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!
If you came in search of an in-depth guide, unfortunately you’re in the wrong place, but feel free to stay for a good-humoured debate.
Chris | Black Eagles
I'm just as unfamiliar with Fire Emblem as I am with Pokémon, so I figured the best way to choose a house is by process of elimination. I started by eliminating the Blue Lions and Golden Deer, because they’re terrible houses for garbage people, which leaves me with the Black Eagles. Proud, majestic and one of nature's most elegant creatures, I will make a fine addition to the noble house.
Lions are adorable and probably make great pets for people who love cats but wish they were bigger. They aren't fighters, though - I hate to break it to you, but The Lion King is a work of fiction. Do you know anyone who’s been attacked by a lion? No, you don’t. The Cyan Cats manage a respectable second place.
At the bottom of the food chain, much like in real life, are the Yellow Venison. These second-rate antelope are prey. They get eaten by lions and, as we all know, lions are soft, timid animals. My colleagues will try to win you over with facts and logic but this is about the law of the jungle; lions eat deer and eagles definitely eat lions.
Liam | Golden Deer
These are dark times indeed when I find myself allying with Sobble-loving Sam and turning on a proud Team Grookey member in Chris, but I cannot let old loyalties influence my decision - it just wouldn’t be right. As has been noted, we take these choices very seriously here at PTC towers!
It’s with a heavy heart, then, that I say boo to the emo wizards that are the Black Eagles, instead affixing my colours to the Golden Deer. The name might sound like an old lady’s description of a darling grandchild, but their democratic leanings, archery-based combat and likeable leader won out over the other houses’ given ‘attributes’. Not that the Black Eagles have many of those. Again, I’m sorry Chris.
My second choice was the Blue Lions. They have the best name, and their in-your-face tactics when it comes to combat certainly appeal (they’d probably be a good fit for my combat-focused dream team), but their devout leanings and snobbish cast cooled my interest in them.
If we’re being honest, all of the houses seem to have their fair share of knobs, but at least they’ve all got feet this time, which is an upgrade on the last Fire Emblem game I played.
James | Black Eagles
Magic is cool, and if that isn't a good enough reason from the outset then I might have an uphill struggle on my hands.
Since young Harry Potter exploded onto the scene 20 years ago, the hype hasn't fully died down, and, if anything, magic is more mainstream now than it ever was in the past. Image isn't everything of course, and so what about the practical benefits? One word - versatility. Your elemental attacks will work at various ranges, giving you the flexibility to build a character suited to your play style rather than being pushed into a corner.
We're also told the Eagles "challenge the status quo" (according to a very handy primer from Game Informer) and who doesn't enjoy a bit of rebellion? Plus, you can take care of yourself with support spells and healing, rather than relying on flaky teammates.
The Eagles' inspirational leader Edelgard, the Adrestrian Empire’s future emperor, values those who excel, and as a result has attracted a colourful range of students, including the sarcastic Hubert, the carefree Lindheart and the ambitious Ferdinand. Who wouldn't want to hang out with such a colourful array of characters?
What's your Fire Emblem house of choice? Any love for the Blue Lions, or have Team PTC managed to sway you to their ways of thinking? Let us know with a comment 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.
The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time inspired a hatred of water-based levels within many members of the N64 generation; its Water Temple was, and still is, an incredibly divisive dungeon which to some sours an otherwise near-perfect game. We’re (mostly) cool with water levels, but not so much the other design staples to follow.
Using Peachette to avoid all contact with the ground is the correct way to play winter levels in New Super Mario Bros. U Deluxe.
I have no issue with stories that take place in the ocean, like BioShock, but I always feel a certain degree of unease when I'm faced with an underwater journey in an otherwise dry game.
Whilst sub-aquatic sections aren't as ubiquitous in real life as I'd been conditioned to believe by the plumbers and hedgehogs I grew up with, not being able to swim has likely compounded my anxiety. Mario's ability to breathe underwater - a fitting trait for someone in his line of work - makes those levels the most palatable, whereas Sonic sits at the other end of the spectrum with that pant-shitting music that kicks in as he horrifyingly starts to drown.
