As we approach the end of the year, it’s time to start taking stock of what has been a phenomenal year for gaming. While our own picks for Game of the Year will come next month, the Golden Joystick Awards have returned to dish out all sorts of accolades to the hardworking souls who bring these experiences to life for us.
What stuck out in the award winners list for you? Did it make you think about playing something you wouldn’t have considered otherwise? Let us know in our Discord.
Out of all of this year's winners and nominees, I've only played a small handful. As such, I wasn't too invested in many of the categories but it was good to see a large variety of games on show, even if a lot of them were Baldur's Gate 3.
There was some strong competition for the Still Playing Award with No Man's Sky coming out on top. It's had a lot of content pumped into it since its initial release and still stands out as being fairly unique. Of course, there are other games that revolve around space exploration but few that offer the same sense of discovery in such a huge universe.
One of those exceptions is Starfield, winner of the Xbox Game of the Year award. Despite the numerous bugs I encountered during my (considerable) play time, it quickly became one of my favourite games. Each playthrough lead to new findings and a greater appreciation for the world. Though I think Craig Sechler should have been in with a shout for Best Supporting Performer for his work as the Adoring Fan.
Most Wanted Game teased some of the titles we can look forward to in the future, like Fable and some non-Fable games which aren't Fable. The last proper Fable released all the way back in 2010 and after 12 years of not-so-patiently waiting, it feels closer than it ever has. By the time it sees the light of day, the hype which I'm trying to create will have likely faded away and I can stop banging on about it.
I’ve already mentioned my keenness to play Baldur’s Gate 3, and the record-breaking seven wins is a fairly clear sign it’s more than just hype and I should definitely get in it before the end of the year.
The benefit of awards like this is that it can bring games to your attention that you’d dismissed because they had an odd name, didn’t look like your cup of tea, or maybe you just hadn’t heard about them at all.
This year the names that stick out are both Sea of Stars and Alan Wake II. Both games have been receiving praise all over my feeds for weeks and, interestingly, both couldn’t be more tonally contrasting to each other.
Elsewhere the fact that the PlayStation Game of the Year went to Resident Evil 4 is a surprise, given that it’s a remake and we had some very strong contenders in the category, including Star Wars Jedi: Survivor.
With so many releases, it’s hard to justify revisiting ongoing titles, though, like Liam, I’m tempted to give Cyperpunk 2077 another chance after being distracted and not diving into its world first time around.
Elsewhere in the very long Most Wanted category, the title that stood out for me is Star Wars: Outlaws, even though we don’t know too much about what it’s all about just yet.
We've been out of the loop for a few weeks, but in our absence we were handed another nail in the coffin of the Electronic Entertainment Expo, or E3, as the show was cancelled once again this year.
The show was an online-only shindig last year and was caught up in the wave of event cancellations due to COVID the year before, but there has been big promises of springing back bigger and better than ever this year as recently as a few months ago.
In case this does end up being the end for E3, we thought it was time to shout out some of our favourite moments from years gone by and celebrate everything the show represented in the gaming landscape.
Xbox always leant into the drama of its announcements with a booming voiceover accompaniment of "World Premiere", and no year was more of a premiere than 2018, where Microsoft rallied after a few years of criticism from the Xbox One's launch, to bring 15 world premieres and 50 games in its showcase overall.
Finally, and many exciting moments through the years, my personal highlight has to be all of you banding together in our online chatroom to talk about the shows as they happened for several years.
The build up would involve awkward time difference calculations and pngs of various stage times, but you would all show up every time to really get into the spirit, like a sort of Eurovision Song Contest experience which saw each publisher trying to out-perform the other.
Truthfully, that is what I will miss the most, and while Gamescom and The Game Awards both offer glimmers of similar moments, the way news is shared by gaming companies now seems like it's changed forever. Pour one out.
