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Friday, July 1, 2016

E3 2016 - The Good, The Bad, and the Downright Awful

       E3 has come and gone once again, and the impressions are still very much fresh in many of our memories. As usual, there were some fantastic press conferences and some not so fantastic ones. Although, this year the difference between the best and the worst was a lot more significant than usual...

Much like a good majority of the gaming community I am not the biggest fan of EA although, I absolutely adore BioWare. That being said, I have always been able to look past my preference to make objective criticisms. So understand that this is coming from a complete level of professionalism when I say this: they had one of the worst press conferences I have ever seen. Not the worst but one of the worst.

For one thing EA puts a lot of heavy focus on sports games. I know there's an audience for that and I'm not part of it. I'm not saying it's bad just because they show sports games but what I am saying is the way they go about it is just awful. There is no presentation whatsoever. This year they came across very lazy and like they didn't even want to be there. It was like a business meeting that they just wanted to get over and done with. They even took the early slot on Sunday. I was glad to finally see some Mass Effect Andromeda footage but then sorely disappointed when it turned out to be a bunch of behind the scenes footage and maybe like 2 or 3 clips from the actual game. I honestly feel like if that's all they were going to show they should have held off and just waited until they had more. Literally the best thing about their press conference was the Battlefield 1 footage and then the 64 player Battlefield 1 match after the fact.

There are a lot of highlights from that moment including Wiz Khalifa destroying the other team and Snoop Dogg Just casually smoking a blunt in the middle of the game. That entire section was far more entertaining than any press conference EA has ever held.

Bethesda had a pretty decent showing this year. Not as good as last year with the surprise Fallout 4 announcement but still pretty decent. They definitely brought the house down with the announcement of Quake Champions. That made a lot of people happy. Skyrim Remastered is a juicy bit of news for some people. I honestly feel like they put too much focus on Fallout 4 DLC and, well, some of it looked good, some of it looked not so good and I think the fans were hoping for something a bit more substantial. It was nice to see that Fallout Shelter is coming to PC though for those that don't play mobile games.

Also, Bethesda announced that there is no more level cap for The Elder Scrolls Online which could be good or bad depending on where you stand with MMOs. The announcement of the Prey sequel was also a huge bit of news for some people. The thing that stood out the most to me was that we finally got to see some gameplay for Dishonored 2 and man, does it look good.

Overall I would say Bethesda did exactly what you would expect out of a company for an E3 press conference. They didn't do a bad job but they also didn't go above and beyond. It was a slightly above-average press conference that had a lot of great announcements and a few not-so-great ones but overall very satisfying.

Microsoft had probably one of the better press conferences they've had in awhile. The announcement that pretty much every Xbox game is going to work on Windows 10 was definitely the high point but also kind of bittersweet because it means that most people are now going to fall under the mindset of "if that's the case why don't I just get a PC?" There will always be those less financially fortunate, however, or just people that prefer console who will opt for the Xbox One version anyways.

Another highlight I noticed was the launch of a website where you can create your own custom Xbox controller and have it mailed to you. I thought that was pretty neat.

Some of the definite highlights from the press conference would obviously be the exclusives like Gears of War 4 and Halo Wars 2 but if I'm being honest the things that caught my eye the most where the gameplay for Scalebound and We Happy Few. The addition of Final Fantasy XV in  Microsoft's press conference was a surprise seeing how Square Enix usually shows up during the Sony conference. However, they had another trick up their sleeve for that...

Microsoft also announced the Xbox One slim and then almost immediately made it redundant at the end of their press conference by announcing the Xbox One Scorpio. A more advanced version of the Xbox One capable of 4K with better parts. Microsoft is still being hush-hush on the specifics of the hardware but they had no problem repeating "6 teraflops" over and over again. Although impressive when compared to the 1.32 teraflops currently in the system, 6 teraflops is ultimately useless information without knowing the rest of the hardware specifications. It was just big fancy words to appease the feeble-minded. A marketing tactic.

