Evolve’s March Update brings new Hunters, Monster, Maps and Observation Mode


Earlier in the week I got the opportunity to try out Evolve new DLC which will be available March 31. Along with many updates to the game, it will be the first set of new hunters and a new monster to the game, the Behemoth.

Evolve Behemoth

The Behemoth is a huge rock like monster, who can turn into a massive ball for faster movement speed. The Behemoth has more armour and health than the previous three monsters, and can also do the most damage.

On those facts alone, one would think the Behemoth is a game breaking monster, and simply a means of ‘pay to win’, but as opposed to the Wraith, the Behemoth moves significantly slower in combat, and his abilities are far more defensive than aggressive.

Lava Bombs can be used in certain closed off areas, that will damage and hunters within the damage radius. In combination with Rock Wall, can either leave the hunter trapped inside with the monster, or allow the monster get increase it’s distance from the hunters when trying to eat and evolve.

The Tongue Grab works similar to the Wraith’s Abduction, where it will extend its tongue in the direction of the hunter being attacked and and bring them into close quarters to apply massive damage.

Evolve DLC SS2

Fissure is a wave the Behemoth sends out, that sends a blast of damage along the ground, stunning and hunters caught in it.

But monster loves aren’t the only ones who got some love, with four brand new hunters, Torvald the Assault, Crow the Trapper, Slim the Medic, and Sunny the Support. All of which have their own dialogue options, whether they are partied together or with existing hunters.

The four new hunters bring their own style to the game, and although the obviously have traits similar to other Assaults, Trapper, Medics and Support, they bring their own traits, personality and backstory.

Torald, the Assault is the main damage dealer in the group. With the ability to shoot Mortar Cannons from a long distance, but when in short range, using Shrapnel Grenades to cover the target in weak points, then following up with his Autofire Shotgun.

Crow, the Trapper has brought his pet with him, Gobi, a batray. Unlike Daisy, Gobi is not a party member, but can assist the party by scouting from above to track down the monster and other wildlife. Crow also brings his own arsenal, his Stasis Gun can be used to temporarily slow the monster and can be charged up to prolong the slowed effect. While his Kinetic Long Rifle can be used two different ways, in quick bursts it will deal more damage per second, but when charging a show, it can bypass a monsters armour, doing direct damage to his health.

Slim, the Medic is the most interesting of the new hunters, with his bug-like features, he’s the only non-human hunter, aside from Bucket. Slim main damage dealing weapon is his Leech Gun, when shot at a target, helps speed up the cool down his class ability Heal Burst, which is also much wider than all other medics. His Spore Cloud Launcher, when shot at the monster, stops the monster from smelling and identifying the hunters, making it difficult to tell them apart. Finally, Slim has a bug looking Healing Drone, which he can send to teammates from a distance to heal or revive.

Finally, there is Sunny, the Support. Her main weapon, a Mininuke Grenade Launcher, does more damage in a single projective than any other handheld weapon for any other hunter. Similar to Hank, she can shield other hunters, but it’s done automatically by deploying the Shield Drone. Lastly, Sunny can use her Jetpack Booster, which she can use on other teammates to either shorten the distance between them and the monster, or help them get out of a bad situation.

Evolve DLC SS1

Although the new hunters and monster are paid DLC, the first major update brings free content to everyone, including Observation Mode, which is designed to allow a sixth player, giving them the ability to switch between the view of all the hunters and the monster, which also shows an informative HUD that shows players health, survival odds, perks and more.

Lastly, two new maps will be available, Broken Hill Mine and Broken Hill Foundry, which include destructible entryways, which give the monster new shortcuts throughout the map.

The new content will be available on March 31st for all versions of Evolve on Xbox One, PS4 and PC users.

8 Things When Playing The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt That Left Me Wanting More


Last week we FINALLY got our hands on The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt. After checking it out at E3 multiple times by various writers of the site and myself having a hands off presentation late last year, when I received the email to finally have 3-4 hours of this game in front of me I was super excited. There’s so much content in this game and it’s currently finished, it just has 4 months of refinements to be made to be the best god damn game it can be.

To which I totally agree with, with the way that 2014 ended after multiple games required large downloadable patches to fix various problems, I’m happy to let CD Projekt Red take time to fine out as many bugs as possible. This is a large game and there is a lot to see and do that it would take players at least 100+ hours to explore and do everything. With there being so much that I played in the short 4 hours I thought I’d do a small list of some of the better things that kept me wanting to play more of this game.