Star Wars Battlefront II | Liam Andrews
I never used to pay much attention to E3 when I was younger, as I got all my information from gaming magazines in the early 2000s rather than watching events. I’m sure there was plenty of E3 coverage in them at the time, but I was only interested in the games themselves and wasn’t particularly fussed about where or how they were revealed.
It wasn’t until I joined PTC that I started consistently watching E3 presentations. While my preferred method is still to catch up on all the reveals after an E3 type event so I can focus on the stuff that interests me, I can definitely see the appeal of watching such things live, especially with a few friends.
Probably my most memorable picks from the E3 live events was the Star Wars Battlefront 2 reveal during EA Play (any show that opens with Star Wars’ Imperial March is off to a winner). I loved the 2015 Battlefront reboot, but the expensive season pass and lack of variety brought the experience down somewhat.
The 2017 reveal promised to fix all that, showing off multiple locations, weapons, vehicles, and characters from all Star Wars eras and also introduced the game’s new class system. Although the BF2 would go on to be panned at launch thanks to its loot box heavy progression system (which was thankfully fixed later on) the reveal itself was very impressive.
The Artful Escape | Chris Brand
My favourite E3 memory is from many moons ago. As the showcase takes place (or used to) around my birthday, I've always had cause to celebrate and my preferred method of celebrating back then was to get unbelievably hammered.
It all started off so well; I was watching E3, I was drinking, I was taking notes and I didn't have a care in the world. Until, that is, I awoke the next morning and attempted to make sense of the notes I'd jotted down whilst heavily birthday'd. Though the notes were littered with creative language and very short, I'd been descriptive enough for sober me to understand everything. Everything, apart from "Guitar Bastards." Not wanting to watch the events again in their entirety, I forgot all about Guitar Bastards and moved on with my life.
Years passed, before a little indie game called The Artful Escape hit Gamepass. From the screenshots, I immediately recognised it as Guitar Bastards but with a different, far less appealing, name. I downloaded it, to serve as a digital monument, reminding me that patience is often rewarded. And because it has guitars and I'm a nerd.
The Artful Escape is a colourful and charming adventure (and a fairly easy 100% completion) that I could have easily missed, just a quick trailer, nestled in amongst a handful of other long-forgotten titles, competing with the likes of Extreme Snow Bullshit (A.K.A Steep) and Moose-Pricks (I think that turned out to be The Deer God).
The gaming show of the year is back. Thousands have flocked to Cologne in Germany and millions more around the world have been waiting with baited breath for an unbelievable reveal (Half-Life 3 at last?), we pass judgement on the announcements and pick a few of our favourites to give the official PTC seal of approval.
With no E3 to get in the way, Gamescom is soaking up a year’s-worth of anticipation from the gaming community, which comes with a lot of unrealistic expectations... What was your personal highlight? Was there something that disappointed you? Sound off in the comments or jump into our Discord for a chin-wag on the subject.
Gotham Knights | Liam Andrews
As expected, a lot of what was on show last night didn’t involve much actual gameplay, but there were still a few trailers and reveals that stood out. I most enjoyed the Gotham Knights villains trailer, which was, at least, created with in-game footage, if not full gameplay.
This was already on my radar, and the more I see the more I am convinced it’ll be good. I like the shift away from Batman, and baddies look like a good mix of supernatural and supervillain. I’m particularly excited to tussle with the Court of Owls and their Talon assassins, as they are a faction I have previously read about in comics but haven’t seen crop up in a game yet, as far as I’m aware.
Elsewhere, The Lords of the Fallen trailer looked very cool, and reminded me I probably need to try the first game again. Under the Waves seemed interesting, and I’m hoping it’ll be a narrative driven affair rather than a crafting/resource management sim.
Hardspace: Shipbreaker also caught my attention. It’s already been well received on PC and its launch on Xbox Game Pass means I’ll definitely be giving it a try. It was also nice to see some more High on Life gameplay, and while I wasn’t totally sold on the humour, it does look like enjoyable, silly fun.
