Metro Exodus publisher Deep Silver invited us to have some hands-on time with their latest release ahead of its 15 February launch. The code was near-final and our playthrough was on Xbox One X hardware. Here’s how James got on...
While there’s a variety of DNA on display here, the strongest influences are probably Half-Life in terms of narrative-driven game design and Fallout in terms of the aesthetic and manual feel of the world. While Fallout 76 dialled back many of the more distinctive aspects of its namesake, Exodus relishes in the little quirks that make it stand out, like having to manually pump pneumatic weapons or clean and maintain items to keep them in good working order.
While these sorts of mindless tasks could easily become a mess of busy work, the team at 4A Games have managed to balance the elements so that they enhance the game experience rather than being a chore.
Many of the subterranean areas you do explore are radioactive, have air filled with toxins, or a deadly combination of both. Keeping an ear out for the familiar crackle of your geiger counter will handle the former, but for the latter you’re forced to cycle between gas masks which introduce a timed element to exploration, as most filters have only a few minutes of use before they expire (and, of course, you’ll need to manually swap filters once one runs down). This succeeds in pushing that pressure point and heightening levels of anxiety to induce an excited nervousness, which quickly gives way to panic as you near the final few seconds and are (as I was) frantically unable to find the lever to open the escape door.
Elsewhere, the lush green and breathable air of the autumn section affords you the opportunity to take your time and make use of stealth to get by, encouraged with the discovery of a handy crossbow nearby. Conversely, the harsh architecture of our introduction to the game (set back in spring) bangs the drum for the oppressive feel of historical Soviet archetypes.
While narrative was scarce in our preview time - a deliberate step from the dev team to avoid spoiling too much - the cast of Metro Exodus are genuinely compelling and interesting. Even with returning protagonist Artyom a near mute, you constantly feel involved in the story as narrative beats play out around you in real time.
Calling the game open-world would be generous, but there’s definitely scope to wander off the beaten path in search of crafting materials, which may lead to NPCs questioning you on what’s taking so long.
Crafting itself is fairly straightforward, in that you can strip down modified weapons you come across and attach a custom barrel or stock to another at a handily placed weapons bench. While many modifications are slight, the effects stack when put together to significantly boost damage and accuracy.
Gunplay in general feels well-balanced and satisfying, especially as you keep tinkering away and working towards perfecting your loadout. There’s a few gadgets to play about with as well, in particular a silent-but-deadly throwing knife which can be vital for thinning out larger herds of enemies.
While we’re still a month out from launch, the game is looking extremely polished, performing brilliantly in native 4K on Xbox One X (and the surrounding PC demo stations from what I saw), which goes a long way in bringing the world to life. Only a few wonky facial animations slightly let the otherwise stellar immersion down.
In all, from just a few short hours of play, Metro Exodus has shot up my list of anticipated games and could surpass anything to come out on its packed 15 February launch day. Considering that’s the date for my beloved Crackdown 3 (not to mention Far Cry: New Dawn and Jump Force), that’s saying quite something. Here’s hoping the final release delivers.
Leaks for games are springing up left and right, snark levels on Twitter are hitting fever pitch and Kingdom Hearts has been delayed yet again; it can mean only one thing - it’s E3 season.
The annual Electronic Entertainment Expo - to give it its full title - brings together publishers and developers from across the world to show of their wares to a salivating public, so let's take a look at what we know so far...
Xbox - Sunday 10 June, 9pm
Microsoft are mixing things up this year and are moving their event to the Microsoft Theatre to focus on partners and fans alike. Mike Nichols, Chief Marketing Officer, stated that they moved their event in accordance to the increasing attendance numbers. For those of us not lucky enough to be attending in person (so, everyone really) they’ll be showing off games on their streaming service, Mixer.
While Crackdown 3 has been delayed until February, it’s not all bad news, as Forza Horizon 4 is expected to make a debut appearance, while we'll also get more on Battlefield V's updated War Stories mode. Additionally, Microsoft are said to be focusing on their core franchises with a rumoured new title in the Fable series and three supposed Gears of War games, including a standalone battle royale game, a real-time strategy title and a traditional sequel.
Bethesda - Monday 11 June, 2.30am
Bethesda has promised its biggest, longest and most packed showcase ever according to the company’s Marketing VP, Pete Hines. They have confirmed that Todd Howard, director of Bethesda Game Studios, will be discussing “The Making of Fallout 76”, the newest addition to the franchise and undoubtedly their biggest game in terms of hype right now.
With rumours that the title will be moving away from traditional single player mechanics by introducing multiplayer survival elements, and the recent teaser trailer suggesting a time period closer to the titular nuclear fallout (which means an unexplored, undeveloped world without Deathclaws, Super Mutants or the Brotherhood of Steel) fans are very eager to see what lies ahead for this franchise.
Square-Enix - Monday 11 June, 6pm
Fans hopes were dashed today when Square Enix confirmed that Kingdom Hearts 3 will not be released this year - however, they did confirm a release date of 29 January 2019. With Toy Story, Monsters Inc and Big Hero 6 being included in the long-awaited next instalment of the beloved franchise, the game will at least make an appearance (it’s only been thirteen gruelling years…). Joining it will be Shadow of the Tomb Raider, the concluding chapter in Lara’s story, as well as the potential of more from the Final Fantasy VII remake. The real question here is: will it be Lara Croft, Sora or Cloud that steals the show?