1: Horseback riding on your trusty stead, Cockroach (Roach)

The_Witcher_3_Wild_Hunt_Dona€™t_feed_the_birds--it_only_encourages_them

What’s that over there? Let’s go check it out. God no. No! That was a bad idea. Run! RUN! Pretty much any time I rode Roach through the woods and somehow came across a pack of White Wolves or a dormant Bear. This is what players will spend most of their time doing in The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt. Riding around on your trusty stead coming across wild animals and beasts of the wilderness, finding hidden caves, or certain areas of interest with hidden monsters, riding through random towns and swiftly sword-slashing enemies from the comfort of your horse.

The developer were nice enough to check out Ard Skellig on Skellige, and let me tell you it’s beautiful. Easily the largest of the islands there is so much to explore. It’s majestic riding Roach around and witnessing the extremely large draw distance. On the PS4 it is seriously impressive, and almost maxed out on a PC running on a 4K LG TV is simply put, beautiful. I’m in love with this game and honestly don’t know how I’ll wait 4 more months to play it.

Whilst the game still has 4 months of refinement, Roach wasn’t exactly the trusty horse you would expect. He’d randomly pop his head into conversations making for hilarious moments of laughter, he’d handle like a boat sometimes and other times would somehow find himself stuck between objects needing you to lost sight of him to respawn him. He’s got some bugs (No puns intended) still but at the call of a whistle he’ll be by your side. You’ll be spending a lot of time with Roach on your travels and he’ll definitely come in handy in various situation during combat with NPC’s in some areas and overall travel.

2: Wasting even more time on the Quest Board

The_Witcher_3_Wild_Hunt_Ia€™m_overqualified_for_all_these

Most of your time apart from doing the main storyline and wandering large islands, will be spent completing quests you’ve undertaken from the Quest Board found in most villages/towns. In White Orchard, this particular board contained a Witcher contract as well as a few basic tasks.

The one that I selected was to find a villagers missing brother. After chatting to him he told me that his brother would lay in the aftermath of a small battle with the Black Ones and he’d be recognisable via a small white flower that would be marked on his shield. If his body was charred or missing, his dog would be able to pick up his scent and track where his body may lay. Using Witcher Sense to find these shields, the dog got whiff of his owners scent and I followed him to a small little shack in the middle of the woods where the villagers brother lay barely alive.

Another quest involved a Witcher contract, where a Noonwraith had been terrorizing a well in a near by site. The villager that had put up the contract feared that this Noonwraith would soon kill his daughter and requested the Witcher destroy it. In order to further identify what was keeping this Noonwraith trapped in the world, we needed to use Witcher sense and find any item of relevance that may have belonged to this bride to be. After finding a journal beside a large pool of blood, Geralt found out that this bride had been murdered alongside her husband.

Finding some blood stained hand marks on the door leading to the well, I then checked out the well where I found a body hung by the neck with the rope tied tightly to the well. Pulling the corpse up from the well, Geralt realised that it had been missing an arm, an arm that could potentially house the missing item binding the Noonwraith. Jumping in the well, I recovered the bracelet and begun the ceremony to burn the corpse and release this spirit.

Angered by what I was doing the Noonwraith decided to harm me and a battle entailed.

3: Using Witcher sense to highlight items of interest during quests and random shenanigans

The_Witcher_3_Wild_Hunt_Alas,_poor_Yorick

As outlined during the Noonwraith Witcher contract, Witcher sense isn’t limited to when the game asks you to use it. You can activate it at any time you wish in hopes to find anything worth your while. Looting corpses, chests, finding relevant items during missions, or investigating scenarios like the picture above. It will come in handy and be used heavily when needing to find an item that’s been described to you.

If you’re short on supplies needed for your Alchemy then loot corpses or chests and you might find what you want. Many games have similar character powers that can highlight certain items, but coupled in with the rich backstory that CD Projekt Red have injected into The Witcher 3, I feel that this is the most fun I’ve had using this ability. Learning how one died, or what may have happened whilst listening to Geralt talk is orgasmic to the ears. Seriously, I LOVED listening to that husky voice of his  when he’d come across something of relevance. Players that wish to take their time and explore every little thing in this game will be using Witcher Sense a lot.

4: Monster Hunting legendary Slavic Beasts then claiming their limbs as proof of your victory

The_Witcher_3_Wild_Hunt_Youa€™re_just_delaying_the_inevitable

After the opening cinematic and tutorial level, It all started when Vesimir and Geralt were riding to the town of White Orchard when they came across and helped an accurate Stephen Baldwin look-a-like with a horrible Dumb & Dumber Lloyd Christmas hair cut from the claws of a terrifying Griffin chowing on its dead horse. With no active contract on the Griffin yet, Geralt had no choice but to continue to White Orchard and ask around in search of Yennefer. Of course during the natural course of progression, Geralt found out that there indeed WAS a contract on the Griffin.

