Metro Redux Hits Stores August 26th

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Deep Silver just announced today that we can expect to see the forthcoming remastered edition of Metro Redux on August 26th. From the press release:

The boxed copy of Metro Redux contains remastered versions of both Metro 2033 and Metro: Last Light, with all previously released add-on content. Both campaigns can be tackled in ‘Spartan’ or ‘Survival’ play styles, and the legendary Ranger Mode is also included in both games. Metro 2033 Redux and Metro: Last Light Redux are also available separately as digital download only.

As I’ve already said, I am really excited about playing these games again in their new, shiny forms. Can’t wait!

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Review: Watch Dogs

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[Since this game came out nearly a month ago, this review will have some minor spoilers]

Review Platform: Xbox One

Watch Dogs has been long-believed to be the vanguard of the “next generation.” Since it’s announcement at E3 2012, the game has ridden an ever-growing hype train for nearly two years. Despite a long delay, and it’s release not coinciding with the launch of the Xbox One or the PS4, Watch Dogs has still sold incredibly well and ensures that this will be an ongoing Ubisoft franchise for the foreseeable future. But the question remains: does it deserve the hype? In a word, no; but that doesn’t mean it’s a bad game. Is it the vanguard of the next generation? Again, no. It does some new things, but still finds itself chained to the rules and legacy of past open-world games.

With Watch Dogs, I feel like I’m playing a game that was trying to figure out it’s own identity. Almost like it’s not sure what it wants to be. Is it a Grand Theft Auto clone? Is it a futuristic Assassin’s Creed? Both valid questions, and the answer is partially yes on both counts. The game plays very similarly to another Ubisoft blockbuster, Assassin’s Creed. The platforming/parkour functions the same way (hold the trigger to run, and hold “B” or “O” to parkour). The missions also have a very similar format. There are a variety of missions, ranging from stopping random crimes, halting criminal convoys, and even climbing buildings to open up more of the map. Some of those sound familiar? The map layout and mission structure reeks of Assassin’s Creed, to the point where I felt like I was playing an Assassin’s Creed spin-off, and not an original IP. Outside of the missions, the actual gameplay functions just fine. Gunplay works well, and popping off headshots in the prerequisite slow motion is satisfying. Driving is passable, but it feels very similar to the floaty driving mechanics of GTA IV. I often found myself opting for trucks and SUVs, just to have a vehicle with some stability. This caused frustration frequently, as many of the side missions, and some of the campaign missions, rely on precision driving, which can be very difficult when saddled with a performance car that has almost no handling. I found many of these missions to be pointless, and didn’t fit very well into the overall story.

The story of Watch Dogs is another part of this game that can’t quite figure out what it wants to be. Aiden Pearce, the protagonist, is the vigilante known as ‘The Fox.’ After a tragic event caused by Aiden pissing off the wrong people, Aiden is out for revenge. He is meant to be a good guy, an almost Batman-like character, but I constantly found myself thinking Aiden Pearce is just not a good guy. My confusion came with constant bouts of whiplash. One minute, Pearce is breaking up a sex trafficking ring, and the next he is hacking money out of the phones of single mothers. One minute, he is saving a random NPC from a mugging, and the next he is spying on civilians through their webcams, for no discernible reason. Granted, some of these more “shady” side activities are optional, but if you are a completionist, like me, you do everything. This made me constantly unsure as to whether I should like Aiden Pearce or not. Later in the game, he is proclaimed as a hero to many of Chicago’s citizens, including the police force, even though you are regularly outrunning them and destroying their cars.

I found the main story of Watch Dogs to be very bland. Broken up into five acts, the story doesn’t really get going until the end of act 4, which is very close to the end of the game. There are a couple of moments in there that are memorable, and the cutscenes are fairly well-acted. Most of the characters, including Pearce, are fairly one-dimensional. I never got very invested in any of them, and even when certain character(s) met untimely demises, I found myself unaffected. All in all, the game ends on a decent note. All of the loose ends are tied up, and nicely sets us up for a sequel.

Overall, I was okay with Watch Dogs. It is a solid experience that lasted me roughly 20 hours, which I mostly enjoyed. It doesn’t really do much that’s new, other than the hacking mechanic, which simply boils down to tapping or holding “X/Square” a lot, and the story is nothing to write home about. It is not that “next-gen” experience that every one is hoping for, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t worth a play through. I’d give it a shot, but keep your expectations a little lower.

