Monday, August 25, 2014

Bit by Bit: August 2014

As the weeks pass, we continue to inch ever so closer to the end of the summer.  For most including yours truly, the end of summer means the beginning of school.  With a new school year, I move from the craziness of managing two jobs, this blog and life to insanity of managing four university courses, a volunteer position at the university newspaper and a co-op job search on top of everything else mentioned above.  Before all that awesomeness becomes reality, there are two more weeks to relax and make the most of the summer.  Among the large list of things to do in these two weeks, I am going to Fan Expo Canada this coming Friday, August 29th.  It has been four long years since I last went to this event and things have really changed especially on the video game side of things.  Expect plenty of impressions on Fan Expo and all the games I get a chance to demo at the event in the weeks to come.  While all that amazing content is going to coming to Silver Bit in the near future, it is that time again to take our monthly trip down memory lane in Bit by Bit.

Game of the Month
License games do not have the best reputation among gamers.  Most of these projects do a poor job in translating the properties they represent to the video game medium that many have soured to license games altogether.  Every once and awhile, there comes a diamond in the rough to show us the great potential of coupling a huge license, be it a movie, comic or television show, with this interactive medium.  The latest diamond comes from the fusion of Broforce, a side-scrolling action game made by Free Lives that honours and parodies 80s action films and unabashed American patriotism, and the Expendables, Sylvester Stallone's action movie franchise that plays with nostalgia for a bygone age of blockbuster action movies and their larger than life stars.  From this match made in heaven came the Expendabros.

Expendabros is a free standalone expansion to Broforce which gives players a taste of Broforce's hectic gameplay with bro-ified versions of the Expendables 3 cast.  To describe Expendabros' gameplay as anything short of insane would not do the game justice.  Destructible environments, bombastic weapons, buckets of pixelated blood and enough explosions to bring a tear to Michael Bay's eyes kept a grin firmly planted on my face throughout my time with the game.  As much fun as I had with with the Expendabros, I did run into a good amount of slowdown especially when there were lots of explosions on screen and while loading new levels or cutscenes that took away from my experience.  While Expendabros has a few problems, the game has put Broforce on my radar of games I need to play and I highly recommend those who own a PC to give this free game a try because it is loads of fun.

Most Anticipated Game of the Month
I try not to have many repeats for Most Anticipated Game of the Month, but Azure Striker Gunvolt is the exception especially considering the game is less than a week away from release.  Comcept and Inti Creates' spiritual successor to Mega Man Zero will be available to download from the Nintendo eShop this coming Friday, August 29th for 15 dollars.  Those who purchase Azure Striker Gunvolt within the first three months of its launch will receive Mighty Gunvolt, an 8-bit side-scrolling crossover between Gunvolt, Mighty No. 9 and Gal Gun, free of charge.  From the brief gameplay trailer, Mighty Gunvolt looks to be modeled after the NES era Mega Man games with some new gameplay twists such as character specific abilities.  Seeing as Capcom will be sitting on Mega Man aside from re-releasing past games on new platforms for the foreseeable future, I am glad that Keiji Inafune, Comcept and Inti Creates are taking it upon themselves to fill the void with quality successors to the Mega Man name.  I cannot wait to get my hands on the fruition of their hard work later this week.

Video of the Month
When was the last time a game legitimately scared you?  For me, it was BioShock.  The dark, unsettling setting of Rapture combined with its disturbing residents caused me to debate whether or not to venture further into the level or shudder over the haunting screams that echoed through those halls many times.

While I personally hate horror movies due to their predictable plots and over reliance on blood and gore, I find survival horror games and games with significant horror elements very engaging because I am directly involved in the horrific events rather than a passive observer.  With the drop in quality among survival horror games (Resident Evil and Alone in the Dark) and the need to give players an overabundance of firepower and strength in action games with horror elements (BioShock Infinite and The Last of Us), games that truly scare are few and far between.