Whilst this was a quest tied into the main storyline it still involved the same mechanics that you’ll enforce in Monster Hunting quests. You’ll be required to seek out NPC’s who have either seen or encountered the said beast. Investigate various aspects to how it feeds, acts, or where it frequents. In the case of the Griffin, Geralt was required to obtain a certain type of material that would have a strong enough smell to attract the Griffin out into an open area.

On top of that we also checked out a small camp where a group of Nilfgaardian soldiers have been killed by the Griffin. Using Witcher sense to investigate what had happened, I found a trail of blood that led me through the woods to a small cliff where I had found the bodies of the 3 soldiers and a dead Griffin. It added another layer of depth to these random characters and my hunt to kill this elusive Griffin.

Other monster hunter quests will definitely involve this same typoe of structure but they may sprawl hours and require multiple parts to complete. If they’re as satisfying and finally confronting the Griffin and slaying it then I’m all for distractions. After watching multiple videos of the game more than 6 months ago a lot has changed.

5: Using the Beastiary for rich and deep history about encountered monsters

Primarily the inventory menu system for your bag items, equipped items and more.

When it comes to killing various monsters in the world of The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt, apart from your sword the beastiary will be crucial in your success. In this sub-menu you’ll have the ability to read up on every encountered beasts and learn of it’s rich history as well as the most important items required in dealing the most damage when encountering them. Some monsters will require you to use your alchemy and create various potions or oils that increase attack or do a certain type of damage.

Certain signs will wield better chances of landing a blow and so forth. It’s critical that with a game of this magnitude that combat isn’t the sole part of your enjoyment but learning about characters and enemies alike.

With the battle against the Noonwraith, I had no idea how to physically damage it because it was a physical entity. Once I had throroughly read the Noonwraith entry in the Beastiary, I knew exactly how to damage it and ensure victory. The only way to achieve this was to place a Yrden sign on the ground, lure the Noonwraith into it, and start attacking her when she became physical.

This would only be temporary as once the sign disappeared or she walked out of it she’d revert back to her original form. If you don’t frequently use the beastiary, you’ll find yourself dieing a lot from lack of knowledge. It doesn’t necessarily make the game easier, so don’t fret if you think that.

6: Following random NPC’s and seeing what they do throughout the day

The_Witcher_3_Wild_Hunt_They_call_this_civilization--I_feel_safer_in_the_woods

This is seriously amazing.

For such a large world each NPC you encounter has a pre-determined life cycle (I know, you’r thinking pre-determined, but hear me out). They’ll wake up in the morning do what they do, then at night either socialise with friends or go home and sleep. You’ll see a Shepard herd his sheep across the field or fend away Siren’s trying to eat them one morning, or the next you may not see him at all and just witness the majestic sunrise in front of you.

When it thunderstorms and rains heavily most NPC’s will run inside their homes for safety.

It’s awesome seeing that this is a living and breathing world where most actions have a reaction. You can’t go into a village and slaughter everyone so don’t get that excited for freedom, but during the main storyline you’ll be plagued with some decisions that’ll affect the outcome of a town. As witnessed by the Leshen monster hunt, siding with one group of villagers could result in the town becoming overrun and slaughtered hours into the game. Upon re-visiting the town would be a wasteland of bodies and burnt down houses. Certain NPC’s may now be mourning at their losses during the day, and disappear during the night.

7: Anytime NPC’s like THIS guy picked a fight with Geralt, It’s beautiful

The_Witcher_3_Wild_Hunt_They_think_ita€™ll_be_an_easy_fight

There are certain characters in The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt that don’t like Witcher’s at all. As witnessed in White Orchard, upon entering a local bar to ask around for Yennefer, some NPC’s expressed disgust when approached by Geralt. Players can coerce there minds into playing nice with Geralt if a conversation interaction is available, but it doesn’t change their overall tone.

When I had finished with my questions in the bar and needed to head out to the garrison to further push along the story a few NPC’s had taken it upon themselves to think they could force me to leave, which for Geralt was of course not an option. Cue a short conversation tree where I can initiate the fight and off we were in an good ol’ 3 vs 1 fist fight. What was interesting here was that Roach was tied up on a nearby fence and any time an enemy approached from behind, Roach would swiftly kick them into oblivion and knock them out. Allowing you to easily win the fight with a slight advantage.

