Horizon Zero Dawn

It’s been almost a month since Guerilla games released their latest IP, “Horizon Zero Dawn”, and just last week, Sony Interactive Entertainment announced they had sold 2.6M units of the game in its first two weeks.  This is extremely impressive for a game that was released just days before everyone jumped on the Zelda train.  “Horizon Zero Dawn” is truly a breath of fresh air for the post-apocalyptic RPG genre, and should be a strong potential candidate for game of the year.  With the release of “Mass Effect: Andromeda” this Tuesday, I fear that the attention to this gorgeous game will continue to be overshadowed by the more established IP’s that have dropped since its release.

I’ll be the first to admit that this review is a tad delayed, but consider it “delayed with purpose”.   I’m a little selfish, but I don’t want the hype train for this game to end.  If there is one game that deserves to be riding the hype in first class, it’s “Horizon Zero Dawn”.  I tend to get hyper critical of RPG games because it’s the genre that I tend to favor above all others.  Call me an “elitist” but if an RPG misses the mark in either its storytelling capabilities or how immersive it makes the gamer feel, then it’s not worth my time.  The truly great RPG games are the ones that manage to capture both elements at once.  “Horizon Zero Dawn” is one of these games, and I urge you to check it out if you haven’t already.

This game is about Aloy, a young girl who is cast out the Nora tribe for seemingly just existing.  She has no understanding of who her mother is or why the “Matriarchs”, essentially the leaders of this tribe, seem to dislike her so much.  Eventually, she goes through a trial called “The Proving” where she not only comes out on top, but she also becomes a survivor after a cult massacres the other trial participants.  For her reward, Aloy discovers her origin but this ultimately leaves her with more questions than answers. With a burning desire for both vengeance and knowledge, and being granted the status of “The Seeker” by the Matriarch’s, she embarks on her journey outside of the Sacred Lands.  This is how the game starts, and it sets the tone that this is more than just another “Post-Apocalyptic” game.

One thing I commend the Guerrilla developers in doing, is creating a world that feels very natural despite having massive animalistic robots roaming around the world and vastly differing human civilizations strewn across a relatively small geographic area.  Human’s have rejected the technology that created the robots, and are living in various types of early governments.  The Nora are a tribal based society, the Carja are heavily influenced by Aztec/Mayan cultures, and the Oseram appear to have reverted to almost a medieval Europe society.  There are other tribes alluded to throughout the game, and you even find a few of these along the way, but these are essentially the big three.  Although the map in the game is quite large, it’s not massive.  Geographically, this game takes place in Western Colorado and sprawling into Eastern Utah, and it’s clear the design team did their homework when researching what this area actually looks like.  It’s no secret that this game is gorgeous, but it takes it to a whole different level when you realize that this whole game is based on real world locations and that it actually looks like the locations it’s trying to represent. This attention to detail in the setting is honestly what makes this game believable.  My one critique with the visuals from this game are the facial features on various characters.  The character models, as a whole, are beautifully designed.  But when you start interacting with them, they feel very robotic and plastic.  It’s a very petty thing to complain about, but it’s something that bothered me even up to my final hours of playing this game.  It was clear that the developers spent more time smoothing over the setting but didn’t spend as much time polishing up the characters found within the world, and that’s a miss.

Setting plays a big part in the immersion process that is vital to the success of an RPG.  Along with setting, you also need to have a sense of character progression or evolution.  From the mainline story to the little errand side quests you never have a moment of wondering, “Why the heck am I doing this?”.  Whether it’s avenging your tribe for the cult massacre, or it’s ultimately stopping a crazed warlord from killing an entire civilization, you feel the story unfold in front of you and you feel like what you do is impacting the world around you.  As a gamer, we need this sense of impact because it makes us actually care to keep discovering and saving this virtual world the developers created.  That isn’t to say that there aren’t some quests that one could deem as “grind quests”, but “Horizon Zero Dawn” has a really unique way of quest organization and classification.  There are, of course, the “main” quests.  But after this, you will find there is a separate section for “side” quests, “errand” quests, and then the subsequent grind quests.  My one critique with this section is that the distinction between what is a “side” quest and what is an “errand” quest is not very clear.  I consider “side” quests as quests that are created to specifically allow the player to delve deeper into a subsection of lore that wouldn’t normally get covered in the main questline.  On the other hand, when I think of “errand” quests I think of the typical, “Go to X location to get me Y thing(s)”.  This is not always the case with Horizon, and a lot of the classified “errand” quests actually fit more of what we are used to thinking as “Side” quests, which leaves me feeling confused on why the developers even felt the need to establish this differentiation.

