Wednesday, 23 July 2014

Jak 3


      With Jak II, Naughty dog decided to complete reinvent one of their most accomplished games in the name of trying something new and exciting, resulting in a rough but very good game. The contrast between Jak II and 3 may not be as obvious, but is instead spread throughout the game in smaller ways. Except for the very big, obvious change that comes right at the beginning of the game and kinda invalidates this opening paragraph.
         Jak II started players in a very familiar location and environment – Sandover Village – before throwing them for a loop and pushing the more gritty and grim Haven City in our faces. Jak 3 goes a different route – starting the game reveals that basically everything you were accustomed to in the second game has been thrown out the window. This is especially true if you skip the pre-menu cinematic that actually gives you all the important plot details rather than skipping to the more interesting parts.
         After the end of Jak II things go horribly wrong for Haven City. The Metal Heads, angered by the death of their leader, have launched a full assault on the city, claiming a district for themselves. The Krimson Guard have returned as a robotic army, launched from a floating factory that hovers high above the city. The Freedom Guard – the replacement Krimson Guard – are hard pressed to fend off their foes, and the city’s population demands someone be held responsible. They choose Jak (Mike Erwin).
          Under the command of Count Veger (Phil LaMarr), Jak and Daxter (Max Casella) have been exiled to the Wasteland, a harsh and cruel desert many times the size of Haven City. Joining them is Pecker (Chris  Cox), a monkey bird (or bird monkey) that helped out through the second game. Ashelin (Susan Eisenberg) sends Jak off with a remote beacon, which leads the Wastelanders to the trio.
                Damas (Bumper Robinson), leader of the Wastelanders, sees potential in Jak, and decides to let the two of the live in exchange for their services and places them under the watchful eyes of Kleiver (Brian Bloom). The pair also find themselves being watched by the strange monk Seem (Tara Strong).
                Intent on returning the city to save it and take vengeance on Veger, Jak and Daxter accept their place in the wasteland.  However, a strange light in the sky hangs over them, for the Dark Precursors are coming, intent on destroying everything.

                Whilst Jak 3 has a lot of new information and plot to take in at an early point in the game, it helpfully divides this up into small chunks that gives plenty of opportunity for the player to actually play the game, pacing the game out pretty well from the get go. With the exception of the very long pre-menu cinematic (which leads up to Jak being saved by the Wastelanders), all the cutscenes are kept to as short a length as they need to be, often being balanced out with plenty of moments for characters to offer humorous asides (a great deal of effort seems to have been put into making sure Jak 3 has more humour to it than its predecessor).
                We get re-introduced to the basic game controls very early on, with the first gameplay section being a very quick obstacle/ gun range that gentle eases you into the gameplay, with the second and third missions providing vehicle tutorials. Well, technically the third mission is a minigame, but I figured that doesn’t really count.
                Immediately, you have two new areas to explore; Spargus City, home of the Wastelanders and the Wasteland itself. Spargus isn’t a huge location, but it has plenty littered around it, from Precursor Orbs to Side quests. The Wasteland is more barren in terms of additional content (though there are plenty of side quests and records to break here later), and is more a hazardous hub for levels.
                Both of these areas, however, use the same basic design philosophy that is spread throughout Naughty Dog’s other games – each environment contains many smaller areas that differ in terrain and nature whilst adhering to the same theme as the main area. Spargus is less varied, but the two major areas noticeably have distinct and unique features to them. The Wasteland is filled with different areas, from oasis to ruined towns, and it’s clear that a lot has been put into giving each sub-area its own unique assets.
                With the inclusion of new areas comes new vehicles. Zoomers and hovercars aren’t suited for the desert, and so dune buggies are the preferred wasteland vehicle. There’s a selection of about eight or so in the game, each with its own unique handling and features. There’s the basic buggy, which is about as average as possible, as well as more specialised vehicles, such as a buggy made for jumping distances or for being as durable and deadly as possible.
                In Spargus city itself, Leaper Lizards are a common mode of transport and racing. Moving at a surprisingly fast trot, Leapers get some good air from jumping and can hover for a second or two. You’ll need to use them to get to certain areas around Spargus, as well as for a lot of the racing and time trial side missions.
                Haven city makes a return as well, with very little in terms of reuse from the previous game. The only area of Haven City that is unscathed by the war is the Port district, but the rest of the city has been substantially altered to reflect the occupying forces and the damage from war. Ruined buildings block off paths, and the market districts have been obliterated by the Metal Heads, whilst the stadium and Palace are now shadows of their former selves.
                The city is more dangerous now as well. With half of the city under enemy occupation, you’ll find yourself being attacked on your way through the districts, besieged by robots or Metal Heads. Thankfully your allies won’t attack you if you hit them accidentally, but travelling through the city can be very dangerous. Especially when you’re trying to do side quests and your attention is elsewhere.
                In terms of gameplay, Jak 3 is almost identical to its predecessor, save for a few noteworthy changes. Jak now has access to more than four weapons, with each gun having two sub weapons, often completely altering the effect of the weapon.  For example, the shotgun can now be used as a charge, area of effect weapon or grenade launcher, or the minigun can shoot a ray of electricity or launch a drone. You activate these extra modes by simply pressing the corresponding button on the d-pad, with each upgrade requiring an extra push of that direction.
                Jak also has the ability to become Light Jak, an angelic version of himself to counter Dark Jak. Oddly, you activate this with the same button as Dark Jak (L1), but Light Jak is summoned by holding down L1 in combination with another button. Light Jak is primarily used as a support/ healing mode in contrast to Dark Jak’s more combat heavy play style, and strategic use of Light Jak makes some of the more difficult parts of the game more bearable. Thankfully, Naughty Dog fixed one of the more annoying aspects of Jak 2 by allowing you to turn off Light/ Dark Jak whenever you wish instead of waiting for the gauge to empty.
                Oh, and the hover board returns. Yay.
                Much like Jak II, a large emphasis has been put into the story of Jak 3. Although Jak 3’s story is narrower than II’s, it is better paced and has a lot more funny moments to it. It also has a better sense of reward to it as a result of the many upgrade you get through the game (gun, health and Light/ dark upgrades), promising that continued questing will result in new and cooler stuff.
                Jak 3 is also much more focused on character development for a few of its lead characters – Jak and Daxter, Seem, Veger,  and Damas being the main ones – resulting in a much better emotional attachment to the characters.  Unfortunately, this is partialy undone by the amount of returning characters that are largely ignored, such as Onin and Keira (who is now voiced by Tara Strong). Keira is perhaps the biggest misgiving, seeing as she was a major character in the previous games but is here waved aside in favour of Ashelin. It seems like a poor fate for an important character.
                Jak 3 also suffers slightly from the idea of cool scenarios being slightly more important than making narrative sense. This is mostly in relation to returning villain Errol (David Herman) who somehow survived his fate in Jak II and has returned as a malevolent cyborg that wants to destroy absolutely everything so he can… uh... destroy more stuff. His actual goal is a little unclear, as is why he’s still alive, why he has a robot army and just why he exists in this game. Errol’s purpose in the second game made sense – he wanted Jak dead to gain glory with Baron Praxis and out of jealousy of Jak and Keira’s relationship. In Jak 3, he just wants everything to be destroyed. Which sucks, because he’s otherwise a pretty effective villain and his design is great.
                To be honest, Errol is one of the only complaints I can draw with Jak 3. Everything else is superb and a vast improvement on Jak II, which in itself was a great game. Every flaw in Jak II is fixed – the controls are tighter, the vehicles control better, the difficulty has been fixed (especially in terms of the racing) and the game is just all around better. Except for Errol.
                The other complaint is that Jak 3 leaves a lot open that is never dealt with – much like Jak II did. There are a lot of teases that are never given proper closure, resulting in the series feeling as though it was ended prematurely. Unfortunately, I doubt Naughty Dog will ever go back to the Jak series, which leaves us with the rather unfortunate note of having Jak X and The Lost Frontier as sequels.
                No, I won’t talk about those two. You can’t make me.
                In conclusion, Jak 3 is an improvement upon an already excellent game. Exceptionally well-polished, precise platforming and beautiful to boot, Jak 3 was one of the best games on the PS2.
               