I’m not sure how much more intense interactions like this become, but if this were any indication then they would be a lovely distraction from the main quest. It incorporates combat, dialogue that provides some chuckles and conversational trees. Everything that makes this game so appealing and changes things up so that it’s never stale. If you loved the conversational tree in the Mass Effect series and you’ve never played The Witcher you’ll love it.

If you’ve played both then feel safe knowing that in this game anything you say can lead in any direction.

8: Picking fights with multiple enemies resulted in sheer brutality and fun

The_Witcher_3_Wild_Hunt_Halberds,_really_now

This what you’ve all come here to read, how good is the combat. Well let me tell you, it’s DAMN good! Whilst not as difficult as Dark Souls or The Witcher 2: Assassin of Kings, it still provides a decent enough difficulty that players will need to carefully enter battles with multiple ghouls, wolves, bears, etc… Whilst being a Witcher does grant you certain powers, do not always rely on them to get you out of sticky situations. Some enemies are more difficult to defeat and the Igni sign won’t really do much for you.

When taking on 4 or 5 Ghouls at once learn to dodge and roll using B/Square. It’s easily the most crucial game mechanic you’ll need to know and saves you most of the time in combat. The one downside to the roll feature is that, instead of a double tap it requires you to hold down the button for a second or two before it registers. When you’re low on health and forget to hold the button down it could result in death and redoing the section again.

I’m not sure if it’ll get changed when the game is released, but it’s the only real quarrel I have with combat. Assigning a Sign from the Sign wheel is mapped via the left bumper or L1. In this sub-menu time slows down to hopefully give you enough time to decide what to use and equip it. Enemies will still be able to attack you and the game doesn’t completely pause so in the thick of battle it is crucial you know exactly what to use. Using the right bumper or R1 allows players to use the sign in combat.

These aren’t unlimited uses that can be spammed as once you’ve used a sign you’ll need to wait for your stamina to replenish before throwing down a Yrden trap.

Players have the ability to do normal attacks as well as strong sword attacks, which if timed correctly can give Geralt a flurry of well executed slashes on enemies. They don’t necessarily do more damage but the animations are smooth. Geralt isn’t invincible during these attacks so players need to meticulously decide on how to approach groups of enemies. Players can parry/counter attacks and they have a split second before an enemy lands an attack to parry. There are slight visual cues as to when you can perform these so always be alert during battle.

Health regeneration can be obtained via eating edibles purchased from merchants, whilst the description states that during battle they cannot be consumed and regenerate health, I found myself quickly scoffing down some bread which funnily enough during combat did actually give me health.

Project Cars Preview: The Dark Souls of Racing Games


Prepare to Spin Out. A Lot.

Imagine you’re playing a game of chess. You look at the board, carefully considering your next move; do you go on the offense, or do you hold your ground? You have to be aware of the moves ahead too, thinking about what your opponent will do next.

Project Cars has this feel to it, it’s not an arcade racer where if an opponent tries to shift it’s placement on the road you can just shunt it away with ease, try that here and you’ll likely lose the race. Instead it becomes a game of speed versus control, defence versus offence where every move you make can make or break your racing time.

Project CARS

I was shown two different versions of the game; the closed beta on PC to demonstrate the game’s features, options and menus, and the PS4 version for hands on racing.

When you load up the game you’re greeted with a gorgeous cinematic showcasing the game’s cars and tracks, and soon after you’re sitting on the menu screen. From here, you can access the game’s single player, multiplayer and social based game types.

A notable feature of the game that really took me by surprise was the level of customisation available to gamers. You can choose a difficulty level when you start that ranges from the usual easy to expert, but once that’s chosen there’s so many more options to play with.

You can tweak just about anything, from those that impact your own driving to the AI that race around the track with you. Traction, driving assists and the racing line can be a real help when starting to learn how the game works, then gradually turned down or off to transition into the heart of the challenge.

Project CARS

Enemy AI can also be tweaked with a large list of sliders for more of a challenge or to train against a certain type of racer, improving your strategy. For instance, you can up the defensiveness and blocking of the AI’s so you can find ways to get around enemies that like to block your overtaking online. It’s a really interesting system with a seemingly unending amount of possible combinations due to the sliders ranging from 0 to 100 for each characteristic. I feel like these options will work to actively make the game both more accessible for newcomers whilst still providing an intense challenge for the veterans.

