Posts Tagged ‘ Playstation 4 ’

E3 Excitement and Anticipation

E3 kicks off this weekend with EA on Saturday, Microsoft and Bethesda on Sunday, Square Enix, Ubisoft, and Sony on Monday, and Nintendo on Tuesday. While some have begun to bemoan E3 as an unnecessary and antiquated thing no longer needed in the industry, I look forward to watching the presentations every year and would still like to go just once someday, same with SDCC, just for the one time experience.

Sony is always my main interest for E3 as I’ve been a Playstation gamer since the first console and as I’ve said in the past, I never really got into Xbox. Nintendo is the console of my childhood and I have each system they’ve released, but I’d be lying if I said it’s still my primary gaming device (though I wish I had more time to split between PS4, Switch, and MMO gaming).

Here’s what I’m looking forward to and my expectations for each presentation this year:

EA – Saturday, June 9, 11am Pacific Time

Anthem is probably the only thing I’m curious about from EA right now. Unlike some, I enjoyed The Division as a story play through with friends, but didn’t have the interest in grinding endgame. Anthem seems like it will be a similar game and I have one friend who’s very interested in it. If the final product looks to be like a better version of The Division + Destiny, I’ll probably use the same approach of playing through the main story and then leaving endgame behind. I only have time for one MMO at a time. Even with this in mind, Anthem is only a passing curiosity right now and less something I’m truly looking forward to.

 

Microsoft – Sunday, June 10, 1pm Pacific Time

I don’t have an Xbox One X and I’m admittedly not a PC gamer (at this time), so there’s not much I’m particularly interested in seeing from Microsoft. That said, as a Playstation fan, maybe even a mongrel hybrid of Sony Pony and Nintendrone, I still watch Microsoft’s presentation every year out of interest in what the competition is offering. While Microsoft still has yet to offer anything to make the Xbox One appealing, particularly with everything being on PC if I truly wanted to play it, I still give them the respect of paying attention to their efforts. Cuphead looked fantastic and was a game I would have bought on release day if I had the console. Ori and the Blind Forest as well as its sequel are games I’d buy without hesitation as well. All of these I can, and Ori I have, buy on PC, though. So I’ll be watching this to see what Microsoft has in the works to try and fight back as the underdog as this console generation enters the later rounds of the fight.

Bethesda – Sunday, June 10, 6:30 Pacific Time

Honestly, I’ll watch just to watch, but I really don’t care. Despite loving RPGs, I’ve never gotten into Fallout or Elder Scrolls. Fallout 76 and Rage 2 aren’t my areas of interest.

Square Enix – Monday, June 11, 10am Pacific Time

The first stand-alone press conference from Square since 2015, I’m definitely looking forward to this presentation. Of course, I’ll be at work, so I’ll just have to listen to it and sneak a peek at the stream when possible.

Kingdom Hearts III will likely get a release date. I haven’t played any of the Kingdom Hearts games, but a release date on the final entry will give me a time frame to finally play through them with the HD releases on PS4.

I’m also looking forward to Shadow of the Tomb Raider and hoping reboot Lara finally steps into her own. I’ve enjoyed the reboot with the first game being the formation of the character, Rise being about tying up loose ends of her past, and hopefully Shadow being where she finally starts setting a path for herself in her life. It’s time for reboot Lara to grow into the twin pistols of classic Lara. We already have pistols for her, there’s no reason to not get some bow is for stealth, twin pistols are for gun fights, rifles & shotguns are for situational selection design established now. With them teased in the first game, I honestly think the twin pistols are going to happen, but are being held possibly even to the finale of this game. The developers have said this is the final game of Lara’s “Tomb Raider origin” trilogy and I really expect the twin pistols are the equivalent of her graduation ceremony “Tomb Raider Diploma.” Once she has the twin pistols, she’ll fully have transitioned into the role of the bad ass globe-trotting adventurer everyone expects her to become.

I’m expecting to see a first tease of the Avengers game Square is working on and possibly a new trailer for Final Fantasy VII remake. While some rumors and supposed leaks suggest a demo for FFVII with a possible release date on the horizon, I don’t think that will happen. I think this year is largely going to be about Kingdom Hearts III. I also think Final Fantasy VII remake is going to wind up being a PS5 game simply because PS4 is indeed entering the later years of its life cycle and there’s no way Square Enix is going to get all three episodes out before PlayStation 5. Now, PS5 may be backwards compatible, so it won’t matter too much, but I really expect to wait a while longer for VII Remake, even if we get a new look at it.

