We've seen alliances forged and broken since Team Talk's inception one year ago, but today we look back on that first year with fondness, as we think about all the... err... wonderful things we've learned about one another.
Liam and I are very similar in a lot of ways. We both have an aversion to horror games but can fight through the fear if it's compelling enough (or we have a little back up). It's thanks to Liam that I've finally got around to the underrated Kingdom Come: Deliverance, and his choice of starter Pokémon is second to none.
I wouldn't say our professional relationship has evolved to the point where I'd consider moving to a different country just to be physically closer to him, but I can respect anyone's decision to do such a thing.
He's almost adorable.
Having been Team Talk’s baby daddy throughout most of its first year, before recently handing the reins over to the very capable combo of Chris and James, I’ve almost definitely spent longer pawing over past entries than anyone else.
More than anything I’d say that compiling five (or thereabouts) different opinions on one topic each week has taught me how diverse gaming is and, similarly, how diverse Team PTC are as a group. Many a time I’ve choked at the sight of someone’s unbelievable pick - or, in the case of an appalling lack of support for Sobble, everybody’s - but after resisting the urge to make liberal edits I’m generally abated by logical justifications made in 200 words or less.
As Chris pointed out we rarely all agree, which is fine - in fact, no: it’s great! At times games (especially of the AAA variety) can feel homogenised, but in reality, to each individual perspective the landscape is very different.
Most recently, however, I learned that our new host is more perceptive than I give him credit for. I am always on the money and, as predicted, Crackdown 3 is total shit. Thanks Chris!
So much potential...
Having recently moved back to Blighty, I’ve saved Chris the trouble of having to up sticks and join me in the wonderful land of Nether, however, looking back at my contributions – which includes admissions of liking EA’s maligned Battlefront reboot and finding Roof-Crouching Simulator 2012, aka, Dishonored, rather rubbish – the gaming masses would surely feel his loyalty has been misplaced.
I feel slightly less bad about starting and never finishing a game knowing that James, our leader, is a serial offender too. He also favours an aggressive, no nonsense line-up when it comes to assembling a crack team of gaming characters, something I can relate to, considering my suggestion for stopping Voldemort involved massive military strikes.
Like me, Rob grew up in the beautiful south (the location, not the 80’s pop group), but there must be something in the sea air down on the coast that’s addled his mind. This is, after all, a man who thinks of slaughtering legions of undead as a party, and, by his own admission, actually bought a Wii U. That being said, there's no-one I'd trust more when it comes to the classics.
That’s not as disturbing as Sam’s own revelations, which include never having played Ocarina of Time(!), championing an invisible frog, and using Little Sisters as cannon fodder – though he does display exceptional taste when it comes to Mario Kart and superhero games.
Despite all our differences (which, again, is a good thing) it was nice to see this here crew at PTC come together when it really mattered, namely sticking the boot into Google Stadia and loot boxes. You’re welcome, Earth.
Though we could be singing a different tune once it's out in the wild.
Getting a team together is all the rage these days, thanks to them Avengers taking the box office crown this year and also plotting a game release next year. Team Talk has shown off our range of skills quite effectively, establishing the team as our own bunch of colourful superheroes.
Sam is our Tony Stark, working tirelessly pushing the envelope with not only Team Talk itself (his Vision, if you will) but our weekly giveaways and a huge number of well thought-through, entertaining and engaging reviews. Fortunately he shuns Tony's less desirable penchant for self-destruction, but is pushing himself to bring you all more gaming stuff from his brain than ever before with new gigs, writing on other sites.
Chris is Captain America (or Captain Britain), the anchor who holds the team together by keeping the news agenda going, bringing you hot takes and breaking news from all over the place, from the announcements for new games and consoles to supporting our E3 watch parties (and the subsequent lengthy write ups, in case you missed them).
Liam is our Black Widow. Chris' co-pilot in the news stakes and often throwing in a review or two of his own. Also he's a globetrotter, jet-setting from Denmark, to the UK, to Australia and back again in the dead of night. Undoubtedly looking the part in a leather catsuit, Liam's skills keep the team flexible and, until recently at least, let us hit our international quota.
Rob is the Hulk. Not only a smarty pants, but prone to lengthy periods of absence to take on all manner of creative pursuits, including music. He's our resident Nintendo guru and will soon be bringing you his take on Ninty's latest hardware – the Switch Lite.
Everyone has something interesting to say and Team Talk is the best place to hear from all these clever people.
Which would make James our Nick Fury, because Thor is a fictional character.
Will we be all smiles and sunshine after another 12 months of working together? Find out next year.
It's a good time to be a fan of single-player RPGs, as remastered versions of Baldur's Gate and Dragon Quest are looking dapper (having been cleaned up for modern systems), a sequel to The Surge saw release on Tuesday (expect a review very soon) and a new IP from Bandai Namco, the Souls-like Code Vein, will be with us in time for the weekend. With so many differently styled RPGs out there, both old and new, it's hard to choose a favourite, but we've done just that.
