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Bean viewing - e3 press conferences

What’s the low down from e3 so far?

Microsoft press conference

(Those awkward guys that keep their ties on at parties and one slightly overweight man wears an old t shirt under his smart blazer.)

-          The XBOX One S is announced, it’s basically 40% smaller(pretty great) looks more like a sexy PC and runs 4k gaming, also has way bigger hard drive.

-          Play anywhere, in short this catchy line means play cross platform between PC and Xbox, only buy your game once, not on steam though. L

-          ReCore, more details released, it’s you and your robot dog, puzzles and(unfortunately) shooting mechanics, looks uninspired.

-          Inside,(the new game from Limbo developers) it’s coming June 29th.

-          There is a new custom controller design thing, so many colour combinations! Much wow!(Xbox Design Lab)

-          Dead Rising 4, it looks to be the usual insanity, Frank West is back and the zombie murdering looks better than ever.

-          State of Decay 2, well the first one was a very well realized and executed idea. It’s from an indie studio and this is a good thing.

-          Xbox One : Project Scorpio, sounds silly, but then again don’t they always? Basically a pitch video of a load of people(industry veterans and xbox suits) gushing over the delicious graphical powerhouse that is the next step in Microsoft console generation. Don’t forget “nobody gets left behind” as the console will be backwards compatible with Xbox One and One S.

-          Gears of War 4, yep it’s still brown(I mean SO brown), it has better particle physics and weather looks pretty good. It comes out October 11th 2016.

-          Not forgetting Sea of Thieves, it’s from Rare, it’s 1st person, the graphics look pretty, it seems you have to work together with your friends to keep your boat doing its thing on the high seas. Very interesting and I bet it’s been a blast to work on.

 

Sony press conference

(Sure they like to party, occasionally completely out of left field they do a really ambitious creative project, they are more competitive than they like to show and in the end have their go to thing they always do)

-          God of War PS4, what can be said here? I mean it was expected but they have given it a very different more serious tone(as serious as you can make it anyway) different art style, different voices etc. Definite inspiration from both Last of Us and new Tomb Raider titles.

-          Death Stranding … Naked upset looking Norman Reedus, a baby, handprints, dead crabs … yep it’s Hideo Kojima and his new game everyone.

-          The Last Guardian, small trailer and as per usual it looks so flipping great. An actual release date this time, 25th of October 2016.

-          Horizon: Zero Dawn, the gameplay demo showed a bigger breadth of robot animals, your interactions in the world and just generally reminded everyone why they want this game now.

-          Resident Evil 7, apparently the game is now entirely first person, a survival horror(BIG emphasis on survival there) playable in VR and just downright creepy.

-          Spider-Man, this time coming from Insomniac and I don’t know how to feel about that, but then I love Ratchet and Clank, Sunset Overdrive was like Jet Set Radio on speed, so maybe Insomniac can be the people that do everyone’s web slinger justice.

-          Crash Bandicoot, yay they’re bringing Crash back in abrand new title, oh no…it’s just a remaster of the old games – yay?

-          Lego Star Wars 7, well I think of almost all the lego franchise games the Star Wars ones really shone and I liked The Force Awakens so yeah I’m ready, there’s a demo available now and then the full game releases June 28th 2016.

-          South Park: The Fractured But Whole, it looks like more of the first game and that’s not necessarily a bad thing(dependent on your tolerance of South Parks trademark humour).

 

Nintendo press conference

(The super excited kids that do not care at all what the big kids think of them, they may be a little weird, but they are the thinkers, they are the pioneers and when it really comes down to everything they just like making everyone else smile)

-          Literally basically only one thing that everyone cares about and is worth me mentioning here… Pokémon! Ha I jest, obviously Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild is coming and my word the HYPE is REAL. It looks closer in visual style to Windwaker and that is fantastic news, it’s very open world and(time will tell) I think it will be a fitting swan song for the WiiU before it sees it’s replacement in the not too distant future.

 

Honourable mentions

-          Prey, remember when Prey 2 was a thing and then it was no longer a thing? Well the current incarnation looks very pretty and though there was very little shown is a potential one to watch.

Hayfever sucks right?

Hayfever sucks right?

-          Dishonored 2, there was a whole heap more gameplay shown off at e3 this year, including a very attractive and cool looking time travel mechanic. The steampunk is strong with this one.

Nothing like kicking someone in the nuts and time jumping outta there. Biff would love this thing,

Nothing like kicking someone in the nuts and time jumping outta there. Biff would love this thing,

-          Skyrim remaster, so you remember that little indie developer that put out that massive title that the critics swooned over and nobody ever bought? Well that very same indie darling is coming to our current gen super sparkly consoles. It is a treat for the eye holes and is reportedly coming October 2016.