Final Fantasy XIV will have a live letter during E3, but the only thing I expect to come from it will be a little more info about upcoming patches – things like the new Deep Dungeon – and likely the long awaited Final Fantasy XV crossover event.

I’d love to see a teaser announcing Final Fantasy XVI is in the works as well, but I don’t think that’s likely. Between Kingdom Hearts III, Final Fantasy XV, and VII remake, I think their heavy hitters are tied up for the moment. That said, if XVI is in the works, I’d love to see them offer a more high fantasy sword & sorcery with just a touch of steam punk harkening back to IV, VI, and IX in style. I personally divide the Final Fantasy games into fantasy and sci-fi with recent installments of XII, XIII, XV all falling more in the sci-fi (or more appropriately science fantasy) side of things. Airships and advanced moon civilizations aside, the more modern and futuristic the technology, the less of the high fantasy that Final Fantasy built its kingdom on.

Ubisoft – Monday, June 11, 1pm Pacific Time

Assassin’s Creed Odyssey has already been confirmed, which is a little disappointing for me. I was expecting the break that Origins saw to signal a shift for the series to a 2 year cycle with Watch Dogs and Assassin’s Creed leap frogging each other as alternating releases. After Watch Dogs 2, I was hoping that franchise would continue its trend with a new location and new characters each game with just some cameos from the previous games’ members. Especially with the notion of DedSec you could easily have Marcus Sitara, Wrench, and Josh consulting via video conferencing with DedSec members in another city.

I’m admittedly struggling through Assassin’s Creed: Origins. The games were always vast, but the shift to even more open world RPG design lost a little motivation for me in the story. I need to knuckle down and just commit to chasing the main story quests rather than get distracted with side quests, but I’m a habitual side quester. Once I finish Persona 5, I’ll try to finish off AC: Origins and see if my interest is renewed for Odyssey, but Rome/Greece isn’t particularly a setting that really interests me. I’d rather see China, Japan, and India entries in the series.

The Division 2 will be revealed, which does interest me. As I said, I liked the first one with my friends and I’m expecting we’ll hop in for the sequel together for the same style play through as well.

Skull and Bones is another one I have a passing curiosity for. The ship sailing in Assassin’s Creed III was a highlight for me and Black Flag is probably my favorite entry in the series, so Ubisoft has a solid foundation for ship based piracy. Depending on what else is in store for gamers with that title will determine just how interested I get. If it doesn’t offer enough new or interesting aspects, I could just replay Black Flag.

Sony – Monday, June 11, 6pm Pacific Time

Sony has stated there won’t be a lot of new games announced this year and instead they’ll be focusing on more information for what’s been announced and is now on the horizon. This is the conference with the most announcements I’m looking forward to. Before touching on anything I’m interested in game-wise, I really hope this is finally the year, after waiting so long, that Sony will finally, FINALLY, let users change their PSN name. I don’t even care if I have to pay for it, if there’s a time restriction on frequency, whatever. I don’t have an embarrassing PSN name and still I really want the option to change mine.

Death Stranding – As a huge Metal Gear Solid fan, I’m obviously interested to see what Hideo Kojima has planned with his first Konami-free game. As fans expect, everything about the game has been strange, confusing, and tell us almost nothing. This year is expected to be the first real look at the game, possibly with actual gameplay and some more cryptic clues as to just what it’s all about.

Spider-Man – I’ve already pre-ordered the collector’s edition, though I’m still on the fence about keeping that order in place. I’m just not a fan of the costume design, so a statue of said costume has me on the fence. It would be cool to have a statue of classic Spidey, MCU Homecoming Spidey, and PS4 Spidey all together, though. Decisions, decisions. Regardless of that, I’m looking forward to this game and with its launch only 3 months away, we’re sure to get a good final look at the gameplay here.

Ghost of Tsushima – Despite only an initial announcement trailer, this game is a bright, burning spot on my radar. An open world game set in feudal Japan with a samurai turned ninja? This is everything I want in a game. I’m hoping it’s surprisingly further into development than we might expect and we’ll see a full presentation with gameplay to give an idea just what sort of game it will be. Perhaps this will replace my desire for an Assassin’s Creed set in Japan.