In terms of cars and tracks, racing fans will not be disappointed at all, with over fifty tracks and sixty cars coming in the full release. The Playstation 4 demo only includes one track and one car for the purposes of showing the core gameplay, but the beta contains much more. Choosing a car and a track are likely something players will spend a lot of time deliberating upon, before hitting the grid for the real challenge.

Realistic driving is nothing new, in fact game developers have been striving to create a realistic race experience since some of the first car games were made. In my mind, Project Cars takes this to a new level, providing a realistic driving experience that’s nothing short of punishing.

Project CARS

When I first pressed the accelerator at the start of the race it felt like the stock standard sort of start to a race. I had been told to pay close attention to the brake lights of the cars ahead of me and to follow their line to get a feel for the track, passing the first corner with the aid of some gentle braking and turning. Upon reaching the second corner however, trouble struck as I didn’t brake quite early enough, finding my wheel on the grass off the edge of the tarmac. In Project Cars, things like this will cause the whole car to start to spin (due to the loss of traction from a wheel) and normal arcade racing tricks will only end with your car spun out, way behind the pack.

Instead, especially to begin with, you really need to take it slow and watch carefully, thinking about when to move and remembering how the AI brake and control. If you take the time to do this you’ll find your feet in the game pretty fast. After more restarts than I care to admit I was easily keeping up with the larger group, working out the best times to make a break for that next position and when to hang back watch for the other cars’ next moves.

I found the game incredibly satisfying, even in those restarts, because in those early tries I was actually learning about how the game worked and controlled. I can see this early difficulty proving a barrier to some, or it may become painful to those not accustomed to heavily realistic racing games, but ultimately with the assists most players should get a good grasp of the game after minimal time playing.

Outside of the games mechanics, the attention to detail and presentation are another place where Project Cars shines. As the cars race around the track you can see the suspension at work and leaves blow off the track and past your windshield. Rain and dynamic weather events change up the feel of the race, and the surrounding environments look gorgeous as you fly by. From the presentation of the cars to the stunning backdrops, the game looks great on the next-gen consoles.

Project CARS

I’ve heard Project Cars described as the ‘Dark Souls’ of racing games, and that description rings true; the game is punishing in all the right ways, with a difficulty curve to match, but it’s also beyond rewarding when it all clicks in that moment and you pull of the perfect turn. I’m not sure how all racing fans will fare when they get their hands on it, but the kickstarter success ‘Slightly Mad Studios’ has created will surely push, challenge and delight fans when the game hits shelves.

Project Cars has been localised for release in Australia by Bandai Namco and will be releasing in November for Playstation 4, Xbox One and PC, with a Wii U Version coming in 2015. The game will also support VR headsets, with the Oculus Rift and Sony’s Project Morpheus confirmed already.

Project CARS

Jayden Perry ©2014

EA Australia’s FIFA15 Football Fans Event Recap


First in the world. First in Australia.

Carriageworks, in the heart of Sydney. FIFA and Adidas combined to host a world first Football Fans event, allowing fans to experience FIFA 15 and the new Adidas Predator line. The crowd were jittery as they queued to line up outside, with many excited fans eagerly peering into the venue to see the TV screens inside set up with FIFA 15, ready to play.

As the line was slowly filtering in to the venue, fans were greeted with a freestyling performance from EA Sports which included consecutive around the worlds and other various forms of tricks which definitely wowed and ensued with applause from the awestruck and appreciative fans.

Once inside the venue, there was instantly a massive crowd around the TVs with everyone wanting to try the FIFA 15 demos that have been set up. Even though this was an early release of the game, it was clear to see the various improvements that EA had highlighted within their videos.

On the other side of the venue was the Adidas Predator cage setup, in which fans footballing skills were tested to accurately hit targets that were consecutively lighting up within a 60 second time frame. This also prompted many “ooh’s” and “aah’s” with two Origin superstars – Jarryd Hayne and Will Hopoate present to show support for the Predators as well as test their skills. After trying on the boots, I have to admit that they are remarkably comfortable on the foot with the striking red, white and black design that has become so well-known for the Adidas Predator brand.

fifa15_xboxone_ps4_dynamicmatchpresentation_liverpoolgoal

Announcements

At the venue, there were two major announcements that were made by EA as well as Adidas.

Starting with the EA announcement, firstly it was with great pride that Lionel Messi was featured on the new FIFA 15 cover. This was then proceeded to be followed by a presentation by Tim Cahill in which he expressed his happiness as being the cover face for the Australian Cover of FIFA 15.