 The second aspect of creating a successful RPG, is the story.  You can make your gamer feel as much like the main character of the game as you want, but if your story sucks then that desire to complete the game and see the end gets tossed out the window.  One thing I appreciate is that the developers established Aloy as a baby, as a determined child, and then finally as a strong young woman.  You understand her backstory, and you understand the impact of what this means to her.  Let’s be clear, this is not a story about “finding oneself” because she does this at the beginning.  This is a story about discovery and salvation.  As you progress through the game, your goal shifts from answering deep questions to saving your world from ultimate destruction.  It keeps you on your toes and is paced in such a way that you never get the feeling that you aren’t ready to tackle your problems head on.  

Although there is a leveling system in this game, at no point did I ever feel like I needed to pause the action to go complete a handful of the other quests in order to complete my objective.  Now don’t get me wrong, this game is not easy and can get very punishing if you don’t execute the objective properly.  Usually, this is heavily stealth based.  I tended to snipe heavily throughout the game, but there are also sneak attacks and traps that are at the player’s disposal to complete the game.  Since the main quests are paced perfectly, you never have the chance to lose sight of what the game’s story actually is.  This is fantastic because that’s what an RPG should be about.  It should be about creating an immersive environment to allow for you players to experience and appreciate the story that you are trying to present.  My one critique about the quest design and execution is that it leaves very little wiggle room to allow for various types of gameplay.  If you are a person who tends to run face first into your foes with guns blazing, you will die.  This game forces you to analyze the situation you are about to get yourself into and actually plan ahead what tactic you will use at your disposal.

This game is a solid 9 out of 10, based on my RPG criteria.  It creates a vastly immersive gameplay experience while also maintaining a consistent and interesting story.  It’s different from other games in the apocalyptic world genre in that you never feel a sense of loss for society, but rather hope.  You aren’t trying to restore society to what it once was, instead, you are trying to protect the world you have.  The small critiques that there are for “Horizon Zero Dawn” pale in comparison to everything that this game has done right.  Let’s keep this hype train going for a game that deserves it!  If you haven’t checked it out yet, I strongly suggest you give it a go

Gravity Rush 2

After experiencing a year of lackluster sequels, Gravity Rush 2 is a breath of fresh air and a hopefully a harbinger of great things coming in 2017.
Longtime fans of the series will be thrilled to know that this game follows immediately after the events of Gravity Rush and stays true to its roots throughout the game.  The game has gotten a makeover in both its gameplay as well as its setting, but the fundamentals of what made me a fan of Gravity Rush are still present throughout.

The story begins with Kat and Syd in a mining settlement called the “Banga Settlement” and a brief introduction of how you guys landed there.  For fans of the series, or those who are familiar with the lore in this game, these events occur almost immediately after the closure of Gravity Rush.  It almost feels like this was intended to be a “Part 2” to Kat’s story, rather than a sequel.  The game does a decent job of introducing the new characters within the world, as well as introducing both Syd and Kat to newcomers.  However, the game does lack in its later levels when introducing some of the other prominent characters that came from Gravity Rush.  

As an example, in Gravity Rush 2, you can play alongside a character by the name of Raven.  This ability is unlocked after a quest is completed in the main storyline, and the story of the quest is dripping with throwback lore to Gravity Rush.  Existing fans, or even people who have played through the first game would understand the prominence of both the quest as well as unlocking Raven, however, newcomers would struggle to understand its significance.  The game simply assumes that if you are playing this game, then you’ve played through Gravity Rush.  This may be the case for the clear majority of players, but doesn’t’ help to get newcomers to the series.  Which is unfortunate because when comparing the overall playability of Gravity Rush 2 to Gravity Rush, this game takes the cake.

