Shadow of the Colossus Remake (PlayStation 4) Review: The Eyes Have It

Shadow of the Colossus Remake (PlayStation 4) Review: The Eyes Have It

Remaking a game can be a dangerous affair. Upgrading the visuals can steal away part of the charm of the older work. Tweaking controls can alter some of the nuances of how the game played. It’s an extremely fine line, one the Shadow of the Colossus effortlessly dances along, knowing exactly what to fix and what to leave alone.

The stark, sun-drenched visuals of the original seemed like they might be a tipping point when word got out that Shadow of the Colossus was being remade. Would the developers want to add more detail to the world? Color? It seemed like the sort of thing that might get changed to look ‘prettier’ despite the thematic meaning behind the game’s visual style.

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Shadow of the Colossus Remake (images for this review courtesy of Sony Interactive Entertainment).

Somehow, though it has been made prettier, the team managed to preserve that sense of being dried out, abandoned, and barren. Striking mountain ranges tower above the player, all while grasses sway beneath their feet or sand whirls up around Agro’s hooves. Players can see for miles, looking out onto broken bridges and remnants of lost civilizations tucked into hidden alcoves. All of these places existed in the original, but the finer details of the new visuals make the land seem to breathe new life into Shadow of the Colossus, even as it is dying.

Shadow of the Colossus’ colossi were given a similar treatment in this remake: their details enhanced to make their beauty all the sadder. The stone armour seems harder and more unforgiving in its new detail, the cracks and breaks in the plates hinting at ages of life. Their hair no longer looks coarse but seems fine and soft. It’s the sort of detail that might seem out of place given the age hinted at by the armour, but it indicates a gentleness in these giant creatures that they’re trying to protect. It was a nice touch and helped strengthen a powerful thematic element of the game.

Nowhere was this visual detail more powerful than in the colossi’s eyes. Shadow of the Colossus isn’t filled with giant monsters bent on killing the player, but colossal creatures that simply wish to continue existing. Most of them have no interest in the player’s presence, and will, at most, try to shoo them away. Many only turn violent when the player is stabbing them, and even then, the most many of them do is just try to shake him off. They’re docile creatures despite their size and power.

Shadow of the Colossus Remake (Switch) Review: The Eyes Have It
Shadow of the Colossus Remake (images for this review courtesy of Sony Interactive Entertainment).

This is made abundantly clear with a single look in their eyes. The creatures of Shadow of the Colossus possess that same empty, gentle look in those glassy orbs, at most curious or indifferent to the player. Even when some get angry, their eyes glowing red, it only lasts until the player stops bothering them. They simply wish to exist, possessing little malice in them, and certainly none worth killing them over. All of this is felt by watching any of these creatures focus their soft gaze on the player, and the effect is emotionally staggering. One look tells the player who the monster is.

But we are here to overcome, are we not?

Tackling the colossi is no less thrilling than it was before, with the colossi preserved exactly how they acted before. Players who know the original well can apply old tactics to take these creatures down, and new players will be struck by the thrill of climbing up a creature the size of a skyscraper. Looking at these giant bodies like puzzles to solve, then navigating them with limited grip strength is exciting and compelling, and the variety of creatures makes for endless fun. Well, depressing fun.

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Shadow of the Colossus Remake (images for this review courtesy of Sony Interactive Entertainment).

The music, carried over (but obviously re-recorded/cleaned up) from the original that accompanies these battles is stirring, carrying Shadow of the Colossus’ emotional resonance to incredible heights. Yes, killing these beasts is sad, but that’s forgotten in the thrill of the fight. The music rises along with the player as they climb a swinging arm, grasping for any handhold as the colossus bucks and whips at them. It swells as the player plunges their blade into a weak point of the giant beast they are riding through the skies.

And when the creature falls, and you remember the look of fear in its eyes as you swung a torch toward their face – the way it shivered as you approached – and the music falls to gentle, somber notes, you realize the gravity of what you’ve done.

The controls were the final point where a remake may have floundered. Shadow of the Colossus has a very particular control scheme that, at first, seems fussy. The camera angles tend to stick to a cinematic viewpoint that tends not to be helpful when things get rough in a fight, swirling around uncontrollably. The protagonist can be clumsy, his movements taking time to adjust no matter what the player is trying to make him do. Riding the horse, Agro, also feels closer to guiding rather than controlling, coaxing them to go when you need to move.

For some, these controls may turn the remake into an exercise in frustration. However, the game isn’t especially hard and often factors these limitations in, so most will be fine. They seem like something many developers should have fixed, but they’re part of the themes of Shadow of the Colossus. The player struggles along with the protagonist with the clumsy movements, and Agro is a companion, not a vehicle – someone to ask for help rather than control. Many companies might have tried to ‘clean up’ these controls, but, annoying as they can be, are a key part of the game’s emotional power.

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Shadow of the Colossus Remake (images for this review courtesy of Sony Interactive Entertainment).

The Shadow of the Colossus remake could have tried to make everything smooth and modern, but its developers knew what made the original game special and preserved it. In doing so, they’ve enhanced its themes, stirring up a crushing sadness in the player in their actions only moments after taking them to heights of excitement. It’s a master class in how to remake a true classic.

Liked this article and want to read more like it? Check out more of Joel Couture’s reviews such as Fight’N Rage, The Evil Within 2, and Outlast 2!