In a situation like this, survival is often the best one can hope for.
Sam | Dark Souls
It’ll likely come as no surprise to anybody that FromSoftware’s unforgiving Dark Souls is my choice this week. Not only my favourite RPG but quite possibly my favourite game of all time, it’s such an entirely cherishable experience in every which way.
That even includes every crushing defeat, because without the comparative lows the game would never reach its intoxicating highs. The in-depth systems, lore, setting and combat are all outstanding on an unparalleled level in my mind; frankly, it’s just a damn special experience.
That being said, and I’ll make this transition in part because I’ve gushed over Dark Souls here several times before, BioWare’s Dragon Age: Origins gives it a good run for its money. Launching back before EA got their mitts on the RPG-specialist studio, there were none of the compromises synonymous with BioWare today.
Origins’ tactical combat, lore, systems and setting were also great in their own right, but where the game far exceeds Dark Souls is in its cast of characters. Allies comprising protagonist The Warden’s party were particularly memorable, with my personal favourites being Alistair and Morrigan for all their endearing squabbling. They were honestly more like real-world friends than fictional characters in a game and I can only hope we’re reunited in the upcoming Dragon Age 4.
Dark Souls' cast may pale in comparison but it doesn't take away from the series.
Liam | The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker
All Zelda games are an easy sell, but there’s something extra special about The Wind Waker. Even the ridiculously catchy opening bars of the title music are enough to let you know you’re in for a treat.
Stepping out into Hyrule Field for the first time in Ocarina of Time might be regarded by many as a defining moment in the series but, for me, The Wind Waker’s sprawling seas offered a much greater sense of adventure.
I loved heading into uncharted waters, watching shadows on the horizon grow steadily larger until they transformed into a new island, ripe for exploring. Rare encounters with spectral ships and kraken-like sea monsters just added to the sense of wonder.
This was the first Zelda game I finished on my own, without help from older siblings, friends, or guides. The only assistance I needed was Link himself, who would use his gargantuan cartoon eyes to give hints as to what to do next, almost as if he were pondering the situation as much as I was.
The Wind Waker sets a personal standard by which other RPGs are judged. It’s got everything; adventure, action, great storytelling and characters, plus a superb soundtrack. It even has a magic pear that lets you control seagulls. What more do you need?
Now that's a catchy opener.
James | Mass Effect
Mass Effect is not only a series I enjoyed thoroughly, but one I actually finished (and regular readers will know how much of a rare occurrence that is) and was possibly the first time I lost myself in the story of an RPG. Shepard's quest to save the Milky Way started off (and, some would say, ended) clunky and awkward but found its feet thanks to BioWare's mastery in creating compelling characters and an interesting, Star Trek-esque future society where humanity wasn't the leader of the Federation, but a race that was constantly trying to prove itself.
The gameplay is solid, and gets even better as the series progresses. You've got a lot of variety to play with in your character too, equipping your version of Shepard with Force-inspired superpowers or technical skills to use in combat. The real game-changer is the branching dialogue trees and Paragon and Renegade system, which sees your Shep change as you play, even opening up dastardly or pious actions depending on which side of the line you tread.
Who can forget moments with well-rounded characters like Mordin Solus singing Gilbert and Sullivan, the impossible choice about the fate of the Krogans on Virmire and the epic final dash through the Omega 3 mass effect relay as you tightly clutch every beloved character you can get your hands on. I'm not Commander Shepard, but this is my favourite RPG on the Citadel.
Bioware get top marks for storytelling, right until the very end.
Let us know which RPG you would recommend above any other.
The Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee recently released a report on "immersive and addictive technologies" which came with the recommendation that the UK Government regulate loot boxes under the Gambling Act and prohibit the sale of them to children. Loot boxes are not uncommon in most AAA titles, particularly those with a multiplayer component, but are they welcome, or do they subtract more than they add?
They certainly know how to make them alluring.
The only time I have any contact with loot boxes (or whatever industry executives are calling them these days) is when they’re handed out as in-game rewards. I’ve never paid money for one, and I’ve never felt the urge to. But that’s not to say I’m entirely immune to their charms. I’d eagerly rush to open a new box between rounds of Overwatch hoping to find a rare skin, and I’d always save my REQ points (Halo 5’s in-game currency) so I could go for the more expensive gold REQ packs and enjoy the fanfare that came with earning higher tier loot.
I can see the problem with having such mechanics, especially paid ones, in games that are readily available to a younger audience. In my teenage years I stood for hours in bookies watching friends lose money they didn’t have on digital roulette machines in pursuit of a win, and I know how painfully addictive the chase is.
Slapping an 18 rating or a gambling warning on FIFA is unlikely to stop waves of oblivious parents from buying the game for their child, and while I doubt we’ll ever be rid of them in titles like that in some form or other, more stringent regulation coupled with consumer outrage might at least convince a few publishers to ditch the trend.
Ultra rare drops are sometimes even less common than the name suggests.
