Monday, December 15, 2014
The biggest thing to come out of the PlayStation Experience was the 15 minute gameplay demo for Uncharted 4: A Thief's End. Sony revealed the new Uncharted over a year ago at the launch party for the PS4. Sony followed up that reveal with a brief cinematic teaser at E3 which revealed the game's subtitle and setting. While these two teasers got many excited for Uncharted 4, I personally needed to see more to get behind the hype for this game especially since so many games have fallen short of their hype in the past year. After the gameplay trailer from the PlayStation Experience, my doubts over Uncharted 4 are now nonexistent. Although it was a 15 minute snippet of gameplay, Naughty Dog packed a lot of information about Uncharted's PS4 evolution into this demo.
The demo starts with protagonist Nathan Drake standing on a cliff overlooking the dangerous terrain the island setting has to offer. This view and the following movement of the camera shows off Uncharted 4's gorgeous graphics and great water effects. Drake then enters a nearby cave which provides ample opportunities to see that the game's platforming mechanics in action. In short, the platforming looks to work just as great as they did in previous entries in the series. More platforming sections follow once Drake exits the cave, but with an added twist. He finds a spike which can be used on certain rock formations as an anchor point in order to grab out-of-reach ledges and cervices. The demo showed a few exciting instances where using the spike while jumping is necessary to reach new areas and save Drake from falling to certain death.
As Drake makes his way around the island, he eventually meets up with some hostiles. While this encounter lasts rest of the demo, it perfectly showcases Uncharted's next-gen evolution. Since Drake is usually placed against insurmountable odds, stealth has played a huge part in the Uncharted series. It certainly takes centre stage in Uncharted 4 as Drake can use the large patches of flora and fauna to get the jump on enemies and for hiding when spotted. In addition to the stealth mechanics, combat has received some retooling especially the hand-to-hand combat. These hand-to-hand fights look a lot more fluid and dynamic as Drake and his opponents can use the environment as a part of their offence, transition to different positions like belly-to-back and throw grapples such as an arm drag. These new combat scenarios can even occur when platforming around a firefight. During a particular moment in the demo, Drake is trying to climb up a cliff only to be cut-off by a boot to the face. Drake takes the boot in stride, punches the enemy and throws him off the cliff in a similar fashion to ledge takedowns from past Uncharteds. Instead of falling to his doom, the enemy grabs onto Drake's foot thus leading to more input in order to escape the enemy's grasp. Moments like these should make Uncharted 4's combat unpredictable and exciting throughout the entire game.
The last thing I want to touch on from the Uncharted 4 demo is the grappling hook. While it is only used two times throughout the entire demo, it leaves one amazing impression. The first time we see it is in the heat of battle as an enemy throws a grenade at Drake's feet. With only a few seconds to react, Drake jumps to the right and throws out his grabbing hook at a nearby branch with the press of the R1 button. In that brief instant, he sours through the air directly toward the grenade-throwing enemy to deliver a devastating punch to the face. In my opinion, this sequence is one of the most exhilarating parts of the demo and perfectly shows the combat capabilities of the grappling hook. Aside from its use in combat, the grappling hook adds new dimensions to Uncharted's exploration and platforming as it gives Drake more versatility in maneuvering around the environment.
All-in-all, this 15 minute demo has completely sold me on Uncharted 4: A Thief's End. It looks like a spectacular showcase of the PS4's power and solidifies Naughty Dog's position as one of the elite developers in this industry. Now sitting upon my list of most anticipated games of 2015, I really look forward to playing Uncharted 4 next holiday season. If you do not agree with my analysis, the gameplay video of Uncharted 4's demo is included below so you can see for yourself.
Sunday, December 14, 2014
Despite Nintendo's frustrating practices of building demand for certain products, their handling of this entire situation has left a lot to be desired. First, they completely underestimated the demand for the Amiibos especially the figures involving characters from franchises with a cult following like Fire Emblem and Animal Crossing. Activision did the exact same thing when Skylanders initially released in 2011. Since Amiibo is directly inspired by the Skylanders line of games and toys, it is baffling for Nintendo to not at least learn from Skylander's growing pains. Second, Nintendo hasn't done anything to dismiss these rumors of discontinuation. In fact, they have added more fuel to the fire by not giving a definitive "yes" or "no" answer to the question. All that has been clarified is more popular characters will be in regular stock while certain sold-out figures may be restocked at a later date. No definition of what characters are deemed popular enough for regular stock, outside of Mario and Link, and no concrete timetable of when these figures will be restocked if ever. On top of all this wonderful news, the Captain Falcon, Luigi and Pit figures from the second wave of Amiibos have been delayed until further notice.
Not everything surrounding the Amiibos is negative. As a matter of fact, the figures are really well made and their uses in Super Smash Bros. for Wii U, Mario Kart 8 and Hyrule Warriors are really cool. They have a lot of potential that hopefully Nintendo can capitalize on.