Want to see more videos? Subscribe to our YouTube channel and check out the First 15: Monster Hunter World Beta: the Insatiable Nergigante, Dissidia Final Fantasy NT,  Star Wars Battlefront II, Sonic Forces + Episode Shadow, and  Super Mario Odyssey!

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CGMagazine is Canada’s premiere comics and gaming magazine. Subscribe today to get the best of CGM delivered right to your door! Never miss when a new issue goes live by subscribing to our newsletter! Signing up gives you exclusive entry into our contest pool. Sign up once, you’ll have a chance to win! Sign up today!

Hidden Agenda (PlayStation 4): The Police Procedural Team

Hidden Agenda (PlayStation 4): The Police Procedural Team

Supermassive Games hit a brilliant note with 2015’s Until Dawn, and continued with Until Dawn: Rush of Blood. Now that streak continues with Hidden Agenda. Combining modern technology and an interesting story, Hidden Agenda is pushing the industry into new definitions of gaming.

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Hidden Agenda (PlayStation 4) – gameplay image via Sony Interactive Entertainment Amerca and Supermassive Games

Hidden Agenda is more of an interactive, choose-your-own-adventure movie than a game. Designed to be played via the free Hidden Agenda app with as many as six people, Hidden Agenda offers players the opportunity to investigate and hopefully arrest the Trapper, a Jigsaw-like serial killer. Players mainly control Becky Marney, a detective assigned to the Trapper case. Players use the app by sliding their fingers around the screen to answer questions, investigate scenes for evidence and vote on story decisions. Similar to Until Dawn, the decisions made create a ripple effect that heavily influence the outcome of the story. While none of these elements are new, Supermassive Games combines them in an innovative way to create the industry’s most morbid party game.

Hidden Agenda (PlayStation 4): The Police Procedural Team
Hidden Agenda (PlayStation 4) – gameplay image via Sony Interactive Entertainment Amerca and Supermassive Games

I call Hidden Agenda a party game, but there isn’t much partying to it. It’s a dramatic police procedural crime thriller adventure game—not the kind of game you crack open a bottle of wine for.  While the subject matter is heavy, Hidden Agenda is not as gory as Until Dawn or even late night television like American Horror Story, but it carries an intensity that rivals the most epic Law & Order episodes—a crazed serial killer slaughtering people, yet still tame enough for re-runs at 8 pm. The narrative itself is compelling. I did unlock many of the character’s bios, but I still felt driven to learn more about this case and the people involved. The Trapper is a truly fascinating character to study and I wanted to know as much as possible. It’s like watching the Saw franchise without getting to know Jigsaw. Players can learn the motives and back-stories of the characters, but something felt left unsaid, even though I was successful in my efforts to arrest the Trapper. Maybe it just needs a puppet on a tricycle.

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Hidden Agenda (PlayStation 4) – gameplay image via Sony Interactive Entertainment Amerca and Supermassive Games

There are two modes, co-operative and competitive. In competitive mode, players will randomly be assigned a secret objective to complete which can sabotage the investigation—a hidden agenda one could say. In co-operative mode, players work together by voting on decisions. The majority must vote for the same choice in order for it to be accepted. If a tie were to arise, players must sway the others to their side. Maybe players should crack that bottle of wine. Decisions should not be made lightly, especially for players who will be haunted for not following their instincts. I still carry the heavy burden of losing those teens on the mountaintop in 2015.  R.I.P Josh.

Hidden Agenda (PlayStation 4): The Police Procedural Team 2
Hidden Agenda (PlayStation 4) – gameplay image via Sony Interactive Entertainment Amerca and Supermassive Games

The visuals of Hidden Agenda are a haunting echo of Until Dawn. Supermassive Games has nailed their own dreary style to lend credence to a dramatic atmosphere with their ghostly colour palette. The character models represent this generation of technology well. The only thing that drove me batty visually was the lack of movement in Becky’s ponytail. It appears Supermassive Games paid attention to the little details except for that. It’s very stiff and unrealistic. It is possible that Becky just uses a ridiculous amount of hair product to sculpt her ponytail but that is unlikely. Hidden Agenda also suffers from some awkward scene transitions and a few disjointed animations, but this doesn’t detract from the overall experience.

The sounds of Hidden Agenda are well-suited to the atmosphere Supermassive Games is trying to create. The music mimics TV police precedents perfectly. The voice acting can be slightly underwhelming at moments of tension but otherwise believable. Becky is voiced by Katie Cassidy, known for playing Black Canary in the television series Arrow, you would think she could get a little louder when the situation called for it.

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Hidden Agenda (PlayStation 4) – gameplay image via Sony Interactive Entertainment Amerca and Supermassive Games

Supermassive Games continues to impress me with their titles and they continue to embrace technology, pushing it into genres it wasn’t in before. How often do players get to solve a mystery together, where everyone’s opinions are valid and considered, not just the person holding the controller? I scream at the TV while watching Law & Order all the time, but they rarely do what I want. Hidden Agenda is short, but this twisted tale is worth the price of admission. Plus, players will venture back to impact the story over again. So let’s play a game, together.

Hidden Agenda was reviewed using “retail” PlayStation 4 download codes (or physical copy) provided by SONY INTERACTIVE ENTERTAINMENT AMERICA. You can find additional information about CGMagazine’s ethics and review policies and procedures here.