Games about swimming are far fewer in number than games about war, and with good reason. As a community we've decided that being shot is more entertaining than taking a dip, yet developers often force us to stop having fun at predetermined moments anyway.
Tomb Raider is perhaps the biggest offender, forcing us to dive underwater in each and every instalment. Lara Croft is a terrible human being who gets her kicks from shooting live ammunition at the kindly old man who raised her, by the way - that’s the kind of person that likes to go swimming.
Listen at your own (and your pants') risk.
No one likes to be shushed. Whether at the library (if indeed they’re still a thing?) or perhaps a family gathering, people want the freedom to do as they please.
The same can be true with games, and nothing irks me more than a mandatory stealth section, especially when it flies in the face of the all-guns-blazing approach you were perfectly happy with up to now, thank you very much.
Stealth can be forced in, even to some success, as seen with the likes of Mass Effect 3 and Marvel’s Spider-Man, but when it's optional, and especially if you don't know it's optional, that's when things get really interesting.
In games like Deus Ex or the upcoming Cyberpunk 2077, which admittedly emphasise player choice as an ideal, the option is there to go sneaky if you want to take it, or you can just run in and shoot the place up.
In the end there's a satisfaction to finding out you can squirrel out if a situation, if that's what you want to do, but to mandate player behaviour more often than not feels unnatural and just reminds you that you're playing a game.
Deus Ex and other immersive sims do stealth right - they make it entirely optional.
Character creators have always been my least favourite part of any game they’re in. I can tolerate a dodgy level or mission-type because they’re usually a temporary grievance, but with character creators the pain is instant and often permanent.
When I start a game, I want to start the game, not spend half an hour worrying about eyebrow alignment and my avatar’s body mass index. Because I usually rush through these things in order to get to the good stuff, like in Mass Effect, I often end up creating a face that only a Systems Alliance can love, which I then have to stare at for the rest of the game, thus souring the experience.
For my first Skyrim playthrough I made a very generic-looking Nord character, which I rather creatively named Liam. It didn’t suit him, and instead of immersing me further it had the opposite effect whenever I saw it crop up in letters and messages.
By the time I realised how silly it was, I was dozens of hours deep and unwilling to either continue or start all over again. I have since tried restarting, at a much later point in time, with an Argonian named Bask, but there are only so many times one can clear Bleak Falls Barrow...
Liam the nondescript Nord probably looked something like this.
What typical gameplay sections can't you stand? Whether it's wonky driving stints in non-driving games, or maybe tedious escort missions, be sure to let us know with a comment below.
Somehow we’re already into the second half of 2019. After getting over the disturbing realisation that the unrelenting passage of time is all too quickly sending us towards an inevitable death, we took a minute to discuss our favourite games released so far this year. Check ‘em out!
Chris | Guacamelee 2
I dismissed the original Guacamelee as nothing more than one of the countless gimmicky indies that litter digital storefronts, but I rushed to download the sequel - not even six months after it's eventual Xbox One release this January - for reasons completely unrelated to needing a game to discuss in this here Team Talk… Ahem.
Whilst the developers clearly had a lot of fun writing the story, I'm happy to report that the gameplay is all business. Complex systems are disguised as simple mechanics, thanks to intuitive controls, and challenging sections never feel daunting, as muscle memory builds quickly once you get into a rhythm.
The fusion of Mexican wrestling culture and old school platformer is an odd one, for sure. I mean, I like both morphine and ice cream, but you don’t see me blending the two together to create some brain-ruining horror-shake. I hold myself to higher standards than that.
Thanks to DrinkBox Studios’ superior ingenuity though, it works! Guacamelee 2 is refreshingly lighthearted, unashamedly immature, and charmingly addictive. Kinda like morphine. That last part, anyway.
James | Metro Exodus
While a newcomer to the Metro series when I sat down at a preview event earlier in the year, the legacy of the series was long-established as one filled with claustrophobia, survival-horror-tinged action beats and a rich lore to draw from, being based, as it is, on a series of books.
