Month: August 2014

CGMPodcast Episode 122 - Yakuza In The 80's - 2014-08-29 18:47:10

CGMPodcast Episode 122 – Yakuza In The 80’s

On this week’s CGM podcast, Sega announces Yakuza Zero in Japan, which makes all the Yakuza fans in the West wilt in frustration, since this is probably never going to get localized for English speakers. FanExpo gets underway and Melanie spoke to quite a few people at Ubisoft as well as some eSports organizers. And finally, there were a lot of games played over the week, including the new Second Son DLC, Tales of Xillia 2, and Plants vs. Zombies.

Why Are Some Digital Pre-Orders Timed To The West Coast? - 2014-08-29 13:06:45

Why Are Some Digital Pre-Orders Timed To The West Coast?

An all-digital future seems inevitable at this point. Netflix has buried traditional video rental services, Amazon’s Kindle and Comixology are making printed books and comics less and less convenient, while Steam made the idea of physical copies of PC games obsolete years ago. Now, with the new generation of hardware, consoles are making the transition as well, but there are still a few kinks to work out. There are obvious conveniences, such as not having go out and get your copy of a game, and come back home with it. Or the addition of pre-loading, so that gamers no longer have to wait until launch day and then queue up in some server along with thousands of others to try and download the game at the same time. But despite these strides, some companies, namely Activision, have thrown a monkey wrench into the works based on geography. Anyone that doesn’t live on the west coast of North America doesn’t play their digital game at midnight. If you live on the east coast, or are in the Atlantic time zone, you don’t get to play your game until three or four am.

Destiny
Destiny

This is baffling in the extreme. Sony itself has a policy of timing digital releases to the east coast so that everyone in North America gets to play the game at midnight or as early as 9 pm for west coasters. Electronic Arts does the same thing. The thinking at these publishers seems to be, “Well, we’ve already got their money, since we charged our digital customers as soon as they put in a pre-order, so what’s the harm in letting some people on the other coast play three hours earlier?”

[pullquote align=”right” class=”blue”]“What possible advantage does Activision have in locking out midnight releases of digital copies for anyone not on the west coast?”[/pullquote]Activision, on the other hand, is adamant right now about their west coast time zone policy. It’s unclear why they believe a digital release—which has already been paid for—should not unlock until the company’s home time zone arrives at the appointed hour. It’s unlikely that they’re just being petty, but it’s also obvious that this isn’t some legal problem, as both Sony and Electronic Arts haven’t encountered any hurdles in making a game digitally available as early as possible to as wide an audience as possible.

The one thing this DOES do for Activision is hurt their digital copy adoption rate. If someone in Toronto, for example, can play Dragon Age: Inquisition at midnight EST, then the convenience of a digital copy is obvious. There’s no line up on a cold November night, no time lost going to and from the store, just maximum convenience for an impatient gamer. On the other hand, if that same Toronto gamer has to wait until 3 am to play a digital copy of Destiny when a nearby EB Games has a midnight launch, that same impatient gamer will probably trudge out to the store to get a copy. Even if it takes an hour, they are still playing the game two hours earlier than east coast consumers that bought a digital copy. It also means that Activison now runs the risk of a used sale to EB Games for that same physical copy if the player tires of the game in a few weeks.

Diablo Iii
Diablo III

So what possible advantage does Activision have in locking out midnight releases of digital copies for anyone not on the west coast? How does it hurt them if they DON’T do this? Obviously there must be some financial consequence for Activision to be willing to give such an advantage to EA, with its more east coast friendly digital unlocks. No profit-driven company would give a competitive edge to a rival unless there were some significant financial loss in trying to match that same move. Whatever that reason is, Activision isn’t saying. Hopefully, if the this trend with other companies continues, Activision will eventually follow suit. However, they stuck to their guns for Diablo III on consoles, and they appear to be firm in their commitment for Destiny.