Liked this article and want to read more like it? Check out more by Melanie Emile, such as her review of Surf World Series for the PlayStation 4 and her review of Cuphead for the Xbox One!

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CGMagazine is Canada’s premiere comics and gaming magazine. Subscribe today to get the best of CGM delivered right to your door! Never miss when a new issue goes live by subscribing to our newsletter! Signing up gives you exclusive entry into our contest pool. Sign up once, you’ll have a chance to win! Sign up today!

Gran Turismo Sport (PS4) Review: Pretty But Stripped Down

Gran Turismo Sport (PS4) Review: Pretty But Stripped Down

Gran Turismo Sport marks the 7th full release in the series’ history, and the first release for the PlayStation 4.  For the past two generations, Gran Turismo has arrived years into a console’s lifespan, with Gran Turismo 5 being released four years into the lifespan of the PlayStation 3.  It’s been seven years since I hunkered into a Gran Turismo game, as Gran Turismo 6 released just as the PS4 hit, the last gasp for a PS3 that was already being eclipsed by a newer, more powerful system.  I was excited to play a new Gran Turismo game, and excited to see what it would look like on the PS4 as the series continues to strive for more realistic visuals.

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Gran Turismo Sport – images via Sony Interactive Entertainment

When it comes to visuals, I wasn’t disappointed in the least by this newest offering in the Gran Turismo series.  In the world of racing simulation games, Gran Turismo has always excelled at delivering the best simulation possible, although at times that has cramped actual enjoyment and gameplay.  As a simulator, it’s been hard to beat. The presentation of GT Sport is impeccable; clean menus, with a polished and almost at times stuffy style.  When you are awarded a prize car, there’s a certain level of pomp which is almost laughable.

Gran Turismo Sport (PS4) Review: Pretty But Stripped Down
Gran Turismo Sport – images via Sony Interactive Entertainment

If you purchased GT Sport digitally, you better be prepared for a long wait until you’re able to truly enjoy your purchase.  The initial 15 GB or so only allows you to play the arcade mode, which is pretty much the only thing a player can enjoy if the Internet connection goes down or if the servers crash for any reason.  In offline mode the game is so stripped down it’s laughable.  Even game elements which don’t actually have you playing online, such as the Driving School, Mission Mode, and Circuit Mode, are completely restricted and unavailable if there’s no internet connection.  For a game like GT Sport, a long download time isn’t exactly a surprise, but the fact that so little is accessible while the other 30 GB downloads is more than a little frustrating.  If you do play the arcade mode while waiting for installation, know that NONE of your data is being saved, so any credits and experience you earn is all going to be lost.

The gameplay experience feels very narrow compared to prior releases.  My last experience with the series was Gran Turismo 5, so I’m unaware of any changes that came with Gran Turismo 6, but the solo race options felt very limited and nowhere near as expansive and interesting as they were in the past. In previous entries, you would unlock races as you progressed, earn more money, buy more cars, supercharge them, and eventually buy the cars you needed for the additional unlocked races.  Gran Turismo 5 also had B-Spec, which was a weird but also oddly addictive game mode.

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Gran Turismo Sport – images via Sony Interactive Entertainment

There are progression elements which are potentially enticing in GT Sport, where you earn experience points which level you up and unlock additional courses for arcade mode as well as other unlockables.  If you race a certain amount of distance in a day, there’s a reward for doing so.  You earn two different types of currency, which can be used for purchasing additional vehicles, as well as liveries, boosts, special cars that can’t be purchased with credits, special paint colors, modifications to your racer, etc.

However, the car list in this game is miniscule compared to prior releases, with a very small number of courses to race upon.  That being said, in arcade mode there’s more customizability with the visuals, so that when you choose a track, you can also determine the time of day and overall weather.  The graphics are stellar, and the details in the weather are spot-on.

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Gran Turismo Sport – images via Sony Interactive Entertainment

The set-up to get started and jump into racing are relatively simple, and nicely customizable depending on your overall comfort level with racing games and Gran Turismo in particular. The online component of the game is where this game is geared, and as a fan of campaign modes and solo racing, this game felt like it failed to deliver a full experience.  Mission modes are fun, but feel a little limiting.  There doesn’t feel like there’s as much diversity in the driving modes compared to prior releases. The circuit modes break down particular courses in a manner which feels like mission mode, as you do certain turns or stretches of a course, and then do a lap battle at the end.  The better completion, in terms of bronze, silver or gold, the more rewards you will get when you complete a particular course.  At times the ability to customize your cars feels unnatural or more obtuse than in prior releases.

Online racing isn’t nearly as intuitive as I expected. Players must sign up for official races and start at specific intervals throughout each hour of the day.  For those who are uninterested in official races there’s a lobby, which felt a little difficult to navigate and wasn’t all that intuitive.  The game runs well online, with gameplay remaining solid.  In order to unlock the online game mode, players will have to watch two short videos that tell players about the importance of sportsmanship in sport, which includes online racing in Gran Turismo Sport.  It really lays it on thick, and although I appreciate the intent, it comes across as irritating and condescending.