                On a side note, I want to reflect on how weirded out I am by Seem. I don’t know how to react to the character, mostly because I can’t work out what gender Seem is and how I should refer to him/her/it. I think I would be happier if the game knew how to react to Seem as well, since it makes several references to Seem being male despite the effeminate design and the directors of the game don’t seem to know either.
                On an extra side note, I mean no offense to gender neutral people. Gender vagueness just unsettles me slightly – the result of growing up in culture with very strict guides as to what each gender should look like.
                
          Also, 250th post! Yay!

Thursday, 17 July 2014

Jak II: Renegade


 So, remember last time when I said that Jak and Daxter was a tad too similar to Crash Bandicoot?
  Apparently Naughty Dog felt that way as well and decided to change things up a little. And by a 'little', I mean a lot.
     
      Jak II picks up not long after the end of the first game - if you don't want spoilers for a decade old game, skip the next couple of sentences - where the Precursor artifact discovered at the end of the first game (if you collected everything) has been moved to Sandover Village where Keira (Anna Garduno) has fixed it up as best as she can. Our heroes from the first game, along with Keira and Samos (Warren Burton) activate the strange device, which causes a portal to open and a massive swarm of monsters to pour forth. In a panic, our heroes hit random buttons, and get sent flying into the portal, the Precursor carriage they are in getting destroyed in the process.
         Our heroes find themselves in a strange city, a militant police force is waiting for them, andJak is taken into custody, Daxter (Max Casella) managing to escape.
          Two years pass, and Jak (Mike Erwin) is the subject of a great many torturous experiments under the hand of Baron Praxis (Clancy Brown) and his loyal Captain Errol (David Herman). Jak does not die, but instead finds himself empowered by the Dark Eco Praxis has been pumping into him, and, with Daxter's help, manages to escape.
           Our Heroes find themselves stuck in Haven City, a dystopian city ruled by the tyrannical Praxis and besieged by creatures known as Metal Heads. Jak and Daxter, with the help of  an old man named Kor (Sherman Howard) join up with a rebel organisation known as the Underground, headed by Torn (Cutter Garcia), Ashelin (Susan Eisenberg) and Tess (Britton A Hill), as well as the mysterious Shadow. Not content with one source of help, Jak becomes a mercenary for disgusting entrepreneur Krew (William Minkin) and forms close ties with fellow gun for hire Sig (Phil LaMarr). Now armed and dangerous, Jak begins to wreck his vengeance, all the while determined to find his way home.
            
            Okay, as you may have gathered, there have been significant changes between the two games. Jak is now a gun wielding gruff gun for hire, and the pleasant landscapes and scenery have been replaced with the dull greys and neon of a dying city. Naturally, the gameplay has evolved to accommodate this and Jak now has several new moves to allow for the expanded actions.
           From the moment you first acquire it, Jak is armed with a morph gun that can change into four different weapons - a shotgun, rifle, minigun, and the 'peacemaker', which fires an electrical ball that kills everything around it. Switching between these is easy - the direction buttons are mapped to a specific gun - and you fire with the R1 button. The guns automatically aim at enemies, so less effort is put into hitting things, and more into dodging enemy fire.
           Because of the large city map, Jak now has access to a variety of vehicles to help speed up travel. These are all variations of hover cars or Zoomers from the previous game, and each vehicle has its own specific traits - some are faster than other, some turn better, some are harder to destroy. You can piot these vehicles on two levels - you can either hover close to the ground, or fly above the ground with the rest of the traffic. You can also still fire from the vehicles, and military vehicles come with guns attached. Some vehicles allow for two people to sit in them, and are used in escort missions.
          There's also a hover board. It operates like a skateboard, and speeds up your travel slightly, and allows you to grind on rails. You can also do tricks on it, as well as attack enemies if you so wished. However, its not the easiest thing to control due to its large turning arch, so it's mostly useful in area of the city or levels where you have no access to vehicles.
           The last major gameplay change is the inclusion of Dark Jak, and alternate form that you can use once you collect enough Dark Eco. Dark Jak is stronger and faster than Jak's normal form, and can gain access to powerful moves by collecting Metal Head gems and trading with a Precursor Oracle.
         The games tasks have also been changed in keeping with the setting. Jak is given missions by wither the Underground or Krew, and goes to complete them. These missions can vary wildly in content and location - some missions will find you racing around the city to save people, others pit you in a jungle, fighting hordes of monsters. There's no set pattern to any of the missions, and each tends to rely on a different element of gameplay, giving the objectives plenty of variety.
         More variety comes later on, where story missions begin to involve minigames or racing, and you find that your soon incorporating every move Jak has into completeing missions.
        Since the game is more open world, the story often seems less urgent and occasionally pushed to the side. We are reminded constantly what we are fighting for and Jak's motivations, but the games structure often leads to you occasionally pursuing a seemingly random cause for some segments. Part of this is due to the fact that some missions can be tackled out of order, and you occasionally get certain plot points given to out of order as a result, making some tasks seem rather odd. Then there are missions that just seem to come out of nowhere and really offer very little other than a little more gameplay.
        The game does have some nice touches in it's delivery of story, though, where random game dialogue changes to reflect what Jak has done throughout the game. This is a nice little reminder that you're actually having an effect on the game world, and makes your task seem less fruitless.
         As much variety as there is in the main campaign, there is also plenty found in the side missions. Whilst many of the side missions are based on previous story missions, they tend to be altered to make them more challenging by adding time limits to missions, or requiring you to memorise areas and mission routes.
         Your reward for beating side missions comes in the form of Precursor orbs from the previous game, which are now used to unlock bonus features. Some of these are simply graphical tweaks (flipped world, big heads, etc), but others unlock more useful or interesting features, such as infinite ammo or art galleries. There are some orbs floating around in levels, and you also gain them from breaking racing and gun range records.
          As with the previous game, a lot of effort has been put into the writing in order to provide an interesting story as well as plenty of humour. Whilst Jak runs around growling at everything, Daxter constantly provides a dose of comic relief, whether it be poking fun at Krew's (excessive) weight or flirting with Tess by exaggerating his feats. There's also a nice little dig at the 'objective complete' cutscene from the previous game.
            Jak II also has the distinction of looking very good for a PS2 game, and the same artstyle from the first game has been reused here, giving everything a slightly cartoonish appearance and making for one  of the more visually interesting fictional cities in gaming, This is helped by every area being tweaked enough to prevent too much repetition or reusing of assets, making Jak II one of the most visually varied games on the PS2. Character models also look fantastic, and are animated incredibly well with a fluidity often ignored by game designers. I will pick fault with the design of Ashelin, as her eyes seem to be far too triangular, causing her to always have an appearance of looking in a different direction when seen from certain angles.
         Overall, Jak II is an incredibly solid game and builds mechanically from the first one to create a much larger, more detailed and varied world. Almost every technical problem present in the original has been removed or polished, resulting in superior gameplay.
         