But just look at that snow...

But just look at that snow...

-          We Happy Few, for me this really caught my attention. Think of it as a kind of Equilibrium(a terrifically underappreciated film) with the roles reversed, the people in this world take “joy” pills and see the world very differently. The crux of the demo showed that you come off your meds and you have to act “normal” in increasingly odd situations, if they notice that you are acting strange, authorities will hunt you down in what is apparently a procedurally generated world. Creepy, but fascinating and reminded me a lot of Bioshock(more specifically the storytelling in Infinite).

Have you taken your joy?

Have you taken your joy?

 

Well then, let’s sum this up shall we? I think e3 was good this year, new games are all so close with many dropping just before the end of the year and there at least seems that there is something for almost everyone. A few titles have been pushed to the new year, but with some of the most hotly anticipated AAA titles due in Q4 of this year and some fantastic indie titles and more in the interim. There is definitely enough to keep you(yes you) busy, anyway if you are anything like me your most anticipated game is Yooka-Laylee and that isn’t due to drop until Q1 of 2017, jokes on all of them, I'm really good at playing the waiting game.

Imagine how many nappies I will have changed by then, on second thoughts I don’t think I want to imagine…

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Bean playing - Submerged

Playing Submerged (a new game by Uppercut Games) brings up that classic argument of what kind of experience must we have in order for us to say we just played a game. You cannot die in Submerged, there are no enemies. Simply put this is an adventure game at it's core, beautiful visuals and platforming and camera angles that harken back to those Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time days.

This postcard mode is pretty addictive guys...

This postcard mode is pretty addictive guys...

Story: As you play the narrative is woven through tiled pictures, you break down the story for yourself. It keeps things fairly simple; you are Miku (a young agile girl) and you are searching a sunken, devastated cityscape for supplies to help your wounded brother.

Gameplay: There is a distinct lack of a jump button, but this is by no means game breaking, in fact I would argue that it all feels very intuitive. The stick movements are really all you will be moving, making use of the camera to spot collectables with your telescope. There is a fair amount of traversing in the boat also requiring the triggers, and some use of the X button. Some may argue this game seeks to hold your hand, in some ways it does, but the hunting of secrets felt rewarding at points - and I loved it.  The minor letdown is just how long it takes to traverse the buildings, so if you aren't a collector then you may be left wanting.

Visuals: Uppercut Games did wonders here, the game is truly gorgeous. It has a little postcard mode built into the menu and I couldn't help but screenshot almost consistently throughout. The skyboxes are a wonder, dynamic shifting weather patterns and day to night cycles. At least a few times the frame rate had some drops here and there, I imagine due to loading in parts of the city as you shoot through it at speed. There are many times I left the game running and did almost nothing, just appreciating the atmosphere.

One of the beautiful sunsets getting in the way of me finding a secret.

One of the beautiful sunsets getting in the way of me finding a secret.

Often I found myself staring at the architecture and forgetting what I was doing.

Often I found myself staring at the architecture and forgetting what I was doing.

This game will not be for everyone, there are things to find, such as secrets, boat upgrades, landmarks and creatures which fill in the story of the world you occupy. These help you uncover the full breadth of the map and see all it has to offer, if you want to uncover all the secrets it certainly pads the length of the game too. It's not crazy challenging, but it makes a very strong argument for games being appreciated as art and an experience. The music is gorgeous with great ambient noise filling the beautiful post apocalyptic city.
Ultimately Submerged isn't too taxing, it's not the longest game either, but it's lovely to look at and it felt fantastic to explore the overgrown cityscape, uncovering it's treasures. I'd go back again in a heartbeat.
 

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Bean playing - Q.U.B.E: Director's Cut

Back in 2010 while I was on the cusp of graduating in university I first saw Q.U.B.E. (or quick understanding of block extrusion) in it's first playable build and it's fair to say it has always been an impressive puzzler. Now after backing from IndieFund and one hell of a journey we come to the Director's Cut.

I love a good puzzler and Q.U.B.E. by developer Toxic Games is certainly that, a frantic brain teaser. At first it slowly eases you into the clean white blocky architecture, with simple traversal puzzles to get you used to what each corresponding coloured block does. It doesn't make it easy and it's not long before it throws you into more of a deep end, colour coded puzzle solutions, timed physics based solutions and even working in the dark. Just because I love puzzles it doesn't mean I'm great at them, many times I felt frustratingly stupid but then I would discover the answer, the feeling of satisfaction made me feel fantastic...until uncovering the next obstacle.