The feelings on Nintendo's mishaps surrounding the Amiibogeddon fiasco can be boiled down to one word--frustrating. These figures were made to capitalize on the toys to life market in order to make back the money lost on poor Wii U sales. It is puzzling that Nintendo isn't making greater efforts to meet the demand, even with "niche" characters like Marth, Wii Fit Trainer and Villager. If these figures are making a profit, there should be absolutely no reason to consider discontinuing or limiting the stock for any of them. While I personally don't believe Nintendo will fix this fiasco before the new year, the longer they wait to actually address the issue, the more they will alienate the Amiibo's target audience.
Sunday, December 7, 2014
Before diving right into all the flaws with the Game Awards, I will admit there were some good to great moments in this show. There were a good amount of reveals with Metal Gear Online, Adr1ft, Human Element and the new Legend of Zelda being the standouts in my opinion. Speaking of the new Zelda, that gameplay footage, albeit being short in length, made me feel all giddy inside. Just the sheer size of Hyrule made my jaw drop. While I found them unneeded, most of the musical performances were done well especially the collaboration between Imagine Dragons and Koji Kondo. Geoff Keighley's friend Greg from Scotland stole the show with his performance of classic game tunes from Mario, Sonic, Street Fighter and Tetris using lasers to produce the music. After a performance that spectacular, Greg definitely deserves a job in the video game industry. It is up to the developer and publishers now, give the guy a chance.
One of my main complaints with the VGAs was their complete lack of respect and effort put into the awards aspect of the awards show. The Game Awards fixed some of that by putting together credible award categories, having most of the awards selected by of panel of industry veterans and highlighting more awards on the show than ever before. While I do have some complaints about the handling of awards outside of the main stage (more on this in a bit), the Game Awards did a job leaps and bounds better than any of the VGAs. Also the awards look much better than the stupid monkey statues they use to give out.
For everything good about the Game Awards, there were two or three things wrong with the show. For a three hour show, it had no sense of pacing. Some segments like Conan O'Brien's videos on the nominees for Game of the Year and Lindsay Stirling's performance of Dragon Age: Inquistion's theme song felt rushed, while others such as Keighley's asides with others in the crowd went on for far too long. Speaking of Keighley's asides, these moments made two key problems with the show evident: the lack of rehearsals and poor representation of awards not shown on the main stage
It is understandable that a level of improvisation makes the show feel organic, but every conversation, speech and introduction came off as awkward and highly unprofessional. The fact that you forget a member of the Hearthstone team was in the audience to accept their award for Mobile/Handheld Game of the Year, overheard a musical performance tuning their instruments on the main speakers or had a Sony representative call out the existence of a teleprompter is just unacceptable. These unfortunate instances make the video game industry as a whole look like a laughing stock to casual viewers and people from other mediums. These mistakes would have been ironed out with a few rehearsals before the show.
Building off of the lack of rehearsals, the awards given out off of the main stage were handled poorly. Nobody is going to take these awards seriously if Keighley and company are just going to hand them out with little to no context. Time may be a constraint, but have a pre-show or cut unnecessary segments in order to make these awards feel credible rather than awkwardly pulling people out of the audience to hand them their awards. These parts just reinforced how unprofessional the show was.
Apart from the Game Awards itself, my brother and I found it next to impossible to view the show on our Xbox 360 and PS3. We tried everything from looking on the dashboards to searching on the Youtube and IGN apps to no avail. When we went to search for instructions on how to watch on our game consoles, all we found were press releases boasting the show was available on all platforms without any instructions on where exactly to watch it. It is one thing to boast about the show's availability, but to not provide a means of helping people gain access to it added more frustration to this entire ordeal.
While the Game Awards is a disappointing and boring show, it is a small step in the right direction. Sadly, this step has created a plethora of new problems that Keighley and company will have to overcome before the show can gain widespread credibility. After this year's show, I believe efforts should be made on creating an awards show that competes with the DICE Awards and the BAFTA Game Awards rather than the Grammys and Oscars. Despite the Game Awards having a few moments that are worth watching, I cannot recommend spending three hours viewing the Game Awards in its entirety.
Wednesday, December 3, 2014
It took two months, but I have finally emerged from my hibernation called university to bring you all your gaming goodness. The last two months have been a never-ending onslaught of tests and assignments. I am so glad that it is over and can dedicate some time to writing. More than previous terms, I have really missed writing for Silver Bit. A lot of cool and crazy things have happened these last two months in the world of video games that I have been itching to write about. Expect to see plenty of articles being posted on Silver Bit this month. Before we can jump to all the fun we are going to have this December, it is time to for another round of Bit by Bit. Enjoy.
Game of the Fall
While people were banking hundreds of hours into Destiny, scouring the ravaged lands of Middle Earth: Shadow of Mordor or losing their sanity with The Evil Within, I had my face planted into my 3DS or Wii U during short breaks from school and work. With a shorter time to play, I have kept to playing games in half-hour or hour chucks depending on the day. In that time, I alternated between playing Super Smash Bros. for 3DS and Bayonetta for Wii U. Out of these two games, I have to give my Game of the Fall to Bayonetta.