All of that aside Microsoft had a pretty solid press conference and almost the best press conference this year. Almost.

If EA wasn't trying hard enough then Ubisoft had the opposite problem. One thing Ubisoft has always been good at is a cringe-worthy press conference where they try too hard to be funny and entertain the viewers. I understand that E3 is supposed to be entertaining but you can entertain the masses by showing off the games, not Musical dance numbers and trying too hard to be edgy. Literally the best thing about Ubisoft's press conference was the moment with Matt Parker and Trey Stone talking about South Park: The Fractured But Whole. The swearing isn't a problem as far as I'm concerned because censorship is currently outdated and most cable channels let you say the s-word uncensored now so it's honestly just part of everyday conversation these days. No one really cares anymore. The problem isn't that they swear too much, no, the problem is that everything they do comes across scripted and like a bad play. I do love Aisha Tyler but E3 is not a cartoon musical comedy.

That being said some of the games that Ubisoft showed off did look interesting. I am excited for Watch_Dogs 2 even though it looks like more of the same. That actually seems to be Ubisoft's theme this year; "More of the same". Wildlands looks like The Division in the jungle for example.

I am excited for the VR game Eagle Flight. You can definitely tell it was Assassin's Creed inspired. Speaking of Assassin's Creed, probably one of them the down points for me was when they talked about the movie. It is definitely a movie I'm going to see but I'm not exactly looking forward to. Movies based on video games have a solid history of being horrible even though I enjoy some of them; like Resident Evil. But from what I've seen and heard of the Assassin's Creed movie so far, I don't like the direction they're taking with it and this is coming from huge fan of the franchise. But I will save that for another article.

I was also disappointed to find out that For Honor is turning out to just be another Dynasty Warriors clone. The nail in the coffin for the Ubisoft conference in my opinion was when they said they had a new IP and then revealed snowboarding/paragliding game Steep. Technically it is a new IP but, it is far from a new concept. Making a new sports game and calling it a new IP feels lazy.

Now we get to the coup de grĂ¢ce of E3 2016.

This year PlayStation came out of the gate super strong with a live Orchestra playing what I immediately recognized as God of War music. Then lo and behold a new God of War game gets announced and I'll be damned if it doesn't look like The Witcher. From there it was only uphill for the most part. The VR Kitchen demo was revealed to be a tech demo for Resident Evil VII which is now opting for a more horror setting with first person visuals, limited combat and VR support. Although I did hear that the show floor demo for the VR version of the game was making people sick but come to find out that was mostly due to user error. You cannot use the right stick and your head as a camera at the same time you have to pick one otherwise you will get sick.

We also found out that Crash Bandicoot is getting the Final Fantasy VII treatment, as in it's getting fully remastered from the ground up for PlayStation 4, and not just the first game but all three original Crash Bandicoot games for the PlayStation 1 are coming back. That announcement got some of the best reactions that were immediately stifled by Skylanders, but people are still excited none the less. Days Gone also looks pretty good although I'm getting kind of tired of zombie games if I'm being honest. It looks like it will slate a lot of people's Last of Us thirst until Last of Us 2 is officially announced.

The definite highlight of their press conference was when Hideo Kojima emerged from the Shadows to announce his triumphant return and a new game starring Norman Reedus. Unfortunately it looks like this new game which is going by the title Death Stranding (a reference to when whales beach themselves and die) isn't going to necessarily be a horror game like Silent Hills was although it looks like it will have some horror inspired (or at the very least sci-fi thriller) elements. Kojima said he's shooting for a new genre all together. Regardless of what it turns out to be it looks pretty interesting.

Horizon: Zero Dawn also looks better and better every time I see it. And some of the VR games they showed up looks really cool like Farpoint for example. The addition of a VR mini game in Final Fantasy XV is also a welcome treat. I think one of the huge surprises came when I was watching gameplay of this game in space and I thought to myself "wow this looks pretty cool" and then it turned out to be Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare and I was astounded. It was the first time in probably the history of ever that a Call of Duty game looked even slightly interesting to me.