Little did I know how accessible the game would turn out to be and how much fun I'd have with it, despite the frequently underwritten female characters and the odd technical hitch here and there. It certainly did enough to earn a well-deserved 10/10 in my review, anyway.
Its success shows the power of single-player narrative experiences today, even when they aren't exclusively on PlayStation, and the people at 4A Games seem to have the balance right between storytelling and actually providing an engaging gameplay loop.
Of course, the move by publisher Deep Silver to release the PC version exclusively on the Epic Games Store soured the experience for many of the master race, but at least they honoured existing Steam pre-orders. That’s good, right?
Will we see another Metro adventure in the future? While there are no more books to draw on, there are certainly more stories to tell, so here’s hoping!
Liam | Chippy
I’ll be honest and say I’d never heard of Chippy until a Steam code popped into my inbox whilst I was sunning myself in Spain, but after watching some footage and reading about its main concept - which sees you dismantling hulking bosses piece by piece until you’ve exposed their vulnerable core - I was eager to get cracking.
The problem was, like some sort of fool, I’d left my laptop at home - I just knew a Switch, a 2DS XL, a small library of books, and a family wouldn’t be enough to keep me busy by the poolside! Fortunately, the wait was worth it, as Chippy really is quite something.
A twin-stick shooter of the bullet-hell variety, it’s one of those addictive games that has you coming back for more despite repeatedly kicking your arse, which is a strange phenomenon for me, given that I normally avoid those like the plague.
Game of the mid-year might be a bit of a hollow victory seeing as my pickings were incredibly slim (shout out to Swords and Soldiers 2, Crackdown 3 and the fun-yet-frustrating Band of Bastards), but Chippy definitely deserves the nod, if only for forcing me to roll up my sleeves and finally ‘git gud’.
Rob | Heaven’s Vault
How quickly is this year disappearing, folks? As summer's sticky heat reaches me up on Ditchling Mountain, Brighton, I ponder Sam's latest topic: what has been my game of the first six months of 2019?
I had a great time at Rezzed once more, thoroughly enjoying Codemasters' latest DiRT and F1 games - review for the latter on the way - but my personal highlight has to be Inkle Studio's Heaven's Vault.
Honestly, I don't think I've ever been so spellbound by an adventure outside of the Zelda series. Inkle's recipe is thus: one part branching narrative; one part third-person adventure; one part point-and-click; a large dollop of beautiful art/animation; a heaped teaspoon of ethereal soundtrack. I think we can all agree that makes for a most delicious gaming soup, no?
Put it this way - it's going to take one helluva game to knock Heaven's Vault off its perch when it comes time to decide my overall game of the year. Bon appetit!
What's your favourite game of 2019's first six months? Let us know with a comment.
Super Mario Maker 2 is out this week, promising to build on the Wii U original by offering new tools for players to execute on more complex ideas. Gears 5 has been revealed to house a new creation suite for making and sharing maps, first in the new PvE Escape mode and later the Horde and PvP modes. Nintendo even doubled down on user-generated content by showing off the ability to create dungeons in The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening on Switch during a Nintendo Treehouse Live stream (which Liam particularly appreciated).
Raid mode was a brilliant addition to Resident Evil, especially considering it originated in 3DS game Revelations.
Rob | Fire Emblem
Another tough choice this week, folks. I can think of at least a hundred games I’d like to see get level editors, be it The Last of Us, GoldenEye 007, Crazy Taxi, or MegaDrive classic Streets of Rage. One series stands out in particular, though, and that’s Nintendo’s Fire Emblem.
I must admit, I’d never played Fire Emblem until 3DS cracker Awakening - and what a place to start - but have been enthralled by the series ever since! So, with that in noggin, why did I pick it over the gems above?
Anyone who’s played Chucklefish’s Wargroove will already be able to attest to the power of level creation in a top-down strategy game. What better way is there for Nintendo to further the FE franchise, then?