Monkey Island | Chris Brand
The authentic pirate Guybrush Threepwood was a hero of mine growing up (and let's not forget he also moonlighted as a Jedi, Guybrush Threepkiller, in The Force Unleashed 2). Though Return to Monkey Island is only slated for release on PC and Switch (boo!) I'm hoping for an Xbox version at some point in the future, maybe even a compendium of all games to date. I can't be the only one champing at the bit for a Guybrush Threepwood collection.
The writing is crucial in any point-and-click title and Monkey Island always nailed the humour, not only with the wacky characters and interactions but also the, often ridiculous, puzzles and the unforgettable insult sword fighting.
I'm a huge fan of the series and feel that sweet nostalgia whenever there's a new entry. Monkey Island has survived for decades without the need for endless sequels and that's possibly why I'm so interested. Something about absence and hearts and fondue, I don't know.
Everywhere also caught my eye, in a way that's uncomfortably reminiscent of Fable. On the surface, it seems to promise a lot but we've all been burned before. I'm dubious of any game touted as a "GTA killer" because, so far, that particular franchise has no legitimate rival (sorry, Saints Row). Still, I'll be paying close attention whilst trying to avoid being splattered by the hype train.
Much of what was on show seemed like little more than teasers but each and every trailer was a welcome break from Geoff Keighley's stupid face, which we've already been subjected to far too many times this year.
While the crowds might not have descended on Cologne in Germany for the biggest gaming event of the year, Gamescom still brought together the biggest trailers and game reveals it could muster, virtually, starting with the 2-hour Opening Night Live stream.
We’ve pondered the selection and picked out a few of our favourite moments. Be sure to let us know what you’re looking forward to in our comments section.
The Skywalker Saga is looking Crait.
Gamescom 2020 didn’t do much for me. I’m excited about several of the featured games, but most didn’t present anything new or of substance during the digital event.
Ratchet and Clank: Rift Apart left me impressed following its initial reveal, though the footage that capped off Opening Night Live largely retread the same ground. It was a similar situation with Mafia: Definitive Edition, which received a short trailer when just a couple of days prior lengthy previews were all over YouTube.
Dragon Age 4 is another I’m looking forward to that didn’t show particularly well. We’ve known it’s on the way for years, but still we only get looks at concept art and character models; well, that and what could be empty promises from BioWare.
Indies fared better, as they did during last month’s State of Play, with Little Nightmares 2 and 12 Minutes putting in strong showings. Bridge Constructor: The Walking Dead also proved surprisingly compelling, mostly for its sheer outlandishness.
Finally, Medal of Honor: Above and Beyond left a sour taste due to questionable marketing. The classic series’ return looks impressive, which is why I got all excited to see Oculus Quest as a supported platform. Take a moment to check the smallprint, however, and it becomes clear that there isn’t actually a dedicated Quest version. Instead, you’ll need a compatible PC and an Oculus Link cable… which kinda defeats the purpose of owning an all-in-one VR headset, no?
You'll still need a beefy PC to enjoy Respawn's Above and Beyond.
DIRT 5 is a game that continues to pique my interest, even though I’m not that much of a racing fan (though I did enjoy Codemasters’ GRID reboot). I’m not exactly big on map editors, either, but DIRT 5’s playground mode shown off during the stream looks surprisingly robust, and the teaser for a vampire mode, which I assume is a vehicular take on infection, has me intrigued.
Elsewhere, Call of Duty: Black Ops Cold War continues to sound promising, although as a fan of the original Black Ops, it’s still a bit weird hearing Mason, Hudson and Woods without their original voice actors. I especially like the idea of the campaign’s optional objectives and nonlinear elements, and I look forward to experiencing them as my hastily made protagonist - character creators be damned!
Star Wars Squadrons was the highlight of the show, however, and I am thoroughly looking forward to its release next month. Everything I’ve seen of the game so far has me convinced it could very well be the modern-day Rogue Squadron I’ve been waiting for, and even though I’m going to be picking it up on Xbox One, if I end up getting a PS5 I’ll be seriously tempted to double dip just for VR support.