Possibly one of the best things about the PlayStaion conference was that we finally got a release date for The Last Guardian and it's coming sooner than we could have anticipated; October.

There were so many announcements during the PlayStation press conference I can hardly remember all of them but I know that I was happy with most of them. Sadly, the press conference didn't exactly end on a solid note. I thought it was weird they just opted for gameplay of a game they already announced butt I found out later that rumor has it they planned on announcing the third game in the Red Dead series but unfortunately the gameplay demo they had ready to show off too closely depicted the events of the Orlando shooting and they had to pull it last minute. I imagine we'll hear something during Gamescom or even PlayStation Experience this year.

I would say PlayStation had not only the best press conference this year but one of the best press conferences I've ever seen since I've started watching E3 in 2009. I am primarily a PlayStation fan but this is coming from an unbiased standpoint. Believe it or not I thought PlayStation's last two press conferences were not that great. Definitely not worth a two-hour drive to the nearest movie theater that was airing it. After their fantastic showing in 2013 they got big headed and lazy started making it more about business and numbers. However, this year they took the entire concept of an E3 press conference and turned it on its head. They did exactly what people want out of an E3 press conference. Hardly any talking and just nothing but consistent reveals and gameplay. No fluff just video games. The multi-camera angle concept was pretty cool too. That's a great way to show off everything at once without having to constantly jump cut. I would say if every company started doing their press conferences like this, E3 would become an entirely different thing and it would improve everything tremendously.

It's worth noting that Nintendo did not have a press conference this year, but instead opted for a full-day live stream where they showed off Poke'mon Sun/Moon and The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. Both of which are looking fantastic.

Overall I would say this was a pretty enjoyable E3. E3 2016 will forever be imprinted on my mind as one of the most memorable. The people who usually do okay did pretty well this year with one of them even going above and beyond and the ones that usually suck continue to do so. This is most definitely considered one of the most wallet breaking E3 to date. I am both super excited for and dreading the holiday gaming rush this year.

Here's hoping to even more fantastic E3 and maybe next year the others will take a page from PlayStation's book, but only time can tell. 

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Final Fantasy VII Remake - The Episodic Controversy

Earlier this year the Final Fantasy VII remake was announced at E3. Even more recently, we got to see some gameplay footage at PlayStation Experience 2015. Fans all over the world have been rejoicing, however, there are a few who remain skeptical of Square Enix. To make matters worse, it was recently shared on IGN that the remake will be episodic.

This, of course, has stirred up some some negative reactions from the fans. Even after Square explained why fans just cannot seem to shake feelings of doubt. Some are afraid Square will cut the game in 3 parts and charge full price for each one, others are afraid they'll make Yuffie and Vincent DLC. Personally, even though Square has made themselves a target in the past few years, I don't see them making such outlandish decisions. Although I suppose anything is possible. 

The main thing I'd like to point out is that FFVII is a game that was ahead of it's time when it originally came out, it spanned across 3 discs on the PSOne and paved the way for 3D graphics in Final Fantasy games. The game contains a lot of content even by today's standards, I have easily clocked in over 70 hours of gameplay on one playthrough alone. If Square is to be believed, trying to loyally recreate all that content and fit it on one Blu-ray disc is basically impossible. 

At the risk of playing devil's advocate I will say pleasing everyone is impossible. Take a look at the combat for example. Some are upset that it's not the traditional turn-based (although FFVII technically has an ATB [Active Time Battle] system, turn-based is more along the lines of FFX) while others would be upset if it was. Square opted-in for what looks more like a Kingdom Hearts style battle system with the ability to switch characters. No matter what, people will always complain but the middle road is usually the best option in these cases. 