Ubisoft - Monday 11 June, 9pm
Ubisoft’s slate this year is filled to the brim with new releases including The Division 2, Assassin’s Creed: Odyssey, Beyond Good and Evil 2, Transference, Starlink: Battle for Atlas, For Honor, The Crew 2, Skull and Bones (although delayed) and potentially a new Splinter Cell title. Not only that, Ubi have been working alongside James Cameron for an Avatar game, so we can expect to see more on that. It’s also expected that Far Cry 5 DLC will be mentioned during their press conference alongside everyone’s conference highlight - a new Just Dance game.
Sony - Tuesday 12 June, 2am
Shawn Layden, CEO of SIEA, has already stated that there will be no new hardware appearing in their conference slot, but he has confirmed that Sony’s presentation will focus on Ghost of Tsushima, The Last of Us Part II, Death Stranding and Spider-Man. Sony’s presentation will include new trailers for all four exclusives. First revealed in 2016, The Last of Us Part II will focus on Ellie’s quest for revenge, whilst Marvel’s Spider-Man will see Mary Jane Watson being introduced as a playable character.
Nintendo - Tuesday 12 June, 5pm
Nintendo have just announced a pair of new Pokémon games in Let’s Go Pikachu and (predictably) Let’s Go Eevee for Switch. Let’s Go contains some Pokémon Go elements, including the original 150 pokémon, so has everything going for it. We can also expect Mario Tennis Aces, Super Smash Bros. and Splatoon 2, plus we'll most likely see games such as Metroid Prime 4, Yoshi for Switch and possibly the Pokémon Switch RPG. All that is missing now is Animal Crossing for the Switch too.
Rampant speculation is all well and good, but we hold ourselves to a higher standard at Pass the Controller, so here’s some more things we’re pretty likely to see more from.
Warner Bros Interactive recently confirmed HITMAN 2 with their announcement trailer. Many fans will be glad to know that they have moved away from the episodic release format and will instead launch the sequel as a complete package. According to the press release, HITMAN 2 will feature highly detailed sandboxes, with “breathing environments” to explore as our favourite assassin, Agent 47, returns to the screen, but this time to uncover the truth about his past.
Atomic Heart, a sci-fiction horror FPS, is set in an alternative universe Soviet Union. Fans will play as a special agent who goes AWOL after being assigned a mission, from there the player has to restore peace and order in the motherland. Atomic Heart was crafted by Mundfish and is described to be a crossover between Bioshock and Fallout. If this is accurate, it could potentially be a game changer. Not much else has been confirmed on the storyline as of yet, but the teaser trailer alone looks very promising, with a picturesque environment to explore and an array of terrifying enemies to evade.
We Happy Few by Compulsion Games has come a long way since it’s reveal back at E3 2016, but it’s been a slow and painful uphill struggle with constant setbacks and delays. Compulsion Games released their final cinematic teaser trailer, which showcased brand new mechanics, new quests and a hostile character who Arthur supposedly knows. Guillaume Provost, Creative Director at Compulsion, stated that they added new engaging content that ensures the gameplay will be around 20 hours long in single player campaign mode. Fans will finally get their hands on the full release towards the end of 2018.
Overkill’s The Walking Dead game is a stealth, role playing co-op multiplayer game set to launch in autumn of this year. The game will not be following the TV series and instead will feature new characters with a different storyline, based loosely on the comic series. Fans will have a choice of four players, Aidan, Grant, Heather or Maya and with each character comes their own special skill set. But ultimately, teamwork is the only way you’ll survive in the post-apocalyptic world dominated by walkers. If one thing is for certain, it’s not the dead you should fear, but the living.
What title are you excited for the most at E3 2018? Tweet us @pass_controller, get in touch via Facebook, or sound off in the comments below.
Bypassing the troublesome Shadwell Overground stairs via the elevator once again proved a dream, especially the smell, but the lack of fish in the ornamental canal was of great concern to me. Where had they gone? Why? And could they ever truly exist in those two-inch deep waters? So many great questions, but only one certainty: I was back at Tobacco Dock for EGX Rezzed 2018.
This year’s show had so many playable games that even two days worth of attendance was insufficient to see them all.
First up was Lake Ridden, a first-person puzzle-adventure set inside the guts of a gloomy lake, largely devoid of water. The puzzles are cryptic enough, the setting has a creepy edge, and the story is intriguing. Let’s see how it develops.
I followed-on with a selection of games from cracking London-based publisher Chucklefish. I’ve mentioned Wargroove a few times on the site - most notably as one of my most anticipated games of 2018 - and I have no qualms in reiterating that this is going to be essential gaming. They also had “Stealthvania” game The Siege and the Sandfox on show, as well as Pathway, another fabulous strategy game. All three titles are a great showcase of Chucklefish’s brilliant expanding roster.
Curve Digital - another splendid publisher - had a few games on show ‘ere too. I thoroughly enjoyed the arcade-stylings and twin-stick fun of Rogue Aces, cartoony aircraft-sim Bomber Crew, and strategic RPG For The King. The former is available now on Switch and PlayStation platforms (that’s PS4 and Vita), whilst the middler and latter are currently available on Steam.
My time in the Indie Room (above-ground branch) came to a close with two biggies: Disco Elysium and Phoenix Point.
Disco Elysium sees thee cast as a detective with problems-a-plenty; be they booze, smoking, drugs, memory and/or mental health related. Tasked with solving a murder, this unique isometric police RPG gives the player a staggering amount of choices, featuring multiple skill sets (these affect your character’s perception of the world, and how he interacts with people), a gorgeously gritty hand-painted art style, and ever so much replayability. I can’t help but be excited!
Phoenix Point is the latest strategy game from master of the genre Julian Gollop. In time-honoured fashion, you take control of a team of grunts armed with big guns, rippling muscles and cheesey dialogue as you tackle objectives and blast alien scum. Fans of all things XCOM can PARTY now.