The Last of Us, Part II – I loved the first game and I’m looking forward to the second, even though I’m a little on the fence about a new story with Joel and Ellie. I liked the world the first game established and was more interested in seeing The Last of Us becoming an anthology franchise with each game following different characters completely unrelated to the previous game.

Nintendo – Tuesday, June 12, 9am Pacific Time

I never have anything to really look forward to with Nintendo so much as tuning in to find out what I didn’t know I was be looking forward to. Nintendo seems to pull a few cards out that nobody knew were in the works such as last year’s Metroid Prime 4 announcement. This year, I’m hoping for a little of said Metroid Prime 4 information. I’d like to see some surprises from Square Enix on Nintendo Direct since they’ve established a division working on Switch games and I like the SNES era throwback RPGs like I Am Setsuna.

Counterview from a Wide-Eyed Video Game Industry Fool

In a recent pre-E3 post at Scholarly Gamers, video game advocate Patrick Scott Patterson detailed his precarious position on the precipice of cynicism for the industry he loves. I’ve followed PSP for a while on social media, I’ve even had dinner at WingStop with the guy once, and I’ve agreed with a lot of his opinions and efforts, but I’ve disagreed from time to time as well. Where he’s peering into the pit of cynicism, hoping E3 2017 will deliver a swinging vine with which to grab and swing over, I feel quite different about the state of the industry right now.

PSP Pitfall

Totally professional artist’s rendition of Patrick Scott Patterson’s E3 2017 goal.

I think PSP’s lamentation of a time in the 90s where hardware was the focal point of discussion rather than games is fair. He specifically states: “…this time period seemed to focus too much on technology and not enough on games. All I wanted out of the industry – all my friends wanted out of the industry – were games.

I think that’s a fair statement and one that holds true for most gamers today. We saw that in the push back to X-Box One’s announcement focusing on television, television partnerships, a Halo television series with Steven Spielberg, and the multimedia capabilities of the system, to which gamers replied “where are the games?”

In fact, Sony “won” E3 that year and has been “winning” the latest battle for the living room by their message of being for gamers and putting the focus squarely on games at their presentations. Sure, they still had Netflix, were still working on a more a la carte TV offering, and were still a multimedia system too, but they knew that gamers want games and made that their focus.

Where Scott and I first diverge is on the opinion of delivering on this desire. I’ve talked with Scott via social media posts before have the impression he feels the PS4 doesn’t have the library to draw him in. I, on the other hand, have an ever growing library of games for the system that I can’t keep up with (as a typical gamer, my backlog doth floweth over), but I’ll touch on that a bit more later.

Hardware or Software? Who Gets the Spotlight?

GameInformer Issue 289

But is hardware overtaking the spotlight when it comes to games? Overall, I don’t think so. Let’s start by the fairest comparison we can have to the 90s with a print magazine. May’s Issue 289 of Game Informer dedicates four pages to VR hardware technology, but four pages to games coming out that will take advantage of VR headsets. Two pages discuss the Nintendo Switch, which is arguably a look at hardware.

A feature on indie games at GDC 2017 covers 12 different games with quick looks. 12 more games are given quick hit blurbs, then a page each for an afterwards look at Horizon: Zero Dawn and For Honor. Halfway through the issue, we’re on to reviews for Hellblade, Middle-Earth: Shadow of War, Injustice 2, Telltale’s Guardians of the Galaxy, Perception, Mario Kart 8 Deluxe, Sonic Forces, Kingsway, Hob, Tacoma, Into the Breach, Quake Champions, Warhammer 40,000: Dawn of War III, Perception, Escape from Tarkov, Tokyo Xanadu, Mass Effect: Andromeda, Ghost Recon Wildlands, Yooka-Laylee, Persona 5, The Elderscrolls Legends, and Tumbleweek Park. That’s 6 pages for hardware with 47 games getting attention in the issue.

Moving beyond print media and looking at the online landscape of games sites, where does hardware fall?