Konami looks to change that situation with its new additions of Silent Hill, which will be developed by Kojima Productions with the help of horror movie aficionado Guillermo del Toro and starring The Walking Dead's Norman Reedus.  With a lot of big names behind these projects, it seems like Konami is finally taking the Silent Hill franchise serious once again, but that is not all Konami did.  To show the new direction for these Silent Hills, Konami released P.T. (Playable Teaser) as a free download on PS4.  The one-two punch of the announcement trailer and playable teaser has generated an incredible amount of excitement for these new installments in the Silent Hill franchise.  I strongly encourage everybody to try out the unique yet incredibly scary P.T. for themselves or watch a walkthrough online if you do not own a PS4.  While P.T. may be more of an interactive experience than a game, it is something that all gamers mature enough should take the time to experience.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

First Byte: Destiny

Unless you were living under a rock sometime during the end of July, a beta for a little game called Destiny was released to the masses.  While Bungie did give a small taste of Destiny through the PS4 exclusive alpha back in June, the beta marked the first time gamers got a substantial piece of the game to play.  Available from July 17th to 27th on Sony consoles (PS3 and PS4) and July 23rd to 27th on Microsoft consoles (Xbox 360 and Xbox One), the Destiny beta gave players five story missions and one strike co-op mission to complete, the Old Russia wastelands and Guardian Tower to explore and the Control PvP match-type to compete in along with some addition content such as a new story mission and PvP match-type only opened for brief periods throughout the beta.  With the financial backing of publishing powerhouse Activision and the unstained reputation of developer Bungie, Destiny has easily become the most anticipated game of 2014 well before people ever got their hands on the game.  This beta marked a chance for millions of gamers the world over to try this major title without dropping 70 dollars to buy it or spending hundreds to play it at a gaming convention.  The Destiny beta was an unprecedented event, but that leaves one question: did it succeed in convincing those skeptical to buy the game and reinforcing the beliefs of those already excited for the game?  Although the true answer to that question will only be revealed on September 9th when Destiny is released to the public, I will be sharing my initial opinions on Destiny and recap my experience with the beta in this edition of First Byte.

Before launching right into the game, the Destiny beta starts off in a character creation screen.  In this screen, players choose their class (titan, warlock or hunter), sex (male or female), race (Human, Exo or Awoken) and other physical features.  As I am not the most adverse at character creators, I only spent a few minutes creating my unique Exo warlock.  Those interested in tweaking every little feature of their character to perfection might be disappointed in Destiny's focus on using preset features and colours for character creation; however it does keep players from spending an unnecessary amount of time in these menus and moves them into the action right away.

After finishing the character creation, the first cutscene plays setting up the conflict between the Traveler and the Darkness and the players' need to bear arms against the threat of the Darkness.  The first mission starts as my character is resurrected by a Ghost (your character's robot companion played by Game of Thrones star Peter Dinklage) and it plays out much like your standard fare tutorial introducing the core mechanics of the game.  Considering you gain one level every mission in the early stages of Destiny, the four other introductory missions are very similar as each one introduces a new element of the game such as special moves, vehicles, public events and new enemy races.  Once you complete the first mission, you are given access to the Tower, Destiny's social and non-combat hub.  While at the Tower, players are able to view messages, buy new weapons, armour and ship upgrades, decode encrypted items, store items in vaults, take on single and multiplayer bounties and interact with fellow guardians.  Exploring the Tower offers players a peaceful distraction outside the intense firefights of missions and multiplayer matches.  The Tower is not the only place guardians are able to roam as players can explore each major setting of the game at their leisure.  In these "explore" areas are loot caches to find, enemies to fight, secret areas to discover and side missions that come in the form of beacons to complete.  Considering I did not get a chance to play the multiplayer portion of the beta, Destiny's open world areas are where I spent most of my time and I spent most of my time exploring Destiny's open world areas and they were a fun way to kill some time.

Although I am not a huge fan of first-person shooters, Destiny got its hooks in me.  Even with the limited selection of missions and activities to do, I kept on coming back every chance I had and I believe it had to do with Destiny's excellent hybridization of expertly polished FPS gameplay with the empowering abilities and skills found in many RPGs.  The gun play is very reminiscent of Bungie's entries into the Halo series as each gun has its own strengths and weaknesses in effectively dealing with different situations from long distance shootouts to up close and personal brawls.  The RPG elements are excellently implemented as players gain levels independent of learning new skills such as hovering, draining health when using your melee or supercharged special moves.  Gaining levels never feels like a grind because there are plenty of opportunities to earn experience through missions, explore mode, multiplayer matches and public events.  Another impressive element of Destiny comes from the enemy AI.  It floors me how well the enemies react to your tactics by moving from cover to cover, flanking when you are busy fighting another enemy or swarming when you make a mistake.  Destiny's enemies are unlike the regular FPS grunts as they offer a considerable yet satisfying challenge for players of any skill level.