         Unfortunately, Jak II also stumbles over itself at times too.
          The game is often unfairly hard, and you will spend a lot of time repeating certain sections because the game expects perfection from the player. You need to memorise specific patterns in order to succeed in parts of the game, including the optimal places to make turns and the easiest path to the objective. Checkpoints are also very sparse, leading to some levels thrusting you back to the beginning at the halfway/ three quarter mark. 
               This is especially true if you're trying to get the rewards for breaking records in races, where you need to learn the best places to take turns, where and when you can use boosts, and how to deal with the annoyingly good AI. There also seems to be an element of randomness to the racing physics, where the same event often results in a different reaction. There have been several instances where a boost jump has sent my flying perfectly over a pit, whilst others - same place, same time, same speed - have sent me falling to my doom or overflying and exploding against a wall.
             There are also several glitches present in Jak II that can impede enjoyment of the game. Several areas of Haven City have very weird Hitboxes, occasionally resulting in Jak encountering an invisible wall or badly damaging his vehicle. This also applies to races. There are also a couple of missions that can cause the game to crash if completed in a certain manner. 
            Also, in the category of 'that's just weird', Jak II had an unlockable hard mode that is obtained by collecting 200 orbs This mode is actually easier than the normal mode, as invincibility and infinite ammo care unlocked early into the game, and it starts you with all your guns. There is one moment in the game that is harder than normal mode, and it happens to be the hardest part of the game and Invincibility is no longer active for that section.

        Jak II is a massive departure from the previous game, but it builds up from the first games foundation. The greatest problem with the game is its difficulty, but that can be overcome by trial and error and sheer willpower. Jak II is a brilliant sequel and proved that Naughty Dog were more than capable of producing a more adult series.

Tuesday, 15 July 2014

Jak and Daxter: The Precursor Legacy



   There's just something so joyous about cartoony platformers. Whether it be from classic characters such as Mario and Sonic, or more recent fare like Sackboy or Super Meat Boy, cartoonish platforming has always been a gateway for joy, laughter and the occasional cause of much frustration. As someone that grew up on Sony and Nintendo in the mid 90's, Platformers were the bread and butter of my gaming diet, and I have many a fond memory of playing the original Spyro games (before he was used for advertising toys) and Crash Bandicoot games (before he vanished from existence). In fact, Crash Bandicoot was one of my earliest gaming memories - my uncle had brought a Playstation, and let us play the first Crash game, as well as Oddworld.
      The Crash games were some of my favourite growing up, and I brought anything with his name and image - including Crash Bash, the off forgotten bizarre party game that is probably much worse than my memory tells me. From my love of Crash grew my love of Naughty Dog, the developers of the series. As a result, the game I looked forward to most on PS2 was Jak and Daxter.
       I didn't play Jak on launch. In fact, it was several years after its release that I played Jak and Daxter (not until about a year before Jak 3's release). But it quickly cemented itself into my heart as the successor to the Crash series. Even if the sequels didn't follow suit.
  
        Jak and Daxter, originally released way back in 2001 (I suddenly feel quite old...), and re-released in 2012/2013 for the PS3/ Vita, is a 3d Platforming game where the objective is to collect stuff. Lots of stuff. There is a reason to grabbing this stuff, and that's because you need it to travel across the land to save your friend. Since nothing works in their world, you need to grab stuff to make other stuff work. I seem to be saying 'stuff' a lot today. Stuff Stuff Stuff, Stuff Stuffy Stuff.
        Okay, the plot is actually about the two titular characters. Jak and Daxter, against all wisdom, are heading over to Misty Island, and dark and creepy place that sits just a boat ride away from their happy home of Sandover VIllage. Whilst on the Island, Daxter (Max Casella) falls into a pit of 'Dark Eco', a dark, gooey substance that is usually deadly to the touch. I say 'Usually', as Daxter survives... and is turned into an orange rat creature referred to as an Ottsel. This makes him slightly less annoying, but only slightly.
           According to Samos(Warren Burton), the wise man of the Village and master of Green Eco (life essence), the only people who can cure Daxter are Sages from a far off area. Unfortunately, it's not easy to get to them as they turned off their teleporters and the only other way is by going through Fire Canyon, which is impossible. Thankfully, Samos' daughter, Keira (Anna Garduno), has a plan - if she can get enough Precursor Power cells, she can upgrade her Zoomer (Hover bike) to make it semi-fire proof.
         And so Jak and Daxter set off to find Power cells.
        Naturally, in order to lengthen the game time, every time Jak and Daxter overcome a challenge (such as Fire Canyon), they have to collect more powercells to power up another machine to get them further. Which is par for the course for most platformers. Credit where credit is due, Naughty Dog at least gives a narrative reason for this.
          Gameplay wise, Jak and Daxter is very similar to Crash Bandicoot. Jak can spin, punch, jump, spin jump and crouch jump. Unlike Crash Bandicoot, Jak can also swim and dive underwater, which is a huge plus. There's also a first person mode that is occasional useful for looking for items you may have missed.
            The game's world is technically open, but emphasis is on the 'technically'. The reality is that the levels are all connected to a series of hub areas and usually are accessible via a tunnel. There are a couple of levels which are seamlessly connected, but these are the exception, not the rule. Each hub also has a level that is technically not connected at all, but is given the illusion of connection by having you board a boat/ enter an elevator and providing a cutscene.
           Naturally, there are good reasons for this. Jak and Daxter, whilst not the best looking PS2 game, was certainly a very good looking game and sported a lot of details, so it had to hide some level transitions (especially for levels with different textures and models) in order to allow the game to run smoothly. For the most part, they succeeded. The game felt somewhat open-world, something helped by the many different types of missions you performed.
           You see, there more than just platforming challenges in Jak and Daxter. In order to get some Power Cells, you'll need to trade 'precursor orbs' (which gives you something of a reason to collect them). You'll have to beat time trials, complete shooting challenges or collection mingames. Some items you can only get after activating items in later levels. There's plenty of variety to the tasks you have to complete, so it's rare you can ever find Jak and Daxter boring.
              The games art style actually helps out a lot. Everything is very cartoony, and the game is filled with bright colours that make the levels a joy to look at. Even the dark and dreary levels benefit from this, as the stylised design makes sure that the game always looks great. It also helps that the designers tried to reuse as little as possible, and different segments of the same level can have completely unique environments and enemies, resulting in there being very little repition.
          This is all topped off with a script that is genuinely quite funny, though a little too seated in stereotypes and cliche. Each character gets moments to shine in the cutscenes and throughout the game, and even the minor, one off characters are amusing and memorable. It also has a lovely little running gag in that Jak will try to speak, only to be silenced or interrupted by Daxter.
          These cutscenes are coupled with shorter little scenes at the completion of an objective or at your death. Obtaining a powercell (or occasional fetch quest items) will result in a brief celebratory cutscene. There are only a few basic variations on this, but some items will prompt their own unique animation to play. The cutscenes that play upon your death are more humorous in nature, and give Daxter some of his best lines in the game, as he will quickly berate you for dying, before asking for Jak's stuff. Again, there are only a few of these, but their worth watching. 
           All of this is not to say that the game is flawless - it has a small handful of issues, but most of those are simply due to the current nature of games, and most weren't a problem back when the game was made. For example, the checkpoint system feels unfair now, after we've spent the past half decade enjoying games with checkpoints every five seconds.
           Likewise, the games cutscenes and dialogue occasionally feel awkward and clunky. This is partially due to the limitations the system had with loading data, causing there to be brief pauses in the cutscenes whilst the relevant information for the next shot was found on the disc. For some reason, this has passed over to the HD version as well, though probably it was overlooked more than intentional. This wasn't really an issue back in the early 2000's, but it is slightly bothersome after so many years of near film level cutscenes in games.
            The greatest flaw in Jak and Daxter is, perhaps, it's similarity to the Crash Bandicoot games. It feels slightly derivative and can come across as slightly lacking in imagination. This is not helped by the fact that the core gamplay is identical to Crash Bandicoot games, making the similarity a bit too obvious. This is, of course, not really a flaw in the eyes of many, but it does bring with it a sense of safety - that this game was the result of a company that wanted to experiment, but not go too far from their comfort zone. In a modern context, it's akin to Bungie moving from Halo to Destiny - two games with very similar gameplay and art, but one is larger than the other.
           
