Mirror’s Edge: Catalyst Has a Strong Story, Features Gadgets to Help Faith and Gets Very Vertical


It’s been a long seven years for Mirror’s Edge fans, but finally after such a uncertain wait, Faith is finally back and in a much bigger and more impressive way than any of us could have imagined. Gone is the gunplay, meaning that players can not use any guns dropped by enemies and many fans of the original will note that apart from the short and simple storyline, this was the weakest part of the game.

Included as well is an overhauled melee combat system, which feels much more fluid in Faith’s movements and to accompany this is a truly open world setting for players to traverse.

The City of Glass is Faith’s new playground and it is littered with various objectives the player can undertake.

Included in the demo for E3 but not limited to these were:

  • Billboard Hack
  • Speed Run
  • Delivery

Whilst these aren’t the official titles of the objectives, you can get a rough idea of what they involve.

Billboard hacking is exactly as it reads, you traverse the environment in any way possible to reach a high up billboard, press ‘X’ or ‘A’ to hack it and you’re done. Similar to Assassin Creed’s towers, though I’m not sure they really change the influence in a section or if they are more so for there for completionists, and to showcase the beautiful city environment. This was quite easy and I’m hoping the further you are in the game the harder they get.

Speed Runs are your time trial objective where you must get from point ‘A’ to point ‘B’ in the shortest time possible and where the game truly shines. As Glass is an open world with no loading screens, players can follow the set marker trail to reach their destination but they are not restricted to it. You can still take shortcuts if you find them to shave off a few seconds, and remembering the days of Mirror’s Edge, speed runners will tear this game apart.

They will find every little hole Faith can slide under, every wall she can jump over just to get there a fraction quicker, and with leaderboards you can bet some ridiculous times shall be recorded.

Last but not least there’s package delivery. These are very similar to the speed runs, but you’ll have enemies around most corners ready to take you down. This is where we got a chance to test out the game’s combat in all its revamped glory. Whilst I didn’t mind the combat in the original you can definitely see that Faith’s movements are of a more fluid nature.

She seamlessly transitions from running to combat and it’s a sight. I applaud the removal of gun combat because it took away from using Faith’s most powerful tools, her body. Combat feels less like a chore this time around and Faith is equipped with a whole arsenal of new moves to take down foes. There are specific takedowns that Faith can do similar to that of the Arkham franchise whilst she’s in the air.

This demo, whilst short, gave me a good indication that Catalyst won’t be disappointing fans of the original entry to the franchise.

me_catalyst_screen1

After the 13 minute demo had ended, I managed to have a quick chat with Erik Odeldahl (Design Director) who whilst new to the franchise, joins the team at DICE which includes 7 original developers who worked on the Mirror’s Edge (2008).

We like to think we’re catering to several types of players. We have a very strong story that brings you through the city, brings you into contact with all the important characters and Faith’s origins story. The free roaming sections are very important as well, we believe even players that don’t usually do that type of stuff we really hope they will play this one as well.

I also asked that since the game is now open world how vertical does the City of Glass get for Faith to traverse, as giving players this type of liberating freedom means the game world must be engaging enough to explore.

It’s gets very vertical after a while and we have gadgets, but we’re not ready to talk about those yet to help with some of that, so definitely very vertical.

Whilst they haven’t touched up on the gadgets, I’m assuming they’ll be something akin to maybe a zipline to travel from building to building. Heading closer to the its February 2016 release date we’ll find out more about what they will be.

Overall, Mirror’s Edge: Catalyst to me feels like the game it was meant to be 7 years ago. No gun combat, huge focus on parkour movement, a beautiful city run by a controlling government with our runners and another faction at play, ‘Black November’, which we know little about.

There isn’t much more I can add unfortunately, the demo gave us a glimpse of how the game runs and looks and fans should be pleased. It didn’t give away any plot elements, as doing so would leave us over the 8 months with knowledge we can’t do anything with.

It was a perfect short demo to showcase the open world nature of the game, no loading screens, revamped melee combat and how much free roaming the player can do.

February 2016 cannot come fast enough.

The Way Open-World Games Can Kill The Gaming Experience


Once upon a time, in the near past, gamers cried out against the flood of linear, set-piece heavy games. It wasn’t worth the money to play a game that lasted 7 hours, involved limited choices and a crippling amount of hand holding.

Sandbox gaming brought with it a much-needed reprieve from the boredom of most AAA action games. Players could go anywhere on the map rather than being ushered through narrow corridors, we could ride horses or drive cars, there was a renewed sense of exploration in gaming. NPCs entered the frame and memorable quotes and animations not to mention glitches became the fuel for countless memes. Sandbox gaming rose to become the dominant force in gaming.