While I thoroughly enjoyed my time with Destiny, there are still a few issues I ran into during the beta.  The most prevalent issues came with the side missions and public events in explore mode as I ran into far too many missions and events with the exact same objectives.  The randomized nature of these activities is definitely a factor in this repetition, but Bungie should make a large enough pool of side missions and public events in order to avoid repetition of missions and events altogether.  The other issues I found were more graphical glitches like a enemy teleporting through objects, errant collision boxes the level designers forgot to remove or stuttering during loading screens, which are not that serious.  Hopefully, the beta helped the programmers and designers at Bungie find all the bugs and balancing issues needed to make Destiny a better game come launch.

Skepticism best describes my opinion of Destiny before taking part in the beta.  Due to the incredible marketing might Activistion is putting behind it, there is no doubt that Destiny will be a success upon its release, but would it actually be live up to the hype is whole other question.  The excellent quality of the Destiny beta has completely changed my opinion on the game.  In a year with a significant lack of triple A titles, Destiny will shine brighter than any game on the market this holiday season, possibly challenging Call of Duty in sales.  We will only know come September 9th if Destiny is the revolution in console MMOs that it is being hyped to be, but I do believe we are on the cusp of something special regardless.

Monday, August 11, 2014

2014: Year of the Delay

Delays are a natural part of any industry.  Nothing ever goes exactly to plan as issues and problems can occur at anytime during production to negatively affect the estimated time of arrival.  In the video game industry, delays come about regularly as developers run into game-breaking bugs that need additional time to receive the necessary attention or publishers search for the perfect release date for their game to succeed.  While there are quite a few games that slip past their original release date each year, 2014 has seen a large amount of major releases delayed until 2015.  So many delays, in fact, each one seems to make 2014 feel more like a barren wasteland for major releases.

The whole of 2013 was solely focused on launching two brand new systems in the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One, the heralds of the next generation of video games.  With those brand new consoles, the promise of games to justify their cost and hype was not too far behind.  After experiencing many console launches, a drought of games immediately following the release of these systems was to be expected, but to have this lack of major releases extend the majority of 2014 cannot be overlooked.  Although the good amount of downloadable releases may satisfy the most dedicated gamers between major releases, the vast majority does not scour the PlayStation Store, Xbox Marketplace or Nintendo eShop regularly for games to buy.  Sadly that vast majority focuses on the larger retail titles such as Call of Duty, The Last of Us and Watch Dogs over downloadable games like Child of Light, Shovel Knight and Transistor.  The games being delayed until 2015 (Batman: Arkham Knight, Evolve, The Division and Witcher III) are the system sellers for these next generation consoles and delaying these games until following year will cause more people to hold out on buying a PS4 or Xbox One for the time being.  Each time a major release is delayed, it adds more fuel to the argument that the next generation came a year before it was actually ready.

Despite all the negativity surrounding game delays, they are necessary and beneficial part of the video game industry.  Delays offer developers more time to fix bugs, polish mechanics, balance features and refine a game's content, which all result in making a better product.  Rushing a game to market, especially in an unfinished state, to meet a deadline can do a lot of damage to a company's image than actual good.  While the extra time benefits a game, there are some current trends involving delays that can have an averse effect on a game.  These trends include delaying a game just a few weeks before its release (Rayman Legends), over-hyping a game before its delay to go completely silent on it afterwards (Watch Dogs) and setting a release date for a game in order to push pre-orders before delaying it (Batman: Arkham Knight).  These trends alienate the loyal fans that look to support these games through pre-orders, buying collector's editions and paying for season passes by literally pulling the rug out from under them.  Playing with the emotions of the most passionate fans is an easy way to sour their opinions towards a certain game or game company.  Developers and publishers need to let delays be for the betterment of the games and learn to keep their audience's emotions in mind when announcing and handling these crucial situations.

