Posted by Mark at 19:11
There's been an amount made about the state of the event at this year's EGX- and while I'll be trying to focus on the games played, there are a few things that can't be avoided.

First, and the one which created the most noise was Sony's handling of Horizon: Zero Dawn- only available to play in a closed-off area, the 30-minute demo meant that formal queuing was abandoned early on in favour of booking sessions, all of which were filled up by 11AM each day- completely shutting out anyone who didn't have an Early Access ticket to the event.

Sony are not the first people to underestimate the demand to see a title at such a show, but questions have to be asked as to why so few consoles were made available considering the length of the demo, more so when the games immediately next to it on Sony's booth were Overwatch and Uncharted 4- both well-marketed games that have been out for some time, the former of which had its own dedicated booth.

The other two platform holders were also conspicuous by their absences- Microsoft's presence being limited to showing Gears of War 4 in a corner of the 18+ area and Forza Horizon 3 making an appearance on the Twitch booth, and Nintendo not showing up at all.

Microsoft's decision not to showcase the XBox One S and let Sony hog the limelight with PS4 Pro seems like an own-goal, but at least one of their flagship series made an appearance, to an extent doing what Nintendo did at E3 with Breath Of The Wild.

The next Zelda game, like its developer, didn't make an appearance at EGX, beyond a glancing mention in the show magazine (this year just an advert for Amazon rather than telling you anything about the games being exhibited), not even in a closed-off Horizonbox or as a developer session.

Nintendo not being present is almost inexplicable, especially when you consider that in the much less-attended Hyper Japan earlier in the year, Nintendo had a not insignificant showing, including integrating BotW's UK premiere into its stage show and creating a Pokémon showcase, capitalising on the back of the then-new Pokémon Go.

Despite what that event's name would suggest, Nintendo's showing there wasn't entirely niche titles with little appeal outside the otaku market, so it probably wouldn't have been too difficult to simply pick up that show and drop it into EGX, maybe adding a bit of Super Mario Run if they really had to.

Mainly appealing to otakudom still probably wouldn't have hurt, if Square-Enix' booth was anything to go by, showcasing World Of Final Fantasy- one of three FF games exhibited (four if Kingdom Hearts HD 2.8 counts), a dungeon crawler whose gimmick seems to be that the characters can transform into cute chibis at will, a mechanic which seems to exist solely to sell Nendoroid figures.

More interesting was the adjacent Dragon Quest Builders, the Minecraftalike that Ben has already posted the trailer of.

(And if you were waiting, this marks the first appearance of a game I actually played)

The notion of Minecraft with story and objectives appears interesting, and advanced platformer-y tasks could be seen played on Sony's stage, although the playable demo didn't seem to last long enough to reach that point. The move to third-person, despite certain control changes to accommodate, makes placing blocks slightly harder than it could be, which is likely to cause frustration.

The rest of Squeenix' booth was made up of Rise Of The Tomb Raider and Hitman, promoting their PS4 re-release and latest episodes respectively.

Possibly as a factor of the absence of Microsoft and Nintendo, aside from the usual iterative titles (This year's CoD, FIFA, WWE, Pro Evo and Battlefield) the only other meaningful showing- save for Sega settling nicely into its strategy niche, and Sniper Elite 4 helping Rebellion continue to punch above its weight- from a AAA developer was Bethesda, showcasing Dishonored 2.

The level shown in the demo featured a mansion whose rooms could shift into different configurations at the pull of a lever- meaning in order to complete the level's two objectives (saving a colleague from the first game and taking down this game's antagonist) the player has to creep around the crawlspaces under the floors- a little like a Victoriana latter half of Portal.

The enemies shown, rather than the humans which made up the previous game, were all robots, which added an extra element of strategy to combat. Decapitation causes them to attack anything that makes a noise, meaning they can be used by the player to take down other enemies.

Sniper Elite 4, incidentally, was pretty much Sniper Elite 3, but bigger. Which is absolutely fine by me.

