E3 2017 Wrap Up – Games and such

I don’t think I’ll ever go to E3 in person, and that’s just fine by me.

I’ve never been to E3, and I doubt I ever will. That’s mostly because it looks like there are far, far too many people in a big, hot hall. I’m more than content to read about and watch the games in comfort, and not have to go near crowds of humans who may be infected with a dormant form of the zombie plague.

So here are a few thoughts on the bits and pieces from during the event.  I’m sticking to the games and tech mainly, and avoiding the god-awful, cringe worthy presentations.  Stop with the faux YouTuber nonsense!  Anyway, enjoy!

EA

EA Logo

Sports, innit!  Madden has a story mode now, just like most of EA’s other sports franchises.  FIFA will also have a continuation of its story mode, The Journey, which my wife will be fairly happy about.  There’s more content for Battlefield 1 coming, which I don’t really car about much.  Seems to be a lot of night time maps, so if you like that sort of thing then brilliant I suppose.  Need For Speed is back.  PAYBACK in fact.  It’ll have a story mode once again which is the one thing it has over Forza/Horizon.  It looks pretty but I’ve never really been interested in racers for their plots.  If the racing is good then I may take a look, but it seems to be full of scripted sequences which may break the flow of the racing.  I’ll keep an eye one it but I’m not holding my breath.

There’s Battlefront 2 on it’s way as well.  It looks pretty, and there’s a single player campaign now too.  Basically this looks like what the previous game should have been, but then we knew that already.  Then there’s A Way Out, which is the one thing here that actually grabbed me.  A co-op (only) prison escape action adventure.  THAT HAS LOCAL CO-OP!  That last bit alone is enough to interest me, but it looks gorgeous, is from a developer with a good history, and it seems to stand out somewhat from many games.

Verdict: Lots of “Meh” with a little bit of “Oh, now that’s interesting”.

Microsoft

Microsoft logo

Microsoft needed games, and I suppose they had some.  They also needed to show off the Scorpio (or Xbox One X as it’s now called) well, and I’m not so sure about that.  I suppose the new system is powerful, and the Forza 7 trailer certainly looked good running on it, but it’s not really a system seller, and that’s what was really missing.  Don’t get me wrong, I like Forza a lot, but I won’t be buying a new (expensive) machine especially for it.  The original Xbox backwards compatibility was a great thing to show people though!

Anyway, games aplenty here!  A new Metro game, named Exodus (which may be exclusive, I’m not too sure) has me interested.  Dark, scary, and very serious.  It’s a series I like and I’m glad it’s back.  Player Unknown’s Battlegrounds, the battle royale style game, is a bit of a Twitch darling right now, and is heading to the console.  The Darwin Project seems to be in a similar vein but more light-hearted.  I’m not too fussed about either.  Skipping a few (seriously, there were a lot),  Dragonball Fighter Z looks fun, The Last Night and The Artful Escape have interesting art styles, Sea of Thieves is something I don’t care about, Cuphead still looks cool but really should get around to coming out and Crackdown 3 still exists.  There were a ton of other indie games, before getting to see Ashen, which seems to be trying to fill the void left by Dark SoulsOri is getting a sequel which is nice, and Shadow of War looks great too.  Then we got to see Anthem, which seems to be EA wanting to take on Destiny, which is pretty brave.  It does look good though!

Verdict:  Xbox One X is a thing now, too many games but very few system sellers.  Microsoft seem to be aiming at current users rather than new ones.

Bethesda

bethesda logo

This was about as safe as they get.  Bethesda took few risks, with VR versions of DOOM and Fallout 4, which will probably be pretty cool, and more Elder Scrolls.  We had Skyrim on Switch (again, and not looking brilliant if you ask me), and extra stuff for Elder Scrolls: Legends, their card game.  DLC for Dishonored 2 (honour has a ‘u’ in it!) is fine for fans of the series I’m sure, and a sequel to The Evil Within (which I didn’t like much) had a pretty great trailer.  Then we got the only bit I was really interested in, Wolfenstein 2, which looks pretty great.  The New Order was excellent so I’m hoping for more of that quality.

Verdict: Safe.  Very few risks here which is a little disappointing.

PC

XCOM 2 content!  Everything else can go home as far as I’m concerned, this wins.  It looks like a sizable expansion too, in the vein of Enemy Within.  Very excited!

I suppose I should mention other things too.  BattleTech seems to be coming along nicely, which is nice considering I backed it on Kickstarter.  Mount & Blade 2 and Total War: Warhammer 2 look fine too.  There were a few VR games too, but I’ll leave those to better qualified people to discuss.  Lawbreakers was mentioned too, offering some serious looking competition in the hero shooter genre.  Wargroove looks quite interesting, seeming to bring back the strategy of the classic Advance Wars.  I’m interested in this one.