Although I bought Bayonetta for PS3 back in 2011, I only played it one time in my three years owning the game. I always wanted to play more of Bayonetta, but never got around to it. In a spark of genius, the original Bayonetta comes packaged with Bayonetta 2. This Wii U version of the game gave me the perfect opportunity to finally beat it. Bayonetta was a wondrous yet surreal experience. Like all games made by Platinum Games, Bayonetta is balls-to-the-wall insane in both story and gameplay, but I would never have it any other way. Bayonetta had me rolling on the floor laughing more than any game has in years, thanks to its over-the-top set pieces and moments. Aside from all the craziness of Bayonetta, it is overly sexual to the point of being uncomfortable at times. While I comprehend it as Platinum's unique way of parodying exploitation films, these sexual tones may turn some people off and its understandable. Another thing that may divide people's opinions on Bayonetta is its difficulty. Even on normal, the game will put you through the ringer. While I can see it frustrating many, I found it incredibly rewarding to master a level or sequence after dying multiple times.
I could go on about Bayonetta for pages, but I don't have the space. Overall, Bayonetta is an incredible action game that deserves your attention if only to watch some of the absolutely insane moments in the game. You get to start a motorcycle with your middle finger and punt a god into the sun. 'Nuff said.
Video of the Fall
Sticking on the Wii U bandwagon (it's like I haven't got off of it all year), there was only one video that rocked my heart and soul. It was Nintendo's 50-Fact Extravaganza for Super Smash Bros. for Wii U. While it did take away the element of surprise by revealing every detail about the game, this video made me so excited for Super Smash Bros. for Wii U that couldn't handle the anticipation. If you have the time, take 35 minutes to watch this video to see everything that will make Super Smash Bros. for Wii U one of the greatest games of 2014. Immediately following the video, proceed to run to the nearest game store and buy a Wii U and copy of the game. Spoiler alert: it's that damn good.
Monday, October 13, 2014
When I initially conceived this two part series, I did not anticipate how busy school would get this early into the semester. Although things are crazy as I seem to have a test or project every single week, I am committed to finishing this gauntlet up before any of the games in this final part are released. If you did not get a chance to read the first part of the Fan Expo 2014 Gauntlet, it focused on the likes of Driveclub, Forza Horizon 2, The Crew, The Order: 1886, Far Cry 4 and Mortal Kombat X. If you want to read my impressions on any of those games, click the link. This part will preview the four games that I got over ten minutes of hands-on time playing.
Thursday, October 2, 2014
Since Super Smash Bros. for 3DS will be the first Smash Bros. to release on a handheld, many gamers have had reservations over how the chaotic gameplay will translate to the small screen. Nintendo's answer to these worries is by placing outlines around all characters in order to improve visibility especially when the camera zooms out. Although both editions of the new Super Smash Bros. share the exact same roster, gameplay and multiplayer modes, there are a few areas where the 3DS version deviates from its Wii U brethren. Mainly, all the stages, aside from stages like Final Destination, Battlefield and Brinstar, are exclusive to the 3DS version as they pull from handheld games such as Pokemon X & Y, The Legend of Zelda: Spirit Tracks and Super Mario 3D Land. Apart from the stages, the main exclusive for the 3DS version of Smash Bros. is the Smash Run mode. Very similar to Kirby Air Ride's City Trial mode, Smash Run places players at random locations in this large open environment with the goal of collecting as many stat-boosting power-ups as possible in five minutes. After the five minutes are up, these super-charged combatants are put in a randomized match to determine who made the best of their run. Along with the Wii U version, Super Smash Bros. for 3DS also allows players to create their own Mii Fighters, customize move sets for preexisting characters and use Amiibo to train computer-controlled characters. One heavily rumoured feature, which cannot be confirmed until the release of Super Smash Bros. for Wii U, is the ability to use the 3DS as a controller for the Wii U version of the game.
No matter the size of the screen, Super Smash Bros. for 3DS looks to be a worthy of the Smash Bros. name. From my time with the demo, I found the controls to take quite a while to get use to and the visibility of the characters to be difficult to follow in four-man brawls. Despite my reservations with a few mechanics, the demo is loads of fun and I highly recommend giving it a swing before picking up the full game. Super Smash Bros. for 3DS is one of the most highly anticipated games for a reason. It's just about time to settle all your differences and conflicts in Smash!
Thursday, September 18, 2014
A few weeks back, yours truly made the long trek to Toronto for Fan Expo Canada. My main reason for going to Fan Expo this year was the plethora of upcoming games available to play at the event. In total, Fan Expo had well over 30 games to play including Middle Earth: Shadows of Mordor, Halo: Master Chief Collection, Assassin's Creed Unity and Destiny. While I was hoping to play every game on the show floor, that ambitious goal did not come close to happening. In fact, I only got to play ten games. Although that number might not seem like a lot, I got to play the games I was most interested in trying, and those with the shortest lines. Considering I did not get a whole lot of time to fully experience each demo, I will be doing brief impressions on the games I played instead of doing separate first impression previews for each one. As I cannot fit all ten games in one article, there will be two parts to this Fan Expo Gauntlet. The first part focuses on the demos I got less than ten minutes with while the second part previews the games that I got much more hands-on time playing.