I was never able to play Gravity Rush in its original form on the PS Vita, but I was lucky enough to play through the remastered version on PS4 shortly before Gravity Rush 2 came out.  Although the developers did an amazing job of making this remastered version feel like a PS4 game, there were still pockets here and there where it was blaringly obvious that this game was initially designed to be on a handheld system.  The controls for flying were cumbersome to master and the occasional weird glitch during moments of battle were all constant enough for me to feel like I was playing a PS Vita game on the PS4.  As a newcomer to the series, Gravity Rush was hard for me to get through because of how challenging it was to master the controls on a PS4 controller.  It felt like a grind at times, and I found myself running through the game to experience the story rather than the game itself.  

With Gravity Rush 2, I did not experience this feeling once.  I wanted to keep playing through all the side quests and challenge missions just to experience more of the gameplay.  It was polished and fun to play because it was such a striking change to the first installment.  The developers also added several new fighting mechanics throughout the game that you unlock at different points.  The level up system is still the same in that you obtain power crystals to then spend on upgrading Kat, but the developers have changed it to allow for more customization in how you play.  Instead of spending all crystals on one ability or upgrade at a time, you can allocate certain percentages of your crystals to different abilities to work around how you, as a player, play Kat.

The setting of Gravity Rush, although fun to play through, at times felt drab and dreary.  It was always a constant reminder that I was playing a remastered version of a game that had previously been released on a handheld system.  Gravity Rush 2, in comparison, felt alive and vibrant.  The city setting was so colorful and full of people to pick up with your stasis field and chuck around!  

Director Keiichiro Toyama cites that much of the inspiration for the setting of both Gravity Rush and Gravity Rush 2 was drawn from the surreal sci-fi styles of French cartoonist Jean “Moebius” Giraud.  “Moebius” was a pseudonym that Giraud used while creating some of his work and is defined as, “an impossible object that loops back into itself perpetually; a single surface that exists as both one and a pair”.  This is fitting for a game that you can literally play with dimension at the press of a button, a game where you can see the world as one way and then the next second see it in a completely new light.  Gravity Rush 2 far outshines its predecessor in capturing this feeling as you warp space around you and experience the beautiful world from all angles.  One critique that I had with Gravity Rush was that even if you were running around on the side of a building or underneath the floating city platform, it felt like you were doing just that.  It felt like you had just shifted your camera but that the world itself was still just the same.  In Gravity Rush 2 when you shift your gravity to go under or on the side, you feel like you have just stepped into another world within the world you were running around in before.

Putting aside the difficulties new players will face in grasping the story, Gravity Rush 2 is able to pick up where Gravity Rush left off.  The controls have drastically improved to make a much more enjoyable experience for both newcomers and longtime fans.  The concept of “Moebius” has been taken to the next level in level design and the vibrancy of the world helps to make it a much more immersive experience.  But for everything that it does well, if I had not played the first game I would have been lost in the character development and story.  This is unfortunate because if they had at least created a prolog to the game, this could have been resolved.  This game is far more enjoyable to play than the first game, but the confusion holds it back.  For this reason, I score this game a solid 8 out of 10.
 

Why the Resident Evil 7 Demo Works

     As I slowly make my way down the ladder, with my soon-to-be-dead companion cheering me on with each step at the top, I wonder if we will find the other member of our party that so conveniently wandered off in a house that is looking more reminiscent of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre with every passing moment. It seems that I have been climbing down for at least 15 seconds now, but by the looks of this obviously make-shift hidden entrance to the basement, there is really no telling when my feet will finally hit the ground and I can resume investigating my surroundings. As I finally find the floor, I struggle to grasp what I am actually looking at as I slowly reposition myself, completely expecting a jump scare. Why not? After all, it would be the easy thing to do. Instead I am greeted with rusted pipes in some type of a underground passage, but faintly in the near distance I can just make out the figure of our missing person, Andre. As I courageously decide to move closer when I realize that he is facing the opposite direction of me and standing still. Way too still… I place my hand on his shoulder to tell him we need to get out of here, but it’s to my horror that I realize that someone or some thing had shoved him mouth open on to a pipe sticking out of the wall. I fall backwards on to the mud underneath me, just in time to see a pair of old workman boots making their way up to me, cast in the light of my camera. My world goes dark once more…