That feels like a nice cut-off point, tomorrow I'll recap the better indie and smaller games of the show.
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Super Treasure Arena
First Play
Sep 21
Posted by Ben at 16:02

Headup sent over a few copies of their new multi-player 2D arena shooter (if that's how you'd characterise it) Super Treasure Arena, which is still in Early Access on Steam, but we thought we'd take a look at it.

We're a little clumsy at it, certainly not showing off particularly high level play, although after a couple of matches against randoms the other night I can attest there's several levels beyond where we're at.

Super Treasure Arena seems pretty good so far, the use of enemies hides that it might otherwise feel a bit empty with only 3 or 4 humans (or bots) in the arena. Personally I could see an 8 player local co-op game being fantastic, but the online seems to work pretty well, even at this early stage (note: the game is only 4 players)

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Posted by Ben at 02:09
When I reviewed Dear Esther way back when I marked it down for price and length, and while those issues haven't really gone away, after multiple playthroughs I'm still fascinated by the game. It really is one of my favourite gaming experiences of the last 5 years

So I'm pleased to see it on the consoles, I'm a little surprised it wasn't snapped up as one of the PS+ or Games With Gold games, but at a limited-time discount of 20 per cent off the SRP of £7.99 it doesn't feel as bank breaking as it was (I think it launched at the same price on PC). Not that it's cheap, but at least at this point it's a known quantity.

Anyway, if you like moody, atmospheric narrative 'walking simulators' then I think Dear Esther still has some merit, and the console Dear Esther Landmark Edition has a few tweaks over the pc original (that will be coming to PC eventually apparently).

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Vroom Vroom
Sep 20
Posted by Mark at 18:02

A fairly unexciting week, as I've mainly been making small progress on Forza Motorsport 6- although I did also find time to crack open Freedom Planet.

I don't really have an awful lot to say about either- I'm not deep enough into the latter to cast any real judgements, and the former does what it does very well, but not in any particularly exciting way.
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The House
Sep 19
Posted by Ben at 16:12

The House Abandon is going to strike a nostalgia chord with a very select group of people. People probably aged over 30, who owned an Amstrad, a Spectrum, or a Commodore 64 (maybe an old BBC computer), who also played the odd text adventure. Basically, people like me. That’s not to say no one else will appreciate it, thanks to smartphones there’s a new audience for these types of games, both because they’re not a bad way to present a narrative on a tablet of phone (80 Days, Lifeline etc), and because they’ve allowed more hobbyist developers to put things out.

The House Abandon presents itself in a fairly unique way, it’s kind of a first person text adventure. It’s played from your point of view, as you’re sat at a desk with the screen angled to your left, the keyboard in front of you, some family pictures, a lamp, a clock on top of the tv, even a phone pinned to the wall. The screen flickers and has scanlines, the computer keyboard has a tapedeck and familiar rainbow colouring. It absolutely looks the part even down to what’s happening on the screen. You never see yourself physically type, but it is you (person reading this who has or will play the game) responding to the on-screen cues.

When you boot ‘The House Abandon’ your character arrives at your old family holiday home with a hint to check the glove box, so you type ‘open glove box’, find a loving note from you father, type to read it, get out of the car and so on. It’s all very positive and nostalgic… until it’s not.

It seems insane that a text adventure would be tense, but god damn it gets tense. The writing really starts to land, the familiarity is distorted, the safe nostalgia abandoned in favour of unease. While the look of the game will probably be what draws a lot of people in, the lead developer is Jon McKellen the man responsible for the UI in Alien Isolation, and it shows. I can’t say for sure it’s the same technique, but the CRT monitor glows and flickers in a realistic way, the rest of the computer looks accurate without being an infringement, even the loading of the game and its title screen look the part.