The November Man Movie Review 2

The November Man (2014) Review

It’s gotta be tough to be a former James Bond. Playing Bond? That’s a dream job involving international celebrity, the most expensive cars, a wardrobe of only the finest suits, and a new famous beauty for arm candy every couple of years. The trouble is that you can’t play Bond forever and pretty much from the moment anyone tires of the iconic role and leaves the martini behind, they’re career gets rough. There is a lone exception to the rule in Sean Connery of course, but to be fair he is Sean Connery. Beyond that, it’s been a rough ride for all the former Bonds and that’s been especially true of Pierce Brosnan. He brought Bond back in the 90s after a decade of audience indifference and his biggest role since then? Mama Mia (shudder). Like Roger Moore before him, it’s just hard to see Brosnan in anything and not think of Bond, which I suppose is why the folks behind November Man decided to cast him. Brosnan plays an aging spy in the movie, so for once his Bond baggage works to the movie’s advantage. Shame about the movie itself though.

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Since we live in the post-Expendables age of aging action stars, Brosnan slides into the role of a grizzled veteran training a young punk spy (Luke Bracey) in a prologue until things go drastically wrong. The kind of wrong that leads to lifelong feuds. That was supposed to be Brosnan’s last job, but flash-forward a few years and his former boss (Bill Smitrovich) shows up begging for Brosnan to take one more gig tracking down a mysterious Russian citizen. Pierce is of course wary of the job, but accepts it and soon finds that the citizen he’s tracking down is the beautiful Olga Kurylenko (a former Bond girl in Quantum Of Solace) and then learns that Bracey is on his tail as well. So, it’s old-versus-young spy game with an old timey Cold War backdrop for a movie just as out of date as it sounds. Reviving 80s action movie tropes is nothing new these days, so the filmmakers try to make all the stock story beats feel fresh by infusing the moral ambiguity and handheld camera of the Bourne Identity movies to the proceedings. It’s a hodgepodge of scenes and ideas that worked better in previous movies with little purpose in this round. It’s not horrible, just deeply mediocre.
[pullquote align=”right” class=”blue”]“You’ll get what you paid for, but then you’ll stumble out of the theater wondering why you wanted that in the first place.”[/pullquote]The mediocrity of November Man should have been easily predicted given that the movie comes from director Roger Donaldson (Cocktail, Species, Dante’s Peak) who specializes in the mediocre. He is a perfectly serviceable craftsman, so the movie is never boring or abysmal. It works well enough for what it is, it just never offers anything unexpected. Would you like to see some explosions? You’ll get em. How about gun fights? Covered. Maybe a little scantily clad posturing from the lady lead? It’s there. Brosnan busts out his old charm and adds a little grit under his fingernails as a man permanently scarred by his job. He’s the best thing in the movie. Bracey is so bland that there’s never a moment where the audience could possibly be on his side rather than Brosnan’s even though they are supposed to. Kurylenko sure is pretty, yet never does anything resembling acting. She models with dialogue. Smitrovich is admittedly quite good as well, bursting out from a career of boring boss roles to play a genuine heavy and loving every minute of it. Too bad that the actor finally got a chance to show off his skills in a movie so forgettable that no one will ever notice.

[youtube url=”https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1iXPDXU4OB4″ width=”400″ height=”200″ responsive=”no”]Donaldson has managed to make a spy movie that offers absolutely everything that you expect from the genre and yet feels completely tired and dull. Maybe it’s just because these sorts of movies have been made so many times and in so many ways that filmmakers have to deliver something truly special for it to register at all. Or maybe it’s just the Bond problem. When you see a Bond actor in a spy movie, you expect a Bond caliber production. November Man certainly doesn’t register at that level. It’s not a movie that you call really full-on hate though. It’s competently made. The action is swiftly paced and consistent. The plot twists, turns, and doubles back on itself before landing on an inevitably obvious conclusion. You’ll get what you paid for, but then you’ll stumble out of the theater wondering why you wanted that in the first place.