While I don't necessarily condone it, I can understand people's skepticism. I wouldn't put it beyond Square to chop the game into 3 parts and charge full price for each release, but at the same time I'm holding out hope they'll do the right thing. Especially considering they said they're trying to keep all the original content while adding more (areas you couldn't explore before and whatnot). 

At the end of the day, any interpretation of Square's more vague statements is nothing more than pure speculation and none of us will know exactly what's going on with this remake until later. Keep in mind that Square is also working on Kingdom Hearts 2.8 Final Chapter Prologue, Final Fantasy XV and Kingdom Hearts Unchained X, so it may be awhile before this remake is even close to release, but if Square goes the episodic route and charges fairly, this could work out in everyone's favor. The fans would get to start playing the game they've been begging for earlier than normal and Square will have lined pockets. It's win-win. However, if we see "Final Fantasy VII Remake -Part I- $59.99" at our local retailer in the future I have a feeling things will go south pretty quickly. All we can do is wait and see.    


PlayStation Experience 2015

Last year, PlayStation tried something different and introduced us to PlayStation Experience, an affordable, open to the public, E3-esque 2-day convention meant specifically for PlayStation gamers. It was so successful that they decided to make it an annual thing. Fast forward one year and you have PlayStation Experience 2015. 

This year's PlayStation Experience (PSX) seemed to lack some of the punch and pizzazz of last year's, possibly due to less new announcements, but there were still some noteworthy moments. I managed to watch the entire Live Cast throughout the weekend, so I saw, not only the keynote, but also all the live panels, gameplay demos and developer interviews. 

Here are some of the major highlights from a whole weekend's worth of content. 

The Keynote

If you haven't watched the keynote yet you can do so here:

Of course the weekend started out with the main event of PSX; The Keynote. This is usually no different than PlayStation's usual E3 Press Conference except that they try to make it more laid back (including uncensored cursing) and focused mainly on video games (you won't see much playStation Vue talk here).

The Keynote kicked off with some Uncharted 4 footage that showcased Nathan Drake's brother coming back to visit, and then we were hit with our first surprise. Uncharted 4 will have branching dialogue.

At key points of the game you'll be able to choose responses in the style of Bioware or TellTale, allowing for more player immersion. Now, it's unclear whether any of these choices will have a huge impact on the overall story or if they're just there to give conversations more depth, but one thing is for sure; gamers seem to like when video games give them choices. 

Of course playStation kept a strong opening by immediately moving on to Final Fantasy VII

The remake looks gorgeous. It appears they also discarded the turn-based battle system for a more modern-friendly hybrid system, a la Kingdom Hearts. There's not much that can be said about the FFVII remake that hasn't already been said. There's some controversy surrounding it but I will cover that in a different article. For now, I'll just let the trailer do the talking. 

PlayStation quickly shifted gears from RPGs to fighting games when they not only introduced a new character for Street Fighter V (F.A.N.G.), but also announced all the post-game DLC characters. 


It was also announced that all 6 characters will be unlockable in-game as well, in the traditional style, but you can also unlock them early by paying for them. 

After that Double Fine took the stage to announced that not only is their Day of the Tentacle remaster they announced last year coming in March but they're also remaking Full Throttle. That's not all though, Tim Schafer also announced Psychonauts 2 (which you can help crowdfund by going here: and a PlayStation VR game titled Psychonauts: In the Rhombus of Ruin.

Psychonauts VR Game Coming To PS4, First Joke's On Time Magazine

Of course, who could forget Ratchet & Clank? This year we got a look at a reimagining of how the dynamic duo met and even got to see some gameplay. This game is a reboot of the original, it also serves as a companion to the upcoming movie, which is also a retelling of the original game. In fact, during the later LiveCast, one of the developers even said some things from the game and the movie would intertwine. I could not be more excited for this.

Halfway through the show Gio Corsi came out to show more love for the Vita and announce another grand plethora of indie games coming to PS4 and Vita.

Sony may have deemed the Vita a "legacy system" but it appears there's some people at PlayStation who aren't willing to give up hope just yet, and that makes me happy to see.