What goes up must surely come down, so, like morning toothpaste finding its way to trouser leg, I stumbled downstairs to the Indie Room (basement branch). Just like its above-ground brethren, the basement room was chock fulla great games.
Disco Elysium sees thee cast as a detective with problems-a-plenty, and I can’t help but be excited about this unique isometric police RPG!
PQube’s selections caught my eyes and ears first, which lead me to enjoy time with sinister text adventure Stay, 8-bit side-scrolling slasher Aggelos, and produce-focused karter All-Star Fruit Racing. They also had the wonderful Cat Quest on the go - if you haven’t already, go and check it out!
It was great to see Aperion Cyberstorm being enjoyed by many in its Switch incarnation, Hipster Cafe Simulator providing many laughs, and beautifully animated (and darkly funny) adventure game Unforeseen Incidents, all running side-by-side.
The highlight of the room was local multiplayer communicate-‘em-up Catastronauts. You and your associates are placed in charge of a spacecraft, tasked with blastin’ away other crews. Much like the genre-defining Overcooked, Catastronauts uses the rising panic of putting out fires, removing bombs and firing lasers to create real laughs. Look out for this one when it drops later in the year.
By now the bells were tolling, so off I toddled to the land of the well established: that’s right, it were time for PlayStation, Sega, Xbox and Nintendo.
PlayStation had a paltry amount of titles on show this year, but as if to paint quality over quantity, what was there was truly fabbo. Guacamelee 2 provides more hectic, Mexican rasslin’-infused fun, there was silliness aplenty in The Adventure Pals, and irresistibly cute graphics in The Swords of Ditto.
Gorgeous adventure Heaven’s Vault is what really stood out, though. Featured in my seven to look out for at Rezzed piece, HV surpassed my already high expectations of what the open-world point-and-click adventure would be. Taking control of archeologist Aliya, I interacted with helpful/humourless robot chum Six, investigated the ruins of a beautiful lost world, and attempted to translate lots of hieroglyphics. The alluring blend of 2D character art and 3D environments is a triumphant success, as was the slow-burn quality of the gameplay. One of my games of the show, for sure.
Microsoft’s ID@Xbox room was lacking in space (at least for corpulent Milky Bar men like myself), but did exhibit some superb games. Our esteemed Editor, Monsieur James Michael Parry, joined me for a blast at Metal Slug-like Huntdown - which is really good old-school fun - Terratech’s Minecraftian vehicular combat, and the joys of reigning over the proletariat in Kingdom: Two Crowns. The highlight here, however, was Strange Brigade, which is a send up of the British Empire and English buffoonery under the guise of third-person cooperative shooting. It was great fun, and even better when played in a group, as Jim lad will testify to.
The ID@Xbox highlight was Strange Brigade, which is a send up of the British Empire and English buffoonery under the guise of third-person co-op shooting. It was great fun, especially when played in a group.
Nintendo and Sega offered slim pickings this year, as they both showed games already available on other platforms. Mega Drive Classics will definitely be a day one pick up for myself, but I don’t see why they needed to bring it; the just-announced Shenmue re-releases would’ve made more sense. Nintendo’s appeal rested solely on Travis Strikes Again: No More Heroes. We’re pleased to announce that it’s shaping up to be another Suda 51 classic, the auteur's crazy combat, retina-destroying colours and self-aware dialogue all being intact.
Are you still with me, comrades? If so, let’s travel into the dark heart of the Unreal Engine Showcase to sample Another Sight, Metamorphosis, Space Cows, some fishing, and the brilliant Lost Ember.
Another Sight puts you in the dual-role of blind gal and nimble cat, as you explore Victorian-era underground London - sewers, trains, et al. Space Cows carries the same charm as clumsy controllers Octodad and Manuel Samuel, as you traverse a colourful world in search of milk and cows. It was hilarious.
Metamorphosis casts thee as a man trapped in the body of a spider: Why are you here? What are those men doing to your friend? How will you return to human form? The game's sneaking and scuttling was good fun, as was currently-available-on-Xbox-Game-Pass carp-botherer, Dovetail Fishing - maybe this is where the ornamental canal’s dorsal-equipped water breathers had vanished to?
Lost Ember was the real winner here though, with its attractive visuals and possessing gameplay mechanic. You play a wolf, who, with the help of a spirit mate, can possess other animals to help traverse a natural world free of humans. I got tinges of Journey and Abzu playing the game, but there’s definitely plenty of originality lurking in Lost Ember’s characters and story. Once polished, this has serious potential.
Coatsink and Wired Productions had some quality stuff up their sleeves this year too, with games that really honed in on fun.
Wired had gravity-defying speedster Grip on show, as well as the glorious return of Shaq-Fu. Shaq was a personal favourite, featuring Saber Interactive’s pleasing NBA Playgrounds art style and side-scrolling, button-mashing bouts straight outta the 90s. Add to that rich colour comic book cutscenes with hilarious writing and voice over, and I cannae wait for this one.
The hockey/football/Micro Machines mash-up that is Coatsink’s ClusterPuck 99 thoroughly entertained myself and herr-Editor, as we managed to win both of our games against fellow attendees. Coatsink’s highlight, however, was the fabulous Phogs, a bonkers ‘physics dog adventure’ so beautifully realised that we have to name it as one of our games of the show.
Jam and I played in co-op mode, using the same controller to immensely increase the hilarity of the experience. You each control one end of a double-ended dog, aiming to progress through some exquisite locales via the medium of hungry giant worms. The game had a real Nintendo-at-its-most-joyous feel to it, and trust us when we say, this is going to be the game to play at parties.