     This is only a short 30 second piece of the full Resident Evil 7: Biohazard demo that is being offered for free on you platform marketplace, and a brief glimpse into the full game set to launch on Jan 24th, 2017. I was able to complete the demo from beginning to “end” during my first run through, but with the deployability and the fact that I continue to find new things and entirely different endings, I have sunk more than 5 hours into this demo. For context, I could play almost the entirety of The Order: 1886 in this length of time, so to answer many of your questions thus far, yes- I like this demo. A lot. 

     While producer Kawada Masachika and director Nakanish Koushi, have already confirmed that this demo is not necessarily a piece of the final product, taken to allow players to sample, but merely a look into the tone and “feeling” of the full version. Let me safely say, that if this game is even half as good as what the demo implies, this will be easily be the best Resident Evil entry since number 4 (not difficult, I know). In every controller gripping/high tension filled moment of this glimpse, it is apparent that they have finally walked away from the attempt at making the franchise a Shooter, and instead doubled down on the concepts that made this IP so beloved in the first place.

     A sense of unease and dread around every corner and of course the puzzle-like way you have to make your way through the game, the demo is a call back to everything that made the original entry so great. At this point, my only hope is that they take their time to give the final product the love and attention that they did with this sample. Last we heard, that game was about 65% of the way complete through development (fact credit: famitsu)a few weeks ago at E32016, and with a release date of January 25th, I worry they will try to rush. While it is obvious that Capcom has every intension of hitting this timeline, with the recent re-releases of the series and ending with Resident Evil 4 this fall, a deployment strategy leading up to the launch of the latest installment. Capcom, do NOT rush this game. 

     If you haven’t already checked out the demo for Resident Evil 7, you owe it to yourself to give it a go. If you’re the type that gets nervous at the thought of playing horror games, get a buddy and play through it together. I promise, it is that good. With the reveal of full PS VR integration, this game will do huge numbers, already looking to be a clear flagship for the sony platform. However, regardless of where or how you play it, just do. This is the Resident Evil that we have been clamoring over for years. 

     Now what the hell am I supposed to do with this dam mannequin finger….

Sony Needs to Wait on the PSNeo

     It’s no secret that this fall will be an important one for Sony. With the impending release of  The Last Guardian, a game that many have believed a myth, to the introduction of their VR platform, PS VR, it cannot be overstated how careful they must be in every move they make. This is not the time to start looking into introducing the next iteration of the PlayStation ecosystem; they need to wait.

     CEO of Sony Interactive Entertainment(SIE), Andrew House revealed that the existence of a more powerful PlayStation 4 during an interview with The Financial Times, in the weeks leading up to E32016. However, House confirmed the console would not be revealed at the expo, as it was not the right time for the unveiling. New rumors are now circulating that the console should be expected to release sometime before the end of the 2016 calendar year. This leaves me with really only one question: why now?

     Now before we go to far down the rabbit hole on something that has not even been confirmed as of yet, Sony has been incredibly smart in all of their moves this generation thus far, so I would preface this discussion with a large grain of salt before we have confirmation. Now that we have that prefaced, let’s take a look at the possibility if this is true.

     Who would this console iteration be targeted at? As of right this moment, Sony has got to be banking on their hardcore audience is reserved and ready to go for the PS VR launch early this October. It would be crazy to assume that this group of people would double down on a console purchase, at the same time they are already picking up their $400 VR device. If it’s for the consumer that has waited thus far to purchase a PS4, this most likely implies that they are waiting on one of two things: the right price, or the right game. House confirmed that the next iteration would not have console exclusives, but sit side by side with the current platform… So no games that would drive this consumer. As for the price, the introduction of a higher end model would most likely imply the price drop of your existing, meaning your average “Joe” is more likely to pick up the older version for a better price. 

