The trailer for Rogue One dropped out of the sky today like a droid-filled escape pod, and it’s pretty spectacular…
Less whimsical than the saga movies, it almost feels like Star Wars meets Black Hawk Down; a legitimate war movie with the one caveat that it’s set in space.
Sure, this is all speculation on my part until we see the finished product this December, but I’m optimistic that Rogue One will force choke Episode VII out of the picture and take its place at the pinnacle of the Star Wars pantheon.
The opening chapter of Shinji Mikami’s latest horror game – The Evil Within – is quite possibly the most terrifying 28 minutes of gaming I’ve ever experience. From escaping a murderers slaughterhouse and using a locker to hide from a deranged chainsaw wielding monstrosity, to narrowly avoiding being minced by giant buzzsaws, The Evil Within certainly seems like a return to form for the survival horror genre.
You can check out my playthrough of chapter 1 of The Evil Within below… But be warned, it’s not for the faint of heart.
The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword launch in late 2011 to much fanfare and glowing praise from many video game outlets. IGN proclaimed: “The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword is the greatest Zelda game ever created”, and Eurogamer assured us: “It is the most formally inventive Zelda in a long time.”
Now, I was a late comer to Skyward Sword due to its release falling firmly in the period that I had become disillusioned with the Wii, its lack of 3rd party support and abundance of shovel-ware. I toyed with the idea of repurchasing the system just to experience this apparent revolutionary new Zelda game, but cooler heads prevailed and I decided that £170 was just too much to spend on one game, even if it is the best Zelda game ever put to disc.
Fast forward to 2015, and I’m making use of the Wii U’s backwards compatibility to finally clear this game from my expansive backlog of titles, and while there are a lot of awesome ideas present in Skyward Sword, to claim it to be the most “formally inventive Zelda” just doesn’t ring true for me. Skyward Sword recycles the same Zelda formula that we saw in 1998 with Ocarina of Time, and does very little to build upon its predecessor.
Don’t get me wrong, Skyward Sword does a lot of awesome things; it’s gorgeous to look at for one, with it’s beautiful water colored environments and painterly aesthetic making it seem like the perfect melding of Ocarina of Time and Wind Waker with a splash of Okami thrown in; in fact, the art style is so well implemented that you’d be forgiven for thinking you were playing an interactive cartoon. It’s clear the art style is covering for the Wii system’s shortcomings and outdated hardware, but it does a good job of doing so; when compared to the likes of Skyrim it just doesn’t compare, but what Nintendo has managed to accomplish with Skyward Sword – running on hardware that is ostensibly a GameCube – is an incredible feat of video game craftsmanship.
That being said, one of the biggest problems of Skyward Sword’s predecessor – Twilight Princess – was taking such a long time to let you off the leash and explore its vast world. Skyward Sword repeats this sin in emphatically, as it meanders for far too long in its opening stages. It’s roughly an hour before you’re finally let off the leash (more if you’re interacting with NPCs and taking in all of the cut scenes), and I would have appreciated a little more haste akin to 2013’s ‘A Link Between Worlds’.
Some of the ideas present throughout Skyward Sword are nothing short of genius; one puzzle requires you to carry a time altering stone through a dungeon, but the stone’s time altering ability only affects items and enemies that are in its immediate vicinity, requiring you to strategically plan your path in order to avoid reanimating statues into live enemies or negatively affecting your surroundings by turning back the clock and removing platforms and bridges that are required to progress.
That being said, for every outstanding new idea, there are probably 10 old ones that are simply rehashed tropes of old Zelda games. Dungeons are still themed around specific weapons, with boss’ weak points clearly highlighted (e.g. hit the giant glowing eye with an arrow) so as to completely remove any challenge or strategy from the boss battles. Even if the boss’ weak points weren’t signposted, you can rest assured that a babbling blue annoyance named Fi (Skyward Sword’s Navi equivalent) will pop up and detail the best course of action for you. This is a theme throughout the game, as Skyward Sword unnecessarily holds the players hand at every turn. What was great about the original Legend of Zelda was that it dropped you into Hyrule Field and allowed you to explore and figure things out for yourself, giving you free reign to choose your own plan of action and tackle dungeons in whichever order you prefer; it genuinely felt like you were on an adventure. Skyward Sword is a stark contrast feeling more like a tour than an adventure as it holds your hand throughout, pointing you in the direction you should be heading, detailing how to solve certain puzzles and providing you with a sidekick that removes the any challenge from the game.