             Jak and Daxter is still a great game, even now, and the ability to play it for PS3 and Vita (and PS4 soon, should the cloud streaming actually work) is a great way to allow new players to gain access to the series and see what games were like over a decade ago. 

As an apology for not uplaoding two weeks in a row, another post will be uploaded on Thursday. Enjoy!

Also, I recently got the HD remaster of Final Fantasy X and X-2. X is 12 years old. It's predecessor just turned 14. I feel really old at the moment.

Wednesday, 9 July 2014

Sorry! No post (again)! Reasons provided.


 No proper post this week, sorry.
 Sorry for no post last week, either.
 I'm a little mentally exhausted at the moment - I've spent the last two weeks working on a script.
  You see, the BBC has a program designed to allow unsolicited screen writers a chance to get their work seen and. potentially, turned into an actual production. This is the BBC Writers room, something I only found out about the other week. Here's the website: http://www.bbc.co.uk/writersroom/
      As I said, I found out about this maybe three weeks ago. The deadline for the then open submissions was Monday 7th July at midnight - two days ago. So, I had 3 weeks in order to come up with an idea, write the script and get it sent off.
    There was, of course, a limit what you could send in. The script had to be for a children's show (either 6 or under, or 6-12), and had to be either comedy, drama or animation. You then had to provide a 30 page script as well as a 3 page series overview.
     Then, complications happened.
     That first week was a busy week for me - I had job interviews to attend (to no avail) and I was staying at my brother's flat. His flat is a two room deal, where one room was his and his girlfriends room, and the other was the kitchen/ lounge/ everything else. I was effectively living in the kitchen. for a week, and there was no room for a desk. I had a small, folding table I could use, but that was it. Also, someone was always in that room with me, and there was always music or a film playing in the background - nothing productive to writing.
        So I didn't get anything done until I got home that Thursday, where I basically binge-watched several of my favourite cartoons aimed at kids aged 6-12 (the Avatar: Last Airbender series, The Thundercats reboot, the classic Batman animated series and Brave and the Bold, as well as Young Justice) in order to get an idea what I could and couldn't get away with in a cartoon. Also, remembering that this is for the BBC, I had to find a way to make the show sort of educational.
     The next week was spent creating an idea for the show, fleshing out the world, the characters, the politics etc. I basically had half a week to write up the entire screenplay, edit it and make sure it was perfectly presented.
       Oh, and I couldn't do anything on the Wednesday or Thursday as I had Jobseekers on Wednesday, then ended up in Birmingham waiting for my brother and his girlfriend to arrive (two hours late), then I had to get them home and spent the evening physically exhausted (and in pain - I'd hurt my leg); and Thursday was spent at a job fair or trying to find the second half of my mother's birthday present. 
     I finished the first hand written draft of the screenplay on Friday and began to type it up and edit it, and sent it off for people to double check on Saturday, getting the feedback on Sunday. It was then that I became aware of the need for a series overview, and had to collect my notes and decide what the most important parts of them were, type those up (and severely edit them down). I finished everything on Monday evening, and got it sent off a few hours before the deadline.
     As such, I spent a great deal of yesterday rather drained, not helped by having to deal with my parents' puppy going absolutely crazy from fear due to a heavy storm that passed over.
    If you're wondering what I did today, I painted a shed and finished playing Wolfenstein. Today was supposed to be relaxing. It hasn't been so far.
     Anyway, Tomorrow I'm going to finish up the posts that should have been up last week and this week, and prepare a few more for the week coming.
     If all goes to plan, then these should be posts on:
  • The Jak and Daxter Trilogy (games, over 3 posts)
  • Wolfenstein: The New Order (full thoughts) (game)
  • The Devil's Buisness (movie)
  • Final Examination (movie)
  • Homer's Iliad (book)
  • The Ocean at the End of the Lane (book)
  • Maybe Remember Me (game) if I finish it.
Also, I'm going to start animating again tomorrow, so I hope to have made some definite progress by the end of the month. I also plan to get my scanner up and running again, so I'll be able to post the stuff I do by hand.
 Now if you'll excuse me, I need to eat and find out why Firefox cannot run for more than a few seconds before crashing.

Thursday, 26 June 2014

Wolfenstein: The New Order - First Impressions.



     Anyone who reads this blog regularly knows that I have something of a distaste towards shooters - hell, you can pick up on that through my E3 reactions last week. I especially despise military shooters, as they tend to be boring, racist, fascist messes of games - the Call of Duty series being the prime example, where little has changed since the release of Modern Warfare except for the dumbing down of the political agenda in the games to 'America, Fuck Yeah' (leading to me believing Kevin Spacey's character in the new Call of Duty, who out right calls for oppression and tyranny, was the good guy of the story).
    This attitude usually leads me to ignoring the Wolfenstein games of late, that have done their best to fit into the Call of Duty/ Battlefield/ Generic shooter X style of games, where you duck behind cover and magically heal all your many wounds whilst enemies stand and shoot over your head aimlessly, your two guns being so full of ammo that you can shoot wildly and never fear for shortage of rounds. It's something of a shame, when you realise that Wolfenstein 3D was the dawn of the FPS genre and yet had none of the features common in the modern games.
   Wolfenstein: The New Order, however, stood out from the repetitive nature of current shooters from the first gameplay trailer. Here you were, running around a great variety of different environments where colours beyond brown exist, and dual wielding gigantic guns that spewed bullets bigger than your head, being chased by robot dogs and monstrosities that looked like they spawned from Bioshock.
   Then came the bigger twist - The New Order wasn't based in World War 2. Because the war had long been over.
      And we lost.
      The New Order is an alternative reality, where the Germans won the second World War, and now rule the world. Their drive to create a perfect society has led to the advancement of technology beyond what we have today, and fast tracked the future, but at a terrible cost.

      Colour me interested.
      Time passes, and Wolfenstein's trailers pull away from the story and towards the action. All the previews are of the same level - the tutorial - and reactions are mixed.
      Then the reviews came, and suddenly the game was being highly praised for the story, the gameplay and the design. It was one of the more surprising results, especially in a time where shooters are largely praised in terms of multiplayer (a feature which Wolfenstein thankfully ignores).
        And two days ago ( Tuesday 24th), I found it on sale in GAME at £25 for the Occupied Edition.
     
        Yes, the reason for this post being delayed was so I could play Wolfenstein.