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Gran Turismo Sport – images via Sony Interactive Entertainment

Gran Turismo Sport returns the Gran Turismo series to the Playstation 4, with fantastic graphics that push the boundaries for realistic driving simulation.  However, this game feels thinner than its predecessors, with less of a focus on solo driving and campaign simulation.  The gameplay is crisp and smooth, the menus are well built for the most part, but the lack of a polished campaign mode like what was found in prior releases reduces overall enjoyment for the player who isn’t intent on playing online in the official races each day.  The overall racing experience in the solo player mode feels broken down into chunks, suitable for mission and driving school modes, but lacking in a true racing experience that prior releases in the series were able to deliver.

Gran Turismo Sport was reviewed using “retail” PlayStation 4 download codes provided by Sony Interactive Entertainment. You can find additional information about CGMagazine’s ethics and review policies and procedures here.

Liked this article and want to read more like it? Check out more from Adam Chapman, like his review of FIFA 17 for PS4 or his review of NHL 16 for PS4!

Want to see more videos? Subscribe to our YouTube channel and check out the First 15: The Evil Within 2, Forza Motorsport 7, and Cuphead!

Don’t forget to tune in every Friday the Pixels & Ink Podcast to hear the latest news, previews, and in-depth game discussions!

Never miss when new CGM articles go out by following us on Twitter and Facebook!

CGMagazine is Canada’s premiere comics and gaming magazine. Subscribe today to get the best of CGM delivered right to your door! Never miss when a new issue goes live by subscribing to our newsletter! Signing up gives you exclusive entry into our contest pool. Sign up once, you’ll have a chance to win! Sign up today!

Crafting Music for Farpoint: an Interview With Unified Sounds

Crafting Music for Farpoint: an Interview With Unified Sounds

Virtual Reality is changing the face of video games, and while a lot of focus tends to fall on its visual aspects, composing the perfect soundtrack is also vitally important in maintaining an immersive virtual gaming experience. Farpoint is an impressive first-person shooter for the PlayStation VR. Players will experience alien landscapes and, well, shoot spiders. Steve Cox and Danny McIntyre of Unified Sounds built the soundtrack for Farpoint, and were kind enough to talk to CGM about their history with the medium, what makes VR different from a normal gaming experience, and the importance of storytelling from a musical perspective.

CGMagazine: You guys composed to music for Farpoint, but can you tell us more about the history of Unified Sounds?

Steve Cox: I’m the lead composer of Farpoint, the awesome VR game where you blow up spiders (I still play it, way too often). I started a company with Danny, my partner in crime, around 2012, so not too long ago. We joined forces and started collecting amazing composers and producers, and produced Unified Sounds to handle a lot of the TV work we were getting like CBS Sports. Ever since, we’ve just been doing a lot of exciting work, and once Sony came along it got super exciting. Oh, by the way, I’m a composer.

Danny McIntyre: I’m also a composer and producer, I started working with Steve just a little bit before Unified Sounds came to fruition. We did a bunch of collaborations for CBS Sports, which is one of the main things we contribute to compositionally, and we have a number of writers who work under us and for us and with us and we do everything from Video Games to sports music to TV to background music. Everything, you name it. We’ve got really strong composers that do their thing in different genres. I’ve been working with Steve since about 2010, and we also worked at Full Sail University. He used to teach there and I’m the department chair there. We very much have our fingers on the pulse as to whatever’s new and cool and hot so we can share it with our students.

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Farpoint (PSVR) – gameplay images via Sony Interactive Entertainment

CGMagazine: Have you guys done much video game work prior to Farpoint?

Danny McIntyre: Actually, yeah; applications, put it that way. We have a few members, one member in particular Michael Schiciano, who is credited on Farpoint as well. He has quite a thick mobile game background, so we were able to pick his brains quite a bit and process that. Farpoint is definitely the first and biggest game opportunity that we’ve had. We have done some sound design and also some trailers for a different game a few years before this one. It was a game called Depth, and they actually recorded me in a swimming pool with my scuba gear for some sound design stuff, and then Steve and I scored the trailers to those three videos that came out. I think aside from that, Steve is right that Farpoint is the first really big game that we’ve worked on. But really, I consider it all kind of the same, in the end, it’s just storytelling.

CGMagazine: How do approach scoring a game compared to other media?

Danny McIntyre: As I was saying before, it’s really a matter of storytelling. With any scoring for media, the composer has to first figure out the sound palette of the universe. It could be a television show, it could be a movie, it could be a video game. But once you have that the rest is kind of done. It’s just a matter of developing those ideas and the only difference between them is the deliverables, we might have to send in multiple versions of one thing for a video game or we might only have to send in a 30-second clip for a movie. It’s just a matter of what does the client want physically from us, but emotionally it’s all very the same. How can we set … the stage for the story to take place … and manipulate over time.

Steve Cox: If there’s any difference between game writing and film and other media, it’s the whole nonlinear aspect. It sort of starts that way with a film in the beginning, you’re sketching out scenes and the tentpole pieces for the emotional content, but after that you really have to lock down the timeline, where the score is going to progress in a linear fashion, and being disconnected from that whole ball and chain during a game writing process is really freeing in a lot of ways. You get to experiment, and I really enjoyed the creative aspect of being untethered from the timeline. I think the sound palette was more important with Farpoint … than any film or TV show I’ve done. Finding the right instrumentation, the right vibe, and the right world. You’re really writing to the atmosphere first and foremost, and then after that, it’s the storytelling that kicks in and takes over the composition process. It’s a lot of fun.

CGMagazine: How long does your process typically take?