Verdict: Go home everyone.  There’s more XCOM 2.  Life complete.

Ubisoft

Ubisoft New Logo

This one surprised me more.  I expected a lot of stuff we already knew, but there were a few unexpectedly interesting games.  So, forgetting about Assassin’s Creed: Origins having a trailer (that looks to be playing it safe with the series), Far Cry 5 still looking interesting, and the bizarre Mario/Rabbids crossover game, there were some cool announcements.  The Crew 2 exists (not interested), South Park has a release date (let’s hope it sticks this time), and Steep has some DLC (did that sell well enough).  Then there was Skull & Bones which is a pirate game!  Assassin’s Creed: Black Flag was great so I’m expecting a top pirate themed adventure here.  I know piracy is often frowned upon in gaming (ZING!), but I’m pretty excited by this.  Transference could be brilliant, terrible, or mad as a bag of cats.  It’s some something to do with VR I think?  There’s Elijah Wood in it which is…good?  Maybe?  It was bizarre enough to get my attention.

We had a game called Starlink, which seems to combine No Man’s Sky style space exploration, with the toys-to-life mechanics seen in Lego Dimensions and co, and an actual story.  I like space shooters so I’ll keep an eye on this one.  Then the one that people have been clamouring for for years: Beyond Good & Evil 2.  It’s been so long since the original that I’m not sure if I’m interested anymore.  Also, it’s a prequel so that trailer from years ago will still go unresolved.  Still, the trailer looks pretty cool so here’s hoping the franchise can finally be resurrected successfully.

Verdict:  Better than I expected!

Sony

Sony Logo

A problem I had here, was just seeing more trailers for games that had had trailers last year.  Spider-Man, God of War 4, Detroit, Days Gone, and so forth had been shown before.  I think this is a problem with E3 generally, showing games way too early leaving me to burn out on them before they get close to release.  Anyway, enough of that.  Gran Turismo is back, which is great although it will need to do well to compete with Forza for my racing attention!  Crash Bandicoot wasn’t really a surprise, but it’s nice to see.  Knack 2 is a thing that exists.  Hidden Agenda looks interesting, from the people behind Until Dawn.  It seems to a similar choice based progression but with multiple players using their phones to progress and interact with the game.  I like the look of this!  Superhot VR is a nice thing to have on the console, but I was very happy to see Undertale on a console.  Such a tremendous game deserves to be played by as many people as possible.

Uncharted: The Lost Legacy had a trailer appearance and looks good (I’m not that into the series though).  A console based Monster Hunter game is a great thing to see.  It feels right at home on a big screen.  I’ll probably pick this one up.  Speaking of ones to buy, Shadow of the Colossus is getting a PS4 remaster (or remake?) which means I may finally get to play this classic that I missed out on.  Marvel vs. Capcom Infinite got a story trailer (and a good one at that), but I’d like to see some gameplay in it.  Call of Duty WWII had a trailer too and very much looks like a Call of Duty game.  I think everyone knows what to expect here.  We got some Destiny 2 as well, which is fine if you’re interested in the series.  I don’t think it’s going to sway me though.

Verdict: A lot of what we’d already seen, but some pretty good stuff all the same.

Nintendo

Nintendo Logo

I haven’t been big on Nintendo for while now.  I feel for every innovation they push, they make 2 boneheaded moves that ignore modern innovations.  Still, the Switch seems to have done well for them!  Most of their stuff gets shown in the Nintendo Direct stuff they do, but they had some nice presentations here.  Xenoblade Chrinicles 2 looks fantastic, pity I haven’t played the series at all.  A new Kirby game is nice, but I suspect a lot of people were very excited to see Metroid Prime 4.  Whilst it’s only a logo for now, it’s a great series to try to bring back.  I think I’d have rather they try to create a new Metroid series, but Prime was an excellent trilogy so I understand their thinking.  Yoshi.  Yay.  Fire Emblem Warriors.  Also yay.

Rocket League is coming to the Switch which is nice.  It has cross play too which makes a lot of sense in this era.  Throwing in Nintendo items is a smart move.  Then, there’s Mario Odyssey.  Damn that trailer is good.  Suitable song, fun looking gameplay (I want to possess a koopa!) and frankly stunning visuals.  This and Breath of the Wild are pushing me towards buying a Switch.

Verdict: Nintendo forever relying on their established franchises.  Still, what they have looks pretty good.