Even Skyward Sword’s overworld seems to discourage exploration. What wowed me about Ocarina of Time as a kid was how vast Hyrule Field felt and the fact that you could see Death Mountain in the distance and were able to walk to it and climb it if you felt so inclined. You’d learn the secrets of the overworld, you’d understand where everything was in relation to each other, from the Gerudo Desert to Lake Hylia; it felt like a living breathing world (at least it did back in 1998). Skyward Sword on the other hand feels like a series of disconnected locales, the exploration elements boil down to visiting a series of small uninteresting islands with few landmarks or points of interest, and the dungeons areas are accessed by skydiving through specific points in the clouds, making the game feel like a series of disconnected mini-maps instead of the sprawling overworld that made Ocarina of Time feel so revolutionary.
It’s also worth noting that Skyward Sword consists of just three main areas and – considering it’s essentially a 40 hour adventure – you’ll be visiting and revisiting the same areas multiple times before the credits roll, making this by far the most repetitive game in the series. It almost seems like Eiji Aonuma heard the complaints about Wind Waker’s short (but concise) length and chose to go in the opposite direction with Skyward Sword, substantially padding the game in order to make it a more lengthy adventure; length doesn’t necessarily make for a great game.
One of the biggest issues with Skyward Sword is its reliance on motion-controls. I get that this was Nintendo’s primary focus back in 2011, and it led to them selling a phenomenal number of Wii consoles and capturing a huge portion of the casual market, but for me the motion controls just detracted from the experience. It had some great ideas – with the 1:1 motion tracking allowing you to target specific body parts or attack enemies in specific patterns based on their orientation – but even the Wii Motion Plus wasn’t able to make this system seamless and the game would occasionally misread or completely ignore some of my attacks. Admittedly 90% of the time it would respond correctly, but a fail rate of 10% is far too high for an action-adventure game like The Legend of Zelda, and being defeated by a boss through no fault of your own can lead to some Wii Remote shattering frustration. However, the motion controls do add some value, with the Hook Beetle making particularly good use of their inclusion, as you use the Wii Remote to guide this flying mechanical Beetle through narrow spaces or over chasms to hit switches or collect far-off items, but I often found myself wish I could use the control-stick to aim the bow and Clawshot instead of having to constantly point the controller at the TV like a fool.
All things considered, Skyward Sword is an adequate Zelda game, it’s just hindered by its reliance on motion controls and mechanics that haven’t been significantly improved upon since 1998. By no means is it a bad game – and if it shipped under a different name then I’d probably be in love – but for a game that supposedly took five years to develop, it genuinely feels like it was rushed to market in less than two years. The fact is that the Zelda franchise has set the bar so high, that the disappointing installments feel even more lacklustre than they otherwise would. I’m hoping that the Wii U Zelda game (due out later this year) drastically alters the Zelda formula and gives us the next-gen Zelda game we’ve been waiting for since Twilight Princess.
Bungie took home the ‘Best Game’ award at the 2015 BAFTAs for their highly controversial 2015 space epic, Destiny.
Destiny was an extremely polarising title upon its release, and while I enjoyed it immensely it was met with a lot of derision from sections of the gaming community that felt short changed by the game’s lack of story content, repetitive mission structure, and lack of MMO mechanics.
Despite enjoying Destiny, I would have preferred to see the award go to Shadow of Mordor, an often overlooked title that introduced the ‘Nemesis System’; a mechanic that dynamically created characters, stories and social hierarchies that were unique to your playthrough. While Destiny was ambitious, it ultimately failed to deliver on its promises, while Shadow of Mordor brought us new ideas that couldn’t be achieved on previous generation hardware, and it would have been nice for Monolith Productions to receive some recognition for this.