Steve Cox: It was about nine months, maybe a little longer. We did the demo and it was pretty quick that we got the response back, maybe a week or two. That was back in February and we really didn’t kick it off until the end of March, and then were more or less done at the end of the year on our part. We still had the soundtrack, we still had quite a lot of mixing that went into 2017, but as for composition and the heavy lifting, that was more or less wrapped in nine months. There are also a lot of gaps in there. We’d finish a chunk that was asked of us, but the developers had to basically lay down the tracks for the next part, so we’d have to wait for that to be laid down before we continued working. If we compressed the time, it probably didn’t take us that much time, but it was spread out over the nine months because the whole thing was being built from scratch.

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Farpoint (PSVR) – gameplay images via Sony Interactive Entertainment

CGMagazine: Is doing music for VR different in any way? Is that something you guys take into account when writing the music?

Steve Cox: I think in the beginning it was kind of like a “that’s a thing we’ll address later in the mix, we’ll fix that in post” but it was really two tiers in that we realized that this is very important in how thick the instrumentation is going to be, how sparse, how the ambiance should envelop the listener—and I’m talking about the musical ambiance, not just the background sound effects, which Sony handled and did great with all the sound design. During the process, it felt like the sound design and the music were kind of one and the same for a while a there. We were trying to create a palette of rich textures that could … as an alien background to a planet, when it came to mixing and implementation it was very different, very specific, very pinpoint. That required some tricky deliverables—more so than a normal game or film.

Danny McIntyre: Steve nailed it. Especially, in the end, it was where Steve really shined.

CGMagazine: Where did you guys look for influence when making this?

Danny McIntyre: All over the place really. One of the biggest cues that they sent us for reference was the opening to Aliens, the Goldsmith theme … what was really kind of sparse string lighting, that one stuck with me. It was weird in that it didn’t necessarily mean that they wanted strings, but the sparseness of that part; the coldness of that scene, that they were attracted to. Other than that I think it was a matter of Steve and I just making up weird sounds and inspiring each other.

Steve Cox: Goldsmith was a big one – that was part of the brief going in. That kind of lonely, stuck in space…it’s eerie, it’s dark. That was a big part of the vibe they were going for. I think along the way when it comes to gameplay and the kind of action that would work during those scenes—and this is about halfway through the composition process—we started taking a look at The Last of Us, I’m talking about the real in-game cues that you won’t hear on the soundtrack but you can dig … up in-game, and the way it used that really heavy sound design, sparse percussion with a lot of space in-between – it was really inspiring.

Danny McIntyre: Yeah, it’s a really great score, good call.

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Farpoint (PSVR) – gameplay images via Sony Interactive Entertainment

CGMagazine: Is there anything else you’d like to add?

Danny McIntyre: I think it’s really fun to play. … Steve and I try to have business meetings on the phone at least once a day, and sometimes we have them in co-op mode in Farpoint. We’ll meet up in a spaceship and we’ll decide which towns we’re going to jump on, and while we’re blowing up spiders we’ll talk Unified Sounds. It’s a really cool game and it’s quite addictive.

Steve Cox: I have to second that. It’s really fun to play, and all the trepidation about VR causing motion sickness was a non-issue. For everyone that I’ve exposed to it, the co-op mode … next level, and it’s so much fun. It beats Skype.

CGMagazine: Thanks a lot, guys. Best of luck with everything going forward!

Both: Thank you so much for your time.

Uncharted: The Lost Legacy (PlayStation 4) Review – Return to Form

Uncharted: The Lost Legacy (PlayStation 4) Review - Return to Form

I didn’t really enjoy Uncharted 4. I want to get that out of the way right now. It was an undoubtedly stunning, well-written, gorgeously animated game—but it was boring. There was far too much walking and talking and the linear nature of the game—which was previously a series strength—caused me to get bored rather quickly. I’ve been a fan of the franchise since way back when I got Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune for Christmas in 2007, so putting down UC4 and not even finishing it felt like a strange kind of betrayal. This is the mindset with which I went into Lost Legacy, a game that revived my love for the franchise by switching things up a bit, in a gorgeous, semi-open world (I didn’t know I wanted this in an Uncharted game but here we are), silenced weapons, multiple objectives (think side-quests) and branching dialogue options. Of course, series staples like fantastic voice-acting, interesting puzzles, and absolutely ridiculous visuals remain.

Also, no more Drake and Sully. (In an Uncharted game? Say what?)

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Uncharted: Lost Legacy – game play images via Sony Interactive Entertainment

In a first-time for the series, players won’t be spending time with the charming mass-murderer Nathan Drake and his cigar-munching best pal Victor “Sully” Sullivan. Instead, Lost Legacy sees the return of Chloe Frazer (Claudia Black) as the main playable character, with Nadine Ross (Laura Bailey) taking on the role of sidekick. Black and Bailey do an excellent job of bringing their characters to life and ensuring the snappy, natural dialogue for which the Uncharted series is known is present and in good care. It’s also much lighter fare than A Thief’s End, not being bogged down by the heavy-handed drama found in that game. The motion capture is also incredibly well done, projecting facial cues and body language that look about as natural as is currently possible on PlayStation 4 hardware.