Telltale_Games

But with all this freedom and choice there is one area that inevitably suffers, the narrative. When developers seek to give us a wealth of experiences they seem to either offer us clichéd stories or stories so vast in their complexity that they are hard to follow and ultimately fall flat. In comparison when developers like Tell-Tale choose to focus our attention on the story but offer a simplified gameplay experience, we find ourselves drawn into these worlds and are unable to tear our eyes away from our screens.

Now I understand that there are many gamers who love the countless fetch quests, hunts, escort excursions and good old start a fight with that guy missions, but I find that many of these side quest detract from the main story and only offer minimal opportunities for advancement and add little to my enjoyment of the game.

ACUnity

Assassin’s Creed: Unity is a game where all too often side quests and the illusion of a dynamic world detracted so much from my experience that I found everything hard to follow and ultimately uninteresting. I love the chance to jump and run my way through beautifully recreated historic sites and I love random events unfolding in front of me that I can either watch or get involved in. However, following the story in dribs and drabs if I happened to try a detective mission, or do a co-op mission, or jump through to another time period which at best is a disjointed experience and at worst is a confusing jumble of good guys who are bad guys and bad guys who are good guys and a bunch of characters and factions I couldn’t give a fig about.

The Order 1886

Many of us don’t want the interactive movie style of Call of Duty or the clumsy on rails feel of The Order, we want a bit more freedom. But if open-world freedom is constantly presenting a massive list of distractions then inevitably the story is going to suffer.

In my opinion well-structured and interesting narrative should be a major focus in games. We are so impressed by the technology that offer dynamic worlds but all too often these nuances act as nothing more than padding and add nothing to the narrative.

So what is the true gaming utopia we seek?

Balance isn’t easy in games. If you have narrative that is too self-indulgent or convoluted you could end up alienating potential players, the Metal Gear series risks this with their flair for the dramatic. However, the Metal Gear series has got the right idea generally – make story and characters highly important, full of twists and turns and character development, coupled with gameplay that complements the story. Just don’t overdo it with cut scenes.

Game environments are also something to get right. Sound and setting are very important but many open-world games cut and paste locations to accommodate the vast amount of side missions, NPCs and miscellaneous happenings.

acrogue-gi-04_161297

What’s more, they stick to one location with a minor sub-location to make it look different. In Assassin’s Creed: Rogue we had snow, water, forest, towns, forts, but these were repeated throughout the world ad nauseum. One of the best parts in my experience was the adrenaline-pumping run through Lisbon during an earthquake. Guess what? It was linear and the only place away from the wilds of North America, which we largely explored previously in Assassin’s Creed III.

City-focused games like InFamous are the same. Once you’ve explored the Space Needle, had fun catching the monorail, and found the few other buildings that look a bit different, Seattle loses its appeal to explore. Then it depends completely on the gameplay experience and story, because you are stuck in that place. The solution is to have less focus on building a massive cityscape with millions of side-options and gimmicks, and instead focus on a tight narrative that grabs you and carries you along slowly, but with more freedom and choice than a film, through a number of beautifully created environments.

Wolfenstein The New Order

Impossible? I don’t think so. It’s about balance. Assassin’s Creed II had a good degree of that balance and diversity despite being open world. Metal Gear Solid 4 felt more open than it was, despite the great variety of stunning settings and largely linear approach, an illusion that allowed differences of gameplay style (stealth or run and gun) encased in a continually progressing story flow. Wolfenstein: The New Order brought both self-aware kitsch and sentimental depth to the shooter story, and if it had a bit more open environment would have had that balance.

Bigger is not necessarily better here. Allow me to point out the painfully obvious – most of us have to work, study, take care of kids or do other things besides sit down and play games. In this ‘time poor’ life, most of us enjoy games in bits and pieces when we can find the time.

This means the story should be strong and easy to follow, even after weeks spent away, with interesting multi-faceted characters. It should be easy to jump back into, gameplay-wise, without having to strain our memories. Ultimately it’s how engaging the experience is that determines if we come back and finish the game or move on, disappointed.

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

Homefront: The Revolution Revealed


A New Conflict

The future of THQ‘s ‘Homefront’ has been announced by Crytek and Deep Sliver, taking the Korean invasion to near future Philadelphia in Homefront: The Revolution.

You’ll play as a civilian who has taken up the fight with the resistance, charging into battle with improvised weapons and bolt cutters. The game’s format has also changed from the original, rather than a linear shooter The Revolution takes the form of an open world guerrilla FPS, much like Far Cry 3. The game will be playable completely solo or in four player co-op.

A reveal trailer has also been released, showcasing the new look enemies and unique visuals.