 

The Walking Dead s2 ep5: No Going Back (PS3) Review 6

The Walking Dead s2 ep5: No Going Back (PS3) Review

The Final Reckoning

Season two of Telltale’s take on Robert Kirkman’s grim, zombie apocalypse finally concludes. It’s been a long time in coming, but with No Going Back, Telltale wraps up the story of Clem in a way that may not be satisfying for everyone, but ultimately, might just be a more realistic, mature conclusion with no right or wrong answers. And in some ways, that just might be the only way any story in the world of The Walking Dead can go.

The Walking Dead S2 Ep5: No Going Back Review

Hopefully, future instalments of Telltale adventure games will also make their way to the PS4, as the same problems that plagued the Wolf Among Us glitch their way into this final episode. New chapters and scenes inevitably bog down the system, and even trophies popping up cause significant drops in performance. It’s clear that Telltale has never been comfortable with the more exotic architecture of the PS3 and the breathing room and more familiar, PC-like environment of the PS4 will go a long way towards helping Telltale’s games present the way they were meant to.
[pullquote align=”right” class=”blue”]”The Walking Dead. It could never live up to the unexpected emotional weight of the first season, and it didn’t try to.”[/pullquote]Technical problems aside, No Going Back finally completes the maturation process of Clem, which was the driving theme of the entire season. If Season one of The Walking Dead was about the classic group dynamics of surviving the zombie apocalypse, season two is about what it’s like to grow up in such an environment, and how harsh the combination of survival and maturity becomes. “Growing up” takes on much more serious tones when it goes beyond mastering social popularity to making decisions that affect who lives and who dies and, true to the original comic, no one is safe. Anyone can die in sudden, brutal manner, and it’s a matter of fact element of Robert Kirkman’s world. The big difference here is that it’s now being filtered through the eyes of a child that has to decide which of these lessons are worth learning to form a moral foundation from which to move forward. In essence, the choices that players make in No Going Back aren’t just about being a survivor, they’re answering the question, “What kind of survivor am I?” No Going Back presents players with choices that are both selfish and altruistic, and no one choice is consistently rewarded or punished. Unlike most games with a morality system that explicitly tells you, “You made a good/bad choice and will be reward/punished appropriately,” No Going Back leaves the consequences as… consequences. The game won’t comment or take action on any of player’s choices, it really is up to you to decide whether what’s the right decision as a player, and then see how the consequences play out.

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All of this brings us to the ending of this season. In some ways, there’s still an illusion behind the idea of choice, since most of the decisions players make ultimately won’t matter to the end of the story. Like Mass Effect III, the ending of season two is largely determined by final choices in last chapter of the game. Unlike Mass Effect, these choices aren’t merely differentiated by color, they are radically different choices with distinct outcomes. None of them are “satisfying” in the same way that the first Walking Dead season was. There’s no calculated dramatic conclusion that feels narratively and emotionally “right.” Instead, life goes on, Clem learns a thing or two, and players will be left wondering if they really made the right choice. Of course, they have the option of replaying the game to see how things turn out if they do choose differently, but in the end, no conclusion feels like the one Telltale has decided is the “true” ending. Every ending feels like it has weight and validity. But players will be arguing constantly among each other as to why they made the choices they did, ultimately revealing more about their feelings on survival and how far they’re willing to go by doing so. And that, perhaps, is one of the most impressive things about season two of The Walking Dead. It could never live up to the unexpected emotional weight of the first season, and it didn’t try to. Instead of trying make everyone feel the same way, they allowed players to conclude the story in a way that felt right to them. Or, at the very least, forced them to make choices that felt right, even if the consequences weren’t. That’s a rare trick to pull off in any narrative endeavour, and the fact that Telltale did it in a game makes it all the more impressive. No Going Back is a worthy conclusion to a second season that got off to a rocky start, but found its legs as its journey came to end.

 

CGM Plays - Strider

CGM Plays – Strider

Wayne and Brendan take a look at the HD remaster of Strider.