         First up, lets talk about the extras so I can gloat about the special Edition features. The Occupied Edition comes with a 22 page Tourist guide to England, three postcards and a Travel Card holder. The post cards are all rather familiar at first - the moon Landing, The VJ day Kiss and the Beatles Abbey Road cover art. Except these aren't the originals - not quite - but rather Nazi variants on these events. The Beatles are all dressed in Nazi uniforms, their walk a stiff march. The USA flag on the moon is replaced with a Wolfenstein flag. The VJ kiss is now in Paris, a German solider kissing a struggling woman, the Nazis behind him. All very familiar, all very disturbing.
          (Note: none of the bonus content includes Nazi Imagery due to the same content being used in Germany. The game does still include this imagery. This is unfortunate, as the moon landing picture in America has the Nazi flag and is performing the Nazi salute.).
         The Travel card case isn't much to talk about - small plastic wallet with the Wolfenstein symbol on it. It's also been bent slightly out of shape due to the rest of the boxes content sitting on it.
          The Travel guide, however, is the draw for the Occupied Edition. The 22 page booklet details many of the things the German visitors should be aware of , from food to music, as well as places to travel. Some of these entries are rather amusing - a note about the German sense of Humour being superior to the British, Cricket is no longer a sport (which I agree with), and the local food has been replaced by the preferred German cuisine.
          Humour aside, the alternate reality entries can prove very interesting, especially detailing music and film, where British classics have been germanised (James Bond and the Beatles have been changed to Jürgen Bauer and Die Schäferhunde (well, the music is Beatles inspired, but there is another Beatles-esque band called Die Käfer which does mean 'The Beatle')). It's all very interesting.
         There is also the darker side, of course. German Nationals can skip lines for the underground, get discounts on food (up to 50%), and can evict British citizens from hotels if there is no room. Hadrian's wall has been rebuilt (the Scottish are still rebelling), and Buckingham Palace is now occupied by General 'Deathshead' Strasse.
   
           Now, time to get to the game.
         The first chapter is set in 1946, as series hero B.J Blazkowicz (Brian Bloom), desperate for revenge after the events of the 2009 Wolfenstein game, is involved in a final, desperate assault on Deathshead's fortress stronghold.
           It does not go as planned.
           Your plane quickly comes under attack from the German airforce, whose vehicles are faster than yours with superior fire power. Your allies are falling from the sky, and your plane isn't going to make it to shore. You can't even shoot them all down - the opening shooting sequence can't be won, serving only as a basic tutorial of how to shoot.
             With the help of Fergus Reid (Gideon Emery), you survive and manage to make it to an allies plane (reached by jumping from your falling on onto the wings of the other, almost falling to your doom).
            You get shot down anyway, and find yourself on a beach, where gigantic robotic hounds are ripping people to shreds. B.J survives by hiding in the ruins of a plane, and finds a way to get to his allies, including new recruit Probst Wyatt III (A.J Trauth) by swimming between the ruins of several planes until you arrive at a gun turret and can shoot these dogs down.
      Your next task is to infiltrate the fortress. This is done by immediately dashing into the nearest trench system, and destroying the gun turrets until your allies can meet up. This is the beginning of the game in earnest, and you learn basically everything you need to here, from stealth kills to grenade throwing, as well as the joys of dual-wielding assault rifles and mowing down the Nazi scum.
       Whilst the initial area is rather linear, the level opens up quite quickly, and gives you several routes to your objectives and bonuses hidden throughout the level. The first choice is to choose whether to blast upon the front door, or use the sever system to get into the bunkers, offering a choice between stealth and full out assault.
         It should be noted stealth does make the game considerably easier - alerting enemy troops usually results in being caught in a storm of accurate gunfire that causes your health and armour to drop very quickly.
         As you progress through the level, you get to climb the fortress wall, man machine gun turrets and even heavy cannons, shooting down a towering Goliath that shoots electricity. It's all very grand in scope and design, and a hell of a lot of fun to play through. It's unfortunate that the introduction to these gigantic machines is less awe-inspiring, feeling more like something that just sort of happens than anything horrific. I was more scared by the normal attack dogs.

         The control are fairly standard shooter fair - Right trigger shoots, left trigger aims. Right shoulder allows you to throw grenades, left shoulder let you lean around corners, as well as above and under cover (I have yet to find more than one occasion where leaning under cover is useful).
          The face buttons are mapped to jumping (X on a Playstation), and (in a clockwise order) are used for interacting with the environment, switching out weapons and crouching. Left stick allows for sprinting when pressed, and the right is also used for melee (or throwing knives, when you get those).By sprinting and pressing crouch, you can slide under scenery, or slide around because its cool. Oh, and you can shoot and slide. Whilst dual wielding assault rifles. Its awesome.
           You can also switched between guns by holding down the right shoulder button. This does not pause the game, but gives you full access to your weapon wheel and the many, many guns you can carry.
         The inventory menu is accessed by the Select Button, the Pause through Start and a Map(!) through the down button on the D-Pad. Yes, a map. A very useful Map, that shows you where your objectives are, as well as secrets, which you get by stealth killing commanders.
         Speaking of, Commanders are a pain in the butt. If they see you, they will summon more troops until they are killed, often leading to you being shoot in the back by enemies that weren't there a second ago. Thankfully, you get a warning when they are close by, giving you the opportunity to stealthily approach and slit their throats.
        A brief warning - when in stealthy situations, be aware that the Nazis do like to look around, and will check to see if there is someone hiding behind the crates scattered throughout levels. The also like to move into positions where they get very good views, so you may find yourself being discovered by a guard looking down from the level above you.
       There's a lot you have to un-learn about modern shooters in Wolfenstein. Enemies will not just sit behind cover, but will make an effort to bombard you with gunfire and grenades, and even flank you if they get the chance. If they can't hit you, they'll try to destroy the terrain you're hiding behind, and they do love grenades, for good reason - being hit square on with a grenade will rob you of your amour and most of your life, as well as throwing you backwards out of cover.
      You can escape the blast at full sprint, but you'll still be thrown away from the explosion if it catches you - which you can use to give yourself a big boost to your jump, if your so inclined. Oh, and enemies will run away from your own grenades. And grenades have a more limited, realistic throwing arc than in other shooters.
          Another thing you have to unlearn is that being attacked by a dog (whether robot or biological) will not put you into a quick time event, but rather expects you to hammer the attack buttons. not doing this will result in a quick and early death.
         The health system is based upon an old fashioned health point system, which can be fixed by eating or finding health packs. You can overcharge it to - you can still pick up health after your at 100, and you'll momentarily get a bonus. This is brief, as it'll deplete naturally as you continue. If your below 60 health, the game will slowly give it back to you, but this is the extent of the regeneration.
        You can also pick up armour, which will protect you briefly from attacks. Armour can be found laying around, but you can also steal it from your enemies - enemies will drop their helmets if killed from non-headshots (and shots to the face, but not the head), and armoured attack dogs will always drop armour - just grab it before the body vanishes.
           One major complaint in the basic mechanics is the need to press a button to pick up items. It may not sound annoying, but it becomes quite tedious after awhile. It is worse in fire fights if your ammo is low, where you have to run over to the nearby ammo and aim yourself at it, hit a button then get back to cover. OK, so it's petty. Doesn't stop it being a pain and feeling very odd.
          Wolfenstein also offers a perk system, which are reward every time you complete a challenge. All the challenges tend to be focused around specific playstyles - kill 10 people whilst dual wielding, get a certain amount of stealth kills, etc etc - but it is possible to get them all by mixing up the game play a little.  The best thing about this is that you can complete challenges out of order - as long as you meet the requirements, you can unlock that perk. The exceptions are for perks tied to the previous one - you can't get the 5 knife throwing kills until you unlock the knife throwing perk, obviously - but most perks are stand-alone and can be gotten whenever.