Adidas also announced the whole new Predator line in which they are bringing back and revolutionizing past models and features of boots such as the accelerator feature and incorporating them back into modern boots. This brought a sense of nostalgia and excitement as fans were now quite keen on testing out the new boots in the Adidas section of the venue.
Features

EA Sports highlighted 4 main pillars they used to restructure and further upgrade the new FIFA to make it the game that everyone will want to own when it is released.

The 4 pillars were – Emotion and Intensity, Incredible visuals, Intelligent AI and Player Control.

Emotion and Intensity

Breaking each of them down, whilst playing the game the crowd and also the outer part of the field has really been redesigned so that they come to life during gameplay. It is immediately noticeable who the home crowd are, the way the fans jump up when players such as Messi or Ibrahimovic touches the ball and the way the audiences groan/body language when a player just misses a shot in front of goal. Including this, banners on the side of the field are now animated giving a more pleasing visual flair to the outside of the field.

fifa15_xboxone_ps4_mantomanbattles_schalkevsbayer04

Incredible Visuals

EA sports have really paid attention to the amount of detail they need to put in on things that they had once neglected in previous versions. A great example of this is the weathering of the pitch as the game goes on. By showing the marks and rough patches from where players have slid or fallen, this allows a more realistic approach to football with this weathering of the field also affecting the gameplay (players tripping over bumps in the field). Including that, great care has also been put into the detail from the environment (e.g. rain). Now gamers can see the visual robustness of the new game and how they’ve taken every consideration to mimic the detail of a football game through the brilliant display of rain drops off the pitch when a player makes a tackle.

That being said, EA have again put a lot of effort into making the likeness of the characters in the game to the actual players. It is quite astonishing from the previews and from watching the gameplay on the screens in the venue how well EA have done this. The easiest way to put this, is the players really look the way they are meant to, which is very pleasing on a whole.

Intelligent AI

The computer in the game has been improved in the sense that they have tried to make the players more real. The players now respond to the emotions of the game, for example at the 90th minute, if a team is leading then they’ll play possessive football in which the ball will stay deep in order to run the time down and take the win. They also take into account the new formation settings that has been implemented in the new FIFA such as ‘parking the bus’ and corner formations and will respond accordingly.

Player Control

Player control seems to be the most relevant to FIFA fans when it comes to gameplay. From the demo that was shown, instantly I could tell that players were more responsive, moved faster on the break, controlled the ball better and took account the balance that they needed in order to take a shot or stop a ball. Adding features such as stronger push and pull contact as well as more flair during tricks, it makes the game more enjoyable to play. One big aspect that I really enjoyed was the fact that you can take control of players off the ball during throw-ins cause that really helps make plays and distribute the ball without waiting for a player to run a certain direction for you, only to have the other team follow and consequently intercept the ball.

fifa15_xboxone_ps4_authenticplayervisual_higuain_wm

Overall

Personally, FIFA 15 is a very exciting title to be released in September and for all football fans out there, it is definitely worth the wait. The event as a whole was an overall success, pleasing football fans and giving us all a preview of what is to come, from both Adidas and EA.

Here’s a video EA Australia published today about the event.

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

Here’s Why Destiny Needs a Theatre Mode


Impressions and Thoughts From Destiny’s Alpha

After playing Destiny’s Alpha, it’s fair to say I’ve been thinking about the game a lot. It really blew me away, what I was expecting was a small teaser of the game to give Sony yet another ‘exclusive’ to promote at E3, but what I got was much, much more.

The alpha itself only contained a very small segment of the game, but that was all that was needed. It didn’t try throw me into the story nor did it flood me with painful tutorials or tedious early game clichés, it let the experience of discovery speak for itself. I started my journey in a sense of curiosity and wonder, within the first half hour on the alpha I had learnt and discovered just a small portion of what I could do in Destiny, revelling in the fact that I could call my speeder bike at will or jump glide to slam enemies from above. I felt like it was my own story emerging, I wasn’t following a narrative, I was just able to learn, enjoy and adventure  in my own small piece of the universe.

As I embarked upon the creation of my third character (one of each class!) I had a friend visit, and we began discussing what could be done in this game. We were both very much enjoying our time with the title and decided that it would be something we’d love to play in a small group, even thinking of creating videos about the neat things we could find and the antics we’d get up to.

Sharing is the next big thing highlighted in the new consoles, but unfortunately that only lets you capture gameplay from one view on the console, that of the character you’re playing as. You can’t capture sweeping landscape shots, nor can you get the third person and additional shots of battle that you’d see in a movie, but the ability to capture these would vastly increase the quality of content created from this sort of game.