Imagine dropping Chrom and the gang down in homemade levels, using styles ranging from the more recent 3DS games, to the sexier graphics of Path of Radiance and Radiant Dawn, to the GBA classics. Throw in the tones of the upcoming Three Houses on Switch, plus the ability to battle associates locally or online in these Frankenstein constructions, and Nintendo could well have another Mario Maker on their hands.
Fire Emblem: Three Houses is out soon, but there's no sign of a level editor, much to Rob's chagrin.
James | Portal
Tucked into The Orange Box as a niche passion project before finding surprise success, Portal did more than enough to warrant a full sequel. Of course, since Valve apparently can't count to three, that's where the story has ended - but imagine if we, the gaming masses, could take up the torch and run with it.
If you need convincing this sounds like a good idea, I direct you to 2015’s Portal Stories: Mel, a popular free mod for Portal 2 that adds a new character and an older, prototype Portal Gun.
While it's unlikely we’d see a flourishing community of new spin-offs straight away, if Valve were to provide the relevant tools, the barrier to entry would be a lot lower and could lead us to a Mario Maker-esque experience before you know it.
Imagine discovering the joys of creative new mechanics - the sort we've seen in games inspired by Portal like Q.U.B.E. 2 and The Spectrum Retreat - interwoven with elements we already know and love. It might need a bit of quality control, but the thought of endlessly returning to the brain-teasing test chambers of Aperture Science is too exciting a possibility to pass up.
Portal Stories: Mel is a mod of professional quality.
Chris | Rainbow Six Siege
Editing tools in a PvP environment can cause tension between parties if one is given an unfair advantage over another, as I once found out by hiding a few sneaky Energy Sword and Active Camo pick-ups in Halo 3's Snowbound map.
There’d be no such advantage in Rainbow Six Siege, not least because there aren’t any pick-ups, but even if there were, attackers and defenders switch sides after each round so it wouldn’t be an easy task to engineer a competitive edge - not without it coming back to bite you later, anyway. Add to this constantly changing level geometry, thanks to the weapons of map destruction (proud of that one) available to both sides, and any balancing issues will eventually resolve themselves.
These player-created maps would need to be restricted to just-for-fun custom matches, as imaginative souls would no doubt find ways of gently tipping the scales in their favour, but the greater level of creative freedom this restriction would afford should result in some interesting designs that could give rise to new, improvised game modes.
As you can see, Siege maps generally don't stay whole for long.
Liam | FIFA
Forget VAR (video assistant referee), what the beautiful game needs is a bit of artistic licence. A map editor in FIFA might sound like a terrible idea to purists, but I think it could make for some interesting – not to mention humorous - kickabouts.
FIFA 19’s kick-off mode already lets you tweak the rules to make things more entertaining, so why not take it one step further and let us quite literally move the goalposts?
You could add pits to trap unwary players, get rid of penalty areas entirely, isolate creative midfielders on an island in the centre circle, or even have pitches tilted on an extreme gradient so each half one team faces an uphill struggle.
On the other end of the spectrum, a stadium editor/creator would also be a great addition for fans of low ranking clubs to finally get an accurate representation of their ground in the game. As someone who occasionally enjoys a nice lower league romp to the big time, being able to ditch the generic stadiums FIFA assigns such clubs would be a most welcome option.
For many players, this’d add another layer of authenticity to a franchise that prides itself on recreating the beautiful game - at least the parts we see on TV, anyway.
Imagine the glorious chaos you could cause in such an open space...
Which game do you think would benefit from getting a level or map editor? Let us know in the comments below.
With Crash Team Racing Nitro-Fueled right around the corner and Team Sonic Racing just in the rear-view mirror, kart racing games are currently enjoying somewhat of a resurgence. You can’t beat these classic kart racers in our eyes, though.
Look at that hectic, team-based goodness!
Chris | Mortal Kombat: Armageddon - Motor Kombat
Whilst Mortal Kombat: Armageddon's Motor Kombat isn't a fully-fledged kart racer, it does have all the necessary traits to qualify, including the use of a K where a C would suffice. Mechanically, it plays just like a toned-down version of Mario Kart (which one might expect from a mini-game which is, essentially, a toned-down version of Mario Kart), with death traps, shortcuts and power-ups.