            The weakest feature of Wolfenstein is by far the graphics. Whilst not terrible, the fact they are optimised to run on the 360 means that every other port of the game comes out looking a little worse for wear, especially in relation to some of the texture work, and the destruction animations aren't as smooth as the could or should be. This is especially jarring, as I was watching my brother play Killzone 3 before hand, a game that looks much better despite being 3 years older. 
         
          Of all the things I was impressed by was the quality of the writing. The game makes a point of personifying the characters to the point where you can relate to them, and their plight becomes much more important to you. The game begins with Blazkowicz dreaming of the life he wants - a wife, kids and a dog, settled in a nice neighbourhood. But, as he dreams, he knows he can't have this - it is just a dream. His reality has left him with a grim outlook, but with layers of hope. He encourages the younger soldiers, supports them as they see the horrors of war - horrors he knows too well.
        The supporting cast are all well realised to. Fergus is a jovial and caring man, that wants to make sure as many people survive as he can, even saving BJ's life on a couple of occasions. A swearing Scotsman, he leads the assault and does his best to reassure his men and provide guidance. Amusingly, he's the only English speaking character that is subtitled on the 'Translation only' subtitle setting.
          Wyatt is the other character to be given plenty of time. It's his first battle, and he's been thrown straight into the fire, seeing his pilot die and having to take over the reigns with no training. He's terrified, barely functioning and incredibly polite, wanting to show his worth. It's Wyatt that Blazkowickz offers advise to, and acts as a mentor.
          As for the villain, within seconds of meeting him, you will loathe Deathshead. Trapped in his laboratory, his monstrosities kill half your squad, leaving only three alive, as well as Blazkowickz. Of these three, he dismisses one of them as being injured and worthless. Of the other two, he gives you a choice. Pick one for him to kill, and the other will live. Don't pick either of them, and he'll kill you all.
          The two choices are Fergus or Wyatt.
         I picked Wyatt. The kid screams for you to save him as Deathshead kills him, all the while BJ recites to himself the same mantra he told the kid - inhale, hold 4 seconds, exhale, hold 4 seconds. Inhale, exhale.
           In the end, the choice was worthless. Deathshead leaves you unarmed in an incinerator chamber, with one of his monsters looking after you. He never planned to keep you alive, just to torture you.
          You escape, barely. Saving Fergus gives you the ability to re-wire certain machines, and you buy time by bashing in the incinerator valves. This causes a pressure build up, and the chamber explodes as you jump from a window, shrapnel embedding itself in your skull.
         By some stroke of fate, BJ is saved, found floating in the ocean. Fixed up as best as could be, he's shipped to a mental hospital. He's catatonic, unable to do anything but watch as the world passes by, watching as the Nazis come and force the doctor to sign away mental patients.
        14 years pass by, time flashing by in an instant.
        The Nazis return, this time for a different reason the killing of the patients, as they are no longer needed. The violence brings BJ out of his stupor, and he manages to save himself before being shot,only to find that the war was lost.
         The Nazi's won, and all Blazkowicz fouth for has been detroyed.
          Welcome to the New Order.

Tuesday, 17 June 2014

E3 2014


     Another year, another E3, a whole load of videogame news and updates that will excite every videogame player out there. Unlike last year, there were no new console announcements, leaving companies to focus (mostly) on the actual games coming out in the next year or so. As i did a long post on this last year, I figured I'd do the same again this year.
     This year's expo opened up with the Microsoft conference. After a rather difficult year of bad of bad press, confusing reports and conflicting ideals from within the studio, Microsoft has a lot of ground to cover to get people back on board with the Xbox One (or, as I like to call it, the Xbox Apology).
       Which is why they opened with Call of Duty. And that is where I got bored and wandered off.
        In truth, the new CoD does have some interesting ideas present in it - moving the time frame from now to the near-ish future means there is the potential for interesting ideas and technology. Not that they went out of there way to come up with anything all that interesting, as the most futuristic things are drop ships that look eerily familiar to those from the Warhammer 40,000 and Halo series. The demo they showed isn't all that interesting, save to show that there will at least be a) a black character, and b) a white guy dying. Some progress is being made. There is also a double jump and the option to slow a descent - hopefully leading to a greater variety in level design. At points in the demo, swarms of drones appear that the main character has to avoid - not because they'll shoot you, but because they ram you. Despite having guns attached...
     If anything, the game seems to be a simplified shooter (which is amusing when CoD is considered the 'simple' shooter to begin with). The AI seems to ignore you, there are homing grenades and the ability to see through cover. Guns have no recoil, or no discernible recoil. It is still impossible to tell the difference between allies and enemies.
        Oh, and there's a walking tank. It doesn't do anything, it just kinda walks and looks like it was borrowed from a Metal Gear game.
       Next up was Forza  Horizon 2. I honestly can't tell the difference between this and Forza 5 (which got new DLC), and the other Forza games. Or Gran Turismo games. Or any other reality based racing games. Maybe it looks slightly prettier, I don't know. I tend to blank out realistic graphics these days.
         Evolve was next, the new game from Turtle Rock (makers of Left for Dead). It looks like Left for Dead, but with generic aliens instead of generic zombies. The trailer mostly existed to show off that there was a new monster, called the Kraken - a hulking creature with a squid face that can fly for a couple of seconds - and to reinforce the idea that it's a four vs one multilayer game, where one player is the alien and has a little horde, the others trying to kill it. There wasn't a lot to it, really. Environments all seem to be bland caves, and the exaggerated art design of the player characters seems at odds with the realistic graphics engine.
      A brief look at the new Tomb Raider game ( Rise of the Tomb Raider) shows that Lara has become something of a murderous adrenaline junkie, and is seeing a shrink. I liked the Tomb Raider remake, so I'm looking forward to this, although the title kinda sucks.
      Ubisoft up next with Assassin's Creed Unity. It looks like Assassin's Creed, but in Paris. With four player co-op. Apparently, there's customisation for the Assassins, but there's also a static main character, so I guess that only the other three assassins are customisable. Oh, and you can't play as a female character because "It's too much work" (actual quote from Ubisoft Representative). As someone that is aware of the large female gamer fanbase, and plays mostly female characters, I have one thing to say - fuck you, Ubisoft.
        Bioware unveiled another trailer for Dragon Age Inquisition, a game that I have no interest in even if it does pander to one of my favourite genres. The trailer wasn't all that much, simply giving us brief descriptions of the characters that will accompany the main character on their quest to stop evil. The music was nice, and yay for ethnic diversity, but I'm really not that bothered with it. Not helped by the sheer confusion that occurred when a character from the original Dragon Age was announced to return last year, despite this new game taking place several years after the first.    I'm sure people will love it, and it'll have a good script, but I'm exceptionally wary of this one. The last two Dragon Age games were not all that good - the first had major issues in the graphics and gameplay department (and serious balancing problems), and the second one fixed the combat but was terrible in every other regard.
      Then came the one game I actually thinks looks good for the Xbox One - Insomniac's Sunset Overdrive, a bright and colourful (and very silly) third person shooter that looks incredibly fun.  Instead off being a normal cover based shooter, you can run around parkour style, grinding on rails and swinging from the scenario in a beautifully bight and vibrant world whilst killing enemies in ludicrous fashion. The trailer makes a point of poking fun at basic shooter mechanics and ideas, and is filled with a wonderful does of self referential humour. I love it. I will not pay £400 to play it, but I love it.
        Capcom made an announcement that Dead Rising 3 will be receiving a Capcom themed DLC pack with a name so long I cannot be bothered to type it. It's also getting a PC realise, so no needing that Xbox One. Except for Sunset Overdrive.
         Harmonix announced a new Dance Central and a release date for their Fanatsia game. Nothing new or interesting here.
       Lionhead talked about the new Fable game, Fable Legends, a game that acts as a prequel to the Fable series, and also destroys the entire point of the Fable games. Instead of creating your own character, you select from one of four heroes (generic classes ahoy!) and explore dungeons whilst a fifth player tries to kill you. There is no open world, simply a hub world, and a very limited amount of levels. Oh, and all the gameplay reports say that the game is unbalanced in favour of the villain player.
         Project Spark is next, the world/ game creation kit that hopes that everyone that uses it has the will, imagination and tenacity to create videogames from scratch. I will say that the idea is promising, but it draws to many comparisons with Spore to warrant any faith. Oh, and about ruining franchises? Well, Microsoft teased a Conker game! (you know, Conker's Bad Fur Day? from 2001? got remade in 2005? gods, I'm getting old). Oh, and it's not a new game. It's a skin pack. And they tell you to make your own.
           Now, I will fully admit that Conker didn't age well, mechanically. But the thing that made Conker so great was the wonderfully perverse and insane dialogue and the humour of the situations, ranging from parody to the point where you fight a giant pile of singing shit. And Microsoft includes it an alternate skin, expecting people to create their own scripts and humorous scenarios.
         Microsoft, Fuck you. I don't care if platformers don't sell as much as shooters, you shouldn't make it a point to insult every fan of a franchise you own every opportunity you get.
           Oh, but they love Halo! Because every one loves Halo, right? That rapidly ageing franchise that most people stopped playing because the new company was struggling with the balance of the gameplay is what everyone wants! So here, have a Halo TV series produced by Ridley Scott, another ageing and not as good as he once was director! And have a remake of the worst game in the series, but it's pretty so it's good now! And buy all the games again, because it's the only thing we make that sells!
       Microsoft, go fuck yourself. And stop making games, whilst you do that. Give Nintendo Rare and all it's creations, and give Sony everything else. Please.