Some other noteworthy announcements include:

  • Ni No Kuni II: Revenant Kingdom
  • Yakuza 5 coming to PS3 and Yakuza 0 Coming to PS4
  • Sparrow Racing in Destiny
  • New Hack n Slash Roguelike Brutal
  • Rez Infinite (a Sega Dreamcast remake) coming to PS4 and PS VR

Post-Keynote LiveCast

One of the things that usually sets PlayStation apart from others during E3 is their 3-day long LiveCast after all the press conferences. During this time they show off live gameplay footage, interview developers and sometimes make a few more minor announcements. This year, PlayStation decided to take that tradition and include it into PSX. 

It was during this LiveCast that I actually learned a few more interesting tidbits such as the PS2 classic on PS4 output at upscaled 1080p, support Share features and have trophies. I also learned there's a new Hot Shots Golf  coming to PS4. Everything else during the LiveCast is basically as I previously explained it with one major exception...

Live Panels

During day one of the PSX LiveCast, in between all the gameplay demos and developer interviews, PlayStation had a series of Panels where certain people would sit on stage and discuss the topic at hand. These panels were usually headed by PlayStation staff and included big names from such companies as IGN, Naughty Dog, Capcom and more!

Here's a complete list of all the panels, with each one linking to a YouTube video where you can watch it.

If you watch any of those panels I highly recommend the Uncharted 4 and PS I Love You XOXO panels. Not only are both panels ran by the hilarious Greg Miller from Kinda Funny BUT The U4 panels also features Nolan North and Troy Baker cracking jokes. Both panels were very funny and entertaining. The PS I Love You XOXO panel was almost non-stop laughs and featured, what I consider, to be one of the most sentimental moments in PlayStation history when not only did 3 lucky PlayStation fans walk away with free PS Vitas and games, but Gio Corsi told the story of how he formatted his Vita and gave it to a lucky fan on the show floor. Not many people who work in the industry would be that generous. 

Overall I'd say PSX was a smashing success this year, but there could have been more. Shawn Layden even threw us all a red herring by wearing a Crash Bandicoot shirt, that, of course caused disappointment when there was no Crash Bandicoot announcement. It wasn't a bad PSX but it did feel a little lackluster compared to last year.

Here's some highlights from last year's PSX to draw comparisons:


Still though, there were a few surprise announcements and fresh gameplay footage that made myself, and I'm sure many others, happy (such as the Ni No Kuni II announcement out of nowhere). I can't wait to see what PlayStation has in store for E3 and PSX next year. 

Monday, July 27, 2015

"Batman: Arkham Knight" Review

WARNING: This review contains spoilers for the entire Arkham series. 

It's been one year since The Joker tried to poison Gotham with his tainted Titan blood. He's now dead and cremated. Gotham is no longer segregated for the sake of a city prison, and for once everything in life sees to be fine. That is, until Scarecrow threatens the city with his fear toxin, causing a mass evacuation and leaving none but the city's scum and villainy behind. Well... them and Batman of course. Is the caped crusader's final Arkham game a well thought out send off? Or is it a disappointing finale? Let's find out... 

On the surface, Arkham Knight is a story of Batman working to stop Scarecrow from poisoning Gotham with fear toxin, but really it's much more intricate than that. On the surface it is a straightforward Batman story where he breaks bones first and asks questions later, but deep down it's actually a psychological adventure about Batman's most inner struggle with his deepest fear: failure. 

Early on in the game we learn that Batman has a few unlucky souls locked up for experimentation and analysis. Why? Well because it turns out they didn't find all of the Joker blood and now a few unfortunate souls have succumbed to a bad case of Jokeritis, which, to put it bluntly; turns whoever's infected into Joker. QUite literally actually. Gordon questions the empty cell and Batman ominously replies "He'll be here soon" while looking into the cage and staring at his reflection, as if that wasn't a HUGE giveaway. 