Regardless, I’m still of the (unpopular) opinion that Destiny is a worthy winner.
The full list of winners can be found below:
- Best Game: Destiny (Bungie)
- Games Fellowship: David Braben
- Artistic Achievement: Lumino City (State of Play Games)
- Game Innovation: The Vanishing of Ethan Carter (The Astronauts)
- Audio Achievement: Alien: Isolation (Creative Assembly)
- Mobile & Handheld: Monument Valley (Ustwo)
- Multiplayer: Hearthstone: Heroes of Warcraft (Blizzard)
- Music: Far Cry 4 (Ubisoft Montreal – Cliff Martinez, Tony Gronick, Jerome Angelot)
- Original IP: Valiant Hearts (Ubisoft Montpellier – Yoan Fanise, Paul Tumelaire, Simon Choquet)
- Performer: Ashley Johnson (Ellie, The Last of Us: Left Behind)
- Game Design: Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor (Monolith Productions)
- Story: The Last of Us: Left Behind (Naughty Dog – Neil Druckmann)
- Family: Minecraft Console Editions (Mojang)
- Sport: OlliOlli (Roll7 – John Ribbins, Simon Bennett, Tom Hegarty)
- Persistent Game: League of Legends (Riot Games)
- Debut Game: Never Alone (Upper One Games)
- British Game: Monument Valley (Ustwo)
- Ones to Watch: Chambara (Overly Kinetic)
Sega, a company that helped define the video game industry in the early 90s, has announced plans to restructure with a series of cuts that will see the company withdraw from the console gaming market.
Around 300 jobs are likely to be lost as the firm shifts its focus towards the flourishing mobile market and merchandising of the iconic Sonic brand.
The cuts will also see the closure of Sega’s San Francisco base. The company stated: “In the U.S., Sega of America, based in San Francisco will be relocated to Southern California by this summer and its existing office in San Francisco will be closed thereafter, which results in reducing fixed expenses, mainly in corporate functions. In addition, the Sonic and merchandising businesses will be reinforced to establish a structure which can generate stable profits.”
It’s no secret that both Sega and the Sonic franchise has been in the doldrums for over a decade; Sonic ’06 is one of the most derided games in recent memory, and Sonic Team somehow managed to find new lows with 2014’s Sonic Boom. Combine that with the circumstances surrounding the release of Aliens: Colonial Marines, and it’s easy to see how Sega has managed find itself in the mire.
But Sonic is an icon of the industry, and a company mascot that once went toe-to-toe with the portly plumber himself. It’s a sad day when an industry monolith has to step back from the platforms and experiences that it helped define in favour of a mobile market that lacks the nostalgic affection that console gamers undoubtedly have for the fast blue hedgehog.
Here’s hoping the likes of Nintendo will be able to purchase some of Sega’s better properties – most notably the Bayonetta franchise – although it’s unlikely we’ll see Sonic himself moving to pastures new anytime soon.
Two top games reviewed in 24 hours. Here’s a review round-up for Resident Evil mastermind Shinji Mikami’s latest game, The Evil Within. While the reviews aren’t as overwhelmingly positive as they were for Bayonetta 2, The Evil Within certainly seems like a game worth picking up for fans of the survival horror genre and Shinji Mikami’s previous work.
“Horror fans shouldn’t let the disappointing story deter them one bit, however. Few Paranormal Activity fans care how these malevolent demons come back again and again – what truly matters is that the audience’s nerves are frayed until they’re raw. The Evil Within excels at keeping your palms sweaty while delivering a harrowingly rewarding gameplay trial. Watching the credits roll with a sigh of relief doesn’t feel like winning; it feels like surviving.”
“The Evil Within is a brutal, challenging, and remarkably fun game. Its eerie world and imaginative enemies are genuinely frightening, and the scares are heightened significantly by the scarcity of resources at your disposal. It keeps the odds stacked against you to the point that they often feel insurmountable, yet it’s finely tuned to ensure that they never really are, as long as you can keep a cool head and a steady aim in the face of building panic. While its story ends up buckling under its own ambition, there is little here that takes away from the joy of experiencing survival horror under the steady hand of a master of the craft.”