         Finally one the Microsoft front, they announced Ori and the Blind Forest, which is a beautiful looking platformer that contained more emotion in a 2 minute trailer than either Halo or Gears of war has  in over a decade of games.
            There was also a long list of projects that I don't really want to go into as there was either not enough information or nothing new. The only two of note were  remake of Another World/ Out of this World (google it) and a sequel/ remake/ thing of Phantom Dust which was apparently a classic Xbox game that no-one seems to know anything about.

         EA's conference was next. They started with the new Star Wars Battlefront which looks like it borrows from the originals heavily, and shows off Hoth and the Moon of Endor. That was pretty much it.
         Bioware came up (again) to tease Mass Effect 4 (which is a prequel to the first 3) and Dragon Age 3, showing off some combat. Oh, and a tease of a new IP (finally), set in a contemporary setting (groan).
      And then there is the Sims 4. It is a thing that exists. It is a Sims game. There is nothing to say about it, even if EA loves the hell out of it and decided it was the core focus of their conference.
      Then there were sports games, a new racing game, a MOBA that isn't League of Legends, but looks too much like League of Legends, and I couldn't care less.
         There was (finally) some news on Mirror's Edge 2. It looks like the first game with refined combat, and that is a good thing. It is a prequel - that is not a good thing. Also, what is it with EA and calling prequels 2 or 4? Couldn't you call it 0 or subtitle it?
         Finally, Battlefield: Hardline, a game where you're a cop (or a robber) trying to thwart/ pull off a bank heist... what does this have to do with Battlefields? Or the series? Couldn't you call it Hardline? Also, there is way too much destruction going on here. Who the hell brings RPGs to a bank heist? Does this take place in Gotham City?

         Ubisoft (again). Rainbow Six Seige was announced, and it looks good. It's a squad based tactical shooter, known for requiring quick thinking and task management. Kinda looking forward to this one.
          Assassin's Creed again. Ignoring it for sake of brevity and anger towards developers.
         The Crew was shown. Another racing game. Bored already.
          Far Cry 4 was shown, and more story was given. You're being sent into an area where a civil war has broken out and a megalomaniac is claiming responsibility. So, it's like the last 3. But in the Himalayas! Oh, and 2 player co-op. Because people wanted that, apparently.
        
          Sony started their show with a look at Bungie's new game Destiny. Which I think looks like a Halo spinoff that Microsoft didn't want to buy. Still, people like that, so I won't judge to harshly. Oh, and the Beta starts soon (July 17th).
          Entwind was the next announcement, the first game by Pixel Opus. It looks absolutely stunning, with vibrant colours and a beautiful, minimalist art style. For the most part, it looks like you control two birds (orange and Blue), flying through landscapes, leading each bird into coloured areas correlating to the colour of the bird. You can also combine into a large, green bird.
        Little Big Planet 3 followed this, revealing three new player characters will join Sack Boy on his adventure, and showing how each of the new characters changes the gameplay. The new characters area sock animal that runs on four legs and is faster than the others, a oval character that can shrink and grow and a bird that can fly (obviously). I look forward to seeing what Media Molecule can do with these new characters.
         An exclusivity deal was announced with Paradox Interactive, and the first game was revealed - Magicka 2. The trailer didn't show a lot of gameplay, but rather focused on a humorous short film about one of the wizards from the first place being unemployed. What gameplay was shown shows that the game still contains the magic based hack and slash gameplay and puzzles of the original.
          Another Exclusive comes in the form of Bloodborne, the new game from FromSoftware, makers of Demon's and Dark Souls. The trailer revealed a location in the form of an exquisitely gothic fantasy town, and showed a mob of infected villagers being mowed down by a single armoured figure. Also, guns, which now replace shields to make the player more active in combat. Judging from the title and trailer, a blood borne illness has swept through this land and you are probably the only one that can do anything about it, yadda yadda yadda. Still, the Souls games are good (if not as hard as I was led to believe), so hopes are high.
         Dead Island 2 was next. I think it's a comedy. I'm not sure if the developers are aware of this.
         Suda 51 took the time to announce Let It Die, which seems to be a third person game where you kill people violently for points. The trailer doesn't offer much insight into the actual gameplay. Also, no one wears trousers.  I think it may bean online game, judging from the enemies all having weird names, but can't say for sure.
          The creator of PSN hits Flower and Journey took the time to talk about Abzu, his new game where you are a diver exploring a beautiful aquatic environment. That's kind of it, but I have faith in this man.
          A new trailer for No Man's Sky was shown, giving a brief look at the variety of the games locations and actions. It was promised that every planet will be different for every player, and that you can share the world's you discover. Whatever the case, it looks very interesting.
          GTA V is coming to next gen consoles. Despite everyone knowing that about a year ago.
         We got a new look at Batman Arkham Knight, mostly showing off the batmobile in both racing and combat modes. The game looks good, but I worry about the writing, which is being handled by Rocksteady rather than established writers like Paul Dini.
           Naughty Dog showed off some in-game renders of Uncharted 4, showing everyone just how pretty it is. The trailer itself showed protagonist Nathan Drake pushing himself up out of a pool of water and walking into a jungle, whilst narration from Drake and friend Sully informs us that Drake has been out of the thieving/ adventuring game for awhile.
         There was also a brief tease of a remake of Grim Fandango, a 1998 adventure game by Lucas arts with Tim Schafer at the helm. This made a lot of people very happy. 
         