Although it may be a tough pill to swallow, delays are an inevitable part of the video game industry.  They are needed to handle the unpredictable nature of game development, but gamers, publishers and developers all need to find better ways of dealing with them especially as development costs rise and the ability to connect with one another becomes more available.  As a gamer, it is disappointing to see the list of major releases in 2014 dwindle every month as many get pushed to 2015, but all hope is not lost.  There are many other options for gamers to spend their valuable time with than just the larger triple A titles including a wide selection of value-priced downloadable games or a vast backlog of games missed out on from previous years.  While 2014 may be a soft year for major game releases, best use the extra time to discover brand new experiences or rediscover those you missed out on from years past.  The games we are all excited about will eventually see the light of day; we just have to be a little more patient.

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Bit by Bit: July 2014

July has been an incredibly busy month.  Funny enough, it has been busy for every reason except gaming.  Once the final article for E3 2014 went up at the end of June, my life has consisted of endlessly working on a large report for an online course, picking up numerous shifts at my two jobs and volunteering for the university newspaper.  The little free time I had was spent away from the keyboard and either with friends trying to make the most of the summer or in front of a television re-watching Gundam Wing (one of my favourite animes) in its entirety.  To sum things up, Silver Bit has been the least of worries for the past month, but those priorities change now as I have a lot planned for August in order to end this summer as strong as it started.  Stay tuned to Silver Bit as the best is yet to come, I promise.  Before we get ahead of ourselves, let us look back at the month that was July 2014.

Game of the Month
When I snuck in some time to play games, there was one game which dominated my time.  If you paid attention to Silver Bit at all during July, you would have seen the review of said game posted a couple weeks ago.  Yes, Shovel Knight is the Game of the Month and rightfully so, the game is phenomenal.  Even after completing the game on Normal, I return to play a few levels in New Game+, search for hidden music sheets and maximize my treasure count.  I can rant and rave about Shovel Knight for hours on end, but I highly recommend reading the review to get my full opinion on the game.  If you are already enjoying Shovel Knight especially the music, the soundtrack and arranged album for the game are both available on composer Jake Kaufman's Bandcamp for any price you would like to pay.  Both albums work as excellent accompanying pieces to Shovel Knight and are highly recommended to anyone who enjoys video game music.  With that all said and done, I cannot stress how wonderful Shovel Knight is.  It is a game that needs to be experienced and at the low price of 15 dollars, there is no excuse to miss out on this adventure.

Most Anticipated Game of the Month
July 17th marked the start of the most anticipated beta in years, the Destiny beta.  The last time a beta was so highly anticipated was way back in 2007 with the Halo 3 beta and coincidentally the Destiny beta comes from the studio that originally created Halo-- Bungie.  A mere pre-order for Destiny gave you full access to the beta upon its release.  Even with that extremely low barrier of entry, those already in the beta received two addition beta codes in order to encourage others to play the beta and gain access to all the content in the beta including the cooperative strike mission (Destiny's equivalent to raids found in other massively multiplayer online games).  If you owned any Microsoft or Sony console, there was no reason not to play the Destiny beta during the last two weeks of July.  While I will be going into much further detail in an upcoming edition of First Byte, I want to share some of my initial thoughts on Destiny here.  Considering my youngest brother hogged the PS4 almost day and night to play the beta, I enjoyed the limited time with Destiny I snuck in between his long sessions.  It blends the expertly polished gameplay of Bungie's entries in the Halo series with the unique RPG elements of Borderlands to great success.  Nowadays, the FPS genre is full of shallow experiences that aim to imitate the latest Michael Bay action movie rather than create a compelling game with actual depth that Destiny feels so refreshing.  While I do not have a high opinion on the current direction of the genre, Destiny stands out as a first-person shooter that I am actually excited for and in all honesty that does not happen often.  I cannot wait to spend some quality time with Destiny come September unless my brother decides to commit every waking moment to playing the game.