Final Score: 3/5

Nintendo: The Comeback Kid

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As I was browsing the internet this morning, as I am wont to do, I came across a briefing of the NPD’s from May of this year. The headline of the article was about the continued dominance of the PlayStation 4 console. These stats didn’t surprise me too much, given Sony’s strong presence at E3 last year, and constant positive PR before the console came out. These things, combined with a lower price tag, have caused Sony to surge ahead of the previously dominant Microsoft and their console, the Xbox One.

These stats notwithstanding, there was a data point that I found to be far more interesting. Nintendo’s console, the Wii U, had a HUGE surge in the month of May as well. Due to the extreme interest and praise of Mario Kart 8, the Wii U jumped 85% in sales, despite Mario Kart 8 only being available for the last two days of May. What does this tell me? Several things. First off, consumers, and this includes me, were far too hard and judgmental on the Wii U when the console launched. In our defense, they had several things working against them. They released a “next-gen” console that was no more powerful than an Xbox 360, which launched in 2005. Also, the game selection was poor, to say the least. They had a couple of solid titles, including ZombiU and Nintendoland, but that was about it. There was a very slow trickle of games beyond that, including Pikmin 3. Now, with the release of Mario Kart 8, and Nintendo’s dominance at E3 this year, I can easily see Nintendo bouncing back from the initially poor sales of the Wii U.

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Everywhere I turn (on the internet), it seems like everyone is jumping on the Wii U train. The amount of people buying Wii U solely to play the new Mario Kart is staggering, and the numbers prove that. On top of that, with the imminent release of a new Super Smash Bros., which includes the ability to play with a classic Gamecube controller, Nintendo is set up to dominate the holiday season. THAT, is the power of a strong, and long lasting first party. I, myself, plan to buy Wii U within the next six months. How about you?

What I Got From E3 2014

Prior to E3 2014, I wrote up a brief list of things that I wanted out of E3 2014. How many of those things came true? Let’s run down the list and find out.

1) Exclusive Titles
We got some of this. We’re getting a new Crackdown from Microsoft and Sony is really banking on The Order: 1886. Both games will probably be great. We saw a lot more exclusives on the indie side, however, this both companies showing off a deluge of exclusive titles that we’ll be seeing later this year and into 2015. Nintendo, though, was the true victor in the category. They showed of a staggering amount of Wii U and 3DS exclusives, all of which look stellar. Overall, it was a decent showing in this category.

2) Fallout 4
Nothing. Nada. Zip. Not acknowledged in the slightest. Disappointing, but not surprising.

3) The Last Guardian
This was a huge surprise to me. We didn’t hear a peep from Sony about The Last Guardian. Not even a joking mention of the, most likely, bogus article from IGN about the game being cancelled. Maybe we’ll see something at Tokyo Game Show or Gamescon? For now, the mystery continues.

4) Dashboard Update For Xbox One
This one was a long shot, but we are getting a cool update next month. I previously posted about the July update, which will include “Snappable Achievements” and other features. Not the overhaul I was hoping for, but it’s a step in the right direction.

5) Kirby For Wii U
We’re getting one! Kirby and the Rainbow Curse will be dropping on the Wii U in 2015!

6) Jack Tretton

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Need I say more?

7) Long Gameplay Demo Of Metal Gear Solid v
This wasn’t at the press conferences, but it was definitely at the show. Multiple media outlets wrote about seeing a half-hour demo of the game, and seemed quite pleased. We did get a fantastic trailer , though. I NEED THIS GAME NOW.

8) 2014 Launches
2014 is still looking to be a fairly strong year for the new consoles. We’ll be getting titles like Sunset Overdrive, Destiny, The Evil Within and Shadow of Mordor this year, among others. It’s nothing compared to the release calendar of 2015, but it’s still looking solid.

9) Halo 5 Gameplay
We did not get this at all, but we did get a brief teaser trailer, the announcement of The Master Chief Collection and the promise of the Halo 5 beta starting this winter. None of it is Halo 5, but these announcements will definitely tide us over.

All in all, I thought it was a pretty great E3. We’ve got a huge amount of awesome games coming, and all three companies showed very well. The rest of 2014 and all of 2015 are going to be great.