The fabulous Phogs is a bonkers ‘physics dog adventure’ so beautifully realised that we have to name it as one of our games of the show.
My voyage around Rezzed finished at the glorious Leftfield Collection this year, a place that truly encapsulates the spirit of the show, in one’s humble opinion. The feeling of community was present as soon as I entered, gazing upon hand-drawn posters above each title, friendly faces from all over the world, and some superb games.
Leftfield was a true exhibition of the arts; from design, to visual presentation, to music, it all came together as my personal combined star of the show. A cop-out maybe, but there’s no doubting the reality: Leftfield displayed the true nature of gaming, and maybe even life (if you’ll forgive my pretension) - personal, meaningful, fun. It’s for that reason you can expect to see an article focused squarely on the great Leftfield games on show, which really deserve the spotlight.
With that, I downed my last coffee of the weekend, checked one last time for fish, and disappeared into the night. So long, farewell, auf wiedersehen, farvel - see ya next year, Rezzed!
For plenty more EGX Rezzed 2018 coverage, stay tuned to Pass the Controller.
This’ll be our third year at EGX’s fantastic indie game showcase, Rezzed. Set inside London’s Tobacco Dock, those lucky enough to be going - attendance swells every year - have literally hundreds of games to try out, covering every genre imaginable. The big boys will be there too, so those of you with a love for all things Nintendo, PlayStation and Xbox have no excuse, either. With this in mind, here are 7 games we’ll be homing in on come Friday.
Another adventure featuring an alluring audio-visual assault, Lost Ember casts you as a wolf with the power to inhabit other animals, in a natural world shorn of mankind. Discover the ruins of long lost civilizations through the wings of a bird, the fins of a fish or the snout of the wolf himself. Check out the trailer for Lost Ember’s Abzu/Journey influenced world above, and get excited.
Set in a world covered in water - hello Mr Costner, how have you been? - Above puts the player in the cockpit of dinky plane, in this charming looking action adventure. Build, upgrade and modify your craft, fight against gargantuan sea monsters and sky pirates, and follow your character’s journey to hunt down a long lost sibling.
An open-world adventure the likes of which we rarely see, Heaven’s Vault puts you in the shoes of archaeologist Aliya Elasra, as you attempt to uncover the secrets of a civilization's past. Sumptuous hand drawn 2D art, hieroglyphic translation and absorbing characters blend to create yet another attractive adventure at this year’s show.
Double Kick Heroes
Labelled as a rhythm-metal-shooter by the developers, Double Kick Heroes has cooked those three ingredients up in to a sweet gaming jambalaya. The action scrolls from left-to-right, as you and your band of musical metal madmen crash drums and shred guitars; time it right and bullets will fly at the bastards chasing you. Check out our preview for more on DKH.
Take a B-movie narrative, arcade-style gameplay, limited sight and what do you get? Blind Drive, that’s what. Like many of the other gems on this list, the game will be playable in the Left Field collection at the show, a place where it seems we’ll be spending most of our time! Keep tabs on our coverage over the weekend to see if dev Lo-Fi People’s intriguing idea equates to a grand game.
Are you attending EGX Rezzed? Are you a developer who’d like us to see their game? Let us know via the comments and social media, and look out for more coverage over the weekend.
From the painstaking recreation of 15th Century life in the Kingdom of Bohemia and its notable inhabitants, to the need to eat, drink and sleep in order to continue your day-to-day existence, Kingdom Come: Deliverance is an RPG that shies away from the fantasy side of things in favour of a more authentic medieval experience. As the game’s tag line puts it, this is ‘dungeons and no dragons’.
The opening chunk of gameplay I was given access to was set not long after Henry, the game’s young protagonist, woke up in the town of Rattay after being nursed back to health following a raid on his village that destroyed his home and family, and left him gravely wounded. One of the first things that struck me as I began to explore was the way the landscape, and even most buildings, looked almost photorealistic at times; it’s clear a lot of research and effort has been put into making the world feel as authentic as possible, though an inconsistent frame rate did spoil the immersion a bit.
I soon bumped into Peshek, the miller whose daughter had kept Henry alive. He wasn’t blessed with quite the same generous streak as his offspring, however, and wanted payment for his hospitality; namely the illegal moving of a buried body, an act that was considered sacrilegious at the time (and is, probably, still frowned upon today).
This was an early example of the many choices players will face throughout the game, with most decisions you make having a knock-on effect in some way. For example, by turning down Peshek, I was informed that he would send men who would harass Henry throughout the rest of the game unless he was payed off or they were killed.
One of the first things that struck me as I began to explore was the way the landscape, and even most buildings, looked almost photorealistic at times.
It’s a rule that can be applied to a large chunk of your interactions within the game world; while doing the rounds as a newly employed member of the Rattay night watch (the culmination of my time in the opening chapter) I came across a heated dispute between the local blacksmith and a beggar, which ended in my ordering the ‘smith to be a good chap and give the poor girl some alms, in this case a couple of coins.
This was a decision that could have a negative influence on a player’s reputation within the town, specifically with the traders, who, as a result, may give Henry bad deals or even refuse to trade altogether. Thankfully, Tobias (the Warhorse rep) did assure me that it's possible to reverse a poor reputation, whether through completing missions for the townsfolk or by tipping traders some extra cash while haggling.
Given my limited playtime, it’s hard to tell how far reaching some of the consequences of my actions could be. I can’t be sure that the animosity between Henry and the irritatingly smug Lord Hanush – one of many Game of Thrones-esque characters lurking amongst the walls of Rattay – would have been so great had I not bested him in an archery contest and won his expensive hunting bow in a wager.