Video of the Month
Another month, another Smash Bros. reveal.  This time around we did not get just one new addition to the roster, Nintendo dropped three.  Newcomers Robin and Lucina from Fire Emblem Awakening join the returning Captain Falcon as the newest members of the Super Smash Bros. for 3DS and Wii U roster.  The reveal trailer blends the anime-style graphics of Awakening's cutscenes with gameplay footage from the new Smash Bros. in a way that makes both art styles compliment one another.  Much like the other reveal trailers, the video speaks for itself.  So sit back, relax and let Mr. Sakurai take you for a ride.

Monday, July 14, 2014

Shovel Knight Review

No matter the advancements in video game technology and graphics, there will always be fond memories of the games from generations past.  In the last decade, there has been a large resurgence of new titles which take heavy inspiration from the games of the 8 and 16-bit era.  Some games use this old style of graphics and gameplay in order to capitalize on its newfound popularity; others use this style to pay homage to the games of that era.  Very few games use these inspirations to set a new standard in the modern games.  Although it takes inspiration from 8-bit classics like Mega Man, Super Mario Bros., Castlevania and DuckTales, Yacht Club Games' Shovel Knight makes every mechanic its own and even surpasses those which inspired it.

Harkening back to the games of yesteryear, Shovel Knight's story is simple and to the point.  Shovel Knight and his companion Shield Knight journey across the land seeking adventure and treasure.  One fateful day, they attempt to climb the Tower of Fate only to have tragedy strike as the evil forces of the tower take out both Shovel and Shield Knight.  Upon awakening, Shovel Knight finds that Shield Knight has vanished and the Tower of Fate is sealed.  Due to the loss of Shield Knight, Shovel Knight retires his shovel and starts a life of seclusion.  During Shovel Knight's absence, the Enchantress and her Order of No Quarter ravage the land by unsealing the evil forces trapped within the Tower of Fate.  With the Tower of Fate opened, Shovel Knight takes up his shovel once again in a quest to save Shield Knight and rid the world of the Enchantress' evil.

While Shovel Knight may borrow many of its core ideas from other classics of the 8-bit era, these points of inspiration are one of its strengths.  From the pogo jumping inspired by DuckTales to an overworld similar to Super Mario Bros. 3, Shovel Knight takes each borrowed concept and makes it feel brand new and distinctly its own.  At the forefront of this adventure is the hero's signature and formidable shovel.  Digging up dirt piles, attacking enemies, uncovering hidden areas and bouncing off of enemies to reach high platforms are among the few uses for this versatile tool.  The shovel can even be upgraded with special abilities such as a charge attack or unearthing dirt piles in one swipe for greater use.  The shovel is not the only versatile tool at Shovel Knight's disposal as the relics bought throughout the game all provide different ways of tackling obstacles.  Shovel Knight's tools would be useless without Yacht Club Games' superbly designed levels.  Much like Mega Man, each level plays to the unique features of their corresponding boss through beautifully animated backgrounds, blood-pumping music and special gameplay twists.  Outside of the levels, Shovel Knight offers plenty of content for players to dive into including collectible music sheets, purchasable health, mana and armour upgrades, extra bosses, special levels and achievements.

The gruelling difficulty is a signature aspect of all 8-bit games.  In order to appeal to a modern audience, Shovel Knight is much easier than those games.  Not to say Shovel Knight is easy in any way because it is definitely not.  The difficulty in the game ramps up at a reasonable pace as players learn the ins-and-outs of the mechanics.  It helps that the penalty for death is losing three sacks of gold rather than a game over screen.  It keeps players coming back at every death and skilled players can even retrieve those lost sacks their next attempt.  You learn from each death and adapt your strategy to take into account every enemy encounter and new obstacle.  The incredible feats one can perform to escape death will make any jaw drop.  For those looking for a greater challenge, New Game + and the ability to destroy any checkpoint for gold are two ways to test your skills.

Aside from the few occurrences when the gold lost in death is impossible to reach without dying again and the lack of enemy variety in certain levels, there is nothing to fault Shovel Knight on.  Yacht Club Games made an excellent product that pays respect to the games that inspired its gameplay and design while forging a new path of its own.  In forging that new path, Shovel Knight surpasses its contemporaries in all aspects, especially fun.  Shovel Knight is a special game that blends nostalgia for a bygone era with the pixel perfect platforming of today's best 2D sidescrollers.  At 15 dollars, Shovel Knight is a game nobody should miss.  As it stands, Shovel Knight is a strong contender for any Game of the Year competition.