What is Real? – Virtual Reality

Honestly, things are pretty sparse on VR coverage. Many are concerned Sony has already given the PSVR the same vaulted position next to the Vita and PSP under a rug. Where Scott wasn’t impressed with its presence at E3, many are worried about a lack of it this year, myself included.

Specifically speaking, Virtual Reality is another point I disagree with PSP on in general. Or at least, I’m hopefully disagreeing while fearful he’s right, but here’s where wide eyed fool meets at-risk cynic with more matured observational experience. I’m a firm believer that we can look to our actual future by looking to the science fiction of our past. Whatever we imagine, we eventually find a way to bring to life. From Star Trek automatic doors and communicators to modern day….well automatic doors was on the nose, but surpassing the science fiction with Smart Phones, we’ve made science fiction reality. Self driving cars have long been a staple of science fiction and we’re on the verge of reaching for that goal in the next decade.

Likewise, we’ve long imagined virtual reality, where we can be fully immersed in another world, transported through some form of technology, dreaming of a day when the virtual is near indistinguishable from the real. While I don’t think we’re on the verge of that, I actually am excited by the modern adoption and interest in virtual reality and want it to be pushed. I want games exploring the possibilities. I want the clunky headsets of today because they’ll become the sleek visor/ear covers of tomorrow. I want the groundwork laid out now to be deep diving into VR when I’m in a retirement home.

Morpheus

Obligatory Morpheus pic while talking about Virtual Reality…check!

I’ve never liked first person games, but based on my experience with Arkham VR, I look forward to an Elder Scrolls game in VR and am fully hoping next week’s E3 includes the announcement of Star Wars Battlefront 2 being fully playable in VR.  I haven’t played it myself yet, but most reviewers and commenters seem to agree Resident Evil 7 is a whole different experience in VR, and far more terrifying than it is without.

State of the Consoles Address

I somewhat agree with Scott’s view on the state of the consoles, though not completely. Nintendo needed to bring out the Switch to replace the Wii U. While the Wii U had some fantastic games and I agree will likely be seen as an under-appreciate system in the future, this fall will mark 5 years since its release. That’s only 1.5 years less than the Wii’s lifecycle. If the sales-struggling Wii U managed to reach that close to its juggernaut predecessor’s life, I consider that pretty good longevity.

The PS4 Pro and Project Scorpio, however, I agree are a bit unnecessary and I’m not crazy about the idea of half step generations becoming the standard, especially depending on how much more they start to offer in the future over their “lesser” versions. Right now, however, they haven’t seemed to be that much of a game changer. If Scorpio proves to be more of a true next-gen step with Microsoft stepping into a staggered cycle, that’ll be a bit different, but it remains to be seen.

However, going back to hardware overshadowing software, I’m not sure that spec comparisons of PS4 to PS4 Pro and XB1 to Scorpio, as well as PS4 Pro to Scorpio, are really overshadowing the games. Searching “IGN + E3” gives you IGN’s page featuring 29 articles on game expectations with only 2 on Scorpio. Searching for “Game Informer + E3” yields articles primarily about games. Similar results are found at GameSpot’s E3 page.

Obviously, Scorpio and its specs will be a big part of Microsoft’s presentation with them feeling they’re in a similar position as Nintendo and need to get back in the race. I’ll agree a stronger, more horsepower, console isn’t how I’d expect them to win gamers back, though. Scalebound and more exclusive first and second party titles would have done more than a beefier processor in a new system replacing what people already own. But that’s the course Microsoft is taking for E3, so…

Where’s the Beef Games?

When Scott says “I hope I can see an industry that is once again focused on providing wonderful and groundbreaking game play experiences, rather than continuing to hype the boxes that are supposed to run those experiences,” I think that’s a valid desire, one which I think is going to be delivered from Sony and Nintendo this year. Their boxes are out and they’ve said what they do, so now they can focus on the software for them.

He goes on to say, “If anything else, it’s a case of clarity as to where we need to put our hard earned money. There is a clarity and confidence in knowing that you have invested in a video game console that you know is going to give you joy for years to come. There’s a warm, fuzzy feeling in seeing a game library grow and grow on hardware you know will be the focus for quite a while yet, rather than this look-over-your-shoulder feeling the marketplace has created for itself now.