“Evil Within just plain doesn’t give you a fair chance to succeed. It doesn’t provide enough information for you to make good decisions and it handicaps your ability to fight well. It requires so much repetition that it can’t possibly maintain any sense of tension or unease, and its story is told so aimlessly that you’ll likely forget the plot between scenes. It manages a few moments of inspiration, but their scarcity makes them feel like fortunate accidents rather than deliberate elements of the overall design. It’s covered in blood, but the only thing truly horrifying about The Evil Within is how disappointing it is.”
“The Evil Within has great moments where the excellent combat and creepy environmental design come together. But those moments are fleeting, inevitably sapped of their delightful terror by design choices that feel trapped in the glory days of a decade ago. There’s something to be said for respecting your past successes and building off of them, but The Evil Within is only ever completely successful at half of that equation.”
“At its controller clutching best, The Evil Within evokes memories of Silent Hill’s high points – but it’s the Resident Evil comparisons that are most consistent throughout. Unfair difficulty spikes swap out the title’s pervading sense of fear for outright frustration at times, while technical issues undo the developer’s outstanding art direction. Thankfully, legendary director Shinji Mikami doesn’t disappoint in the gameplay department, forcing you to get creative with your plentiful combat options due to an unending absence of resources. It’s here that developer Tango Gameworks finds the breathless brilliance within.”
“Despite borrowing a lot of well-worn themes from other games and movies (Hello, creepy shop mannequins from Silent Hill), The Evil Within feels fresh and exciting. It’s easy to recommend to fans of the original Dead Space and the earlier Resident Evil games.”
“At times it feels like a Mikami megamix: it has the village with the chainsaw-wielding dude, another mansion, etc. But Mikami does this so well it’s difficult to get annoyed. It’s not unusual for directors in either film or games to recall past glories, and few do it better than Mikami. Even though this isn’t his best, The Evil Within has enough magic to make it a worthy investment.”
“Yes, The Evil Within is a determinedly old-fashioned game (even the washed out, near-monochrome visuals don’t exactly scream “next-gen” at you). But it’s a rare treat in a fast-twitch world for those who view themselves as survival horror aficionados.
“And beyond the gameplay, it serves up a more than respectable helping of pure, if at times rather off-the-wall, horror. If that’s what you seek, and are prepared to accept a bit of clunkiness as a trade-off, you will love it.”
“Rather than the future of survival horror this is merely a retread of its defining moments, and even then it rarely manages to equal what has gone before – let alone exceed it.”
“While certainly not reaching the great heights that this wonderful director has reached in his past, he has certainly taken the elements that have worked for him over the years and placed almost all of them into The Evil Within. The result is a very enjoyable, terrifying albeit muddled experience which I would still highly recommend to fans of horror games or of the world of the great Shinji Mikami.”
“Evil Within grafts Resident Evil 4’s gold standard survival action to a far less forgiving world. That it even comes close to matching Capcom’s masterpiece is cause to celebrate. And sweat. And quiver.”
The Bayonetta 2 reviews are now surfacing ahead of the game’s October 24th release, and the verdicts seems to be overwhelmingly positive, receiving numerous 9s and 10s from some of the industry’s biggest outlets.
“Bayonetta is is a must buy for any action gaming fans. It’s fast, intense and ridiculous, all with an entertaining story and a protagonist that is forever subverting and playing with her audience. It’s pure Platinum Games, too, which means it’ll likely be adored by its converts and ignored by too many — we hope that won’t happen, as what we have here is one of the Wii U’s best games, and a rare arrival on the system that’s unashamedly violent, gory and mature, while still mischievously winking at the watching world. Bayonetta 2 is brilliant, brash and impossible to ignore.”
“Bayonetta 2’s combat design remains robust enough to be a very strong main attraction. But any emotions stirred up during my time with Bayonetta wound up feeling shallow. I’m glad for those times when I kicked ass in a stylish manner but still found myself bemoaning the terrible storytelling I endured to do that. If Platinum somehow manages to shore up those failings, the next encounter with Bayonetta won’t just be a pantomine of lust. It might turn into love.”