     This next console, the PlayStation Neo, the PS4k, whatever you would like to call it, is going to need the hard core Sony fanbase in order to succeed. Period. So to introduce this product when they just went out to buy your latest VR headset, would be suicide for the future of the platform and would split the market before you ever get either device off the ground. The average gamer only has so much money to toss around, and Mom & Dad will only make one unnecessary purchase to put under the christmas tree this year. Which will it be? And it’s this mentality that will force losses on the sales numbers before either hit store shelves.

     You might be asking, “When?” at this point. if it were me, I would hold the console for sometime next fall. Let the PS VR get off the ground and build confidence in that platform before you start bleeding the consumers wallet for the next one. If it’s not broke, then don’t fix it- and at 40+million units sold thus far into the console generation, Sony has no reason to rush a new model to market. Just take your time, Sony. You’re holding all the cards, no point in showing your hand before it’s needed.

Release Dates No Longer Matter

There was a time not so long ago that we as gamers, could look at the release date several months out and know that regardless of what school brought our way, family drama arose, or any other of life challenges found you, that you could count on getting your hands on the game the day you were promised. While obvious that this is no longer the case with delays being announced every other day, it is important to come to grips with this pattern now for sake of your expectations and overall gaming happiness

      Video game release dates no longer mean what they once did.  Accept that. But this is not always a bad thing, and more often than not- this is actually a very good thing.  Now before you start penning your “How dare you!” email, let’s find some common ground so you can understand where I am coming from. If it is one thing that I have learned ignites a fire in the gaming community more than most things (outside of the word micro transactions), it is telling a gamer that they are not going to play a game as soon as they had originally anticipated. Trust me, I have been burned time and time again on game delays. Hell, anyone that has a PlayStation this generation should be completely used to it by now. From games like The Order: 1886Uncharted 4, and don’t even get me started on DriveClub… So yes, I feel your pain.

     We have gotten to a point in games however, that we must begin to revert our expectation of solid release dates and begin to look at them more as Release Windows. Logically, it does not make sense to announce a game release date a year in advance, and expect to hit the deadline every single time. That is just not the way that game development works nowadays. However this does not give game developers or publishers a pass in all scenarios. Games like Batman: Arkham Knight being announced for an October release date then being pushed to nearly 8 months only a few short weeks later, is more than a mere oversight. 

     Here is what I propose for all parties involved: as gamers, lets ease up on the developer that wants to take another few weeks to help realize their final product. However, as developers and publishers, try to stay away from giving release dates several months in advance. I understand that you need to build hype for your game, but there are better ways to go about that. Besides, delays will many time hurt a games reputation with the community, does Watchdogs ring a bell?

     This reasoning in itself is probably why Sony didn’t go out this past week during their E32016 showcase and hit us with a bunch of release dates. It wasn’t a mistake, they didn’t just forget to add them at the end of the demo. While I believe most of the games shown were 2017 releases (with the exception of Death Stranding- 2019 at the earliest for that game, promise), why crush the hype they have built later down the road with a delay, when they can announce it when they are ready and give the gamers something to look forward to and believe in.

     Before I hop down from my soapbox, let me leave you with one final thought on the matter. Support the developers that have the courage to step up and ask for more time; these people know what this does to us and the kinds of reactions they will inevitably receive. Our complaining doesn’t help the situation, nor does it benefit the end product. Which is why we are all here, right? Developers take your time (not talking about you The Last Guardian). Build the game that you wanted to. The gaming community is better for it.

God of War has changed, but is it for the better?

He’s back…. Kratos received a roar of applause, cheers, and “awed” shock as he emerged from the shadows during the opening of the Sony E32016 Showcase. Not surprising however, since the PlayStation hero has been silent for nearly 3 years now since the release of God of War: Ascension back in 2013. If you really think about it, since Ascension was a prequel entry to the series, God of War 3 hit shelves 6 years ago, back in 2010. No matter how you try to spin it, it’s been a long time since we accompanied the rage filled Spartan on his quest to kill Zeus, king of the gods.