Probably the closest we'll get to a new Rogue Squadron.
What were your highlights from Gamescom? Let us know below or in the forums.
After trying out a host of excellent indie games at EGX Rezzed earlier this year, our appetite was well and truly whetted for more incredible titles at what is the biggest UK gaming event of the year, EGX.
The showcase had us following V in both Netrunner (i.e. stealthy stealthy) and Solo (i.e. all-out action) figurations through Night City, a broken utopia which never reached the potential of its vision. All this we previously knew, so what's different?
To call the game a mixture of Deus Ex and Fallout is an oversimplification, but as V moves around the world NPCs will interact with you naturally and you'll have multiple routes to taking on a problem. The gameplay is slick, the presentation even more so, and the use of Keanu Reeves as your digital imaginary friend isn't overplayed. It'll be interesting to see if he ends up being more than just a sci-fi Jimminy Cricket as the narrative unfolds, though.
The intrigue of the story, even in this brief slice, was arresting and interesting, plus even the hacking mini-games and other such tropes felt naturally integrated. It really feels like this game is showing us exactly what it will turn out to be, rather than overpromising a "living breathing world" and not delivering. We'll find out for sure when it launches on 16 April 2020.
Best Singleplayer - Luigi's Mansion 3
With the previous game released on 3DS in 2013, it's been a while since Luigi has had a spooky adventure (if you don't count the scary levels from Mario+Rabbids Kingdom Battle - which you should).
Now Mario's younger, taller brother is back to do his best Ghostbusters impression - just in time for Halloween. The poltergust (his hoover-like busting equipment) returns along with a new wrinkle in the form of the puzzle-solving champion Gooigi, a goopy green clone of the plucky plumber who can handle spikes and slip through grates.
The presentation has the usual Nintendo sheen, and the visuals look particularly crisp, if a little tiny on a Switch Lite. It's a wholesome premise which has an artstyle that keeps things entertaining rather than scary, even for youngsters.
Sadly, there was no sign of Waluigi, so we'll just have to keep our fingers crossed for the full game.
Best Multiplayer - Cake Bash
A game we've seen before at EGX Rezzed, the confection-based brawler is only getting better with more time in the oven.
In your quest to become the tastiest cake, there's now a new mode which sees you avoiding a hob placed in the centre of the map, and reportedly there's even more ideas to bring more unusual twists to this Smash Bros-‘em-up.
The biggest sign that this title – brought to life by ex-Ubisoft devs High Tea Frog and published by Coatsink – has a bright future is the number of children and families who turned up to their booth at the show. (Of course, the deck chairs and cuddly toys probably helped.)
We're expecting the final game at some point in 2020, so there may be more to see at next year's Rezzed.
Best Indie - Adventure in Aellion
Have you ever been taking on a Hinox for the 18th time in Breath of the Wild and wished you had a little help? Adventure on Aellion (pronounced Ellion) aims to bring the accessibility and excitement of a solo Zelda adventure to a group of players.
It's still early days, but already the visual style and solid gameplay shows the premise's potential. Developers The Game Production Company are keen to get feedback on the project in terms of how many players there should be and what features should be included.
With an emphasis more on puzzles than combat (the latter of which they’re still expecting to explore), the experience will appeal to those who enjoy the brain-teasing seen in BotW’s Sheika shrines.
Don't miss a few words from Director Luke O'Donoghue in our video round-up.
The Longshot Award - Kung Fu Jesus
This is an interesting one. You're already intrigued by the name, right? What you are picturing can't quite prepare you for the reality of what this game is, however, and more importantly what it could be.
Based partly on hallucinogenic experiences, Kung Fu Jesus is an alternate take on history where Jesus Christ (yes, that one) returns to Earth with no memory, is trained by a kung fu master and works for a drug dealer.