So what did you like most from the show?  Would you rather go there in person?  Let me know!

 

Tokyo Twilight Ghost Hunters Daybreak Special Gigs – That’s one hell of a title.

I’m pretty confident that Japan does this to troll English speaking audiences.  They get the development team together and name, grab an English dictionary and pick out 5 to 8 random words and tell us that’s the English title for the game.  Let’s break down that title shall we?  So we’re in Tokyo, during twilight probably.  We’ll be hunting ghosts.  Then there’s…daybreak?  Wasn’t it twilight a minute ago?  And what’s a special gig?  Are we a band that fights ghosts?  You know what, forget all that.  A band that fights ghosts sounds like a great idea for a game.  Make it happen Japan!

Tokyo Twilight Ghost Hunters
It’s a visual novel, so there’s obviously waifu bait.

I picked this one up on a whim.  I knew it was a visual novel with ghost battles and a supposedly good soundtrack so I grabbed it on sale.  And I tried to like it, I really did.  For a while I’m pretty sure I was into it, but it didn’t last for oh so many reasons.

I don’t mind visual novels at all.  Most have really quirky stories and a gameplay mechanic that is completely absurd (I’m looking at you Danganronpa) in the context of the story.  Tokyo Twilight Ghost Hunters (I’m just going to avoid writing the full title anymore) fails in the first part and only occasionally hits in the second.  You play as yourself, having transferred to a new school and quickly make friends with a bunch of people who can see ghosts because you can too!  Convenient!  Before long you find they write for an occult magazine who do a secret side business in exorcism under the name Gate Keepers.  You prove yourself by fighting off a ghost in the school and are signed up as a full employee!  Well done you.

Tokyo Twilight Ghost Hunters
Well done! You’ve been signed up to work in this office with nowhere near enough space for everyone.

The game is split into episodes in which you and your team will find out about a ghost, investigate it and then try to take it down in the actual gameplay section.  Here’s the first problem though, I played through 10 out of the 13 chapters (I gave up, you’ll see why later) and there was seemingly no connection between each of them.  This lack of connection during the story put me off as I felt no particular reason to return after completing a chapter.  There was no drive to discover more.  Sure, your colleagues were interesting and some of the ghosts had back stories to find, but I didn’t feel a sense of curiosity to push me forward.

Tokyo Twilight Ghost Hunters
Drama! But it doesn’t go anywhere after the chapter ends.

This being a visual novel, the interaction is limited to the ghost battles and the occasional conversation inputs.  The latter is sometimes simple, sometimes utterly confusing.  Some of your interactions will have you select a statement which is fairly standard, but sometimes you need to respond using body language.  This is achieved by selecting an emotion to convey and which of your five senses to use.  Sometimes this was obvious such as aggressive touch being a punch, or a sad look conveying how you feel.  But it’s possible to curiously sniff someone.  Or aggressively taste them.  These are weird enough combinations, but you can’t always be sure what combination will do what.  I could chose curious look, expecting to look for clues in an area, but the game decides I want to look at the person in front of me in a quizzical way.  The player feedback is really rather poor here.

Tokyo Twilight Ghost Hunters
So, shall I give him a friendly touch? Or perhaps a sad sniff?

The main gameplay is the ghost battle scenes, which play out using a turn based “we go” system.  The map is set up in a grid, with arrows showing your characters and the ghosts, assuming you have located them.  You set each character’s movements and attacks before setting everything into motion with both your movements and the ghost movements happening together.  This means you’ll need to guess the ghost’s movements to ensure you land a hit.  And I do mean guess, more often than not I found myself restarting battles due to the time limit running out as I chased ghosts around trying to land a hit.  You can lay traps before the battle to force ghosts to move in certain ways, but as you don’t know the ghost’s starting location, this ends up being even more guess work.  When I got it right it was satisfying, but for the most part it was just dumb luck.

Tokyo Twilight Ghost Hunters
This is the battle screen which is a far cry from the style of the rest of the game. It’s also a massive pain to play.

The characters you take with you level up as you use them, but you quickly realise which characters are the most useful.  Characters with wide attacks mean you have a much better chance of hitting a ghost, whilst some can self heal and detect ghosts out of visual range.  Occasionally though, you are forced to take characters on missions, whether they are leveled up or not leading to some truly frustrating battles unless you spend huge amounts of time grinding your under-leveled characters up (assuming you’re even allowed to!).  Then there are the wild difficulty spikes that were the final nail in the coffin for me.  Going from manageable battle to one in which the ghost can take out all of my team when counterattacking was just too much for me to put up with.