The new stuff here is the story, written by Rob Yescombe and he does a great job. I truly felt trapped in this environment using all my wits to escape while being given snippets of information from several disembodied voices. In short you are trying to figure out what the qube is, you are given ideas but the mysteries soon start seeping in.

Some of the visual choices in terms of blocks that drastically alter the gameplay, I feel could have been designed a little differently, that being said it is clear what everything does so perhaps it does it's job just fine. (An artist loves to complain, everyone is a critic, blah blah blah) Overall I really liked the look of the game, the way the environment shifts around you keeps things interesting. 

In conclusion Q.U.B.E. Director's Cut does a great job of making you feel smart, allowing you to work things out for yourself without holding your hand. It's got things hidden away for the observant gamer and with the new narrative touches, it only helps strengthen your resolve to move onto each increasingly challenging puzzle.

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Bean playing - Journey

Back in 2012 I played the beautiful, mysterious brilliance that is Thatgamecompany's Journey. Those few short years ago it settled for me a clear argument in this world, can games be art? The short answer? A thunderous yes, screamed from the mouths of every single person who has experienced Journey.

Cut to now, I sat down to play the game again this time on the PS4, I didn't imagine it to be possible but the game runs even smoother and looks completely breathtaking. There is still so much joy I found in exploring, walking and gliding over the landscape set before me. The details never go unnoticed, from the wonderfully detailed broken architecture to the masses of rich golden sand you find yourself often traversing.

It goes without saying really that Journey redefines what a game can be, it's an experience, it's exciting, emotional, a struggle, puzzling, beautiful, it tells a story without saying any words and the music sets the tone throughout. (best music I have ever heard in a game)

From a gameplay perspective the game hasn't changed from the 2012 original, the controls are just as intuitive as they were before and if anything the game seems to run smoother, not that the original was a slouch in any way. This time around I played through the majority of the game with one other person and I forgot just how much of an incredible experience that is, we helped each other, pointed out secrets when we found them, called out (via a singing button prompt) to one another and stayed with one another until our Journeys end. Scarce is it that I have had a more enjoyable cooperative experience online, the fact that you can't even converse with each other only helps immerse you further into the experience.

In conclusion there aren't enough adjectives to describe just how wonderful this game is, you have to play it for yourself. It isn't long, but I have completed it multiple times now and I cannot help but keep coming back.

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Bean playing - Oddworld: Abe's Oddysee (New 'n' Tasty)

Back in 1997, at the young age of 12 my eyes were opened to the beautiful (yet dark and foreboding) Oddworld. Forever was I changed, the sounds, the sights and the incredibly realised digital world that I viewed on my friends tv (through the mighty power of the ps1) took my breath away, I wanted to explore the landscape in front of me. When puzzles stumped us, we didn't care, after sleeping dreaming of a way past the obstacle, during our morning form meeting we would draw a sketch, meticulously pouring over solutions.

Now at 30, myself and that same friend took a good few hours out of our time reuniting, fired up the PS4 and dove into the remake of that same game, but what has changed?
It took some time to get back into the swing of things, but JAW (just add water - the developers) have done a stellar job, welcoming back fans of the classic and introducing an entire new generation. I cannot state enough how much of a technical achievement this game is, reworked v/o, entirely new animation, character models, everything is new (and indeed tasty). Even the inclusion of a button to run and a button to side hop, helped us first generation players get up to speed.

Some of the most notable changes here are the shifting camera angles, allowing for more secrets to be uncovered and increasing the tension in other areas, it also helps set the scale of some of the larger set pieces of the game. Considering the technological limitations of the time, the first was a truly groundbreaking masterpiece, you can tell JAW love the roots of the original and as much this is a remake it is similarly a truly loving recreation. The inclusion of the quick save and quick load feature makes this game a darn sight easier than the original, I highly recommend playing it on the hard setting (just like the original was intended) and relishing the fear of all your failures.

There are some things I am not such a fan of, the idle chatter from the Mudokon slaves that litter the dark and gritty corridors of Rupture Farms is a clear example, where in the original they merely let out minor groans and discontented sighs (I mean the fact they still have punishment posters for talking all around you only enforces just how jarring this update is). I suppose in retrospect there are a lot of changes which may have not necessarily been required, but I can see why they were made. From a gameplay point of view, it took a while for me to adapt (having that whole button to hop and to run option really helped) but I think todays gamer should have more games such as this in their lives.

In conclusion, I thoroughly enjoyed my dive back into Oddworld, it didn't feel like it was betraying the original, only seeking to bring a fresh perspective. For me it birthed a true feeling of satisfaction in saving those helpless Mudokon slaves, (something scarcely captured in games today) going back I find I love it just as much.

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