The actual experience at the moment is limited. With creative choices around dialogue in particular, which reuses a handful of (possibly placeholder) foreign language lines, not giving us much to get into and the combat itself feeling quite basic.
Hopefully this is just the first few steps towards a greater end product, as all development is to an extent, let's not forget, and the final game will break through the haze to connect with players while still retaining its quirky spirit.
Most Anticipated - Pokémon Sword and Shield
Pokémon is everywhere. Our phones, our films, even our shopping centres - nowhere is safe from the pocket monsters. It's even already on the Switch, since Let's Go! Pikachu and Let's Go! Eevee were released about a year ago, but many fans might tell you they "don't count".
So, with just a few weeks to go, we got a chance to dive into the new Galar Pokémon region, loosely inspired by real-world Blighty, to fend off a few new 'mon. While it was only a brief glimpse, coupled with the extended information released from various Nintendo Directs, trailers and presentations, it gave us a good sense of how the game will play, and it's good news.
The wheel isn't being re-invented here. The technical challenge of making the jump from 3DS to Switch was more than enough to keep Gamefreak busy, but there's a few new wrinkles to the formula which could be interesting, including Dynamaxing pokémon, a process which sees them grow to football pitch size and unleash devastating attacks.
There was just time to challenge the water-type gym leader Nessa, and we were gifted a full squad of level 50 pokémon to give her a damn good thrashing. The animation was fluid and the performance sound, even as two dynamaxed monsters threw everything they had at one another. There's just a few more weeks to wait for the full experience, and our excitement is palpable.
While blockbusters like the notably weird Death Stranding might have drawn the crowds, there are always more great games at EGX than we can do justice, so here's a few quick ones at the end, hopefully just before you tune out.
No Straight Roads, our top pick from Rezzed, returned with a fresh bit of polish and a few updated UI elements here and there. Indivisible proved to be a delightful hand-animated-style 2D platformer in the usual smattering of 8-bit would-be indie darlings and Boundary, though tricky to get to grips with at first, was very entertaining and a well-executed concept. Keep an eye out for Liam's upcoming interview for more on that one.
In the more AAA camp we had Marvel's Avengers from Crystal Dynamics, with Nolan North and Troy Baker filling in for their better-known Hollywood counterparts. The gameplay was more satisfying than the initial trailer let on and we had a blast smashing up baddies with Mjolnir. Hopefully the final game, which will take a less linear approach to the prologue we played, will impress in the New Year.
Finally, while there wasn't time to try it out, Ring Fit Adventure from Nintendo proved to be a hugely entertaining spectator sport, and one which was definitely popular with the kids who put it through its paces (or...loops?) at the show.
What was your highlight? Did we miss a must-see game? Let us know in the comments and don't forget to watch our video on YouTube.
A newbie to the DOOM scene, I went into our time with sequel DOOM Eternal, due out 22 November, with some trepidation.
New to the party this time around are mobility upgrades like a grappling hook, a double dash move and the ability to climb walls. Offensively, a shoulder-mounted flamethrower and an arm blade help to bring more of the series’ staple violence to the table. From what we've seen so far, the wall climbing and dash mechanics look to impact the game the most, allowing for a platforming section on Mars and plenty of interesting ways to hide away secrets.
Resource management seems to be a more important aspect here too, as you juggle to keep your health, shields and ammo topped up constantly. Health is straightforward enough - execute a gory glory kill by meleeing an enemy in the stunned, near-death state - while coating them with your new flamethrower tops up your armour and using the chainsaw once again forces them to spit out ammo.
Depending on your playstyle, you could find yourself constantly short of one resource or another. If you're like us that was ammo, constantly flailing our way through demon-infested areas, powering through every gun in our arsenal, rinsing ammo as we went.
The aesthetic and enemies all look familiar, and the overall style has the same sort of irreverent disregard for context, or reason to really care about Doomguy's plight. Combat seems even more frantic than before, thanks largely to the additional dash, which (as noted) also helps with traversal.