The story finds Chloe and Nadine hunting for the Tusk of Ganesh in the Western Ghats, a mountain range that runs along the West Coast of the Indian Peninsula. The story is centred on Hindu Mythology, and while the game obviously takes some creative liberties with this setting, there is plenty to dive into for history nerds. Of course, it wouldn’t be an Uncharted game without scores of hired goons to shoot, punch, explode, and throw off temple roofs, and Chloe and Nadine will be battling a mercenary army headed by the rebel leader Asav.

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Uncharted: Lost Legacy – game play images via Sony Interactive Entertainment

In another first for the series, Lost Legacy takes place in a contained open-world setting. While this is a trend in video games that seems a bit ubiquitous and over-saturated at the moment—with games like Breath of the Wild, Horizon: Zero Dawn, and countless others using the same setting and mechanics, including the popular “hide in the grass for stealth”—for Lost Legacy it works surprisingly well. Players will be traversing a large map, littered with optional areas and several major ones. This traversal is made easier by the use of a jeep, which can climb pretty much anything but will drift like crazy in the mud (a cool touch). One of the best minor features in the game involves getting in the drivers seat. Players can walk up to the jeep and press the triangle button, like in any standard open world game, or they can run and jump and Chloe will automatically slide ride into the driver’s seat. It was a nice little addition that made constantly leaving and entering the jeep a lot smoother, plus it looked cool—which is really the most important thing.

Combat and climbing work like every other game. Players will jump from ledge to ledge, dragging down unaware guards or battle it out using the tried-and-true cover-based shooting mechanic. A fun new addition in Lost Legacy is the use of silenced weapons, offering a whole new approach to stealth-killing those clueless hired goons. The other major half of any Uncharted game, the climbing aspect, is here again, with the added additions like the grappling hook and the piton from UC4. The grappling hook aspects were the best part of navigating the various temples found in the area, and several areas had puzzles based entirely on this mechanic. It was a thrill to feel like Spider-Man—but with a gun—swinging from column to column and blasting enemies. A lock-picking mechanic has also been added, but is really nothing that special in the grand scheme of things.

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Uncharted: Lost Legacy – game play images via Sony Interactive Entertainment

Of course, Naughty Dog didn’t become one of the most well regarded studios in the industry by making ugly games. Lost Legacy takes this aspect to whole new heights, featuring what are quite possibly the most ridiculous graphics to be found on consoles—including Horizon: Zero Dawn and from what I saw of Uncharted 4. The terrain absolutely explodes with colour, and in a true-to-life representation of the Western Ghats is lush. There is an unreal amount of plant life found nearly everywhere in the game, from trees and bushes to flowers and vines, and each individual plant oozes vibrant vitality. On top of this, the draw distances are insane for a console game. This is incredibly important for a game like Uncharted where the player spends plenty of time on the tops of towering structures and mountainsides. Many, many times I found myself just stopping and staring and the wondrous virtual jungle spread out before me, with beams of sunlight shooting through mist conjured up by far-off waterfalls. The game is damn pretty, that’s for sure.

Lost Legacy is definitely more DLC or Standalone expansion than full-on entry in the series, and can be completed in around ten hours. Throw in some side quests and general dicking around and you can push that to 15, but all-in-all Lost Legacy is not a long game. For the steep price of $49.99 CAD, it’s a tough purchase. On the other hand, I had more fun in those hours than my entire time playing Uncharted 4, so take that as you will. There are also fresh multiplayer options, including new skins and an expanded Survival Mode. Lost Legacy is a short but excellent expansion to the series, with jaw-dropping visuals, fun and engaging gameplay, and excellent, believable voice acting. Anyone who felt fatigued or bored by Uncharted 4 should definitely check this out.

Matterfall (PlayStation 4) Review: Fluid, Frenetic, Explosive

Matterfall (PlayStation 4) Review: Fluid, Frenetic, Explosive

Matterfall is the latest from Housemarque, the studio famous for games like Resogun and Super Stardust. Following the trend set by the earlier games, Matterfall is part side-scroller, and part bullet-hell twin-stick shooter. There’s not a hell of a lot of story to speak of, and the game can be completed fairly quickly. However, anyone who has played a similar game before knows that a long campaign and engrossing story aren’t the draws here. What is important is the game features fluid, frenetic combat, bright colours, a bumping soundtrack, and the ever-endless search for a higher score. In these respects, Matterfall does a fantastic job of delivering great entertainment.

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Matterfall gameplay images via Sony Interactive Enteratinment

Players take control of a futuristic, power-armoured space mercenary named Darrow, who bears more than a slight resemblance to Samus Aran of Metroid fame. From the reds and yellows of her suit to the beam gun on one hand, the intrepid hero of Matterfall is clearly aping Nintendo’s famous heroine. Despite this wholesale aesthetic rip-off, the rest of the environments and creatures in the game—not to mention the gameplay—are entirely distinct from anything Metroid.

Speed and quick reflexes are the name of the game in Matterfall. Players will guide Darrow with the left stick, and aim/fire her beam gun with the right stick. The shoulder buttons are used for jumping, dashing, secondary weapons, and the platform-solidifying, civilian-rescuing, score-multiplier-shooting matter ray. Levels consist of platforming sections that get increasingly more ridiculous spread amongst combat portions with enemies so numerous and infinitely (not really) re-spawning that there is rarely a break in the chaos. Her dash feature allows her to both stun enemies and temporarily avoid damage, as well as to pass through the blue coloured platforms (that can also become solid if you shoot them with your matter ray). Jumping around and dashing through platforms while also creating new temporary platforms AND attacking/dodging enemies requires some getting used to from a control perspective. The controls are tight as hell, but it did take a while to become comfortable with using all four shoulder buttons while keeping my thumb on the right stick. Old habits die hard, but when the control scheme finally clicked, it became incredibly intuitive and responsive.