“When Bayonetta came out in 2010, I thought it was nearly perfect. Four years later and Platinum hasn’t lost its edge with Bayonetta 2. It’s just as stylish and as fun as ever, and a must-buy for action fans who own a Wii U.”
“Bayonetta 2’s combat is so expertly constructed, and its presentation so joyously insane, that you’d have to try so very hard to get bored of it all. In a year filled with the promise of ever more elaborate experiences on all the shiny new hardware, that Bayonetta 2–a homage to classic game design and escapism–should be the most fun I’ve had playing a game all year is unexpected. But maybe it shouldn’t have been. After all, its predecessor still stands as one of the finest games of its genre. To have surpassed that with Bayonetta 2, and to have created a game that will be remembered as an absolute classic, is nothing short of astonishing.”
“We didn’t need a Bayonetta sequel, we needed this gracious evolution of style and execution, an injection of loving new content into a game that always felt as though it deserved more, even after we’d rinsed it clean. It might be an expansion pack, but it’s quite possibly the best one ever made.”
“The rhythm of combat remains the same, though it’s hard to complain when it’s riffing off such a heady beat, where chimed enemy attacks are lithely dodged into slo-mo pugilism, where impossible combos culminate with a 20-foot boot weaved from hair crashing from the heavens and where spinning amidst the avalanche of colour and cartoon violence is Bayonetta herself, stopping only briefly to wink at a player exhausted by the unrelenting joy of it all. Bayonetta 2’s biggest disappointment may be that it’s an iterative sequel, but it’s not such a problem when it’s iterating on genius.”
“Bayonetta 2 is sheer class. Yes, it takes a little too long to get going, given its length, but the final four hours are relentlessly, breathlessly exceptional. Granted, it’s all just ‘more of the same’ with a shorter haircut, but we’re talking about more of one of the best games ever made. And seeing as the Special Edition of Bayonetta 2 comes with a Wii U conversion of that gorgeous original, Nintendo certainly has the ultimate Bayonetta experience in its portfolio. And that’s something it should boast about as loudly as possible.”
“Sure, it’s a sequel, but it’s a sequel to what has stood, for almost five years, as the best game of its type ever made. Until now, that is. Sega’s loss is Nintendo’s gain: Bayonetta, twirling away from a gigantic demon’s maw and smacking the highest choir of angels on the nose, has just given Wii U its first true classic.”
“I won’t guess why the blatant over-sexualization is still there, often more intensely than before. But it causes an otherwise great game to require a much bigger mental compromise to enjoy.”
“Bayonetta 2 is the perfect action game. It oozes style and boasts gameplay that’s both refined and lacking in excess. The combat is so purely entertaining that it’s easy to lose yourself in the almost-zen flow of dodging, countering and kicking enemies to death. Bayonetta 2 rewards a player’s drive to look as cool as possible in combat with gameplay designed for exactly that – and with the acrobatic violence of a winking heroine who is as legitimately endearing as she is completely ludicrous. Even if Bayonetta 2 did not include an enhanced remake of its predecessor, it would launch as one of the Wii U’s best games, but this generous inclusion pushes Platinum’s first sequel into no-brainer territory for anyone with even the slightest affection for action games. If you bought the Wii U months ago explicitly in anticipation of Bayonetta 2, congratulations, your decision has paid off in spades.”
“Bayonetta 2 is amongst the most refined and dynamic action games to appear on any console, taking the best parts of the original game and building upon them. It is crazy, chaotic and characterful and a genuine pleasure to play. Whether it can be a system seller for Nintendo is questionable as its delights are possibly not entirely mainstream, but for fans of the original and the genre it should certainly make a Wii U a very tempting proposition.”
“Bayonetta 2 is a system seller. It’s a Nintendo-published game that is rarely seen, and a game that will legitimately make non-Wii U owners jealous. It’s everything I want from a hardcore Nintendo title, offering genre-leading combat and eye-popping visual spectacle. The fact that Bayonetta 2 delivers the goods is no surprise. Nintendo being the firm behind its continued survival, however, is a surprise we should be very grateful for.”