While dashing about is good fun, platforming and utilising boost jump pads can feel quite unforgiving, as can the timing for latching onto climbable walls, though they are at least marked by a distinctive texture. All of this added up to quite a lot of falling to our death in these sections, though it’s likely something players will get increasingly accustomed to, as with first-person platforming in general.
So far then? A thoroughly frenetic affair bursting with style, boasting guns that pack a punch and solid gameplay - very much in line with what you’d expect from a new DOOM. While its older brother re-established the series, Eternal looks to be putting in just enough new ideas to keep it fresh without spoiling what caused the previous one to be held in such high regard.
Doomguy returns 22 November on Xbox One, PlayStation 4 and PC, then later on Nintendo Switch.
You can watch the full DOOM Eternal Keynote Presentation from QuakeCon below.
What’s being considered a rather tame Electronic Entertainment Expo is now coming to a close, though even a slow E3 is sure to have at least a few standout moments, of which we’ve picked our personal highlights.
Liam | Nintendo Treehouse livestream
My favourite part of an otherwise disappointing E3 was Nintendo Treehouse Live. This stream offered an opportunity to see actual gameplay for Nintendo’s upcoming games, countering the deluge of cinematic trailers that made up most of their Direct presentation and all of the other shows.
I was particularly pleased to hear Animal Crossing: New Horizons will feature the full suite of same-screen, local wireless and online co-op. Being able to work together in real time rather than in shifts, as was the case for me and my deputy in New Leaf, just makes sense and will hopefully alleviate some of the more monotonous management tasks.
Despite having initially dismissed it as a gimmick, the new dungeon creator in Link’s Awakening also grabbed my attention and looks like a fun new addition to an already impressive game. It'd be even better if Nintendo let us share these creations with other players, à la Super Mario Maker, but there didn’t seem to be any mention of such a feature.
Visibly wandering Pokémon in Sword and Shield, at least in the games’ designated Wild Area, was another bit of good news from the livestream. Like many, I’ve come to dread all of the random encounters and so this is a very welcome change.
Chris | More on DOOM Eternal
DOOM as a series always failed to grab me, at least until the 2016 reboot, at which point I became immediately enamoured with its fast, fluid movement which is somewhat reminiscent of Halo. That in itself probably wouldn't be enough to keep me around, but the gunplay is just as smooth and yet incredibly weighty at the same time - then there are the gloriously explicit executions, which never get old.
Eternal boasts more weapons (and associated upgrades), abilities, enemies, executions and environments, taking us all the way from the depths of Hell to the heights of Heaven, like Dante's Divine Comedy with guns and gore in place of self-reflection and enlightenment.
Bethesda have teased that we'll discover the origins of this iteration of the Doom Slayer, and I'm eager to see if we'll be battling against both angels and demons. It's just the kind of silly sci-fi story which never fails to draw me in.
When it comes to multiplayer, I can usually take it or leave it, but DOOM Eternal’s new competitive BATTLEMODE also has me intrigued. Assuming it's properly balanced, the unique 2v1 demons vs. Doom Slayer mode could prove to be an entertaining time sink.
James | Keanu Reeves in Cyberpunk?!
Matrix star and altogether nice guy Keanu Reeves is so hot right now, popping up in Netflix film Always Be My Maybe last week, Toy Story 4 next week and soon the eagerly-anticipated third Bill and Ted adventure.
What we didn't expect, but are oh-so-grateful for, was his spontaneous appearance at the Xbox E3 showcase. He graced us not just in digital form as Cyberpunk 2077’s Johnny Silverhand - keeping up the tradition of him playing characters called Johnny after both Utah and Mnemonic - but in person to the melting of timelines and hearts around the world.
While a celebrity E3 appearance isn't unheard of, it's usually Snoop Dogg smoking a spliff while trying out Battlefield, Elijah Wood trying to convince us of his creepy vision for Transcendence, or some WWE wrestlers hidden under the Microsoft stage.