Sony Santa Monica has been silent for a long time on the status of the franchise, except for your collection here and vita release there. However, this silence has officially come to an end with the introduction of the latest entry simply titled, God of War. The name alone makes you question several things about the impending reunion: will this be the same Kratos? Is this a full reboot except for the character? While we are likely months away till we receive answers to these questions, one resounding thing is clear: This is not the same Kratos that we remember. 

Events have taken place in the years (I assume) that have past since we last fought with Kratos that has left him with several traits or characteristics that were once foreign to the Spartan. Kratos is quick to cool off after his fight with the troll, resuming his lesson on catching the animal. For the first time in memory, was saw him defuse his anger when his son prematurely shot an arrow at the deer (just let that sink in, the GOD OF WAR just decided to keep his cool). And most notably, there is care in the way that he handles the matters of the dying animal with his child. In 10 minutes, Sony Santa Monica completely changed my preconceived notions with the anger driven character. Now for the first time in the entirety of the franchise, I literally don’t know what to expect from the upcoming iteration, and this lack of understanding makes me very excited for what’s to come.

God of War has always been, first and foremost, about the gameplay. This fact, I have honestly never been argued on (because I am saying this, I am sure someone will come out of the woodwork). However, when it came to the character himself, while everyone could tell me the premise of the Spartans background, none really every expressed the notion of caring about the characters well being. Don’t get me wrong, I am not implying that every game under the sun needs to have an emotional impact like Journey, but what I AM saying is the act of truly being invested in your character and their outcome can be the difference between being just another game sitting on your shelf that “You need to get back to one day”, and a game that you spend sleepless nights battling through. Santa Monica understands this fact, and I think this is why they are moving in this direction.

For those of you worried about the direction they are taking, remember that there is A LOT that we don’t know yet. The reason for the drastic change in tone, in my opinion, was to get the audiences attention that this was not going to be your average God of War entry. I have every ounce of faith that the next time we see the Spartan, he will be climbing the back of some gigantic beast (c’mon dragon, c’mon dragon, C’MON DRAGON!) and gutting the poor (?) monster in the classic Kratos Fashion that we have already come to love and know. To those of you looking for a The Last of Us style game, I wouldn’t hold my breath if I were you. But if you are interested in a different type of God of War, then I think you will find a lot to be excited for in this upcoming title. 

 

 

E32016: Who Won the Conference Battle this Year?

Wow… what an incredible few days for the gaming industry. Between every showcase, conference, game announcement, bad joke made, and awesome kimono wearing game developer on stage, it is needless to say that E32016 will be one to remember. That goes for all consoles, developers, and publishers involved: from us at The Gamer HUD, we say well done on another exceptional year.

Now down to business. Let me begin by saying, that this is solely my opinion and those that write for The Gamer HUD could have differing opinions. In other words, direct the hatred directly at me *Wink*. Since I think most can say that the argument will come down to either Microsoft or Sony, let’s address the others. To note: I have bolded each conference if you waned to skip sections.

EA kicked off the entire thing Sunday, with a one hour presentation showing us what CEO Andrew Wilson prefaced as “a quick glimpse into what we have in development”, truer words have never been spoken. In their 60 minutes, they managed to cover all known titles in development such as Battlefield1 and Madden NFL 2017. But the thing that made me a little frustrated with the conference, as I am sure it did to many of you reading this as well, they glossed over Mass Effect: Andromeda. Yes they showed someone drawing concept art of characters with small glimpses into the universe, with a short trailer at the end, but I can’t wrap my head around why they wouldn’t start the whole thing with a 5 minute gameplay demo; or something of that nature. Anything more on that front would have been welcomed. Instead they kept it high level and gave us a solid 10 minute “Making Of” look at Fifa 17 powered by the beloved Frostbite engine… Needless to say, there was some sadness in that conference for me.