“Creating a sequel to an already-polished game is a challenge, but Platinum Games’ approach ultimately succeeds. Bayonetta 2 is rooted in its past while taking steps (but not strides) toward the future. Though I was disappointed by some of the familiarity, I was usually having too much fun to care.”
“Bayonetta 2 is surprising. Some of that is because it is an M-rated Wii U exclusive. It’s also because it is a good game in a genre that doesn’t seem long for this world. With everything moving open-world and online, Platinum is still sticking to it’s area of expertise. And it’s working.
“I don’t know if I’ll ever need a Bayonetta 3, but I’m certainly glad that I got to play Bayonetta 2.”
“A fantastic sequel, whose improvements may be relatively subtle but are more than enough to confirm Bayonetta 2 as one of the greatest action games ever made.”
“Every aspect of Bayonetta 2 feels polished and focused. At times, the writing feels ridiculous, but I still love how it plays. The superb pacing and combat are just that good. By the end I was convinced: This sequel builds on everything that made the original great, and delivers one of the most satisfying action games I’ve played.”
“Bayonetta 2 doesn’t drastically change the already wacky formula that the first game introduced, but it’s a bigger and more nuanced version of its predecessor. It’s also the best game of its kind in years. If you’ve ever enjoyed this breed of reflex-heavy, hyperactive, ludicrous action game, Bayonetta 2 is a no-brainer.”
2014 is undoubtedly the year of Smash Bros, with two brand new installments in the franchise, the series’ first foray onto handheld consoles, unprecedented hype, and the largest roster of any Smash Bros. title. All it took was a simple demo release to see all avenues of the internet light up with Let’s Plays and analysis of Nintendo’s next big fighter.
‘The Smash Brothers’ is a 9 nine-part documentary series created by East Point Pictures and follows the competitive Super Smash Bros. Melee community, highlighting the myriad of interesting personalities, the drama, the East Coast / West Coast rivalry and the struggle to get Melee featured on the grand stages of Evo and MLG.
It’s a wonderfully produced series, and quite possibly one of the best eSports / video game documentaries available (alongside Valve’s ‘Free to Play’ DOTA 2 documentary), treating its subject matter with a respect and understanding that probably wouldn’t be afforded by a mainstream media outlet
Highlights for me have to be KDJ’s introduction in the first episode, Isai’s story, the rise of Mango and the general history of Nintendo’s flagship fighting franchise.
So what better time than now to delve into the history of the franchise and the community of people that have kept an aging GameCube game relevant 13 years after its release?
Between Nintendo’s overzealous Nintendo directs and general promotion, the release of the 3DS demo, and a number of leaks, we now have a full list of characters that will be appearing in the upcoming Smash Bros. games for 3DS and Wii U. Needless to say, look away now if you’d prefer to experience the game
All the usual names are there, along with a plentiful selection of new additions. One of the poster boys from Pokemon X & Y – Greninja – makes his Smash Bros. debut, Pac-Man’s sure to eat his way to the top, Mega Man finally joins the roster after much clamouring from fans, and (bizarrely) the Duck Hunt Dog has been included, leaving me baffled as to how Nintendo are going to shoehorn a moveset onto a character that never did anything other than collect dead ducks and laugh.
- Princess Peach
- Game & Watch
- Donkey Kong
- Diddy Kong
- Princess Zelda
- Toon Link
- Zero Suit Samus
- King DeDeDe
- Meta Knight
- Captain Falcon
- Dr. Mario
- Bowser Jr.
- Little Mac
- Duck Hunt Dog
- Wii Fit Trainer
- Dark Pit
- Mega Man
Despite the hefty total of 49 fighters, some characters from previous installments have still been left out in the cold, most notably Star Wolf (though not particularly surprising considering his similarities to Fox McCloud and Falco Lombardi), fan favourite Ice Climbers, the oft-requested Mewtwo, and Snake of Konami’s Metal Gear Solid series.
Super Smash Bros. launches for 3DS on the 3rd of October in the UK, with a release date for the Wii U version yet to be announced.