Perhaps I could have rebooted the chapter and deliberately lost, but after spending two hours exploring the town, talking to the locals, giving drunk guards a good rollicking and even finding time for a nap in a tavern, I’d had my fill of peaceful medieval life. My sword arm was growing restless, and to channel a certain Robert Baratheon - I needed to hit someone.
Luckily, hitting people is what the second act was all about, as I was to take part in a siege on a bandit camp hidden in some woods. The three-staged attack consisted of taking a lightly guarded bridge and then razing the main camp, before a showdown with the imposing bandit leader.
For a game that encourages you to favour diplomacy over violence, battles in KCD are pretty darn fun, although, as I quickly found out, Henry is no super soldier. On more than one occasion my eagerness to rush ahead of my allies led to a quick (and bloody) death, as I either ended up surrounded by enemies and cut down, or picked off by archers as I tried to limp away.
Once I got used to the fact that I wasn’t a medieval Master Chief and learned to advance with others, battles became a much more tactical affair as I carefully picked my moments, taking on weaker, unaware or injured enemies in quick, hit and run attacks, whilst keeping an eye open for archers, who I would take out with my own bow.
While this section of the game was deliberately chosen to showcase the combat system in action, there were still hints of the freedoms KCD gives players to tackle situations in different ways, from the recce information Henry presents Lord Radzig regarding the best way to storm the fort, to more subtle and stealthier ways.
“Before this fighting quest, you could have snuck into this camp and poisoned the food, then most of the people would be a one hit kill,” said Tobias. “You can also burn the arrows of the archers, but this is super tricky because you need to sneak in and try to not get caught, though you can try to kill one of the bad guys and dress as him and they will not attack you.”
Although my afternoon with Kingdom Come: Deliverance was cut short, it encompassed far more than I could fully recollect here, and left me wanting more.
Combat in KCD uses a similar method to the one seen in For Honor, in that players can adopt a number of stances – high, low, left, right, etc. - while wielding a melee weapon to counter or attack an enemy. Dealing out damage felt accurate and weighty; I was able to target weak points in enemy armour and exposed areas, such as a bandit leader's completely unprotected head, which lead to him dropping very quickly. As for defence, I found it easier to just dodge an enemy attack rather than try to stop it with a correctly-timed block.
After my glorious victory came the third and final chapter, which tasked players with sneaking their way into a monastery to find a murderer who was posing as a monk, but by now reality was calling (also known as the last EasyJet flight back home to Amsterdam) and it was time to say farewell to medieval Bohemia.
Although my afternoon with Kingdom Come: Deliverance was cut short, it encompassed far more than I could fully recollect here, and left me wanting more. Medieval Bohemia feels ripe for exploring, and there looks to be a progression and choice system in place that allows players the freedom to approach the game however they wish.
Kingdom Come: Deliverance is just around the corner, releasing 13 February on Xbox One, PlayStation 4 and PC.
On a beautifully clear, crisp autumnal morning, I ventured forth from the homestead, braving a treacherous business-folk drenched train from quaint St Albans to the big smoke of London. Two further underground feckers later, I found myself wedged inside a DLR filled with Batman, Luigi, Wonder Woman and so many brightly coloured haircuts I didn’t know where to look. Did I wish I’d dressed up as Bananaman? Undoubtedly, yes. But pray tell, chums, I hear thee cry: “Where the buggery funk art thou, Bobby?” Why, MCM Comic-Con 2017, of course…
Jokes aside, it was all good fun, and I especially enjoyed playing Arms for the first time. The presence of Charles Martinet (the voice of Mario, Luigi, et al) was very welcoming, too. New stuff was what I was after, mind, so I barrelled over to Fire Emblem Warriors for a bit of the old hack ‘n’ slash.
I thoroughly enjoyed its Wii U cousin, Hyrule Warriors, so I entered expecting much of the same. Unfortunately though, comrades, I had no such luck. Objectives felt dull, the same combat system I enjoyed so much in Hyrule had gone hard like a Sunday morning posh-loaf of sourdough come Monday, and the constant pop-in and muddy background visuals left all four of my eyes aggrieved. I adore many of the Fire Emblem games, so it was great to see Chrom and the gang, but Warriors lacked any soul, and, ultimately, fun.
My hacking ‘n’ slashing muscle felt rather weak after its pitiful Fire Emblem Warriors workout, so I decided to do a few more reps with Dynasty Warriors 9 next. I can hear your chants already: “But Bobbo, these Warriors games all be the same!” And by the power of Greyskull are you right, folks; Dynasty 9 is the same punnet of shiitake mushrooms Koei-Tecmo have been flogging for years - dull, dirty and gone-off.
With those disappointments under my belt, I felt it would be a good time to see what lower-budget treats the show had tucked away. There were slow-paced horror adventures like White Day, pulsating SHMUP delights such as Raiden V, and text-heavy readathons like Dangaropa V3. Two games stood out for very different reasons here, though: Cat Quest and Gal Gun: Double Peace.
Cat Quest puts you in the claws, tail and anus of a cat on - you guessed it - an adventure… The top-down perspective, charming visuals and funny, funky characters reminded moi of Nintendo’s very own Zelda universe, with a feline twist of course. The sub-quests were enjoyable, the dialogue was amusing and the combat was fabulous. We especially enjoyed the extra strategy of the boss fight on show, where careful planning and learning of tells proved very effective in constructing his demise. Check it out on Steam now, or wait for its console release in the near future.