Keanu was different. A perfect blend of "well obviously he's in it" realisation and a wry smile as the now-iconic silhouette of 2019 Reeves appears through mist, he not only looked the part but brought a level of excitement and enthusiasm not seen anywhere else at the event, besides perhaps Tango Gameworks’ Ikumi Nakamura at Bethesda.
When we look back on E3, Keanu will be a stand out for years to come, because he, as one eager audience member said, is breathtaking.
Rob | Breath of the Wild 2 and Spiritfarer reveals
Oh dear. This year’s E3 was a bit of a moist squib, wasn’t it. Whether it be Sony’s absence, Microsoft’s lack of interesting games - c’mon, we’ve all had enough of bloody Gears and Halo by now - or Nintendo’s sequels and remakes (Link’s Awakening does look lovely, mind), everything had an air of predictability about it.
Still, it wasn’t all bad, and Bethesda probably fared best in my eyes. DOOM Eternal looks to continue the glorious, frantic shooting of 2016’s DOOM, whilst GhostWire: Tokyo’s teaser left me exceedingly intrigued. Conspiracy? Check. The occult? Check. Shinji Mikami? Check. This one can’t come along quickly enough!
Personally, though, the announcements of Breath of the Wild 2 and Thunder Lotus’ Spiritfarer are the indistinguishable highlights.
The former is self-explanatory: I’ve been a huge Zelda fan for as long as I can remember and thoroughly enjoyed running around Breath of the Wild’s rendition of Hyrule, so cannae wait to get stuck into another predictably top-notch adventure. Will it be the Majora’s Mask to BotW’s Ocarina?
The latter is a charming, side-scrolling 2D management game centred around coming to terms with death, where Thunder Lotus’ trademark hand-drawn visuals blend with a melancholic tale of goodbyes. It’s set at sea, you can go fishing, and there’s a sidekick cat. I’m sold.
What was your E3 2019 highlight? Let us know with a comment.
£50.90. Fifty pounds and ninety pence. One more time for the folks in the cheap seats: FIFTY POUNDS and NINETY PENCE. That’s right, comrades, the glorious English rail network outdid itself once more, as yours truly hurtled towards London from beautiful Brighton town, #NoSeatsAvailableNoSeatRequired. We really do get well looked after…
Staying put in the bombast of the Indie Room, we pushed on towards the offerings of good ol’ Chucklefish. They had recent release Wargroove in tow, along with new joints like Pathway (fab desert-based strategy RPG), metroidvania-tinged puzzle platformer Timespinner, and my personal pick of the bunch, Eastward. Not to be confused with that Clint fellow, mind. Or the recent Outward...
Playing (and looking) like The Last of Us funneled through Stardew Valley, Eastward charts the tale of two folks caught up in one of those ruddy world-crumbling-apocalypse periods. Using the skills of each character to solve puzzles, traverse terrain and bash baddies was a lot of fun; I’m looking forward to playing this one again, hopefully soon!
The Indie Room was also home to the underwater charm of Beyond Blue, a game made by the folks behind Never Alone, in collaboration with the BBC’s Blue Planet team. Imagine an HD Endless Ocean, and you’re halfway there. Following the story of Mirai, a researcher attempting to communicate and explore the depths in ways never before seen, Beyond Blue was a dream to play for an ocean-obsessive like moi. Check out the trailer, it really is dreamy.
Our last port of call in the Indie Room was a little game by the name of Mable and the Wood. Taking its inspiration from many classics of the 16-bit era, this platforming adventure game puts thee in the role of a girl with a terrible shape-shifting gift. That’s right, pals: kill a big bastard spider and you steal its grotty powers of webbage (and so on and so forth). Add amusing NPC dialogue and lovely audiovisuals to the fun, challenging gameplay and you’re onto a winner.
Next up JMP and I toddled off to the illusory Unreal Engine Showcase, to delve into some local multiplayer shootin’ and-a snookerin’.