Grade: C+

Bethesda had a solid conference, even though a good amount of it had been leaked before the show. Still managing to surprise and impress, they showed revivals like Prey, the highly anticipated Dishonored 2, and even managed to throw in an easter egg or two with the Wolfenstein: New Colossus imageI am glad that Bethesda decided to keep their conference this year at E3, even though many thought that it would be unlikely. But announcements such as Skyrim Remasters and Quake Champions, made for a solid showing. Well done Bethesda

Grade: B+

Ubisoft… if there is one thing that you cannot say about this conference, is that it was too short. Clocking in at almost 2 hours long, I can’t possibly imagine how anxious the audience was to get the hell out of there by the time Aisha Tyler closed out the show with some closing thoughts. On that note, we saw plenty. From promising games such as Ghost Recon Wildlands, to the highly anticipated South Park: Fractured But Whole, they had more than enough to keep us entertained. In a way I felt like Ubisoft suffered the exact opposite of what EA did, way too much content over a long (seriously, can’t hit this one home hard enough) period of time. If Ubisoft had packed that down into 1 hour, with no on stage interviews, dance performances, developer personalities, VR Exercises, and movie documentaries (did I mention that this conference was long?), this could have been an excellent show. They had all the right games there, just went overboard with it. Next year, just trim the fat and you will be set.

Grade: B-

Nintendo held their (now) annual Treehouse Live Event, headlining Zelda: Breath of the Wild. With the exception of a 45 minute Pokemon: Sun & Moon demo, Zelda was the only game that Nintendo felt the need to show off. Trust me, if you have been living under a rock for the last 48 hour hours, they made the right choice. Extensive play throughs from the beginning of the game, closer looks at the new game mechanics, a new beautiful world to explore (seriously, stop reading this and go watch a video of this- it’s that damn good), and the reveal of Voice Acting for the first time in the franchise, made for a solid showing. Although we didn’t receive any info on the upcoming Nintendo NX, this was expected since they had prefaced that the console would be revealed and detailed in a separate event. All around, Nintendo handled the situation well. They doubled down on Zelda and man did it payoff… Several Game of the Show awards will be going to that one. 

Grade: A-

Microsoft had once again, another phenomenal show. Ever since Phil Spencer took over the Xbox division, the companies dedication to serving the “Player” with games and community desired console features, never fails to amaze me. Coming out swinging for the fences with the announcement of the XboxOneS model, then immediately following up with games like Gears of War 4 taking the stage for a live gameplay demo, it was clear in just the first 15 minutes of the conference that Microsoft was not messing around. Announcements like Xbox Music Playlist feature, customizable controllers, and Looking For Group made it clear that they had been listening to player and community feedback. In the game lineup area, revealing Dead Rising 4, showing us more of Sea of Thieves, and giving us the reveal date for Inside (June 29th), Microsoft gave us 90 minutes of entertainment. You would be hard pressed to not see at least 3 announcements that make you excited for the future of this platform. And of course, ending the conference with the long rumored Project Scorpio announcement, would help make sure that everyone would be buzzing about next years official reveal. Although they didn’t go too far into detail of the console specs, they gave us a solid 2 minute video reiterating that the current iteration would not be replaced by this one and would actually boast to be the most powerful gaming console on the market. That is a huge promise to make, but one that I know that this Phil Spencer lead Xbox can fulfill. 

Grade: A

Sony… What a conference. To say that this conference was great, would be underselling it. Instead of leading the whole Horse and Pony Show out on stage and gave us buzz phrases like “Greatness Awaits” and all that jazz, they decided to let their games do the talking. And that made all the difference. With a short introduction from Shawn Layden and tribute the victims over the past weekend, we were greeted with a live orchestra and the reveal of God of War. A game that has been rumored for a while now, they walked us through a 10 minute gameplay demo of a different style of Kratos, leading many in the auditorium to applause. What followed was several more exclusive titles to the PlayStation Platform. Titles like The Last Guardian and its release date, a full gameplay demo of Horizon: Zero Dawn, a choice filled trailer for Detroit: Become Human, and Sony Bend’s Days Gone reveal. Nor did it stop there, Resident Evil VII, Spiderman from Insomniac, a Crash Bandicoot Remaster announcement, and of course walking Hideo Kojima on stage to show off the teaser trailer for the Sony exclusive Death Stranding. Yep, Sony delivered one punch after another, with no signs of slowing. Instead of overstaying their welcome (at this point in the show, I don’t think a single person would have minded another hour worth of content at this rate), they finished off with a final look at the gameplay for Days Gone, and filled that The Last of Us 2 post apocalyptic void in our hearts. PlayStation 4 has sold over 40 mill units to date, and Sony just gave a whole lot more people reason(s) to invest in the system. Well Done.