Character Customisation in Destiny

With a focus on individuality, from the design of armors, weapons and the general play style, Destiny allows you to make your own character to ‘be’ in this world. It takes more than just the one first person shot to both showcase that player and the rest of the diverse characters in the group you’re playing with. On top of this, the whole world is both persistent and full of events and randomly generated happenings, the ability to capture and showcase these spontaneous scenarios would be beyond beneficial to the developing culture of unique content creation through Youtube, Twitch and console sharing platforms.

This B-Roll footage from within Destiny really stoked my desire to see a theatre mode in game, containing a wealth of gorgeous footage of landscapes, battles and first person action.

From Halo 3 onwards, Bungie (and now 343’s installments) have all included a theatre mode, spawning a vast array of fan videos, montages and generally hilarious moments from multiplayer matches. While this game is a departure from the Halo series it still contains aspects from the franchise that made it so successful, and aspects that would lend themselves well to both narrative and moment to moment based features.

Red Vs Blue – A huge success for both Rooster Teeth and Bungie

Think about what Red Vs Blue did for Halo back when it began, it brought in a huge amount of viewers to both the show and the game itself, and has since grown into a huge fan phenomenon, with the show reaching twelve seasons thus far. No one could have picked the huge success this little web series would receive, and who knows what the next big series to take off will be.

While I’m sure a lot of players will want to just play the game by itself, either in single player or co-op, something like a theatre mode would really benefit the wider community of Destiny, a community that has already begun to generate fan art and fan videos. It would make it easier for players to start building and telling their own stories within the game, as well as generally sharing and promoting the title. Some may say Destiny is not the type for this storytelling, going beyond simple video recording from a console, but the same could be said for many a game. In the end, with the way the internet works, successful new creations can spring from just about any game out there.

Bungie, if you’re reading this, I’d love to see a theatre mode in Destiny, but I’d love even more to see what the community could do with such a tool to tell and create their own stories within this new and exciting universe your team has created.

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!

Survival Horror Returns with The Evil Within


We go hands-on with two hours of the game

The survival horror genre has been in a bit of a weird place over the last couple of years.

Getting a glimpse of this old school genre in Dead Space, the sequels went for a more action oriented direction, leaving behind the slow paced nature of the genre in favour of bigger set pieces and an arsenal of weaponry.

Resident Evil saw itself follow the action route after Resident Evil 4, and as a result the fans haven’t been so forthcoming of the change. Creator of the Resident Evil series, Shinji Mikami – Formed Tango Gameworks in May of 2010, in hopes of returning to the roots of survival horror.

The studios first title The Evil Within, runs on a heavily modified version of the id Tech 5 engine that currently powers Wolfenstein: The New Order. It relies on t he staples of survival horror, from confined corridors, monsters that jump out at you around corners or burst through doors, scarce ammo in scenarios where you’re surrounded by half a dozen enemies and enemies that you seemingly cannot defeat.

online_jaw_1399631052
Good old jawless enemy #2456

The Evil Within is at its best when it puts you in situations where you’re low on ammo and you need to strategically think how to approach and defeat the enemies ahead of you. Players won’t just find random ammo scattered on the floor, so they’ll have to rely on smashing open crates in hopes of finding a few measly bullets.

Carrying a pistol, shotgun, bow with interchangeable arrows with different effects, the odd grenade and a knife, Detective Sebastian Castellano has a few items at his disposal to ensure his survival. In a twisted and warped world where evil can be anywhere, and the entire landscape can change in an instant, players need to be on alert.

The Evil Within’s scares don’t come from the random enemies bursting through barricaded doors or monsters that look scary even though they’re present, they come from tense situations where the player is overwhelmed and must think fast, with environments completely changing where you’re in a dim light corridor with a river of blood flowing at you to realising the stairs you just walked down from aren’t exactly there anymore. Whilst these sections are scripted, they do present a nice change of pace and a good sense of claustrophobia.

Whilst the game almost predominantly features blood, there’s a large emphasis on fire within the game, as Sebastian carries around a limited number of matches, which means the only way to truly eliminate enemies with The Evil Within is to burn them whilst they’re still alive.

Whilst you can shoot them and blow their heads clean off, due to the builds early nature and hit detection being a bit off, this unfortunately wasn’t the best course of action to ensure safety. To save ammunition, players can melee creatures and shoot them once or twice in hopes of downing them, here you need to get it in quick, light a match and set them on fire, where they’ll disintegrate into dust.