As yet there is no release date, but Homefront: The Revolution will launch on PS4, Xbox One and PC.

Jayden Perry ©2014

Dying Light Delayed Till Early 2015


Dying Light Now Slated For Release In February 2015

Dying Light, Techland’s  upcoming zombie title, was originally going to be released in 2014, but today has been pushed back till next year. The game is an open world survival based title that incorporates free running and mobility with first person zombie combat, created with the goal to innovate the zombie genre.

The developers have issued a press release detailing the reasons for the delay, as well as the plans for the future.

The press release follows;

Dear Gamers,

We know you’ve been waiting on a Dying Light release date for quite some time now. After careful consideration, we have decided to release our upcoming game in February 2015. Since this means Dying Light will launch a few months later than originally planned, we feel obliged to explain the reasons that influenced this important decision.

When we started the development of Dying Light, we were committed to innovation. We wanted to give you a freedom of movement unprecedented in open-world games. After many improvements and months of hard work, we have now come so close to realizing our initial vision we feel we cannot stop before it is ready.

We believe the Natural Movement element of our game will change what you expect from the genre, and we don’t want to sacrifice any of its potential by releasing too early. This quality-focused thinking underlines all our development choices and we hope you share our belief that the gameplay must always come first.

The new date ensures that we can fully realize our vision of an innovative open-world game. We won’t need to make compromises or trade-offs on any of the five platforms we’re working on. For you, it means an outstanding, original game that makes the wait more than worthwhile.

Finally, we would like to thank our publishing partner, Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment, which fully supports our decision. It’s a real pleasure to work in an environment where quality is universally accepted as the top priority. We believe that this is the only way to make truly incredible games.
We also have an additional announcement for you: starting next month at E3 2014, we’ll be telling you much more about all the exciting features and different aspects of Dying Light. Stay tuned!

– Dying Light Team

Dying Light is slated for a February 2015 release, on PC, PS3, PS4, Xbox 360 and Xbox One. We’ll see more footage and information at E3 2014.

Jayden Perry ©2014

OXCGN’s Dead Rising 3 Review


dr3head

An Apocalyptic Playground

Capcom Vancouver’s Dead Rising 3 is a visceral experience.

As an exclusive title for the Xbox One, it aims to not only demonstrate the power of the next generation console, it also aims to (more importantly) let players loose in a virtual playground where all the toys are capable of inflicting grievous bodily harm. Games featuring zombies are a dime a dozen in this day and age, and their saturation within the media means that anything zombie-related needs to stand out. With this in mind, as well as Dead Rising 3 being the third title in the series, can it survive the horde and survive on its own?

No stylish survivor would been seen in public without their trusty Sledgesaw.
No stylish survivor would been seen in public without their trusty Sledgesaw.

Stave off the Apocalypse here!

Need for Speed: Rivals – “AllDrive destroys that line between single and multiplayer.”


nfsinterview

Need for Speed: Rivals – “AllDrive destroys that line between single and multiplayer.”

James Mouat, Lead Designer Ghost Games

by Arthur Kotsopoulos

©2013 Arthur Kotsopoulos

Last week EA Australia held a hands on event for their latest entry into the Need for Speed franchise, Rivals. Unfortunately, we weren’t able to attend how ever we did manage to nab a phone interview to make up for our lack of attendance.

I had the chance to speak to James Mouat lead designer over at Ghosts Games on Rivals and spoke a little bit about the 20th entry into the series. Using Frostbite Engine 3 to power the game and what players can get themselves ready for when they either play as a cop or a racer.

Need for Speed: Rivals is out on the 21st of November for the 360 and PS3, however as the Xbox One and PS4 are right after, if you’re buying the new next-gen console definitely purchase that version of the game.

Come with me or there will be trouble!
Come with me or there will be trouble!

Click to read the full interview with James!

Assassin’s Creed 4 Black Flag Preview


Black Flag

Assassin’s Creed 4 Black Flag Preview

Get ready to set sail with Ubisoft’s latest assassin adventure!

by Jayden Perry

©2013 Jayden Perry

AC4-BIG-boxart-imageLast week I visited Ubisoft Sydney to get an exclusive hands on with Ubisoft’s new title, Assassin’s Creed IV Black Flag, in the lead up to it’s release for current generation consoles on October 29.

The demo I got my hands on was a large open world demo, not playable at any public showing.

I got to experience free roam in both the Jackdaw and on foot, exploring several islands and regions of the map. I also played underwater diving segments, side missions such as assassination contracts, and the harpooning activity.

I’d like to thank Paul and the rest of the team at Ubisoft Sydney for having me, and for taking the time to walk me through this incredible game.

Continue reading Assassin’s Creed 4 Black Flag Preview