    Nintendo did something a little different this year. All of their announcements were made through digital services, and they made more announcements as the Expo went on. All of the following announcements were followed by short skits by Robot Chicken or featured developers talking about their games and swapping interesting and funny stories.
   Super Smash Bros was the start of the show, with the conference starting with Nintendo president Satoru Iwata and Nintendo of America Reggie Fils-Aime duking it out, first in wonderfully choreographed live action, then in Smash Bros as it's revealed that Miis will be playable. Reggie beats Iwata, but Iwata uses a secret tool - an Amiibo. More on that in a bit.
         Miis are highly customisable characters, that fit into three classes - shooters, brawlers or sword fighters, and each have several options for attacks, making it possible to craft your own unique fighter.
         Amiibo are statues of Nintendo characters that interact with the Wii U, transporting information into the game, much like Skylanders or Disney Infinity. In the unveil, Iwata summons Mario to his side as a fighting partner, and uses this to defeat Reggie. Amiibo will be used in more than just Smash Bros, including in Mario Kart 8. They seem to be of a much higher quality than both Skylanders and Disney infinity (already a step above Skylanders), so you can expect a larger price tag. Still, they look beautiful, and I want them for my own.
        Yoshi's Woolly World was next, from the creators of Kirby's Epic Yarn. The game is a traditional side scrolling game, with a focus on exploration rather than quick progression. The game looks beautiful, and a variety of moves were shown off where Yoshi can use eggs to create cloud paths, unravel wool and even eat a second player and spit them out for greater height. Yoshi can also fly, if you time your jumps right. It looks charming, though not groundbreaking.
        A brief trailer unveiled Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker, where you control the Mario character through a series of puzzle levels. It looks really rather fun, as you manipulate the camera to get better views if the level (and get Toad to walk that way), and some Mario conventions still apply.  
        An announcement that everyone was hoping for came in the form of the new Legend of Zelda game. Eiji Aonuma opens up the trailer with a discussion on the evolution of exploration through the Zelda games, lamenting that the series became more linear as time went on. He follows by showing the new Zelda, an open world game where you can go almost anywhere. Monsters will still appear, and a giant laser shooting creature suddenly attacks, causing Link and his horse to flee. Eventually the beast catches up with them, where Link shoots at it with a bow, leaping from his horse to deliver a fatal blow. The game looks absolutely gorgeous, almost like a Ghibli film. The entire sequence is breath tacking, and effort has been put into making the design standout, with Link wearing a black cloak over a blue tunic, and looking decidedly effeminate.
        Did I mention it was open world? It's open world. Open world Zelda.
       I need a Wii U.
      A new trailer was shown for the remakes of Pokemon Ruby and Sapphire, showcasing that it uses the engine for Pokemon X and Y, and the new Mega evolutions. It looks stunning.
      Bayonetta 2 also revealed a new trailer, showing off the games visuals and bosses and providing a bit of story - Bayonetta is venturing into hell itself to rescue her friend Jeanne. The game looks great, and seems to be running far more smoothly than the previous one. Speaking of, the Original Bayonetta will also be included with the sequel, and has several Nintendo specific bonuses, such as Link, Princess Peach and Samus costumes. Again, it seems to be running much smoother than it di on PS3 and 360.
       More Zelda with Hyrule Warriors, the non-cannon game where you take on armies of enemies from the history of Zelda. Speaking of, Zelda herself is a playable character, as is Impa and Midna, with 5 characters not yet announced (Gannondorf probably being one of them). The game looks very much like Dynasty Warriors (fitting as it's being made by the same company), and reports say ti plays well, and combines Zelda aesthetics to the usual fighting, such as using specific items to fight bosses.
       Kirby and the Rainbow Curse is up next, and Kirby has received a claymation overhaul. The game seems to be a sequel to Canvas Curse, which was released on the DS quite some time ago, and controls the same. Not sure if the claymation affects the gameplay, but it looks brilliant.
        In a less cheerful tone comes Xenoblade Chronicle X, where the fate of humanity is at stake. A sci-fi epic that very much looks to be filled with the Melodrama that makes JRPG's so fun, the game seems to be setting up quite an interesting story for itself. Conbine that with giant robots, and you've got an easy sell.
         Straight back to nostalgic Nintendo, and we have the Mario Maker, a game where you can design your own Mario levels and switches between classic NES graphics to the WiiU New Super Mario Bros graphics. It may be slightly simplistic, but, again, it looks fun, and there's plenty of room for imagination. I'm going to assume it's a downloadble title, and there'll be more in the final product (maybe a SNES era palette?)
          A new IP approaches in the form of Splattoon, a third person shooter where you play as squid girls splattering the environment with paint, which you then use to traverse the level by diving into and out of your paint. If it sounds random, that's because it is. It is also awesome. Much like Sunset Overdrive, it shows you can have a third person shooter and do interesting things with it. Being a purely online game, Splattoon features two teams of four players, and also has a variety of weapons at your disposal. You can also instantly leap to your allies position by tapping their icon on the game map, displayed on the Wii U controller. It looks to be great fun, and once again presents a wonderfully charming and happy experience.
        The Nintendo conference ended with another Smash Bros character announcement in the form of the goddess Palutena from Kid Icarus. The announcement also included an awesome anime sequence, as well as showing off Palutena's move set. 
           There were more announcements and trailers from Nintendo throughout the next few days, including  Devil's Third, the new game from the creator of Ninja Gaiden which is a third person shooter/ close combat game that looks very odd; confirmation that Professor Layton Vs Phoenix Wright is headed west; the new Level 5 game Fantasy Life will come west, The reveal of new IP Codename STEAM (a steampunk strategy game from Intelligent Systems); trailers for both Sonic Boom Games, Mario Party 10,  and the new Theatrhythm: Final Fantasy game. Finally, there was the reveal of Pac Man as a character in Smash Bros. Yeah, that last one was out of the left field.
       Oh, and Star fox. There's going to be a new Star Fox!  

 Other bits of note: Mortal Kombat X and Metal Gear Solid 5. I cannot remember who showed these, or at what point, so they're being put here. Mortal Kombat looks as brutal as ever, though not much in the way of gameplay variation aside from new characters. Metal Gear Solid 5 was all about the story, which looks confusing. But it's Metal Gear, so it will be until the game comes out. By the looks of things, the game will lead up to the founding of Zanzibar Land, which is the setting for Metal Gear 2. Time will tell.

     And now, for the ever popular question.
     Who won E3?
       It certainly wasn't Microsoft. They apologised for last year, but made little ground in nurturing any trust in them and focused on third party titles rather than anything new. The only two titles that looked interesting were Sunset Overdrive and Ori. They also focused primarily on shooters, and reports from the floor talk about the lacklustre response to these (attendees had to wear glowing bracelets which signified when to applaud. If you need to tell people to applaud, your doing your job wrong).
       Sony displayed a lot of content over a lot of genres, and showed that they cared for all their gamers. They also showed respect for older franchises, and talked about introducing new elements into their games. It helped they had a large amount of exclusives backing them up.
        But it was Nintendo that won me over. Their presentation was fun, charming and filled with fun experiences and a much wider variety of genres and subject matters. It showed Nintendo was willing to include new experiences and expand itself to promote enjoying many aspects of the media. They also showed that they were willing to have a diverse selection of characters, and presented a balance of male and female characters in their games and presentations - and strong female characters.
         What Nintendo showed may not help their sales a whole lot, but it will mean Wii U owners are going to have a hell of a lot of fun in the next couple of years.

       I will admit there have been things I haven't discussed here for one reason or another - either I didn't hear about them, or thought it wasn't enough to talk about - and I know that there are elements of bias in my opinions (as a result of being opinions). If you have something to say, or think that I missed something important, feel free to leave a comment.
      Now, if you excuse me, I need to save up for a Wii U.