Coverage of the scrutiny loot boxes are under has had very few rallying to the defence of the big publishers who make their existence a reality, besides the publishers themselves, as most gamers, it's safe to say, aren't huge fans.
The notion that you need to spend more money, after paying upwards of £50 on a game, to get the best experience doesn't sit well at the best of times, but to do so and not be sure what you're even paying for is far worse.
The targeting of young and vulnerable people in particular is bad (though it isn't the only industry to do so), and the report specifically suggests putting barriers up to protect youngsters and their parents' credit cards.
The regulation of some of these mechanics (which are certainly anything but a surprise) should be an opportunity to help the industry to be taken seriously, when compared to a passion for film or TV, and put an end to the latest story your parents hear about gaming being how a 6 year old spent £1,000 in FIFA Ultimate Team.
A world-class digital team could require a lot of physical funds.
Provided they don’t affect game balance, I’m not entirely opposed to traditional microtransactions. This most often means they take the form of cosmetic items that hold little to no value for me personally, but having a reasonably priced option for those of a different disposition is generally harmless enough.
Not entirely harmless, mind, with one example being kids getting bullied for playing as the default character in Fortnite. That obviously isn’t okay, but you can at least grab exactly what’s needed to address the “problem” if need be. Games that tie everything into randomised loot boxes don’t allow for that (and it’s telling that this is the stage we’re at) “luxury”.
Instead you might be lucky enough to get a 0.5% chance at unlocking the desired item, which can not only lead to children emptying their unknowing parents’ bank accounts, but also prey on adults that are susceptible to the intentionally insidious hooks of problem gambling. Regardless of any ancient definition that might legally rule out loot boxes as a form of gambling on a technicality, the blighters are precisely that.
Free-to-play games that need so-called “whales” (a dehumanising term which, one could argue, helps with handling the question of morality) to support them are one thing, but when full price games like FIFA are built around the same model it’s just a display of unchecked greed. Especially when, in this instance, the offending Ultimate Team mode does affect gameplay balance.
The free-to-play model works a lot better in free-to-play titles.
Let us know how you feel about loot boxes.
Borderlands 3 has released today and, just like with Pokemon and Fire Emblem: Three Houses, we've got some pretty strong opinions on who you should start your career with. Join us for a light-hearted, friendly, debate about the best character, and the others, in Borderlands 3.
Sam | FL4K
I have to be honest and say that I really don’t like the Borderlands series, although Telltale Games’ narrative-based adventure Tales from the Borderlands does stand as a notable exception.
Gearbox Software’s looter shooters have historically bored the pants off me and so I’ll be opting out of Borderlands 3, likely much to the chagrin of the salivating general gaming populous. If I were to be a glutton for punishment and give the latest cel-shaded shooter a try, however, I’d probably opt for FL4K the Beastmaster.
This gender-neutral, robotic Vault Hunter doesn’t do anything to appeal to me in themselves, but coming bundled with what are essentially three pet doggy companions makes for an easy win. Unfortunately you can only summon one at a time, but it’s pretty cool that they all have different abilities designed to complement your chosen playstyle as you upgrade their master’s attributes.
As for FL4K’s competition? Zane’s a total snooze fest, Amara’s stuck in the shadow of fellow multi-muscly-arm-owner Machamp, and Moze is pretty much just a Titanfall reject...
Liam | Moze
Sam’s Team Talk choices have come a long way since the dark days of Sobble, but once again we find ourselves at loggerheads following a fleeting alliance against Chris, James, and their moody magicians, although I will allow that Zane is by far the most boring character on offer here, closely followed by Amara and her magic fists.
I mean, if you’re going to survive on a hostile planet, it’s best to do so in the company of a giant death machine that also cooks dinner and doubles up as an alarm clock, rather than with a mutant ‘dog’ in ski goggles. Titanfall reject indeed!
But there’s also an element of pragmatism to my choice. I know you’re supposed to play these sorts of games with people you like, or, failing that, your friends and family, but nine times out of ten I’ll end up going stag, so having an autonomous mech in tow will at least give enemies something else to shoot at. As Moze herself points out: “When your BFF’s a BFG, you don’t need anyone else watching your back.”
James | Zane
Having played as Zero on a recent replay of Borderlands 2, it's been an assassin-tastic time on Pandora, and I'm looking forward to continuing the adventure in a similar vein.
Zane is a different kind of character though. While Zero is quiet and robotic, Zane is described as a suave, James Bond-esque character who is "wealthy and has a lot of gadgets at his disposal."
There's an advantage immediately to choosing the gentleman's assassin, in that he can equip two action skills rather than one, which lends itself to a wider variety of movesets across his Doubled Agent, Hitman and Under Cover skill trees.
You have the tried and tested decoy (now known as a "Digi-Clone") as well as a SNTNL drone and a shield barrier to play with as we explore not just Pandora, but a few other planets for a change.