Matterfall (PlayStation 4) Review: Fluid, Frenetic, Explosive 4
Matterfall gameplay images via Sony Interactive Enteratinment

There is also some minor exploration involved in finding extra power-ups by way of captured civilians, score multipliers, etc… Every time you rescue a civilian you unlock an “augment” which can range from a new secondary weapon (like a shotgun or grenade launcher) to passive boosts that strengthen you in other ways. For the most part, the levels run quite linearly from left to right in a simple and intuitive direction. You won’t find yourself replaying these levels over and over to discover hidden pathways and secrets. The replay value comes in chasing a higher-score on subsequent attempts.

Getting through the level as quickly as you can and killing as many enemies as you can increase your score, but the real fun comes in the multiplier feature. The more enemies Darrow kills without taking damage, the higher her multiplier becomes, increasing the score exponentially as long as you remain untouched by enemy projectiles. Taking cues from some of Housemarque’s earlier games, Matterfall makes this pretty damn difficult on higher difficulties and later stages.  The thrill comes in executing everything with precision timing: dodging, dashing, firing, and snagging health or score multipliers. Bullet-hell-esque indeed. While not as outrageously challenging as other games in the genre, Matterfall holds enough here for even genre-vets to sink their teeth into.

Matterfall (PlayStation 4) Review: Fluid, Frenetic, Explosive 1
Matterfall gameplay images via Sony Interactive Enteratinment

The company says that the game runs 1080p/60fps on a PlayStation 4 Pro, and 900p/60fps on a standard PlayStation 4. This review was done on a standard PlayStation 4, and the game ran super smooth and looked gorgeous. I can only imagine what HDR will add to a game with this amount of deep and vibrant colour. During intense combat, the screen fills entirely with bright, neon explosions as enemies die, projectiles flood the area, and Darrow’s dashes and score keep popping up. It becomes a tad hard to track at points, but my goodness does it look good. I never experienced any major slowdown or framerate skips, but often I was too busy worrying about staying alive and timing my jumps perfectly to catch any minor graphical glitches anyway.

Matterfall is a certain type of game for a certain type of gamer. Harkening back to the olden days of high-score lists and arcade gameplay, yet with a thoroughly modern and wonderfully slick coat of paint, Matterfall made me want to try over and over for a better score. Accompanying the buttery smooth, chaotic gameplay and beautiful aesthetic is a groovy, synth heavy techno soundtrack. The game is fast, fluid, and tons of fun. It also has tremendous replay value for those who always want to hit just a few more ranks on the leaderboards, though it can also be picked up easily enough by busy types looking for a quick and exciting gaming session.

WipEout Omega Collection (PlayStation 4) Review – A Supersonic Update

WipEout Omega Collection (PlayStation 4) Review - A Supersonic Update

I remember first playing Wipeout on a demo disc from PlayStation Magazine way back in 1995. At the time, the game felt fast as hell, and blasting around a futuristic race track while shooting missiles at other players was a riot. Then Mario Kart 64 for the Nintendo 64 came out and we all stopped playing. Fast forward 20+ years and players can now re-enter this shiny, colourful, and ridiculously fast-paced world of rocket powered hovercraft racing with the WipEout Omega collection, which is a three-pack entry containing WipEout HD, WipEout Fury, and WipEout 2048, all rendered in glorious HD (or 4k for you Pro owners) at a blisteringly smooth 60fps.

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WipEout Omega Collection gameplay images via PlayStation

First things first, if you’re into this series (whether an old fan or new), a crucial element is a sense of speed. In 1995, WipEout blew minds. It was like a 3D F-Zero on meth, and the sense of blasting around a track at a supersonic speed was visceral. This was before modern elements like motion blur and HD. Hitting several boosts in a row on an HD TV ramps up the sensation of speed and really allows players to feel like they’re driving a supersonic racecraft rather than just holding a button and watching a gauge go up on-screen. It’s a fantastic game to re-release in an era where television screens are getting a bit ridiculous when it comes to colour and clarity.

On that note, updating games from previous generations can be a difficult task. Oftentimes, even when upscaled, remakes and remasters retain that pre-HD look, and visual aspects like aliasing, draw distance, and textures still look, well, old. WipEout Omega Collection, thankfully, has avoided these pitfalls, and looks simply stunning. Colours pop, which is super important in a game like WipEout that relies on a flashy and futuristic aesthetic. Textures aren’t super detailed, but all the lines are clean and the game looks fabulous in motion. Effects like boosts, rockets, mines etc. are bright and vibrant, and combine well with the tracks and ships to create a lively and colourful racing experience.

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WipEout Omega Collection gameplay images via PlayStation

Another notorious (in a good way) feature of the WipEout games were the kickass soundtracks. When one is blasting around a futuristic race track at supersonic speeds, one requires some wicked tunes to amp up the experience. Nothing gets the blood flowing quite like a booming techno track cranked in the background as you finally squeeze past the lead racer and find yourself in first place. On top of the already awesome tracks included with the game, you can use the Spotify PlayStation 4 app to customize your own experience to the tunes that get you personally amped. For me, the machine gun drumming from bands like Thy Art is Murder gets me feeling a bit more aggressive than a fun and bouncy House track.