Grade: A+

Conclusion… You still with me? Good. Like I said before, this was a summary of my thoughts and opinions on the conference. Now before anyone goes calling me a fan boy of this or that, let me challenge you to keep one thing in mind. Every show gave us something to be excited for. Every single one. With the competition between industry giants like Xbox & Sony being as heated as it is right now- WE are the ones that win. So tonight as I boot up any one of my consoles, whether it be the Xbox One, the PS4, or have to wipe piles of dust off of my WiiU (Sorry, I had to), I will be smiling with anticipation for the things to come.

 

 

Why You Should Temper Your “The Last Guardians” Expectations

It’s crazy to think that The Last Guardian has been in development since 2007, the same year that games such as Gran Turismo 5 &  Infamous (the first entry in the now 3 part series) was announced at E3. Needless to say,  Studio Japan has had some problems with the development of the game. However, if rumor is to be believed for E32016, we should get a hard release date for the title. For me personally, I don’t believe the game exists until I am holding it in my hands.

Going into E32016 I have heard the hype train build the imminent release date of the game as “Sony’s final big reveal”. C’mon now, let’s be realistic as to what the game actually is  and is not. As much as I am excited to get my hands on this game, I know that this games legend has far surpassed what the reality of what the game will prove. In terms of ratings, I am banking on a solid “B”. Now before you throw your drink at the screen, or automatically scroll down to the comments to tell me that I am “out of my damn mind”, listen to my reasoning as to why we need to relax on the expectations of this game. 

This game will not do huge numbers. Don’t get me wrong, this game will sell well and receive average grades across the media spectrum, but the previous game that Studio Japan put out, Shadow of the Colossus, sold 140 thousand copies the first week that it was on the market. To put that into context real quick, Uncharted 4 sold over 2.7 million copies in its first week. And that is a flagship title in its 4th and final (supposedly) iteration. I am sorry, but you can’t expect this game to move console units of any significance. 

The Last Guardian has been in evelopment hell since 2007. The ICO collection was released back in 2011, with a semi decent reception critic wise,  was the same year that I expect that Sony had originally wanted to release The Last Guardian, However, the collection came and went without any promise of the forthcoming followup. This was on a previous console iteration, the PS3, now with a whole new console cycle many expect The Last Guardian to compete with an expected fall release date, side by side with franchise flagships Battlefield 1, Call of Duty: Infinite Warefare, inal Fantasy XV. Needless to say, it is going to have a tough time finding its legs in the sales market with games like that. For those of you that hope Sony will back it with a solid marketing campaign, just remember that they are going to be introducing a new way to experience games, PSVR, along with an expected launch of a slimmer console. Now if you were Sony, would you put your money into the headset that you are building your platform around, or the game that has struggled to release to market for nearly a decade?

Now, don’t get me wrong, this article is not being written to bash this title in anyway. I am anxious to get my hands on the final product, as well as you are- I am sure. I want to help guide those that believe that The Last Guardian will lead the “Sony Fall Lineup”, to understand what will most likely happen. If it were me, I would put the advertising behind this gorgeous game. I would make sure that I didn’t postpone it for nothing, and make sure that the first time someone actually lays hands on it will enjoy the final product. But it’s not up to me. The ball is in Sony’s court. 

What do you think? Am I absolutely wrong, and this game will be the next Minecraft? Or do you think that I may be on to something here? Let me know in the comments below!