I really feel like here’s where we stop walking on different sides of the path and diverge in two different directions. I got a day one PS4 and I’ve not been disappointed with the first 3.5 years and I expect plenty more games in the next 2 or 3 years as well. I own 59 titles for the system (not including about 50 more from Limited Run games) and have completed less than half of them. And there’s no evidence to suggest PS4 is slowing down with God of War, Spider-Man, The Last of Us 2, Days Gone, Death Stranding and more on the way (though I suspect Death Stranding will be the system’s swan song at the end of its life cycle), not to mention third party titles that will be available on multiple platforms.

I jumped on the Switch at launch as well and I thoroughly enjoyed Breath of the Wild and look forward to Cave Story+ next (even though that’s not new, per se) and have heard ARMS is surprising people with how fun and challenging it is. I think Nintendo has something hot on their hands that isn’t going to cool off for a while still and hopefully that will be reflected in the software down the road for the next 5 or 6 years as well. Since this little device is so unique apart from XB1 and PS4, I don’t see it having to sweat the advance of technology as much for a good while still.

Khajit Has Wares, But Are They Worth Coin?

Sony and Microsoft need to show me something jaw dropping for me to trust them enough to buy their shiny new hardware.

I think Sony’s already made their position clear regarding PS4 Pro. It’s the console enthusiast version of the PS4. Much like a good $800 PC will play most games on high settings and you’ll thoroughly enjoy those games without missing out, there are going to be people with $1800+ PCs that play everything on extreme settings while running 100 resource hog addons at the same time without a hitch. PS4 Pro is merely that higher end one, but nothing demanding PS4 owners to plop down another stack of cash to replace their PS4. Sony’s not trying to convince you otherwise, and if you don’t have a 4K television, it’s a moot point to begin with.

Now, will Microsoft treat consumers the same? Will they assure customers that their X-Box One is just as valid and just as much a focus this holiday season as the Scorpio system? One can hope. I would certainly hope Microsoft wouldn’t be arrogant enough to think they can put all their efforts to the new system and expect everyone to jump on it, especially after so many X-Box fans jumped ship to PS4 at the start of this generation and even more are seeing the PC as the best option for the X-Box exclusives. An X-Box isn’t an Apple product, after all.

In Conclusion

I’ve been gaming for around 26 years, give or take, just about a decade (little more, little less) than PSP has been drawn to the industry and its offerings. Perhaps it’s that decade difference of experience and observation that still has me wide eyed and bushy tailed where he’s resisting what I expect will be a temporary threat of cynicism.

It could also be a shift in tastes. I know Scott’s voiced preference for shorter play times and quick plays with his kids, over the sprawling narratives and vast open world games while I remain single and afforded the free time to explore a large Hyrule or take in the story of games like Uncharted or the mix of both with Horizon: Zero Dawn. I think there’s definitely a difference in approach to games for a husband and father who is self employed versus a single bachelor with time on his hands.

I really hope this happens. For almost 36 years now, I have been one of the loudest advocates for the video game industry, save for that one confusing period in the 90s. I hate that I have been starting to feel like that again, but there it is. Just give me something fun to play, folks. Show me some focus.

Please.

I just feel if further rests on tastes and what you’re looking for. There are a ton of great looking games coming out and while some look similar to one another (yes, I noted the Assassin’s Creed similarities while playing Horizon: Zero Dawn), that doesn’t make them the same ol’ same ol’ either. Each definitely have their own flavor to offer.

I don’t platinum games often, but I try to finish every game I pick up. Even when games don’t hit the mark, I still find them enjoyable in some way and appreciate the different things many try to accomplish, even if they don’t quite get there.

I’d be curious to know what Patrick Scott Patterson’s top 15 games (total, not each) from 360 / PS3 / Wii (and Wii U) are. It would definitely be interesting when watching E3 to speculate what, if anything, catches his eye.

For me, I’m looking forward to all of it. I’ve never been burned by my own E3 excitement. Honestly, and seriously, not once. Bring on the games so I can start budgeting the rest of my year. I’m sure October’s going to hurt, as always.

Never Alone

A tale of a girl and a fox

I’ve been meaning to play Never Alone for a while now. I had it saved on Steam, and I’m not a Steam user, nor am I a PC Gamer, to be honest. It interested me, though, to have a game that’s intended to present a story of a native Iñupiaq people and bring a little bit of their culture to a larger world. With it being on sale, I picked it up on PS4 this past weekend. My regret is that I didn’t play it sooner.