Be careful though as even though Sebastian carries a knife and can pick up a dropped axe, these weapons only prolong death. They cannot be used to kill an enemy, after attacking an enemy with Sebastian’s knife 3 times, it became immune and proceeded to attack me even though I kept on slashing. This is where the The Evil Within begins with its problems, but we’ll get to that a little later.

online_village_knifefight_1399631055
Not really useful, when you can’t even kill enemies with it

The Evil Within does rely on a few set pieces to ramp up the tension in hopes of scaring players, various traps lay dormant within Chapter 8 and potentially the rest of the game world, but they only seem to activate when Sebastian triggers them, seemingly unavoidable. Whilst the trap in Ch 8 became tiresome after the first few times, the game’s main build of tension and stress comes from Ruvik.

The hooded figure that you’ve seen in almost all the games trailers, is in full force during both chapters.

As he seems to be the central character of the game, players unfortunately cannot kill him nor do any form of damage to him whatsoever. When he appears, it’s best to turn around the haul your ass in any possible direction. During Chapter 8 where Sebastian is in pursuit of two other characters who are unreachable behind a large bolted door, Sebastian must scour a mansion full of its own secrets and horrors, solving puzzles that include studying the human brain on live subjects whilst listening to recordings.

And the player does this all whilst eluding Ruvik, who materialises out of thin air.

With the ability to hide under beds or inside closets, players are warned of Ruvik’s approach when the lights dim and the screen turns a very dark blue hue. What they don’t know is where he’ll appear, as I found out the hard way after hiding in a closest, I found that Ruvik has the ability to randomly burst from within an enemy’s bodies, and if Ruvik touches you then its game over.

He’s got the “Touch of Death’, so expect to run when you see him, but be sure not to run too much as Sebastian’s stamina meter represents his lack of endurance. Sebastian has little to no stamina, crucial for when you run out of ammo and need to think quick. If you deplete Sebastian’s stamina, he’ll hunch over, breath heavily and compose himself for a few seconds, to which you have absolutely zero control of the character.

During the end sequence of Chapter 4, players will walk down a long brightly light corridor. At the end they’ll come up to a room where a pile of bodies lay on the floor. As scripted, a four armed creature will burst from the bodies, and reminiscent of Johnny Depp’s death in Nightmare on Elm Street, blood will spew in almost every direction. It’s here we encounter our first true horror and must run to safety or else, we’ll die. What will frustrate players about this sequence, is that they’ll easily exhaust Sebastian’s stamina and at times freak out because they’re about to die.

Yet when players reach the final act of this chase sequence, Sebastian miraculously gains unlimited stamina and you’re able to run right up to a closing door and slide under it, completely disregarding the fact that player’s have little no stamina for regular encounters.

You do NOT want to hold hands with that!
You do NOT want to hold hands with that!

Now seeing that the game has a new release date of October 23rd 2014, I can see why it was decided to push this game back, to not only focus on balancing the game but refine certain elements, which in their current state don’t work as well as I had hoped.

The game’s stealth mechanic is extremely hit and miss. In Chapter 8 after successfully entering a study on the mansions second floor, players come up against two enemies feasting on a dead body. Crouching and creeping up for a takedown, almost instantaneously, they’d stand up detect my presence and attack me. No amount of snail paced crouching could prevent this, meaning it’ was time to use up that precious ammo I searched for in every room before.

You can’t down enemies if you slash them with your knife and after a few hits they become immune and begin to attack you. With the pistol however, you can shoot an enemy in the stomach and they’ll most likely go down like a tonne of bricks for a few seconds. At times where you have no ammo but are maxed out with matches, it would be nice if the knife had some better use other than for takedowns.

If that’s not frustrating enough, The Evil Within seems to suffer from an excruciating camera that holds itself too close to Sebastian’s back. Unless I’m mistaken and this is for effect when opening doors and you cannot see what is around the corner, in tense situations or areas where you’re cornered, it’s quite hard to maneuver out of a tight spot due to the camera hugging you. The camera angle in most third person survival horror games is never an easy feat to achieve, so I hope that due to the push back in the game’s release we see an improvement in these areas.

The Evil Within in its current state isn’t necessarily a bad game, it’s got the staples of survival horror and it genuinely features some truly terrifying moments, but it is lacking a few crucial refinements that will hold it up there with the best. Fans of Shinji Mikami will eat this game up and love it, whilst others who aren’t as invested in the genre might find it just another game with mediocre gameplay and average scares.

If the two hours that I had the chance to play is any indication, The Evil Within has the potential to be a truly terrifying experience where playing with the lights off and the volume loud will send shivers down your spine.

Ruvik, not to be messed with
Ruvik, not to be messed with