Monday, June 30, 2014

Top 10 Games of E3 2014 Part 2

Welcome to the second part of Silver Bit's Top 10 Games of E3 2014.  In the previous article, we took a look at the games that just barely made this final five.  E3 2014 saw some great games grace the show floor, but only a handful can walk away as the most impressive games of the show.  While all the games on this list are among the best of E3, the games in this top five could easily walk away with top honours depending on one's opinion.  To reiterate,  the only games eligible for this list are those available to play on the show floor.  Now with that reminder out of the way, it is time to count down the final five games in Silver Bit's Top 10 Games of E3 2014.  Hope you enjoy and feel free to share your favourite games of E3 2014 in the comments.
5.  Sunset Overdrive - XBONE
There are only a select few Xbox One exclusives that really get one hopeful for first-party content on the machine and Insomniac Games' Sunset Overdrive is champion over them all.  All of Microsoft's offerings nowadays seem to fall under the same experiences they delivered last generation, but Sunset Overdrive is the shining example of what happens when you give a team of creative minds full control over their vision.  Sunset Overdrive is pure unadulterated fun wrapped into an open-world third-person action game.  Stuck in Sunset City during the Awesompocolypse, the player is tasked with cleaning up the mess made by the launch of FizzCo's Overcharge Delirium XT, an energy drink that turns anyone who drinks into mindless mutated creatures known as the OD'd.  Sunset Overdrive gives players tons of options to tackle their task through fully customizable characters, a slew of creatively designed weapons and plenty of solo and multiplayer missions to complete throughout Sunset City.  Traversing Sunset City is incredibly fluid as players are able to wall run, grind rails and wires, instantly switch between grinding and zip-lining, bounce off of any surface and use other crazy acrobatics.  Although Microsoft will not push Sunset Overdrive as heavily as Halo or Forza, it is a game that Xbox One owners should not overlook this holiday season.
4.  Valiant Hearts: The Great War - PS3, PS4, XBONE, XB360, PC
The UbiArt engine has proven time and time again that the most beautiful games do not need to have the largest polygon count.  In fact, the art in 2D games can be just as beautiful or even more than their 3D counterparts; just look at Rayman Legends and Child of Light for proof.  Valiant Hearts: The Great War is the next title to use the UbiArt engine and the game looks spectacular in terms of its visuals and gameplay.  Valiant Hearts follows the story of four individuals as they try to survive the horrors of World War I.  Starting in different locations and allegiances, the stories of each character interconnect with one another through a common companion--a dog named Walt.  Throughout the game, the characters are thrust into various situations from sneaking behind enemy lines to blowing up bridges.  Valiant Hearts offers players plenty of puzzles to complete through interacting with the environment and other characters or sending Walt to reach areas the characters cannot normally reach.  The interplay between using the characters and Walt to solve puzzles and the mature tones of the story have me very excited to venture into the world of Valiant Hearts in the near future.
3.  Batman: Arkham Knight - PS4, XBONE, PC