In skills, I'm amused to see we have one called "Nanites or Some Shite" which causes your barrier to give you and your allies health regeneration, faster reload speed and quicker shield recharge when cowering near it.
The character itself is related to bandit leaders Captain and Baron Flynt and is a "semi-retired" hitman, suggesting he might have seen a few things in his time. Though with Borderlands as a series it's rare your character is particularly important to the plot, more along for the ride.
Let us know who you've chosen and if we managed to change your mind.
A number of previously released titles have been finding a home on Nintendo Switch recently, from PlayStation-era masterpieces like Final Fantasy VIII and Spyro the Dragon, to the more modern titles that were announced during the latest Nintendo Direct. There's a world of potential adventures awaiting Switch owners but none we'd like to see more than these.
Games have grown slightly more complex over the years...
Sam | Super Mario 3D World
Picking a Nintendo game might seem like a bit of a cop out, but honestly, what games better fit Nintendo platforms than the company’s very own?
Super Mario 3D Land on 3DS is one of my absolute favourite platformers - it’s seriously sublime! When I found out that the sequel would be a Wii U exclusive my heart sank. I wasn’t clambering into the dumpster fire that was the Wii U, but for a time those flames were mighty tempting...
The Switch has enjoyed a variety of Wii U ports during its time so far, including various other Mario titles, but for some reason 3D World hasn’t yet been shown any love. Its level-based structure and portable roots would make it a perfect fit for Nintendo Switch gaming on the go, while if it’s anywhere close to as compelling as the original it’d be a great candidate to get stuck into for longer periods on the TV at home.
It’s a bit baffling to me that the inferior 2D games got bundled together for a re-release, but 3D World and the likes of Pikmin 3 remain forgotten Wii U relics.
We'll forgive Sam for cheating a little, as this is clearly an oversight by Nintendo.
Liam | GTA: Chinatown Wars
Like most games from my past (and if I’m being honest, more than a few from the present), I never managed to reach Chinatown Wars’ end credits, so it would be great to have another stab at Rockstar’s excellent slice of old-school GTA action without having to dig out my Nintendo DS or sit through a sub par phone version.
Yes, the Switch might be lacking a second screen, but the one it does have is more than ample enough to hold both displays found on the DS version side by side. Also, thanks to its touchscreen capabilities, we wouldn’t necessarily have to miss out on any extra interactivity found in the original game such as inventory management and grenade tossing.
Of course, keeping such a feature would mean the game could only be enjoyed in handheld mode, but I don’t think that would be a problem for most people. There are already a couple of handheld only titles out there, like Severed, and the game’s simplistic visuals might not look so great stretched across big screen TVs of today.
Plus, with Nintendo’s next dedicated handheld system, the Switch Lite, right around the corner, now could be the perfect time to introduce a whole new generation of portable gamers to Rockstar’s forgotten gem.
What better way to deal with a stressful commute?
James | XCOM 2
Turn-based strategy is far from the most popular genre in gaming these days, but with the success of Mario + Rabbids: Kingdom Battle on the Switch, I’d say the genre is ripe for a decent port. Enter XCOM 2: War of the Chosen, the re-tooled and more character driven expansion to the original game, ready to challenge you to take over the world, again.
Though the game looks amazing on PC and its fellow consoles, the visuals could easily be paired back a tiny bit and still give a rich, cinematic experience. Plus the turn-based nature of the game stops too much from happening at once, putting less stress on the already stretched GPU and CPU.
There’s an overworld game of course, which lends itself to those shorter play sessions, hopping in and out and leaving the game on pause for a bit until you’re ready to continue the fight against our alien overseers.
There’s plenty of fun to be had docked as well of course, as many have already enjoyed the game, but on the move is where this port would really show its colours. If you want something a bit more forward-looking, then think of this as a proof of concept for a port of the upcoming Phoenix Point, from series creator, and generally nice chap, Julian Gollop.
Rob | The House of the Dead 2
Those of you who are regulars to PTC will be fully aware of my personal trials and tribulations with Nintendo in recent years. But with Link's Awakening and the Lite on the cards, yours truly looks likely to come home. With that in mind, I want some Sega ports, please.
Oh yes, dear chums, once bitter enemies, the years have softened the feud between the two great games makers. Clearly, the whole Dreamcast catalogue on Switch would be grand (please, please make ChuChu 2) but I've plumped for something multiplayer and unholy.
House of the Dead 2 was always a guaranteed party game classic back in t'day, and I see no reason why it shouldn't be again! Grab a friend, take a joy-con each and blast away at the undead - all the while enjoying the gloriously shite voice acting. Perfect.
Truly, party gaming at its finest.
What game do you think would make a worthy Switch port?
The weekend was looking decidedly spooky with The Dark Pictures Anthology: Man of Medan, an interactive filmic horror-drama, and Blair Witch, a game loosely based on the cult classic, releasing on 30 August. Friday the 13th, Alien Isolation and the newly announced Predator: Hunting Grounds have shown that horror movie tie-ins can be adapted to fit a range of sub-genres, so which spine-tingling stories would Team PTC like to experience through the medium of gaming?