Tokyo Twilight Ghost Hunters
Not ghosts. Just terrifying humans. You won’t forget those expressions any time soon.

On the plus side, the art work is great in the story sections (less so in the battles) and the soundtrack is full of fun J-rock music and has the occasional voice work.  The characters are quirky and interesting to meet and interact with who have different motivations in each chapter.  It’s just a shame the chapters didn’t seem to be building to anything before I finally gave up.  Having said that, if your story isn’t grabbing me after 15 hours then I don’t think it ever will.

Tokyo Twilight Ghost Hunters
When you attack a ghost you get a first person view of it which takes far longer than necessary.

Tokyo Twilight Ghost Hunters was developed by Now Productions and published by NIS America (in Europe anyway).  I played the game on Playstation 4 and wouldn’t recommend this at all.  It’s irritating and dull for the most part, even when you consider the dreaded Staring Man Eating Ambulance ghost.  What the hell Japan?!

5 Games From 2016 That I Regret Missing – Not enough hours in the day.

There’s an expression which has come to mind more and more for me lately.  When you’re young you have the time but not the money; when you’re older you have the money but not the time.  This applies to so many things in life, gaming included.  When I was younger, I missed out on a lot of games simply because I couldn’t afford them.  Whilst disappointing, it made a lot of sense.  Also, it wasn’t difficult to acquire games by *ahem* other means.  Not that I would advocate that (specially not now).  If my younger self could see the number of games I’ve bought and not got around to playing though…

Lol Limewire
This song still make me laugh.

I find myself buying fewer and fewer “epic” games simply because I won’t have the time to enjoy them.  Work, family and life in general are all more important (to varying degrees…screw work!) meaning that hobbies have to give way.  Regardless, it is still disappointing to intend to play a game but never get around to it.  So here are 5 games from last year that I had every intention of playing, but probably never will.  Oh, and Overwatch isn’t here…

Epic Games
No, not this sort of Epic. Their games tended to be of a sensible length.

Rules are different this time!  Obviously these have to be games I haven’t played that were released last year.  I’ve not included games from last year that I’ve bought and not started yet, as I probably will play them.  Onwards!

Final Fantasy XV

Final Fantasy 15
Final Fantasy XV (2016)

I’ll start with the big one.  I dearly wanted to play this.  It looked gorgeous, had a fun tone, unusual mechanics for the series and a huge world to explore with meaningful content.  Monsters!  Swords!  Magic!  Kick-ass sports car!  Silly hair!  Everything I could want in a Final Fantasy game.  Even an indecipherable story (probably).

Final Fantasy XV
It really is quite pretty.

But the size of it moved it further and further down my wish list.  That ever present issue of time ate away at my desire to finally pick it up.  Even seeing how much reviewers and other bloggers loved it wasn’t enough to save it from the slide.  It’s still on my wish list, so maybe some day.

Super Mario Maker (3DS)

Super Mario Maker 3DS logo
Super Mario Maker 3DS (2016)

I don’t own a Wii U, so Mario Maker was off the table, but the idea of near limitless Mario levels was quite appealing!  Whilst I’m not the most creative of people, seeing and playing the levels other people would make sounded great to me.  So when I heard that there was a 3DS version on the way, I was certainly interested.

Super Mario Maker Bundle
Nintendo have tried to port a few Wii U games to 3DS, but the loss in quality is a problem for me. This is also the reason I did pick up Hyrule Warriors Legends.

Then it turned out the feature set was going to be severely limited by comparison.  You couldn’t access all the levels you could imagine, only the ones that were “featured”.  Levels could be exchanged via street pass, but browsing through the tens of thousands (or more?) of levels that people had created and picking out one that looked and sounded interesting was part of the appeal to me.  Maybe it will get patched in some day, but with the Switch being released, I doubt it.

The Turing Test

The Turing Test Logo
The Turing Test (2016)

I may, may still play this one.  A sci-fi puzzle game with a (supposedly) interesting mystery story certainly sounded appealing!  An interesting twist on the “weapon” as a puzzle solving device (a la Portal and it various imitators) along with inventive challenges made this something I was very interested in.  In fact, Vahrkalla made a very convincing argument for playing it, and I still very much want to give it a go.

The Turing Test
Robots! I want to play this even more now.

This one came along a few weeks after I’d played a few other first person puzzle games in the form of Pneuma and The Talos Principle, so the idea of another one put it to the back of my mind for a long time.  Some day I may well be in the mood to give this a try, but as it stands it’ll just have to wait its turn.

