 3.

This tone is mirrored by the goals of the main characters, each one being immune to the virus and heading into the quarantine zone to destroy zombies. This game isn’t so much about escape, this time it’s more about fighting back.

Players will be able to choose from four unique character classes, each with their own skills, abilities and fury attacks. If you purchase the game on Playstation 4 you’ll be able to select an exclusive additional class which has yet been unannounced. The four classes announced are the Hunter, the Berserker, the Speeder and the Bishop. The specifics of each class have not yet been announced, but from the images shown today we’ll have a speedy blade focussed class, a heavy weapon specialist, a ranged weapon class and a fourth class based around thrown weapons.

Deep Silver also announced a central character, ‘Max’, who drives the van featured in the trailer. He will be joined by his loyal pet cat, Rick Furry, in the adventure through California. This is the first time a real life cat has been motion captured in gaming, allowing Rick’s animations to be very realistic. The story behind this quirky duo is one of second chances. Upon seeing these ‘immune’ in California Max hops in his newly outfitted van to start a fresh life in California, hoping to help the immune and potentially find a cure for the spreading illness.

Besides zombies, our characters won’t be the only humans in the quarantine zone. The game will also focus on the human factions gaining power in the zone such as the raiders, escaped prisoners and even deserting military forces. These forces will challenge the player in new ways, often outfitted with powerful weapons and vehicles.

On top of introducing all these new classes, factions and characters, we’ll also be getting new ‘motorised’ weapons like hedge trimmers and hand saws. While this new type of weapon will be very powerful, they will all be powered by fuel, a resource you’ll have to collect, and will make a lot of noise, attracting nearby zombies. These are probably best saved for when you have no choice to fight loud and fast against the horde, unless of course you enjoy being swarmed by the undead! The developers also noted you will be able to dual wield in Dead Island 2, rushing in to fight off zombies with a sawn off shotgun and machete at the same time.

We’ll also see a whole host of new zombie bosses and types, and the developer, Yager, claims to have a new system implemented into the final build that will ensure no two zombies look exactly alike, adding to the immersion of the game. It will be very interesting to see just how different the variety in zombie design will be.

After being presented with all this new information we were treated to a live gameplay demo from a 2013 prototype build of the game. We were also shown in engine renderings of scenery and zombies taken from the most recent build. The graphics are looking quite good at this stage, but I expect we’ll see much more of the actual graphics in the lead up to Dead Island 2’s 2015 release.

The demo opened with us driving in Max’s van into suburban California, and then leads through houses and backyards in the area. This allowed the developers to really show off what is at the core of Dead Island games, the melee combat.

Dead Island 2 adopts the same combat style of it’s predecessors; that is to say it’s full of slicing and dicing zombies up close, lopping limbs and heads clean in gruesome slow motion. Not a lot has changed on the melee side apart from adding more moves and animations, as well as some cool abilities that will have you smashing zombies into the sky with you sledgehammer. It all looked very fun.

Ranged weapons seem to perform better in this game, especially with Yager at the helm. Their previous title, Spec Ops: The Line, was a third person shooter and you can see aspects of that in Dead Island 2’s presentation. New crossbows and guns can be used to devastating effect against zombies and humans alike. You’ll also be able to mod and upgrade your weapons on the go this time round instead of having to find a weapon bench, which is a nice new change.

Yager have worked well so far to implement noise into combat scenarios, as well as using the zombies to attack and distract enemies. By simply shooting cars with a crossbow to get the alarm going or causing an explosion you can draw a whole load of zombies, perfect to take out enemies deep in cover or to set up a dangerous trap.

Fire is another aspect of the title that has an interesting new implementation. In much the same way as we saw in Far Cry 3, grass and foliage can be lit on fire, causing damage to the environment and enemies. It’s a cool little feature that means you have to be more thoughtful in where you lob that molotov, making sure not to find yourself in a dangerous spot!

In terms of multiplayer, the game will offer the full open world and story experience to up to eight players at once. You’ll be able to ‘compete, cooperate or coexist’ in a social open world, but you’ll still be able to play completely solo or offline too.

It will be very interesting to see how this game turns out when we see more footage, and all the way up to release. For now, I’m optimistic. The game has a good studio at the helm and a solid foundation, I only hope that we see a better narrative in this title than in previous entries, and that it will do enough to really make it stand out as a new and improved Dead Island title. The game will be playable at Gamescom and PAX later this year and I’m very interested to see how it differs from and improves upon what was shown to us at E3 2014.

Dead Island 2 is coming to PC, Xbox One and Playstation 4 later in 2015. You can check out the official box art below!

E3 2014: Nemesis System and Power Struggles Create a Truly Dynamic World in Shadow of Mordor


Create power struggles within Orc society

Not only does Shadow of Mordor look amazing in motion with its stellar graphics and seamless gameplay, but the latest trailer to come out of this years E3 depicting the “Nemesis System and Power Struggles” has quickly driven this game up to one of my most anticipated for the year. Watching the trailer in 1080p is the best way to experience the raw nature of this game. Orcs look menacing and their facial expressions are a work of art.

As per the newly released trailers description from Warner Bros. Australia:

The trailer showcases the depth of the Nemesis System and shows how the stats, appearance and personality of each nemesis are different for every player. No one else will have an exact same Uruk, as the game generates unique, dynamically created enemies.

Shadow of Mordor came out of no where when it was announced November last year and has quickly risen to be on everyone’s radar. With a current October 7th 2014 release date, I’m not sure if I can withstand seeing anymore of this game in action before I get to actually play it. Everything about it just looks astonishing. Many games boast with various features that no two playthroughs will be the same, and whilst many do ring true, Shadow of Mordor seems to be taking it to a whole other level.

Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor delivers a dynamic game environment where the player orchestrates their personal plan of vengeance as they bend Mordor to their will. The game begins on the night of Sauron’s return to Mordor, as his Black Captains brutally execute the Rangers of the Black Gate. Players become Talion, a ranger who loses his family and everything he holds dear, only to be returned from death by a mysterious Spirit of vengeance. Based on the player’s actions with the in-game Nemesis System, every enemy encountered is distinct and can evolve to become a personal archenemy through the course of the game.  As Talion’s personal vendetta unfolds, players uncover the mystery of the Spirit that compels him, discover the origin of the Rings of Power and confront the ultimate nemesis.