Gal Gun has been out for awhile now, apparently, but I definitely wasn’t aware of its existence - it’d be hard to forget, honestly. The game is a rail shooter unlike any before it; instead of firing bullets at angry aliens or roided-up meatheads, here you shoot kisses at waves of oncoming female classmates, stopping them from confessing their love for you. Yes, chums, you read that correctly, and for that reason only - and because it was so bloody hilarious - we’re happy to present Gal Gun: Double Peace our (un)official Wackiest Game of the Show award!
Still reeling from our truly bizarre experience with double-G, we stumbled towards the hidden-behind-ultramega-secret-curtains area belonging to Ubisoft. Once we’d completed the classified handshake and coughed up the password (“same old shit”), we slithered in to sample Assassin’s Creed: Origins and South Park: The Fractured But Whole (both of which we have full reviews in the works for, so keep ‘em peeled).
The former is everything you’d expect it to be, albeit reskinned with an Egyptian flavour. It was fun for five minutes, but, to be frank, I’ve personally been Bogtrotter'd with the series for a long time - time to put the assassin’s down now please, Ubi.
The highlight of my playtime was a QTE-filled sexy dance, where I had to control Sidekick’s hip movement and flatulence...
South Park fared better, but again I left with the feeling that it wouldn’t hold my interest in the long term. Playing as Sidekick, you infiltrate a strip club alongside Captain Diabetes, trying to find a dancer with a phallic tattoo. The highlight of my playtime was a QTE-filled sexy dance, where I had to control Sidekick’s hip movement and flatulence to extract information from a couple of seedy punters. It was funny, but I reckon the humour and RPG-style fights will wear thin rather quickly for non-hardcore fans of the show.
The long-awaited Ni No Kuni 2 was also playable on the show floor, and, although RPGs certainly aren’t my forte, I thoroughly enjoyed the luxuriant Ghibli-influenced art, as well as its compelling boss encounter during my session. This has the potential to be the RPG I finally bother to play through, grinding and all!
Comic Con isn’t just games either - as the name suggests... - so I took a jaunt around the venue and out of my comfort zone to see what else the show had to offer. There were plenty of Marvel bits and bobs, as you’d expect, but they stood alongside much smaller properties, where my personal highlight was meeting a fellow who calls himself BompKaDunk. He draws and writes a lovely comic titled Dungeon Crunch, but what really caught my eye was his drawing of a character that had gherkin-like genitals. This was for a commission, gang, and apparently not that uncommon a request…
So, we come full circle to my game of the show; none other than the fabulous Super Mario Odyssey. I eagerly awaited my turn for what felt like an age, hairline receding dramatically, until finally I got my hands on those far-too-small Joy-Cons. Time crumbled into dust, such was the perfection of platforming, humour, gorgeous colourful graphics and wonderfully invigorating music. Odyssey proves yet again - alongside Breath of the Wild - that Nintendo are still the masters of creating astoundingly enjoyable, fun-filled video games.
And with that, my time was up. I had trains to catch, a three sausage sandwich to eat, and an editor (James Michael Parry, of course!) to liaise with for old man ales. Had I learnt much about the comics world? I can’t be sure. Did I still wish I’d come as Bananaman? You betcha.
The biggest event on the UK gaming calendar, EGX 2017, is already over, but there were plenty of exciting things to see and do at this year’s show, so let’s see if we can remember a few.
This year, for the first time ever, we’ve singled out the top showings from the event into an easy to digest list of awards, so that you can jump into the comments and disagree vehemently.
One To Watch: Yoku's Island Express
A delightful little game coming from Team 17 in 2018 combines traditional 2D platforming with a more mobile-friendly pinball element, which sees your character - the titular Yoku - only able to jump by using bumpers embedded throughout the level. Feeling somewhat reminiscent of the Sonic 2 Casino Nights Zone but with an aesthetic closer to recent iterations of Rayman, what we’ve played so far has us hooked and itching for more.
Biggest Disappointment: Far Cry 5
A change of location, villain and tone isn’t enough to spark interest in Ubisoft’s explore-'em-up franchise. While we’ve only had limited exposure to previous games (personally), the performance of the demo in particular was very poor and really muddied what would otherwise have been a serviceable shooter experience. The ability to take command of a dog is a nice touch but hardly unheard of in today’s gaming world.
Best Newcomer: Raiders of the Broken Planet
While Sam and James already have some hands-on time with Mercury Steam’s asymmetrical third-person shooter, it was clear the development team had since spent some considerable time polishing things up. The game feels fresh and unafraid to present brash, unattractive characters in building its sci-fi world. While the game plays best in multiplayer, it’s compelling in single-player as well, and in chunks just the right size for its simple and effective mission objectives. Expect more on this one soon.
The 'Shut Up and Take Money’ Award: Mario Odyssey
This award is fairly self-explanatory. We’ve already gushed on our podcast about how much we’re looking forward to Mario’s next adventure, and after just a 15 minute demo that’s enough for us to say we don’t want to know any more until the full game is in our hands. Swimming costumes aside, the design and presentation is some of the best we’ve seen on the Switch, even rivaling Zelda’s stylised look in terms of sheer shininess. The variety offered by Cappy alone is impressive, and certainly not just a gameplay gimmick.
Most Ridiculous Queue: Shadow of War
It cannot be overstated how large the queue to play Middle Earth: Shadow of War was, on both days we attended the show. We have no doubt that the final game will offer a wealth of Tolkein-inspired goodness for us to immerse ourselves in, but dipping our toe in the water proved out of the question at EGX itself. Fortunately, there’s quite a few trailers to look at in the meantime, including ones which talk more about the nemesis system, which we can’t wait to explore.
Game of the Show: Vostock Inc.