In recent years, The Dark Knight has become an incredible force within the video game industry thanks to the folks at Rocksteady.  One can argue that the Batman: Arkham games are single-handedly the greatest licensed games to grace the market.  As the final entry in this acclaimed series, Rocksteady looks to pull no punches with Arkham Knight as Batman and his world are being supercharged with new abilities and content.  The moment from the E3 demo where Batman steps out onto the balcony of his hideout and peers out onto Rockstady's Gotham City will make anybody's jaw drop.  The expansiveness of this open world is breathtaking and I can see myself drowning hundreds of hours exploring every nook and cranny of Gotham City.  With how vast Gotham City will be in Arkham Knight, Batman needs another way to traverse the city than just his trusty grappling hook and cape.  For this final installment, the Batmobile has been added to The Dark Knight's arsenal.  Aside from the vehicles primary purpose, Batman can summon the Batmobile at will, use it to immobilize enemies, have it clear obstacles and launch himself into the air.  The Batmobile is not the only addition as Batman's combat and stealth abilities are receiving considerable upgrades in speed and precision.  Although Batman: Arkham Knight will no longer be gracing consoles this year, the game looks to be on the road to surpassing its predecessors' legendary quality.
2.  Super Smash Bros. for Wii U and 3DS - Wii U, 3DS
Arguably the most anticipated game of 2014, Super Smash Bros. for Wii U and 3DS had one of the best showings of the show.  Nintendo went out of their way to make Super Smash Bros. the most important game of the show.  They gave fans three character reveals in Mii Fighters, Palutena and Pac Man, an incredible live tourney held in the Nokia Theatre and multiple kiosks to play on the show floor.  Seeing the two versions in motion is a thing of beauty.  The Wii U version flows at an incredible clip and all the new characters, stages and items look to fit in with the polished gameplay.  While the 3DS version may take some time to get use to the controllers as I have heard from many video impressions on the game, it looks just as polished and refined as its Wii U brethren.  Much like Far Cry 4 in part one, Super Smash Bros. for Wii U and 3DS are both hard to sum up in words.  I highly recommend watching the Super Smash Bros. Invitational or one of the live demos from Nintendo Treehouse Live at E3 to see how great these games play.
1.  The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt - PS4, XBONE, PC
As great as Super Smash Bros. for Wii U and 3DS may be, there is one game greater than it this year.  That game is The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt.  Not much has been shown of Witcher 3 since its reveal back in early 2013, but CD Projekt RED let the floodgates loose at E3.  The Witcher 3 gives players a living, breathing open world to explore.  In fact, the map is 30 times larger than the previous Witcher games.  Plus the amount of freedom in The Witcher 3 is incredible as players can venture to any part of the map at any time and pick up and put down story and side quests whenever they choose.  On your way to a quest objective and feel like helping a traveler in distress along the way or starting up a whole other quest, you are free to do that without penalty.  The world is shaped around the player's choices in combat, regular conversation and pivotal story moments.  Every piece of media for The Witcher 3 from E3 has been nothing short of phenomenal from the blood-pumping pre-E3 trailer to the show floor demos.  While The Witcher 3 may not earn the same amount of money Elder Scrolls, Dragon Age or Mass Effect rake in, this game and its ambitious scope prove why anybody should spend close to 600 dollars on a next generation console.  The next generation of video gaming truly begins on February 24th, 2015 with the release of The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Top 10 Games of E3 2014 Part 1