Jack Nicholson's terrifying face can also be used to great effect.
Liam | Tremors
Tremors spawned four sequels (and one prequel) but no game tie-in, not unless you count this effort (shown below) which was made in just 24 hours to celebrate Bacon day. Honouring actors who share a name with sweet, sweet pig meat is all well and good, but it’s about time we had a proper gaming experience based on the 1990 cult classic.
A Tremors game was said to be in development during the early 2000s but was cancelled before ever seeing the light of day. A shame, I think, because the movie’s chief antagonists, known as Graboids, would make a worthy opponent.
These giant, flesh-eating worms that lurk beneath the ground would make traversal one of the most interesting aspects of the game due to their ability to detect movement on the surface. Players would need to find alternative ways to get about a sandbox environment (quite literally if we’re using the film’s Nevada setting) as they search for supplies, weapons and fellow survivors.
Basically, it’s the same ‘the floor is lava’ concept you played as a kid, except touching the ground means being horribly devoured instead of a loose bit of Lego in your heel, although both are, arguably, just as painful.
Is it even possible to improve upon such a gem?
Sam | The Mist
The Mist is by no means an amazing film, but the bones of an amazing game are already there. It’s set in a supermarket, which are always fun to explore due to their inherent variety of items, almost akin to a miniature Willamette Mall from Dead Rising, which in itself was channelling zombie horror flick Dawn of the Dead.
You can also throw a little bit of The Walking Dead into the mix, with characters facing an internal threat from fanatical fellow survivors in addition to the more conventionally monstrous external threat of winged beasties. The existential question of whether or not humanity is the real monster would be at the game’s core, and you could make choices throughout which ultimately helped to shape what, hopefully, wouldn’t be quite as depressing an ending as the twist from the film.
Of course, you’d need to head out of the supermarket in order to complete tasks on occasion, and this is where the true horror gameplay would come into effect. The eponymous mist would obscure player vision, just like in horror classic Silent Hill, leaving little to no opportunity to prepare for what’s around each corner. This would help to make the introduction of each and every enemy - used sparingly to avoid coming off as cheap jump scares, of course - a harrowing encounter.
Whatever choices you make, it can't really go much worse for the Draytons.
James | Cabin in the Woods
I'm not a huge fan of horror films. More often than not they take the easy way out and descend into tired tropes and predictable conclusions played out by wafer-thin characters.
Cabin in the Woods, however, played a bit more smartly with the genre and brought unexpected twists and turns to an otherwise common premise by having the would be slain slowly discover an elaborate, Westworld-esque manufactured reality that is the cause of their suffering. The same sort of thing could be done for the spin-off game.
Imagine an asymmetrical adventure where one player can trigger visual and audio glitches in someone else's computer to throw them off and distract them if they get too close to finding the edges of the game's (and film's) facade. It seems like a natural step forward from the likes of Eternal Darkness and Metal Gear Solid's Psycho Mantis (whom we talked about last week) messing with real world elements of the console gaming experience like forcing you to switch your controller to another slot to continue.
Perhaps being mean to people would be too popular? It would take concentration to become the master of puppets but the marionettes themselves would be having fun trying to feel for the edges, while turning around to find doors are no longer there.
Let the mind games begin.
Which horror films do you think deserves a game tie-in?
E3 has disappeared from the rear view mirror and the next stop in the 2019 gaming road map is Gamescom. With new content and announcements promised right from the get go during Opening Night Live (hosted by The Game Awards creator, Geoff Keighley), here's what we're looking forward to.
Will the Avengers be bolstering their ranks?
Sam | Death Stranding
It’s been confirmed that Hideo Kojima will be taking a break from crunching on Death Stranding with the team at Kojima Productions, what with its 8 November release fast approaching, to join best buddy Geoff Keighley at Gamescom 2019’s Opening Night Live event.
Making the trip to the show, which takes place in Cologne, Germany, for the first time since 2014, it’s reasonable to assume that the former Metal Gear Solid director has big news regarding his latest project to share. It’d be about time, as Death Stranding remains shrouded in an air of mystery less than two months ahead of its PS4 release.
Long-term Team Talk readers may already know how devastating Silent Hills’ cancellation was for me, largely due to a collaboration between some of my favourite talents from multiple mediums - namely Kojima himself, film director Guillermo del Toro, and actor Norman Reedus - being wrestled from almost within my grasp. Now, albeit in a different form, that majorly mouth-watering meeting of masterminds is back on.
As such, I already know that you can count me in wherever Death Stranding is concerned, but I’d rather like to find out if the game really is about an incredibly devoted package delivery service assigning babies in jars as co-drivers...
Every image seems to reinforce that theory.
Liam | Call of Duty: Modern Warfare
Call of Duty: Modern Warfare’s absence from the E3 public meant that my predication - along with pretty much every other guess I made - failed to come true. So, it’s up to Gamescom to get the hype train back on track after the summer’s minor derailment.