BlazBlue: Central Fiction

BlazBlue Central Fiction Logo
BlazBlue: Central Fiction (2016)

I like fighting games.  A lot.  I am terrible at fighting games.  Whilst I can pick up mechanics well enough, I struggle to put them into action during an actual match.  This is even more of a problem in anime style fighting games most often associated with Arc System Works due to them being so insanely fast.  But they’re so gorgeous!  And the action is so fluid!  Varied characters and bizarre attacks!  Things like Guilty Gear, Chaos Code, and BlazBlue really appeal to me.  Mostly for single player though.

BlazBlue Central Fiction.
A witch is fighting a cat lady and I have no idea what it happening.

The thing with BlazBlue: Central Fiction is that it came out about 6 months after I’d picked up Continuum Shift, the previous installment.  More fool me (perhaps) for not waiting for the newer version, but seeing as I was playing mostly offline, having the most up to date version wasn’t a huge concern.  Having said that, I would have liked to have seen the online community before everyone switched back to playing as Noel and using her silly endless combos.  Like I do.

Salt & Sanctuary

Salt and Sanctuary
Salt and Sanctuary (2016)

I was put onto this one because I love Dark Souls far more than is healthy.  Salt & Sanctuary was sold to me as a 2D Dark Souls, and if you watch it in action it’s pretty clear why.  Every action needs to be planned out to avoid silly mistakes and a resulting death.  The grimy art style is also reminiscent of its inspiration’s medieval world.  I should have picked this one up straight away by all rights.

Salt and Sanctuary.
This really does remind me of the Undead Burg.

I feel that at the time I was a little burnt out on super challenging games.  Since then, Nioh has come along and rekindled my love for those sort of games, but at the time I needed a break from them.  With that in mind, now may be the time to look into giving this one a go.

Some honourable mentions as always.  Hitman didn’t interest me during its development, nor upon its initial release.  But since then I hear all sorts of stories about hits gone wrong, elusive targets and bizarre successes.  I regret not giving it a go when it came out.  The Bunker was a really interesting one, being a throwback to the “interactive movies” of days gone by.  I like a good horror, but I feel this one may be more suited to a Let’s Play for me.  I loved the Attack on Titan anime, so the game was something I really liked the look of.  I got the feeling it may get repetitive quickly though, so I passed it by.  This one’s also still on my wish list though, so maybe someday I’ll pick it up on the cheap.

How about you?  Are there any recent releases you regret missing out on at the time?  Let me know!  I hope I’m not alone on these ones…

 

 

Nioh – Sadly not starring Keanu Reeves

It may have been established by now that I quite like Dark Souls.  A lot.  Also Bloodborne, which was like Dark Souls on Gothic meth.  The intricate, connected worlds, the strategic combat, the challenge, the enemies, the bosses.  Everything in those games comes together fantastically to create gaming experiences unlike others.  You know when a series has been successful when there are so many games that clearly take their inspiration from it.  Hyper Light Drifter, Salt and Sanctuary, and Lords of the Fallen all make use of mechanics and style of this young, but venerated series.  And here comes a new challenger: Nioh, otherwise known (perhaps unfairly) as Samurai Souls.

Nioh
Early areas in the Tower of London are mildly challenging, but nothing on what’s to come.

Nioh follows the supposed exploits of William, an Irishman who travels to 17th century Japan in pursuit of Kelley who has stolen his Guardian Spirit, Saoirse, so he can gain Amrita to release Yokai to ravage the country.  If that makes no sense to you then you’re in the same boat as me.  The plot is there, with plenty of cutscenes introducing you to various historical Japanese figures (if you’ve played the Warriors games you may recognise some), but I didn’t know what was going on at any point.  I suspect if you have some knowledge of Japanese mythology and history then you may follow it closer than I did.  Having said that, the Souls games had very convoluted plots (although they keep it more hidden) and are still very enjoyable.

Nioh
Pirate Cat is your friend throughout the game. I have no idea what the deal with this is.

They’re enjoyable because the gameplay is so well put together, and that’s very much the case here.  Combat against the humans and demons you face is quick, but requires thought.  You have light and heavy attacks for your weapons (of which there are a good few), but you also have stances.  Low, mid, and high stances give you different attacks that are suited for different opponents.  Mid stance spears are great for poking and keeping enemies at range, whilst high stance swords can destroy enemies rushing towards you if timed well.  There is a lot of depth here that allows you to find a style that suits you but gives you options when you need them.  I often stuck with a low stance sword but switched to high stance axe for enormous damage when needed.  Stamina management appears here too in the form of ki, but with ways to recover it during your combos with well timed button taps, allowing you to press the attack.