A Great New Feature Coming For Xbox One Snap Interface

Xbox Live’s Major Nelson just tweeted:

What does this mean? Major Nelson sums it up on his blog really well:

Snap Mode for Achievements. As we showed at our E3 Green Carpet event before the show, we’re offering an easier way to track and view your achievements in the moment. With Achievement Snap, you can track your achievement progress in real time without ever leaving the game. You can also ‘Get Help’ on any Achievements you’re struggling with. Xbox will scan the web for you and deliver relevant tips and strategy content right to your TV.
Double-tap to Snap. Double-tap the button on your controller to bring up Snap Center, where you can launch Achievements or any other snap-able app, without leaving your game. Already have an app snapped? Double-tap quickly switches between your game and the snapped app.
Choice of Spoken Language. Folks in New Zealand, Ireland and Austria, with this update in July, will be able to select voice control using the English or German voice models from other countries. And if you’re an expat in an English-speaking country, you, too, can choose any of the other English language models that fit you.
Future Digital Bundles and Compilation Discs. We’re doing some work now so that publishers will have options for great digital bundle and disc compilation offerings in the future. As we test this feature, we’ll be seeing more flexible combinations of game titles and game content.
‘Like’ Game DVR clips. We’re adding the ability to ‘Like’ all your favorite Game DVR clips as well as activity feed items in SmartGlass.

Major Nelson even made a trailer, showcasing the snapping of achievements:

This will be a part of the Xbox One’s July update. Microsoft has been great about dropping monthly updates to improve their console. I hope it continues for some time.

E3 2014: No Man’s Sky

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Prior to E3, I did not have this game on my radar. Though it was announced last year, I had not looked into Hello Games’ No Man’s Sky whatsoever. Now I have, and I am so excited about the potential for this game. I couldn’t possibly explain the entire premise of the game here, but the brief description off the game’s website does it pretty well:

“No Man’s Sky is a game about exploration and survival in an infinite procedurally generated universe. “

If that doesn’t get you excited, here are some of the key features of the game:

◾A TRULY OPEN UNIVERSE If you can see it, you can go there. You can fly seamlessly from the surface of a planet to another, and every star in the sky is a sun that you can visit.
◾EXPLORATION IS SEEING THINGS THAT NO-ONE ELSE HAS EVER SEEN BEFORE Every creature, geological formation, plant and spaceship is unique.
◾SURVIVE ON A DANGEROUS FRONTIER You are alone and vulnerable, and will face threat everywhere, from deep space to thick forests, barren deserts to dark oceans.
◾BUILD FOR AN EPIC JOURNEY Collect precious materials and trade them for better spacecraft and upgrades for your suit and equipment.
◾PARALLEL UNIVERSES Choose to share your discoveries with other players, or not. You will never see another player, but you could make your mark on their worlds as well as your own.

This game is launching as a timed exclusive on the PS4, but I would not be surprised to see this game make it’s way onto the Xbox One soon after. I haven’t been this excited about an entirely new IP in quite some time. Feel free to check out the gorgeous screenshots and the E3 2014 trailer.

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Creature

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E3 2014: Kirby and the Rainbow Curse

The Wii U is finally getting it’s first Kirby game, in the form of Kirby and the Rainbow Curse. Touted as a spiritual successor to the DS game, Kirby: Canvas Curse, Rainbow Curse allows you to draw on the Wii U gamepad to guide Kirby through the world. Here are some quotes from the press release.

• Kirby comes to life in a world of clay, which creates a beautiful
backdrop for Kirby’s adventure.
• You take control of Kirby with the stroke of a stylus and draw on
the GamePad touch screen to guide Kirby through the world.
• Use the GamePad to control Kirby’s many transformations in
unique new ways.
• The intuitive drawing mechanic is a spiritual successor to
Kirby: Canvas Curse for Nintendo DS that builds on the game
play and takes it in a new direction.

This is one of my favorite announcments from E3, and makes me want to buy a Wii U even more. Expect to see this out sometime in 2015. For now, enjoy the trailer!

E3 2014: Star Wars Battlefront [3]

We got yet another teaser trailer yesterday for EA’s entry in the Star Wars Battlefront franchise. You see only a tiny bit of, albeit extremely early, gameplay, but at least we know that it is still coming. This is actually more of a developer vid doc than a trailer, but for a Star Wars nerd like me, it’s more than enough.

E3 2014: Dead Island 2

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In another surprise announcement, Deep Silver has revealed Dead Island 2, the sequel to the surprise-hit original, Dead Island. I really loved the first few hours of the original Dead Island. The gorgeous resort setting sharply contrasted with the horrific events occurring on the island. Beyond the resort, I didn’t care much for the game, and wound up never finishing it. The difficulty spikes suddenly as soon as you leave the resort, causing the game to become frustrating and to highlight it’s flaws in the combat and traversal. If those issues are fixed, I’m willing to give Dead Island 2 a shot. Check out the box art and trailer below.

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