Silver Bit's month long coverage of E3 2014 comes to an end with the annual Top Games of E3 list.  This year yours truly is going to switch things up as this list will be a Top 10 list instead of the Top 5 lists from previous years.  Due to the change, it will be hard to contain all these games in one article.  To solve the problem, I will be splitting the list into two parts with part one covering numbers 10 through 6 while part two covers numbers 5 through 1.  As I could not physically go to Los Angeles to experience E3 in person, efforts have been made to watch as much gameplay footage available online to narrow down the best games for this list.  Like in years past, the only games eligible for this list are those available to play on E3's show floor.  Without any further stipulations, let us count down the first five games in Silver Bit's Top 10 Games of E3 2014.
10.  Mario Maker - Wii U
If there is one Nintendo property that people have grown tired of over the years, it is Mario.  Mario releases may come at an accelerated rate these days, but you cannot blame Nintendo for sticking with what sells especially when they need it the most.  I will admit that Mario's 2D platformers have not added much to the formula since New Super Mario Bros. for the DS.  Mario's recent stagnation in two dimensions makes Mario Maker such a breath of fresh air.  Giving the player full freedom to create whatever 2D Mario level their heart desires in such an official form is a dream come true.  Mario Maker allows players to build levels using classic Mario assets such as blocks, warp pipes, goombas and koopas, two different styles of graphics (original NES graphics and the New Super Mario Bros. graphics) and the ability to instantly switch between editing and playing levels at any time.  Mario Maker is the next logical step in taking 2D Mario games to a whole new level.  There is an incredible amount of potential in placing the creation of new Mario levels in the hands of the players and this writer is excited to see what crazy contraptions come from it.
9.  Evolve - PS4, XBONE, PC
Coming from the minds that brought us classic cooperative shooter Left 4 Dead, Evolve looks to take competitive and cooperative shooters in a brand new direction.  Evolve is a four vs. one multiplayer shooter where the team of four has to work together to beat the one.  It might seem very unfair if the one was not a gigantic monster.  With this unique dynamic, matches involve much more than straight-up firefights.  Playing as the monster involves taking advantage of the moment-to-moment action to decide between striking the opposing team or avoiding combat in order to eat roaming creatures needed to evolve into more powerful stages.  On the other hand, the hunters need to work effectively as a team in order to track down and kill the monster before it becomes too much for the team to handle.  Matches in Evolve become hectic games of cat-and-mouse as both sides wrestle for control of territory and resources while contending with the unpredictable computer-controlled creatures that inhabit each map.  Since Turtle Rock Studios announced the game this past January, Evolve has been nothing but impressive especially with its showings at this year's E3.
8.  CounterSpy - PS3, PS4, PSV
Not much has been seen of Dynamighty's PlayStation exclusive outside the trailer found on PS4 demo kiosks across North America.  Considering CounterSpy is being published by Sony, one would have thought the gaming giant would make mention of it at their press conference.  In fact, the only footage available of CounterSpy at E3 is from the demo on the show floor.  It is a shame because of how great CounterSpy plays.  CounterSpy is a side-scrolling stealth game that has players sneaking through enemy bases in order to prevent nuclear war between the United States and Russia.  Trusted with a silenced pistol and stealth know-how, the player jumps between cover, shooting and taking out enemies on the fly.  In particular, the cover mechanics for the game are very interesting as the camera changes from a side view of the stage to slightly tilted view of the player and their sight from cover.  Overall, CounterSpy looks like a delightful downloadable that deserves a lot more attention than it is currently getting.  Watch some gameplay for it, CounterSpy might just surprise you.
7.  Mortal Kombat X - PS3, PS4, XBONE, XB360, PC
Mortal Kombat has seen its fair share of ups and downs over the years especially during the PS2, Xbox and Gamecube years.  With the success of Mortal Kombat 9, things have gotten back on track for the franchise.  Not to rest on their laurels, Ed Boon and NetherRealm Studios are making big changes to series while expanding on successful mechanics introduced in Mortal Kombat 9 and Injustice: Gods Among Us.  Mortal Kombat X's biggest departure comes in its roster and story as the game takes place 25 years after the events of the previous game.  Since 25 years have passed, the roster will consist of brand new characters such as Cassie Cage (daughter of Johnny Cage and Sonya Blade), Kotal Khan (a blood god) and D'Vorah (a human/insect hybrid) along with some returning favourites like Scorpion and Sub-Zero.  Although gameplay remains very similar to past Mortal Kombats with the return of fatalities, special moves and x-ray moves, there are some interesting additions in the form of fully interactable environments and combat variations.  Much like Injustice, combatants can use parts of the environment to launch themselves into the air, set traps for opponents or use as additional weapons.  Speaking of combat variations, each fighter has three different variations to choose from which changes their move sets, strengths, weaknesses and weapons.  With all the new additions and refinements to Mortal Kombat X, gamers all around should be excited to dive back into this fighting game franchise come 2015.
6.  Far Cry 4 - PS3, PS4, XBONE, XB360, PC
Far Cry 3 surprised everybody back in 2012 with its excellent gameplay and vibrant open world.  Two years later, Ubisoft is at it once again with Far Cry 4.  To sum up Far Cry 4's showing at E3 in one word, it would be jaw-dropping.  Instead of having an entire island at your disposal, you now have an entire country in Kyrat.  On foot, in car and through the air, Far Cry 4 gives the player an incredible amount of choice to explore Kyrat however they want.  Gameplay gives the player the same amount of freedom as you can play solo or with a friend, use items and animals found in the environment to your advantage and freely move between modes of travel at any time.  It is hard to describe everything that makes Far Cry 4 such a standout among the sea of shooters releasing this year.  It is best to watch some gameplay footage of Far Cry 4 and see the awesomeness for yourself.

Well, this marks the end of part one.  Hope you enjoyed the list up to this point and feel free to share your favourite games of E3 in the comments.  If you want to continue reading, click this link to see the conclusion to Silver Bit's Top 10 Games of E3 2014