Nioh
The environments look great in most instances, with nice use of lighting and splashes of colour.

The enemies are varied, although there aren’t a huge number of them.  Standard grunts can still destroy you if you’re careless, but the powerful Yokai are the real challenge.  Axe wielding demons, tongue monsters, and bird men are all powerful foes that will take you out until you learn how to handle them effectively, it’s just a shame there aren’t more varieties.  The bosses are tremendous as you may expect, with spider demons and deadly samurai warriors providing a different challenge at the end of each stage.  The difficulty of them does vary rather wildly, with some of the early bosses being brutally difficult, whilst later ones I could defeat on my first attempt.  It may well be the case that I stuck to an approach that worked better for some bosses than others, but it didn feel like the difficulty spiked from time to time.  But the challenge is part of the point here, and just like Dark Souls, players can be summoned to assist you with bosses for some limited co-op action.  PVP is off the table for the time being though, being promised for a later update.

Nioh
How are you with giant spiders? Because they really want a hug.

Whilst the gameplay is tremendous, and kept me coming back for more side missions and main quests, the world was less engaging.  Characters didn’t really grab me, and the environments were quite bland.  There were only so many times I could fight demons in “Japanese village” or “cave” before the rot sets in.  The world looks lovely, but there was a lack of variety once again.  Further, most levels were fairly linear and lacked opportunities for exploration, although finding shortcuts back to your shrine (Nioh’s bonfire equivalent) was as satisfying as ever.  Another irritation was the amount of loot that enemies drop.  I found myself spending a lot of time rooting through my inventory, deciding what was worth keeping and what wasn’t.  And each item has so many different stats!  It’s hard to be sure if an item is objectively better or not.  Having said that, I did fine just looking at damage/defence and elemental effects, so it may be the case that there is a lot of depth for those looking for it, whilst those who want to play can get by just fine.  An accessible Souls style game!  Who would have imagined?

Nioh
This boss can sod right off. I mean, the design is fantastic, but I flat out hated this fight.  Because I sucked at it.

Nioh was developed by Team Ninja and published by Sony.  I played the game on PlayStation 4 and would recommend it to anyone who enjoys Souls games or challenging action RPGs.  I did every single side mission in this, not for loot or leveling up, but because I wanted more of the gameplay!  I’m normally a main story and some side quests kind of player, but I wanted more of the action in Nioh.  After 40+ hours of gameplay, I’d say I got my money’s worth.

Thumper – Because “Space beetle horror musical” is a genre now.

It has long been established that I like a good rhythm action game; a genre that hasn’t had many good releases recently.  I think most people know that I also like horror games, especially those that delve in the madness tinged Lovecraftian styles of terror.  I never once thought someone would consider making a horror themed rhythm action game though.  But here we are with Thumper, a game in which a space beetle flies through some sort of wormhole towards a giant head thing, whilst terrifyingly intense industrial orchestral music (at least that’s how I’d describe it) pounds in your ears.

I would describe this game as staring into Satan’s kaleidoscope during a bad acid trip whilst listening to a black metal version of Stomp.  Think of that what you will.

Thumper boss fight
One of many colourful explosions that happen during boss fights.

In its simplest form, the game plays like a very basic Amplitude clone.  The is one lane (sometimes more) that you fly along, and you press X when you fly over a note.  There are gates that you pass through by holding X, and corners that must be navigated by holding X and pressing a direction.  The whole game is played with the X button and the analogue stick.  So far, so simple.  But good god does this get difficult.  It wouldn’t be unfair to call this the Dark Souls of rhythm action.  You learn or you die.

Thumper Corner
This is what a power sliding space beetle looks like.

Each level introduces a new layer of gameplay.  Leaping up and slamming down on alternating notes, multiple lanes, and killer snakes.  This game is weird.  Anyway, by the end of the game, you’ll have to make use of all the maneuvers in rapid succession, without missing a single note whilst going absurdly fast.  Mechanically this game is near perfect in that regard.  It teaches you each new skill and than forces you learn how to use it flawlessly before you confront the boss.  And forces is the right word here; you either learn to use your skills perfectly or you will not progress.  This is not a simple undertaking.

Just to give you an idea of just how fast this game can be.  This is a pretty tame level too…

A level is broken up into about 20 sections, each of which taking between 30 seconds and a couple of minutes.  A whole level would probably take about 20 minutes to complete, but spending over an hour on one was closer to my experience.  The stages are extremely difficult, throwing corners, notes, walls and lane changes at you at ludicrous speeds testing first your reactions, and then your memory as you inevitably die.  All this whilst the pounding, intimidating soundtracks assaults your ears.  It’s an incredibly intense experience, made even more so when a boss appears.