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inFAMOUS: First Light (PS4) Review 3

inFAMOUS: First Light (PS4) Review

Lighting Up Seattle

Infamous: Second Son only just debuted on the PS4 a few months ago, and became one of the first must-own titles for the new console. Now, at the tail end of August, the first bit of downloadable content is available for the game, and, surprisingly, it not only moves the focus away from Delsin Rowe, hero Second Son, it’s also a standalone game, not requiring the previous game to work. So, for anyone curious about the Infamous game on the PS4 that isn’t willing to commit to full retail price, there’s now a $14.99 “sampler” of sorts available. Buyer beware, however, this will spoil certain aspects of the main game for those with no experience.

Infamous-First-Light-Insert2

Fetch Quest

Abigail “Fetch” Walker was the second Conduit (aka person with super powers) Delsin Rowe encountered during his Seattle adventure, and though her background was outlined in Second Son, Sucker Punch saw fit to dedicate First Light entirely to her. This is her story, through and through, and while it’s not as well written as some of the better stories in games today, some a strong performance by Laura Bailey—as Fetch—manages to sell what are otherwise weak scenes. This DLC explains all of Fetch’s motivations by the time Delsin encounters her, so for people the prefer to have the story unfold in its original order, it’s best to avoid this DLC. For people that have played the game already—or those that simply don’t care about chronology—this adds some much needed depth and characterization to one of the more interesting characters in the Infamous world.

In technical terms, this is identical to Second Son. The same gorgeous lighting, graphics and unlocked frame rate are all here. The photo mode that was patched in later also appears here for aspiring bullshot artists. Months later, this is still one of the highlights of the PS4 graphics, showing off what the console can do when the focus is given to its potential. For audio, much of it has been recycled from Second Son. This is especially true for sound effects (understandable) and soundtrack. Of course, this is DLC, not a brand new game, so allowances need to be made.

As for the game itself, in some ways, this is a return to the first two Infamous games. With the focus entirely on Fetch and her neon powers, Sucker Punch locks us into one power-set and then proceeds to ramp up and vary it in ways that Delsin never could. For people that loved the neon powers in Second Son—and many did—this is a big selling point, as Fetch’s repertoire of neon abilities is surprisingly versatile. Whereas neon was confined in Second Son largely to being a precision ability for sniping, with a dash of super speed thrown in to traverse the city quickly, First Light reveals that Fetch was essentially holding out on players. She has an enormous range of abilities, from traversal to some devastating aerial and/or area attacks, and even homing missiles of a sort, and with the morality system entirely removed from the game, Seattle is Fetch’s playground for mass destruction. Neon was fun in Second Son, but it’s really, really fun when under the more robust command of Fetch.

Infamous: First Light Review

There’s also a secondary area, the Curdun Cay detention facility, which is part of the story, but also an auxiliary “challenge mode” where players can unleash Fetch on increasing waves of enemies for more skill points to upgrade powers, or to compete in leaderboards. It also adds considerably to the three-to-four hour lifespan of the First Light story, concentrating on pure tactics and gameplay in a way the more story-based Seattle portion can’t. This is where players can really cut loose with the powers, get in some practice and compete with their friends, It fulfills the same role as the Challenge Rooms in the Arkham series, and is just as fun for purists that want to concentrate on mechanics and player skill.

For $14.99, First Light packs in an impressive amount of entertainment for its asking price. Players looking to acquire the platinum trophy for it will play far beyond the four hours of story finding collectibles and taking on challenges to max out Fetch’s abilities. It’s still not quite in the upper echelons of classic DLC such as Red Dead Redemption’s zombie expansion Undead Nightmare, but it’s got far more value than the average DLC available for most games. Players that enjoyed Second Son and loved the neon powers should download this immediately.