I do have a few issues with The House Abandon though. I very, very quickly found myself running in to a wall with the game. I think even while I was still in the car, but certainly trying to get around to the back of the house, opening a certain door, even turning something on, they were all more problematic than they needed to be. It’s a problem adventure games sometimes run in to, it’s never fun to have the answer but not be able to put it in the specific form the game requires. Still though, The House Abandon is a prototype, and free, it deserves some leeway. In short then, if any of this sounds appealing to you you’ve nothing to lose by trying The House Abandon, in fact it’s one of the most compelling things I’ve played all year
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Posted by Mark at 14:52
The first set of ratings for the Dara O'Briain-fronted games panel show, which has its third episode tonight, have been released, and it's good reading.

Specifically: the show was the single most-watched show on the channel in the week it aired (5th- 11th September), according to BARB, who are responsible for measuring these things.

Clocking in at 576,000 viewers, this beats the next-most watched show (An episode of Suits) by over 120,000. A further 24,000 would watch the show an hour later on timeshift channel Dave ja vu, bringing the show up to a round 600k.

While Suits normally takes the top spot for the station, the last time anything on Dave broke half a million was the series finale of Taskmaster, on the 21st July.

So, it turns out that if you come up with a decent format, fill it with people who know what they're talking about, air it at a sensible time and actually bother to put some marketing behind it, it's possible to make a games show on television succeed- who knew?
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Bioshock Remastered
Sep 18
Posted by Ben at 04:15

The original Bioshock was the first game gave a 10/10 to, in fact it was our only 10/10 for a long time iirc. None of the current writers hold it in that high a regard if I'm honest, certainly I could leave the back half of the game's busy work, and a few of the obvious set ups.

Still thought here's something undeniably compelling about Bioshock. It starts great, ignoring the tone and scene setting as you drift in to Rapture, that first Splicer encounter, how dangerous everything seemed. It's lost a little now, I've played through the game at least twice, so familiarity has overtaken dread, although some of the more chose elements of the game still elicit that response for different reasons.

Anyway, on to the video. Remember, we aren't Digital Foundry, we're not able to analyse each frame, and I'm not really capable of picking out missing effects. But hopefully it's enough to show some of the changes, the improvements, and some of the areas it is actually a little worse.

Personally I think, based on what I've played, the remaster is "fine", I do think overall it looks better. However, given it's a remaster or a years old game for modern hardware, it's really not a very impressive port, certainly not the leap it could, and probably should have been. Again, for me, playing on PC on a version I got for free for already owning the game, I maybe can't complain too much, but a proper remastered Rapture, I think that's what the game deserves. Still though, all things considered, and the lack of graphics options on the remaster, I'd maybe consider running the original game with mods than playing this.

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Posted by Ben at 02:06
I'm slightly surprised there isn't more talk about this, small top down racer aside, but Mantis Burn Racing will be full 4K resolution on Playstation 4 Pro. In fact, it will be 4K and 60fps, which is pretty cool if you've got the TV to support it

“With Mantis Burn Racing we’re delivering full native 4K whilst maintaining 60FPS without using checkerboard techniques or having to reduce any of our effects.”

Mark Williams, Technology Director at VooFoo Studios.

Check the gallery for some screen shots

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Posted by Ben at 01:13
For the past few months we've been working on the assumption that the new Berserk game (now called Berserk and the Band of the Hawk) was coming right at the end of the year, well, not Koei Tecmo have given a firm date and it's 24th February for the EU (21st of Feb for America)

I'll admit to being slightly disappointed, I know it's only a Berserk Musu game but it was one of the few games this year I'm looking forward to. Still, better to be done right than rushed out.

I'll also admit to one of those people that hate the name. He's not Geoff Berserk, it's Guts, it should be called Berserk: The Band of the Hawk or something. Anyway, trailer below, and I hope the fairy story makes it in to the game

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Posted by Ben at 14:52
Based on the trailers I've seen Super Treasure Arena looks like a lot of fun. Think a twin stick version of Bomberman, were you can fight against your friends and complete objectives.

Well, it's out on Steam Early Access now for the reduced price of £4.47

We'll be taking a look at Super Treasure Arena over the weekend, hopefully at least 3 of us will be blasting it out, so look for a video and an article early next week

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