When we were invited by Wired Productions to try out an unannounced (at the time) title for Nintendo Switch, speculation ran wild for what the game might be. It’s fair to say that we never expected anything quite like Vostock Inc. Already released on PC, Xbox and PlayStation, the Switch version is undoubtedly the way the game is intended to be played. There’s wall to wall character and humour built into the game at every turn, as you’re put in charge of a company tasked with making as much Mulah (the universal currency) as possible. It combined idle gameplay elements which see your cashflow tick up when you aren’t even playing the game, with tons of content thrown in to keep you coming back for more.
Platform of the Show: Nintendo Switch
Everywhere you looked at the show - you could see the Nintendo Switch. Whether it was the games on show or eager gamers passing time in the queues, this year shows the real potential of the hybrid platform. Now that the launch period dry spell is over, there’s plenty to look forward to, not just Mario (with the superlative Mario+Rabbids just released and Odyssey not far away) either, there’s Fire Emblem Warriors, indie games and ports (Wolfenstein anyone?) galore to look forward to.
Honourable Mention: Hyper Sentinel
One title which shouldn’t go unmentioned is Hyper Sentinel. Not only is it sharp, but CEO & Creative Director Rob Hewson’s commitment with both outfit and swag is absolutely what EGX is about. Aside from dressing in full space pilot attire, he furnished us with treats from days of yore - flying saucers and Space Invaders crisps.
Take a look at his geddup, and his thoughts on the game, in our round-up video.
Hello there! You've stumbled across a treat: we have a brand new podcast for you to watch and listen to, which features Gamescom 2017 and also includes some exclusive gameplay from Conan Exiles (as you can see above), which is currently in Game Preview on Xbox One.
Last year I made the silly mistake of walking up all 78 stairs of fair Shadwell Overground’s underground train station, to the nitty-gritty London surface. Learn from every experience, chums, as Lord Cliché always says, and with that firmly in mind I took the lift and whistled me a tune, before escaping out towards Tobacco Dock. Where was I, comrades? Well, Rezzed 2017 of course…
I love a good shmup (see recent release Ghost Blade for proof) and was especially overjoyed to see next stop Aperion Cyberstorm running on the much maligned Wii U! Taking advantage of the Wii U’s local multiplayer capabilities, I jumped into a five player destroy-em-up that managed that winning combination of frantic gameplay and fantastic fun. The single player also proved to be mighty interesting, riffing on many classic space ship games of the past (it felt like the Mega Drive’s exploration shooter Sub-Terrania mixed with genre classic Bangai-O). Keep your eyes on PTC for an interview with developer Apriori Digital in the coming weeks.
My next stop was publisher Soedesco’s stand. Here I had the pleasure of meeting Thomas Tyssoy from Rain Games - the makers of Teslagrad - to talk about the Norwegian gaming scene and to play their new game World to the West. WTTW is a top down action-adventure game full of character and cartoony visuals that builds on what the team achieved with Teslagrad. We look forward to playing this one when in releases in early May.
I also had the pleasure of playing 8-Bit Armies and AereA at the Soedesco stand. Fans of Command & Conquer and pixel art will surely adore 8-Bit Armies and it’s classic RTS gameplay, whilst Musical RPG lovers will certainly care for AereA, too. Both games were charming, and will release later in the year in both digital and physical forms.
Venturing forth from Soedesco’s realm I ducked into Wired Productions section of the show to sample their upcoming console game (already available on Steam) - The Town of Light. A first person psychological adventure, the game tells the story of Renée, a woman trying to understand why she has been institutionalised. The subject matter driving the story forward is not something we’ve seen a lot of in the gaming word, and despite a few dodgy frame drops I’d recommend having a look at the game when it releases later this spring.
This was my first time playing a Switch and I have to be honest, I left disappointed; the buttons - triggers especially - were just too damn small for my fat hands.
Next up for me was Nintendo’s own section, and, in spite of being a lifelong fan of the company, I approached with some trepidation. Seeing Overcooked (my game of Rezzed 2016) running and surrounded with laughing people was a lovely start, as was having a quick blast on FAST rmx, the follow up to the excellent FAST Racing NEO. I was after new Nintendo joy though, so waltzed over to have a crack at the other offerings on the table.
De Mambo is a self proclaimed Smash Bros-loving arcade bash-em-up, with local multiplayer mayhem its main focus. I enjoyed the hectic, headless-chicken nature of a four player match, but found myself really enthralled with the single player element of the game. The game presents short, sharp challenges such as pushing items off a stage before the timer runs down, or completing a mini platforming level as quickly as possible. I savoured it's Mario inspired bouquet - keep your onions peeled for this one in the summer.
The rest of Nintendo’s stand left me rather underwhelmed though; Steamworld Dig 2 will be loved by fans of the original but I found it to be rather frustrating. Yes, the graphics were nice, but the game just wasn’t that fun and that’s what I expect from games on Nintendo consoles.
Gonner played a tough game of procedurally generated platforming, boasting an intriguing art style of muted primary colours against black backdrops. I enjoyed it, but it really didn’t feel like new ground, something that resonated through most of Nintendo’s offerings.
This was also my first time playing a Switch and I have to be honest, I left disappointed; the buttons - triggers especially - were just too damn small for my fat hands. It felt quite flimsy too, which was both a surprise and a shame considering how well it has been reviewed on the whole (including by our very own James). I’ll be waiting for a pro controller bundle at a sensible price before I take the plunge.
With that Nintendo fueled melancholy in tow I plundered the stairs to the Unreal Engine showcase, to have a crack at Formula Fusion, a furiously fast racer with more than a slight feel of Wipeout to it. The game looked beautiful; the super smooth framerate highlighting the contours of each vehicle and every bend in the road. Developer R8 are promising a stack load of tracks and content - and online races - when the game launches later in the year.