There is a hell of a lot of depth to the games as well. Even past the fact that this package includes WipEout HD, WipEout Fury, and WipEout 2048, the game features 26 reversible tracks to play around with. Unfortunately, some tracks are certainly more fun than others, and after a few hours of playing, they do seem to blend together a bit. However, this is essentially the same for almost every racing game, and learning the ins and outs and particular idiosyncrasies of each course become fundamental in mastering what eventually becomes a crazy-difficult experience.

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WipEout Omega Collection gameplay images via PlayStation

With nine game modes to choose from, players have plenty to sink their teeth into, including Time Trial, Zone Battle, Career Mode and a personal favourite, Detonator, which forces racers to avoid or shoot mines to score points over multiple laps. As someone who got frustrated with the high level of difficulty in some of the later stage racing modes, this was a fun way to take a break from the intense racing.

WipEout Omega Collection doesn’t necessarily bring anything new to the table, but it does offer the best possible version of all three games and plays like a dream. It’s a fast-paced, gorgeous, smooth ride with a surprising level of replayability and challenge. In a generation rife with remakes and remasters, WipEout Omega Collection stands out as a particularly well-crafted, beautiful update to the original games, and is especially awesome when considering the incredible fidelity offered by modern televisions. It’s nothing new, but it doesn’t need to be.

Rumour: Sony San Diego Hit With Layoffs and Potentially Closure

Rumour: Sony San Diego Hit With Layoffs and Potentially Closure

Update: Sony has released a statement on the layoffs affecting Sony San Diego studio, confirming that the MLB: The Show team has been left intact. The layoffs in question were apparently part of a restructuring after the completion of internal projects, but there was nothing in the way of specifics in Sony’s statement.

“We can confirm there has been a reduction in headcount at San Diego Studio,” a representative said in a statement to “The team working on MLB The Show have not been affected. We continually evaluate teams and programs at SIE Worldwide Studios to ensure we have the proper resources in place to deliver innovative products within a competitive landscape. As projects are completed, it is natural to review and restructure teams around current and future needs. We wish our departing team members success as they pursue new opportunities and we have nothing but heart-felt thanks for their contributions to PlayStation.”

Original story: MLB: The Show developer Sony San Diego has been hit with layoffs according to reports from those affected.

Noah Watkins, a UI developer at the studio, posted to Twitter that the “entire team” was laid off, implying that Sony may have opted to close the studio after 15 years as a branch of Sony’s Worldwide Studios.

While there’s still be no official word from Sony regarding the layoffs, word of this is reaching others in the industry, such as Ryan Palser of Boss Key, who offered his condolences to those affected.

Palser went on to say that “all but” the MLB: The Show team was laid off entirely, presumably including the team working on PlayStation 4 exclusive Kill Strain and collaborating with The Bartlet Jones Supernatural Detective Agency on Drawn to Death. This does contradict Watkins’ original statement that the “entire team” at the studio had been laid off, however.

As of this writing, Sony has yet to publicly acknowledge the layoffs, but posted a job listing for a position based in San Diego, meaning the studio as a whole may still be intact, despite the layoffs.

Should Sony make an official statement about the state of Sony San Diego, we’ll update this story to keep you up to date on the situation.

Sony San Diego was founded in 2001, and made its debut with 2002’s Mark of Kri on PlayStation 2. The studio’s work shifted primarily to the MLB: The Show series in 2006 while also collaborating with other studios to create games like ModNation Racers and Medieval Moves during the PlayStation 3 era.

Last of Us 2 Rumours Circulate After Magazine Scan Surfaces Online

Last of Us 2 Rumours Circulate After Magazine Scan Surfaces Online

Reports of a Last of Us sequel are once again circulating after an unknown magazine scan featuring information on a The Last of Us 2 leaked through Imgur, but taking a closer look at certain aspects of the scan brings the legitimacy of it into question.

The scan features artwork of Last of Us co-protagonist Ellie, with the article itself claiming the character to have aged five years since the original game. While the art featured is certainly of Ellie, it bears a striking resemblance to art of her from the original game pictured above.

Should Ellie really have aged from teenager to young adult by the time The Last of Us 2 began, I’d personally find it rather surprising if Naughty Dog were to reuse assets from the first game to portray an older version of the character.
The scan also makes mention of an E3 2016 reveal, which obviously never happened. However, it’s worth noting that Sony’s E3 press conference ended slightly awkwardly, having concluded its show with a gameplay demo of Sony Bend’s Days Gone, which had already had its spotlight moment at the beginning of the presentation. This has led to speculation that something was cut from the show at the last minute.

Should this scan actually be legitimate, it features quotes from Naughty Dog’s Neil Druckmann and Bruce Straley, the leads on the original Last of Us and this year’s Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End. The alleged quotes mention granting players more freedom than the first game, saying that while the game wouldn’t be a “sandbox” game in a traditional sense, but would offer players more freedom to explore its “city-scaled areas.”

A Last of Us sequel has been discussed ever since the original game launched on PlayStation 3 in 2013, and Naughty Dog has stated that another game in the series is part of a short list of potential projects the studio could be working on after the launch of Uncharted 4 earlier this year.

For more on The Last of Us, check out CGM’s review of the The Last of Us Remastered.