I was initially excited about the reboot following an announcement trailer in which we get our first glimpse of the grounded, modern day setting and a fresh-faced Captain Price (complete with his iconic boonie hat) but since then my enthusiasm has waned somewhat.
So far, I’ve seen nothing of the campaign and very little of the multiplayer, save for a brief round of Gun Game and a trailer that dropped earlier in the month. Whilst the latter started off well, highlighting new tactical abilities like being able to peak through doors before entering a room, it quickly descended into some trademark Call of Duty silliness.
I'm not totally against some over-the-top action, but I’m hoping that next week's show will present something similar in style and tone to the announcement trailer, especially if it includes a look at the campaign. Even if the final product is only half as good as the original Modern Warfare, I’ll still be satisfied.
War never changes, but it does look better each year.
James | Astral Chain
There are still quite a few games due to come out this year which we'll hear all about at Gamescom, but I feel fairly confident that none of them are quite like Astral Chain.
Platinum Games' latest jumped to the top of my Switch list after the Nintendo Direct at E3. The game comes from Takahisa Taura, who was previously lead game designer for Nier: Automata, and sees you fighting alien-like monsters from another dimension with help from your Legion, a powerful weapon who fights independently in combat.
Platinum is known for its slightly off-beat approach to action games, with Bayonetta, Vanquish and Neir under its belt, which has me thinking this could be one of the most original releases due out this year.
Better still, it's a Switch exclusive, so it has the best possible chance to be well-optimised and the gameplay shown off so far looks really impressive. Plus, with potentially all of what we'll see about Pokémon ahead of its release out of the bag, this is the Nintendo game that really tops the excitement-o-meter.
While it's not likely to make the biggest smash of the show (especially when some have the Hulk in their corner), it's an experience which is sure to be unlike anything else.
Platinum Games' portfolio has us eager to see more.
Lets us know what you're most excited to see at Gamescom 2019 in the comments below.
Last week an email popped into the PTC inbox informing us that Garfield Kart Furious Racing was coming to Xbox One, PS4, Switch and PC this November. For some reason, James saw this as an opportunity to pitch a Team Talk on games that nobody ever asked for… Not one to pass up a freebie, Sam ran with it and here we are.
Things have been quiet since the game’s debut, which is understandable, given the trailer has 326K downvotes vs. 24K upvotes...
Chris | Needless yearly updates
I'd like to make it clear that I'm not cheating and picking every single sequel. There's a certain type of game that doesn't need a new release each year but gets one anyway. FIFA, NBA, NFL and the rest of EA's '19 series are probably the most advanced digital recreations of ball touching that have existed to date, yet there's not a great deal that separates them from their predecessors.
It isn't just sport sims or EA, Infinity Ward are obviously not looking to break the mould with Call of Duty '19: Modern Warfare, Again. An argument could be made that any big changes in the franchise are often met with resistance, potentially hurting sales, though this feels too much like blaming ourselves.
We don't always know what we want until it's right in front of us, so developers shouldn't be afraid of thinking outside the box every now and then. Ubisoft's reboot of Assassin's Creed was a resounding success which breathed new life into a series that, for many, had grown stale. Whilst there's not much chance of FIFA being rebooted in the same manner, there's very little on offer that we haven't already seen.
Can you tell which iteration of FIFA this is?
James | Garfield Kart Furious Racing
When the news that Garfield already has his own kart racing game reached me this week, and not only that but we're getting a sequel in November, I was perplexed. I'm partial to a kart racer (as I've mentioned in a previous Team Talk) and on the surface I don't think it's fair that Mario gets a monopoly on them, but I mean...come on now, Garfield?!
The lasagne-loving feline jumped back into pop culture in 2004 with the almost certainly dreadful movie (which I did not see), and 9 years and a number of cash-ins later, the game to truly capitalise on/sell out the character - Garfield Kart - was released on iOS, Android, Steam and 3DS.
With the remake of Crash Team Racing out and performing well, an alternative to Mario Kart is there for you already, and even Sonic Team Racing feels like it earns its place with a few unique mechanics.
Most importantly of all, a kart racer needs characters, and, while Mario Kart 8 Deluxe takes the kick on this a bit, Garfield alone does not a compelling roster of players make.
Here we see Garfield, surrounded by all of the memorable characters from the franchise.
Liam | Angry Birds Star Wars
It’s fair to say that most game concepts are so bizarre it would be a bit of stretch to expect people to even think them up, let alone ask for them.
Take Super Mario, for example. Before it came into existence, I'd wager that no-one was going about their day thinking, “You know what I need in my life? A game about an Italian plumber stamping giant turtles to death in a land inhabited by mushroom people."
Angry Birds falls under the same category. In any other industry, pitching the idea of slinging kamikaze birds at pigs with giant catapults is more likely to get you a very awkward meeting with the HR department instead of a multi-million selling, movie-spawning game series.