My suspicions were confirmed when you first confront Scarecrow and he injects you with fear toxin and the Joker shows up not moments later. But it's not actually him. See, Batman has a high tolerance for Scarecrow's toxin but he's not completely immune, but his fears manifest themselves in the form of his innermost demon: Joker. In many ways Batman and Joker are one in the same. The two go hand-in-hand. It's hard to have one without the other. Rocksteady found a clever and symbolic way to bring him into this game and still keep him dead. 

But, let's focus on the Joker for a moment, shall we? I understand what Rocksteady was trying to do but it seems in every major Arkham game Joker somehow ends up being the main villain focus. In Origins, Black mask turned out to be Joker in disguise, in Asylum he was the main villain, in City Hugo Strange was the main villain but Joker presents the final boss fight and climatic ending, plus he's a major threat in most of the game, and of course now in Knight, Scarecrow gets thrown on the back-burner a lot in favor of Joker hallucinations. In many ways Joker is still the main villain because he's taunting Batman from within his own mind and trying to get him to become... well, him. As if Batman didn't have enough to deal with tonight already. I will say, the Joker not being real means he can break the laws of physics and it makes for some great cartoon like moments where he'll be behind you one moment and pop up randomly on a beam in front of you lounging about like Kefka from Final Fantasy VI just to toss a random one-liner in there and throw you of focus. It's funny in a morbid Looney Tunes kind of way. 

That being said, even though Joker is a heavy focus I feel like the main threat of the game isn't Scarecrow, but his new-found sidekick the Arkham Knight. Halfway through the game they drop hints at his true identity and it's more for the comic fans. If you've only played the games or watched the movies the name "Jason Todd" is of no relevance to you but he was the next Robin after Dick Grayson became Nightwing, then he was kidnapped and tortured by... guess who? Yep, Joker. He was presumed dead and replaced with Tim Drake. Turns out he wasn't dead and he blames Batman for what happened to him. Now he's out for vengeance. I was hoping it would be someone else but at least hardcore Batman fans will get a taste of nostalgia. Also, the Red Hood DLC kind of gives it away too if you know that Red Hood = Jason Todd. 

As far as gameplay, Arkham Knight excels at what the other games did. The gadgets are essentially the same but you can do more with them. The combat is more fluent now, combos are easier to pull off and guns don't provide as much of a threat as they used to. It's not like it matters though as you'll spend 70% of the game in the Batmobile anyways. There's a good chance when you first get the Batmobile you'll use it a lot, but the game assumes you prefer gliding as it shoves Batmobile missions down your throat every fifteen minutes. This is especially annoying because 2 of the 3 Arkham Knight boss fights take place in the Batmobile and both are harder than shit even on easy. It doesn't help that the damn thing controls like a walrus on a riding mower, leaving very minimal room for error.

The Riddler makes a triumphant return in what can only be explained as SAW meets NASCAR. He's also kidnapped Catwoman and forces her and Batman to work together to solve traps to get keys to unlock a bomb collar. Sound familiar?

A lot of the bad guys aren't really up to much otherwise, besides the usual mischief. Some of them, like Two-Face, have gone back to petty shit like robbing banks. The sidequests in the previous games are better. For one thing there's way too much militia shit, and the Riddler collectibles are just way too damn hard this time.

Overall, it's a decent end to a trilogy (yes I said TRILOGY), but it was lacking in a lot of the polish and wow factor that made Arkham City such an amazing game. Most of it is genuinely good but a lot of it feels rushed and a little jumpy. Batman himself this time sounds like he swallowed a tin can and shows little to no emotion about literally anything. He's also a dick this time. Half of the game could have been so much easier if he would just lay down his Bat Pride and let his friends help for once!

Anyways, decent game, amazing combat, fun gameplay, too much Batmobile, beautiful graphics (dat bloom shader tho), and Batman sounds like a piece of wood on heroin.

My Rating: 7/10