There has been a lot of discussion over the past year about diversity in video games. In my opinion, games like Never Alone are an example of how games can grow and expand into new areas to share experiences with people across cultures. I’d describe the game as a fairly simple platform puzzle game that focuses more on sharing with the player than challenging them. It was a short, enjoyable game, that can be played alone by swapping between the arctic fox and the girl or co-op with each player controlling one or the other.

Graphics
I really enjoyed the gameplay graphics. There was a nice blend of slick modern capability with stylization of some characters such as the Owlman or the Manslayer while Nuna and her arctic fox have an almost Pixar quality to them.

While often simple, the backgrounds are quite smooth and a pleasure to look at. Unless you’re being chased by a polar bear.

Upper One Games did a good job with the view of the screen as well. There’s a slight blur around the edges and corners at times, setting a mood of looking through the blizzard that Nuna and the fox are braving in their adventure.

Between levels, the story is told using cut scenes employing an artistic style drawn from traditional scrimshaw. Some won’t care for this, but I particularly liked it.

Controls
The controls can be a bit frustrating, particularly with the bola, but otherwise I didn’t have much trouble with the game. Jumping was responsive and I only found myself moving wrong when I got impatient. Honestly, impatience is your biggest enemy in this game. There are only certain times that urgency is needed and something is chasing you. Most of my deaths were caused by me trying to rush and not waiting to observe the patterns of spirits or the movements of ice. Much like the lessons taught to children in Alaska, ignoring the natural world around you can have dire consequences. Slow down, observe, and then act appropriately and you will avoid a lot of frustrations during your adventure through a blizzard in Alaska.

Music
I can’t say too much about the soundtrack for Never Alone. It was pleasant enough, but not memorable or striking to me. I would have enjoyed if Upper One Games had incorporated more traditional music into it and explored that more. There is a video on the importance of the drum in the culture, but not too much.

I will note, though, that I found the yaps and grumbles of the fox quite adorable.

Difficulty
The game isn’t hard, really. If you die, you start pretty much right where you went wrong and can try again infinitely until you finish. There aren’t many enemies and you only have to defeat one while the others are about finding ways out of the predicament you find yourself in. The game isn’t long either, taking only about 3 hours to complete with all extra items found, which open videos about the Iñupiaq.

Conclusion
The lack of challenge isn’t a detriment in this case; not for me, at least. Never Alone is more about telling a story and giving you insight into the culture and history of an entire people. In that respect, it’s a fine game. I enjoyed the puzzles, particularly where you had to scramble up walls and leap off of them as the fox in order to open a path for the girl, Nuna. However, I found myself enjoying the story quite a bit and any gameplay was largely driven by an interest to hear the entire tale.

There is even a moment where something happens that sort of made my heart sink. When a simple 3-hour game with a little narrative and no real dialog from the protagonist can have an emotional effect, even if only a slight one, I would say that’s a success. Then again, I may also be a big softie at this point.

Narrated in the Iñupiaq language with English subtitles, there was a certain feel of authenticity (it should, they worked with members of the Iñupiaq, one of whom narrates) and interweaving the videos into the game added some depth to it. Hearing actual stories from native Alaskans about their grandfather’s pet arctic fox or a brother’s pet polar bear were really interesting. I recommend watching the videos as you find them during the playthrough rather than waiting until you’re done.

Never Alone, or, Kisima Inŋitchuŋa (“I am not alone”), is a video game telling a story in an interactive method of traditional Iñupiaq storytelling. As players learn, these stories were often told to teach lessons to children about the world and about their people’s history and culture. Perhaps there is a lesson to be learned from Never Alone as well. Video games can help us view other cultures and their stories as well, and even better understand their history. If one is to play the game and take their time, one may also learn a lesson of patience and enjoying some simplicity, even in a video game amidst our current level of graphics and AAA titles.

I look forward to more games similar to Never Alone from Upper One Games and if they were able to make an ongoing career from short games like this that let us look at other cultures and stories from around the world, I think I’d be willing to play every one of them.

If you have the chance and can get this at a price that seems reasonable, I do recommend giving it a try.

Then again, considering the name of the site, I may also have a soft spot for games featuring foxes.