From two-man Italian developer Ludicrous Games, Guntastic is a frantic game of one-screen shooting and platforming. Full of weapons, power-ups, and switches to send trains crashing through stages (and enemies), this free-for-all arcade shooter brought smiles to all who played it.
So, as the great saying goes: “Once one has shot, one must pot.” With that, we went to visit the Snooker 19 gang for a quick frame of Jim Davidson’s favourite sport.
I’ll be honest here and admit I didn’t expect much from Snooker 19. Hands held firmly upward, I’ll also admit I was wrong - it’s bloody excellent! Photorealistic visuals; licensed venues, tournaments and players; authentic cue-on-ball tones; and simple to understand, yet hard to master controls. Lab42 even seem to have taken our suggestion for mini-games based on Australian-accented Ronnie O’Sullivan interviews and 70s-era cigarette smoking and beer drinking under consideration, so let’s hope they get patched in before the game releases next week!
After a quick pizza break - during which we had the great pleasure of listening to the sarcastic woman behind the counter take the piss out of every customer - we went and got green in the ID@Xbox arena.
There were old faves on show like Far: Lone Sails and Human: Fall Flat (fans of that one should keep an eye out for the next of our weekly giveaways), but it was new games Cat Quest 2 and Truberbrook that stood tail and suitcase above the rest.
Cat Quest 2 continues all the excellent RPG goodness of the first game, but with the added twist of a second player this time around. Travelling its colourful cartoon world, beating up baddies and completing quests, chum of choice by your side - purrrrfe... actually, nope, I won’t do it!
Stood abreast of Cat Quest 2’s kitty-caper was, of course, Truberbrook, which is my sleeper hit of the show. Another point-and-click adventure, the game puts you in the shoes of travelling American physicist Tannhauser, as he attempts to break through a mental block in the titular, sleepy German town. The graphics and dialogue provided not only humour, but a lot of intrigue too. I’ll be keeping a beady eye on this mysterious little game, eagerly awaiting its Xbox release.
Down, down, down into the bowels of Tobacco Dock did we plunder, eventually taking up residence in The Leftfield Collection, which had been 2018’s best room. Blessed with a glut of beautiful, innovative and downright quirky games, the LFC again proved to be a personal highlight.
There were beautiful, relaxing games like Becalm; the hilarious fun of Drink More Glurp, best likened to a mix of Octodad and Track & Field; sublime puzzle adventuring with OMNO; and Nth Dimensional Hiking, a far-out, no-hands-held 3D platformer with bizarre, blurry visuals.
The sheer amount of creativity on display never fails to astound me, and all of us here at Pass the Controller, in fact. Long may it continue.
Avoid pecking pigeons, evade the eclairs, and bash the battenberg...
To the homestretch, then, and my favourite part of this year’s show - Coatsink’s showing! Everything about their area was fun, colourful and silly; from the two glorious games on show, to PR man Jack - who won this year’s beard-off, yet again - to the countless laughing, smiling visitors.
New title Cake Bash takes the guts of Super Smash Bros., but replaces those famous Nintendo icons with different types of cake. Yes, cake. Avoid pecking pigeons, evade the eclairs, and bash the battenberg in your quest to cover yourself in decorations, garnish a custard tart, or just plain ice a fondant fancy. A brilliant premise that we look forward to seeing more of.
Check out our video coverage of Rezzed 2019.
We end then with Phogs, the glorious two-folks-one-controller game. James and I once again spent most of this year’s play session laughing out loud as we slid the eponymous double-ended dog around ravishing night time locales, all in search of bones and moons to feed to giant knitted snakes. If that doesn’t sound like the best thing ever, then you are officially a dull, dim-witted turd.
Exhausted, and fearing the worst for my journey home, I slipped away, ready to haunt the halls again next year. Thanks for the games you lovely devs; grazie for the pizza you benevolent gentleman James; and fuck you to ye extortionate Network Rail. See you in 2020. XOXO
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.