There are ten available characters to choose from, each with their own special ability that can be unleashed after grabbing a pick-up, similar to more child-friendly titles starring plumbers. These abilities are based on the characters' special attacks; Scorpion drags an enemy back with his spear, Sub-Zero freezes someone, Johnny Cage lobs a useless ball of green goo… you get the idea.
The limited number of tracks and racers would work against Motor Kombat if it was a full release, but as a side activity in a fighting game, it's perfect for some light relief between bouts. The one criticism I could throw its way is the choice of racers - in a game featuring just about every Mortal Kombat character of its time, having Bo' Rai Cho as one of the featured ten is baffling.
Everyone's favourite character is in the back there.
Liam | Mario Kart DS
One of the best Mario Kart DS features - apart from being a great accompaniment to the footy - was the ability to play local multiplayer matches (albeit with limited tracks) with only one copy of the game.
As cash-strapped teenagers relying on handouts and birthday windfalls, this was a godsend back in the day. It allowed me and my few DS-owning friends to compete in epic tournaments without having to splash out on multiple copies of the game.
It was also the only entry in the series where you could add a self-designed emblem to your kart, introducing a personal touch to proceedings. I'm still rocking the badge I came up with nearly 14 years ago (based on a private joke between me and my brother) and whenever I boot up the game and see it splashed across the front of Luigi's bonnet, it always elicits a childish smirk.
Its age, plus the fact it wasn't a full home console release, might make it easy to forget, but some of the biggest features we take for granted in modern entries - re-imagined retro tracks, alternative kart designs and online multiplayer - debuted in Mario Kart DS, making this unassuming entry a pioneer in the series' history.
Mario Kart: Teaching kids to dodge oncoming traffic since '92.
James | Mario Kart 8 Deluxe
I've been playing Mario Kart for years. From the twists and turns of Toad's Turnpike to the cunning boost shortcuts of Dry Dry Desert, the quintessential kart racer has brought many fond memories. If only there was some way to revisit them all in the same game...
Thanks to Mario Kart 8 Deluxe, you can do just that, hopping into the two retro courses mentioned above along with fistfuls of others, including classics from as far back as the SNES!
This entry isn't just a nostalgia-fuelled victory lap though, also boasting plenty of new courses alongside new features like auto-drive and auto-accelerate, finally making Mario Kart fool-proof for even the youngest of Nintendo fans. Like Super Smash Bros. Ultimate after it, there's a whole host of characters here as well, including the Bowser kids nobody’s ever even heard of.
The easily shareable, totally authentic driving experience of playing multiplayer with just a single Joy-Con (clipped into a plastic wheel holster, if you're a true pro) makes Deluxe tons of fun across both conventional races and a host of battle modes.
Put your foot down now, ladies and gents, 'cause this one leaves its competition in the dust.
Mario Kart 8 introduced elements from The Legend of Zelda for the first time.
Rob | Mario Kart 64
This one’s an easy choice for me: Mario Kart 64 stands atop the infamous Choco Mountain, far above all other karters.
Playing solo had its share of lovely moments, but multiplayer is where the game really shines. I grew up sharing a room with my boisterous older brother, and when we weren't mimicking WWF (WWE) wrestlers at home, we were playing Mazzer Kart 64.
Grand Prix's were always a highlight, as we struggled to muscle each other and AI out of the way, off the track completely, or into unfortunate obstructions like penguins, gofers and crabs. Every now and then my younger sister would join in as well, as together we attempted to exact revenge on older bro for whatever shitty nicknames he'd given us that week.
It also came in handy on a night out a few weeks ago, when yours truly was challenged to a race by a rather menacing drunk at a bar in Brighton. Thankfully, he was dispatched so beautifully that he calmed right down and offered to buy me a pint!
Moral of the story? Mario Kart 64 isn’t just for 1997 - it's for life.
Split-screen Mario Kart 64 holds fond memories for many.
Which is your favourite kart racer? Is it another Mario Kart game, or something more exotic? Let us know in the comments.
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.