Even if the original concept of murdering pigs with birds was already lurking in the deep, dark recesses of someone’s mind, I highly doubt they had the foresight to blend it with George Lucas’ iconic space opera.
Yet, that’s exactly what Rovio did when they came up with Angry Birds Star Wars, which, to this day, remains the strangest franchise crossover I’ve ever played.
The Force is not very strong with this one.
Which game's simple existence most baffles you? Let us know below!
Marvel Ultimate Alliance 3 just came out and, true to its name, the series continues to be the ultimate form of Marvel fan service. Sam’s loved Hulk-smashing his way through MUA3 on Switch these past few days, which got him and the rest of the team pondering which (if any) licensed games managed to do it better.
Being able to play as the X-Men, and even some of the Brotherhood of Mutants, was a dream come true.
Chris | Batman Arkham
I never rated Batman in my younger days. I considered the superhero designation to be a misnomer because, as heroic as he may be, Batman does not possess superpowers. I soon came to realise that's not just part of his allure, but it's exactly what makes him a superhero!
Rocksteady managed to capture that feeling of being a proficient crime-fighter and balance it against the very real vulnerabilities Bruce Wayne has as a "regular" man in their Arkham series.
In each game, the first few combat sections set you up as an all-powerful guardian. When the guys with guns arrive, it becomes clear that Batman isn't as bulletproof as he appears and must retreat to the shadows. There's a sense of peril that’d be absent if we were playing as one of DC Comics' other heroes, like Superman, because Bats only has his wits and a utility belt full of Bat-nouns to rely on.
Excellent gameplay aside, the characters are fantastically written and acted as well. Mark Hamill's portrayal of the Joker is so good that it’s now the benchmark against which I measure all iterations of the character. Indeed, many of the friends and foes Batman meets in the Arkham games have became the default in my head and any variations - such as those in the Telltale episodics - merely feel like cheap cover versions.
Bats stalks his prey from the shadows.
Liam | Spider-Man (2002)
2002’s Spider-Man isn’t the best superhero game out there. Heck, it’s not even the best Spider-Man game, but it gets my vote mainly for nostalgia’s sake. Along with Super Smash Bros. Melee, it was one of two games that came bundled with our (read: my older brother’s) brand-new Nintendo GameCube.
Loosely based on the film of the same name – which I also enjoyed – and made by Call of Duty stalwarts Treyarch, it was the first game I’d played that captured the feeling of being a superhero in a metropolis. Up until that point, everything I’d encountered starring caped crusaders had been a pixelated, 2D side-scrolling affair.
Granted, you weren’t exactly given complete freedom to explore the city (the streets would swallow you up if you dared descend towards them) and there were some questionable physics (Spidey would swing from webs afixed to nothing), but it did the core stuff like scaling skyscrapers and beating up bad guys solidly enough.
I also liked that it added in new bosses to compliment Green Goblin and expand on the film’s story. If memory serves, there was even a cool challenge mode where you could take on waves of enemies for added replay value.
Sam's parents bought him this game when he couldn't see the film (rated 12) at the cinema. He liked it, too.
Rob | Waterworld
An excellent topic this week, folks, as I'm sure you'll all agree. As usual, yours truly had many options: the childhood-defining GoldenEye 007, grand sports classics such as Brian Lara Cricket, or even something altogether unexpected... I've gone for the latter option, unsurprisingly!
Cast your minds back to the glorious mid-nineties: a time of fantastic chart music, Opal Fruits and Kevin Costner - oh yes.
Lord Costner (as he should always be referred to) was the star of many of my favourite films as a kid, not least sea-based sci-fi movie Waterworld. To go alongside this masterpiece of celluloid, legendary developer Ocean set about creating a game that would live up to the genius of the film, and by Jove they did it!
I owned the Game Boy version, thoroughly enjoying the swimming and isometric sailing of earlier levels, alongside the platforming and shooting of later stages. With no save states I never actually managed to complete it, so here's hoping it reaches a virtual console at some point in the future!
Until then, you'll just have to enjoy the pixelated majesty of Lord Costner.
James | Star Wars: The Force Unleashed
While I have fond memories of the likes of Yoda Stories, X-Wing vs. TIE Fighter, Empire at War and Rogue Squadron (a close second place), it was The Force Unleashed which really captured my imagination as a game which takes one of my favourite properties and does something interesting with it.
Its sequel might have failed to meet the standards set by the first, but for a franchise not short of adaptations it found its niche by creating an original story which, though a bit cheesy, is quintessentially Star Wars.
Jedi: Fallen Order is Force-dashing its way over the hill for the end of the year, but to date TFU remains the most fun representation of lightsaber flailing in gaming. Plus, once you've powered up young Starkiller's skills, the joy of throwing multiple enemies into one another and then off a cliff never gets old.
To top it off, you have one of the greatest villains in entertainment history not only featured but playable for the door-busting first level, which is the perfect introduction to all of the Force toys you could strangle a sarlacc with. Let's hope there's more exciting light sword play still to come in November.