Pumped full of Formula Fusion techno I hopped, skipped and jumped to the ID@Xbox Arena. I was lucky enough to try many of the games on offer here; from story driven adventure game Blackwood Crossing (review in the next couple o’ weeks, kids) to multiplayer shoot-em-up Full Metal Furies to musical shooter Aaero. There was a lot of decent content here, but one rose several leagues above the rest: Wargroove.
Wargroove is a turn-based strategy game that takes cues from both Advance Wars (it's GBA inspired art style) and Fire Emblem and makes it its own. I played a lot of games at this year’s show and found 10 minutes to be enough playtime for most, Wargroove though was so moreish I found half an hour just slipped away. I’m keeping my flippers crossed that developer Chucklefish get this one finished ASAP, as I’m jonesing for more!
From the green-tinged halls of Xbox I stumbled into the blueish-hues of Sega’s exhibit. Like many I was there for one reason and one reason only: Sonic Mania! Just as expected, the hectic Hedgehog’s latest side-scrolling adventure played as if 3D gaming had never occurred. I myself couldn’t differentiate Mania from Sonic’s 1 & 2 - this will be joyous or displeasing news depending on your opinion/thirst for nostalgia.
I finished my time at this year’s Rezzed with three of my favourite games of the show; sidescrolling action game Sundered, ethereal adventure game Lost Words and stealth/cleanse-'em-up Serial Cleaner.
Sundered comes from Thunder Lotus Games, the makers of the fabulous Jotun. Like Jotun, Sundered features an absolutely gorgeous hand drawn art style that brought to mind classic hand drawn films of the past. The action itself felt like a cross between the great Disney platformers of the 90s (hello Aladdin) and Prince of Persia, whilst also feeling fresh. I look forward to taking on the huge bosses and procedurally generated underground caves when the game is completed.
Lost Words (pictured above) is the evolution of one of my top picks from Rezzed 2016; The Last Word. The name has changed but the quality of storytelling and interesting gameplay mechanics have remained. The game really stands out, not just from everything else at the show, but from the standard independently made swell of platformers and shmups. This year creator Mark Backler showed us some new stages of the game, as you work your way through the diary of a young woman coming to terms with her Grandmother’s stroke. I was left both impressed and deeply moved by Lost Words; keep your eyes on PTC for more from the game, and Mark.
My game of Rezzed 2017 goes to none other than ifun4all’s glorious stealth-em-up Serial Cleaner. From my first sight of the game’s stand - full of smiles and laughter - to my last arrest mid-job, the game endlessly entertained me. The game presents a simple premise: clean up all the dead bodies and blood from the crime scene before the police bust you.
And it’s from this simple premise that the game builds each stage. Starting off small with a reduced map, fewer police and only one body to dispose of, the game teaches you how to be successful in a fun, hilarious and intuitive way. Before I knew it I was using cupboards and long grass to hide from PC Plod, jumping out at just the right moment to scoop up a corpse and canter back to my 1970s station wagon. The aural bombast of classic cop show music only heightened my joy. Pray for Curve Digital and ifun4all to get this one finished soon, it really is that good.
Rezzed 2017 had some wonderful moments for me; from Wargroove to Lost Words to Sundered to Serial Cleaner, several independent devs proved yet again that our industry is thriving from the bottom up. With that in mind chums, I’m off to bed. See thee next year.
Were you at this year's Rezzed? Let us know what you thought of the show over in the forums.
PlayStation Experience, or as its better known as PSX, has debuted at the Anaheim Convention Center in California, and has showcased a fantastic lineup up of the latest and greatest PlayStation announcements. I’ve put together some highlights from this year's convention.
Displayed in classic cinematic fashion, Naughty Dog hit a home run with their announcement and conformation of The Last of Us: Part II, which featured some familiar and seasoned faces. Rest assured, Ellie and Joel are back, and it looks like Joel really did live up to at least one of his promises.
Set 5 years after the events of The Last of Us, we take the role of Ellie in this latest instalment, and in a recent Q&A, Writer/Director Neil Druckmann explained that the game will focus on the resonants of Hate. Quite a contrast in comparison to its original counterpart.
Additionally, TLOU fans would be thrilled to know that, indeed, Troy Baker and Ashley Johnson will be reprising their roles as Ellie and Joel for the second time. Great news as, after the perfomance they both put in, it just wouldn't have been the same without them. A film based on The Last of Us had been half-heartedly announced back in May this year, remaining silent ever since. In light of this recent announcement, it’s looking like the sequel could be a plausible explanation for its delay. The game as it stands is in the early development process, but already fans are eagerly anticipating Naughty Dog's next moves over the coming months, myself included.
In pursuit to uncover an ancient Indian artefact, Chloe and Nadine will encounter many challenges whilst facing the land's hostile residents along the way. Also, in standard Naughty Dog convention, the game is looking equally as stunning to its year old counterpart, A Thieves End, if not better.
Hopefully, the integration of two female protagonists will give Uncharted a jolt in the direction it needs, making for an interesting concoction of chemistry between both cast members, and a homely addition to the franchise.
Naughty Dog haven't put the series to rest as of yet and it's great to see.
At a PSX Panel, Kojima had confirmed that Mikkelsen will be playing Death Stranding's antagonist (I guess the grimacing glare was a give away). Take my money, Kojima. I trust you'll put it to good use with that brilliant mind of yours.
Check out the live streams from the event below, and let us know your highlights from this years exhibition.