Thumper boss
One of the bosses. You need to play a section flawlessly to damage them.

Bosses can only be defeated by playing a section perfectly, allowing you to fire a shot at the target.  Do this 4 times and it’s job done.  That’s easier said than done though, there’s a lot to memorise (and I mean memorise, you will die) coupled with the music and the boss taking up huge swathes of your view to confuse you and throw you off.  It never felt cheap though, as everything is in time to the music, meaning that mistakes are because you weren’t focused enough, or you forgot what was coming next.  The boss designs are interesting too, ranging from tentacle triangles to the recurring Crakhed who becomes more and more deformed and horrifying from level to level.  Oh, and in case it wasn’t hard enough, there’s a Hardcore mode where death is permanent.

Thumper Colourful
It can get pretty colourful at times.

Now, this game can be playing in VR.  In fact I assumed it could only be laying in VR until I did a little research.  I get the feeling that the game was pushed as a VR product to try and sell more units (especially on the PS4), but I don’t see what VR would really add to this.  Considering this is playing in 3rd person, I’d have though VR would be a rather odd experience.  As I understand it, it allows you to look around the environment as you’re traveling, but considering how focused you need to be I would think looking around would be a mistake.  Anyway, it works without VR very well.

Thumper
That tentacle monster is one of the bosses my space beetle needs to defeat. Yes, that is a real sentence.

Thumper looks gorgeous, with lots of interesting effects around the track and the aforementioned detailed bosses.  You probably won’t have a lot of time to enjoy the graphics as you’ll be concentrating on the rhythm, but it does look great.  It runs excellently as well, with no frame rate drops that I could notice.  The sound is fantastic as well (which makes sense considering the genre), but it isn’t just the music.  The sound effects work very well too.  The clang as you swing around a corner, the blast as you slam down onto a note to attack a boss, and the snakes hissing their was past you all sound great.  And the sound of drums heralding the arrival of one of the enemies constantly filled me with dread.  Seriously, that guy was a jerk.

Thumper Tunnel
Moments of calm like this far few and far between.

Thumper was developed by Drool, a two man team!  I played the game on Playstation 4 and would strongly recommend you at least check this out.  It’s a totally different gaming experience, just be prepared that you may not finish it due to its high difficulty.  An absolute treat!

Earth Defense Force 4.1: The Shadow of New Despair – The buggiest game I’ve played in some time!

Did you see what I did there?  In the title?  Bugs?  Because there are giant insects in the game.  It was a joke!  A good one!  Ok, fine.

Insect joke
Is this more to your liking?

Anyway, Earth Defense Force 4.1: The Shadow of New Despair (which is a hell of a long title) has you shooting giant insects.  A lot.  Right from the word go, you will be confronted by hordes of rampaging giant insects, from ants, to bees, to spiders (I know, but the game calls them insects…) before moving onto robots and space ships.  It’s utterly bonkers, but great fun for it.

Earth Defense Force 4.1: The Shadow of New Despair environments
The environments look very nice from a distance, although the textures look a bit shaky close up.  They’re fairly large too, often too large necessitating long periods of running.

And I’m not kidding when I say hordes.  On pretty much any one of the almost 90 missions, you’ll be confronted by hundred of enemies to take out either alone or with a local partner or 3 online team mates.  Taking on so many enemies at once and coming out on top is quite cathartic.  In many ways it reminds me of the Warriors games (Dynasty, Samurai etc.) in that you lead a group of soldiers to mow down swarms of opponents using your choice of weapons.

Earth Defense Force 4.1: The Shadow of New Despair Environments 2
Much of the environment can also be destroyed using explosives. This can prevent insects from climbing out of reach, but also removes your cover.

There are 4 classes available.  The middle-of-the-road Ranger, the agile but vulnerable Wing Diver, the support and vehicle summoning Air Raider and the walking tank designated Fencer.  Each has their own abilities and variety of weapons, giving you more longevity than you might expect for a game solely about blowing up bugs.  Once you pick a character, though, you’ll likely want to stick with it, as your health and weapon stash increases for that character only.  This means that if you switch class half way through the game you will be significantly under-powered.  This felt a little unfair as once I had finished the game on normal, I wanted to play as a different character on a higher difficulty.  Doing so was near impossible due to all the other characters being far too weak to survive on hard mode.

EDF Godzilla
Oh, and sometimes Godzilla turns up.