For all the game's faults, tormenting enemies with the Force was brilliant.
What's the best licensed game you've played? Feel free to let us know with a comment below.
After months of persistent rumours, last week Nintendo finally revealed the purported Switch Mini to be the Switch Lite, scheduled for release 20 September. Strictly a portable console, Switch Lite is of a smaller stature and lighter weight, while boasting greater battery life to keep you gaming on the go for longer. At a cheaper RRP to boot, you’d think everything was gravy, but that’d be to overlook the lack of TV support, detachable Joy-Cons, motion controls, HD rumble, and an IR camera. Keeping that upstairs, do the pros outweigh the cons?
Switch Lite: The Switch that doesn't switch.
Do I need a Switch Lite? Absolutely not. My original Switch is still serving its purpose well, both at home and on the road, but that hasn’t stopped me coveting one since the redesign was announced.
The sleek new addition to the Switch family is, in my opinion, a much better-looking console than its bigger brother. The lack of removable Joy-Cons and the addition of a proper d-pad give it a solid, more premium look and perhaps make it a bit more robust, too.
I have no problem with Nintendo muddying the waters by making a Switch that doesn’t switch. I use mine as a handheld most of the time, and had the Lite been available at launch, the lower price, longer battery life and appealing design probably would’ve swayed me to go that way from the start.
The only part I don’t like is the smaller screen. Some of the more visually demanding games already feel a little cramped on a regular Switch’s 6.2-inch display, so to reduce it even further to 5.5-inches could be pushing it.
But, as I said, my original Switch is still serving me well, so I won’t be getting one. I’ll wait for the inevitable release of a ‘New’ Nintendo Switch instead.
Sticking with this guy is probably for the best.
I've never been into the portable side of gaming so, from a purely personal standpoint, the best outcome for me would be the Switch Lite bombing catastrophically, reaching the unenviable status of Atari E.T. cartridges and (fingers crossed) Google Stadia. It's not that I actively want Nintendo to fail, I'd simply prefer them to concentrate on the things that I might care about.
It seems Nintendo have "fixed" one glaring issue with the Switch (the poorly designed dock which Sam alluded to) at the cost of functionality. This is absolutely fine if you just want to play Skyrim on a train, but I suspect no-one has done that more than once, and even then only to say they've done it.
If you're a fan of gaming on the go, you might get a lot more out of Switch Lite. Sure, it lacks some of the features of the Switch and may be a little more cumbersome than a DS, but we can't expect too much from a company who willingly hired and promoted a guy named after the antagonist of their biggest franchise.
Pictured: Bowser Bowser wins Doug Bowser's heart by sharing his best princess abduction tips.
First things first, the Switch Lite is not aimed at me, and that's OK. In the past I've never opted for one of Nintendo's snazzy, reworked consoles, missing out on the Game Boy Advance SP and even the DS Lite back in the day.
As recently as the 2DS Nintendo has proven there’s a market for something like this though, and it's encouraging that the company is still pushing more options for consumers (and making a spot of money at the same time).
The company has struggled to meet its massive yearly projections and it feels as if Nintendo is the underdog, despite it making over $11billion a year, and this move is one which keeps them on parents' minds for Christmas time.
A "pro" version could come next Christmas, but in the meantime this gives developers confidence there are no plans whatsoever to leave the Switch console family languishing like Ninty did the Wii U, hopefully meaning there are more long-term third-party projects on the way.
In terms of the console itself, not having detachable Joy-Cons is a bit of a shame, but otherwise the tighter size and canny cost-saving measures seem smart and should bring plenty of joy (despite the cons, ba-dum-tss), to young'uns this Christmas.
2006 brought us Nintendo's original Lite handheld in the DS Lite.
So much speculation, so many supposed leaks, and finally, here we are: the Nintendo Switch Lite!
As you may be aware, I've been on the fence with the Switch since its release some two-odd years ago. Is the Lite the answer to my prayers? In short: I think it just might be.
I was one of the ~17 people to own a Wii U in the UK - I still have it by the way, along with a healthy backlog of games to start/finish. Do I feel burnt by it? No, not at all. Did I feel let down by Nintendo's lack of long-term support? Oh, yes indeedy.
But the Lite offers new hope to this cynical old bastard. I really don't get much time to play games at home these days, so a dedicated portable device seems the way to go - and the Xbox, 3DS and Wii U are all ready for a trade-in, too!
The only thing left holding me back are the games on offer (I need at least five big hitters before I’ll drop coins on a console), but with the impending release of both Fire Emblem and The Legend of Zelda: Link's Awakening, I think we might finally be there.
Gimme a good Zelda bundle on day one and I'm ready to come back home, Nintendo.
Considering the Switch Lite launches on the same day as Link's Awakening, it's baffling that there doesn't appear to be a bundle for Rob.
What are your thoughts on Nintendo's Switch redesign? Let us know with a comment below.