And this is where the game starts to slip somewhat.  Farming.  Do you like farming for items and buffs?  Then this is the game for you!  To have a hope on any difficulty above hard, you will have to go back to previous levels and farm health pick ups.  I don’t have a big problem with farming, but after a while it becomes rather tedious.  And if you want to see all the game has to offer, you’ll need to do this with 4 classes.  I saw an estimate that to finish the game on the highest difficulty with all 4 classes would take around 500 hours.  That’s a lot of content I suppose, but I for one would be bored long before hitting that!

Mothership attack
Occasionally it can get rather hectic.

I’ve yet to mention the story, and that’s because there barely is one.  It’s very much old fashioned B-movie fare: aliens invade Earth with giant insects.  This is fine as I don’t think anyone was expecting literary genius here.  The graphics are serviceable, but certainly won’t blow your mind.  The sound is fine, although the music is repetitive.  The voice acting is simultaneously some of the best and worst examples of video game vocal work I’ve heard in a long time.  It’s full of cheesy dialogue between the soldiers mid-mission and lead to more than a couple of laugh out loud moments (Soldier 1: “Why did you sign up?” Soldier 2: “For some reason!”).  Utter gold.

EDF Air Raider
Air Raiders can call in support, from vehicles to air strikes.  I’m not an Air Raider, but it looks great when it happens.

Most important though, is that this is fun.  It’s light-hearted, switch off your brain fun.  The combat feels fine and you don’t need to think too hard about what you’re doing on the first few difficulty settings.  On higher settings you’ll need to be very careful and plan ahead, but for the most part you can simply run around having fun.  If you go into this not expecting anything more than that, you should have a good time taking out aliens and collecting hundreds of different weapons.

EDF Balam
Oh, and obviously there are mechs. Which you use to punch Godzilla in the face. This game is bonkers.

Earth Defense Force 4.1 was developed by Sandlot and published by D3.  I played the game on PlayStation 4 and would recommend you give it a try as a cheap action game.  If you need a palette cleanser game that you can easily dip in and out of, then this could be exactly what you need.  Put your feet up, switch off your brain, and kill some ants!

Resident Evil 7: Beginning Hour – P.T. Returns?

So this is actually a demo of sorts.  A demo for a game that isn’t out until next year.  A demo that shows gameplay that won’t actually be in the final game.  Supposedly this is showing the style of the game rather than what the game is about exactly.  It seems to be taking on the concept of the hugely viral teaser demo P.T. for Silent Hills before Konami went mental (because Konami is the worst) of showing a theme to build hype without spoiling the main game.  I grabbed this demo as quickly as I could so that it didn’t disappear into the ether if Capcom suddenly decided to go mental too.  And I have to say, it’s pretty good as a 20 minute demo.

Resident Evil 7 Teaser: Beginning Hour_20160617204113

Part of the demo takes place with you wearing a camera, somewhat like Outlast.

The story is a little unclear, but you wake up in a room in a shabby house with the instruction to get out of the house.  What follows is a simple puzzle about finding a key to open a door.  Thinking about it, that’s fairly standard for a traditional Resident Evil game, but without the horribly convoluted puzzle elements of the past.  There’s no silly chess piece keys, or secret crystals that activate magic statues, just common sense.  You also get what I assume is a flashback scene with you controlling a camera man.  There’s a fairly small area to explore, but it’s absolutely dripping with atmosphere.  The sound, or lack of it at times, goes a long way towards giving you a sense of isolation in this creepy, seemingly abandoned home.

Resident Evil 7 Teaser: Beginning Hour_20160617204837

It looks lovely.  Although perhaps lovely is the wrong word to use.

There’s no combat in the demo, although you can find a weapon if you look around very carefully.  This makes sense based on what the developers have said regarding the full game: there will be weapons but combat is not the focus of the game.  Supposedly you’ll be better off avoiding fights in the full game which will be a nice change from the more action heavy recent entries in the series.  The first person perspective seems to be a reaction to the success of games such as Outlast, Layers of Fear (which I loved by the way) and P.T.  This and the lack of zombies do make me question how much of a Resident Evil game this will be in the long run.  I’m all for modernising a series, but sometimes it can feel like the developers are making a game and slapping a well known name on the cover to get additional sales (I’m looking at you Syndicate).  This is a demo for a very good game in my opinion, but if you’re after more Resident Evil, this isn’t likely to scratch that itch.

Resident Evil 7 Teaser: Beginning Hour_20160617210049

A little Blair Witch influence here?

Resident Evil 7 is being developed and published by Capcom.  I played the demo on PS4, and would recommend you take a look at it if you’ve got a spare 20 minutes.  And Playstation Plus.  As a final thought, I bet this would be fantastic in VR!