 

Musashi: A Graphic Novel Review 2

Musashi: A Graphic Novel Review

Sean Michael Wilson, an Irish writer living and working in Japan, has been on a personal crusade over the last few years to bring graphic novelizations of Japanese history to the West. His first adaptation, in 2012, was The Book of Five Rings, and it was a graphic interpretation of a famous Japanese book that put out some basic philosophies about the art of combat. That book was written by a legendary master swordsman known as Miyamoto Musashi. This newest book is biographical comic about the man himself, as told through the narrative device of an admirer grilling Mushashi’s adopted son about his father’s life.

Mushashiinsert1Like his previous books, Wilson’s take on doing a biographical comic about Japanese history is one focused on accuracy to the exclusion of all else. This means that he refuses to dress up the facts, dialog or pacing of his “story” for narrative enhancement. In that sense, what readers are getting is pretty much an exact historical report of a famous Japanese sword master with no embellishments or exaggeration. And for a certain reader, that is a rare and wonderful thing. For everyone else, however, this means the standard narrative arc of conflicts, rising action, raised stakes, exciting combat and climatic face off with a villain are all entirely absent. Musashi was a master swordsman in real life, which means he was more concerned with ending fights as quickly as possible, rather than an elaborate choreography with blades clashing, and tense, dramatic exchanges about justice, revenge and dead loved ones. Consequently, even though there actually quite a few sword duels within Mushashi the comic, they lasted less than a minute in real time—according to historical record—and only comprise a few panels here.

Clearly, this is not a comic meant for a typical reader that’s merely looking traditional entertainment. In some ways, this bio-comic is better suited to a student, people with reading disorders, or even people with an interest in Japanese medieval history, but little patience for walls of text. Wilson is very respectful of actual history, and refuses to do any guesswork, or present his own theories as fact, so when there is doubt about a particular outcome or event in Mushashi’s life, the comic acknowledges the ambiguity. Again, this strict adherence to historical accuracy is going to be frustrating for people that want a traditional, linear narrative with all the loose ends tied up by the end. None of that happens here.

What does happen is that Sean Michael Wilson presents readers with perhaps the most honest graphic rendering of a historical figure that is almost sacred in the world of Japanese swordplay. It is unsentimental, yet respectful, and above all, it is as real as historical documents can make it out to be. Mushashi was a sophisticated man, stretching his interests and mastery beyond just swordsmanship to the Japanese tea ceremony, architectural design and even calligraphy and painting. The only real deficit he had in his life was a familial one, since he never got close enough to any one woman to marry or start a family, choosing instead to adopt a son, and ensure he had a good life.

Mushashiinsert2Readers must come to this book understanding that it is history, not a story. Anyone that can accept that they are essentially reading a biography with numerous pictures will find an informative, accurate read here. This is educational, not entertaining in the traditional sense. If you’re looking for unadorned historical retellings with a lot of decent artwork to move the story along, then Mushashi will make a fine addition to your library. If you want something with more “Pow” and “Crash,” this isn’t it.

Firefall (PC) Review 2

Firefall (PC) Review

I first had the opportunity to play Firefall at PAX East in 2011. Even in those early stages, with the focus being primarily on arena style PvP , the beauty of the game was immediately gripping. In the time since, both the focus and the aesthetic of Red 5’s sci-fi 3rd person MMO have evolved and been honed. Sadly, not all has been for the better.

The first thing anyone notices when playing Firefall is the vibrant colour palette and refined cell-shaded texturing and line work that are used to accent an already wonderfully crafted world. Unfortunately, if you play with the frankly gorgeous HD textures enabled, they’re streamed to your computer in real-time, causing strange texture swapping  effects, and once streamed, they stick around in the AppData folder, with no official support to relocate them. If you’re like me and keep a minimal OS partition, or use a small SSD for your OS, this can easily use an unacceptable amount of hard drive space in an area where it can’t be spared. While it is possible to change the texture folder to a different location, it requires the editing of a game file that’s inconveniently blank if you play the game on Steam. If you opt to remedy this issue by simply playing with the lower resolution textures, the game still offers up the same wonderful colours, but fails to impress with its lack of detail. Red 5 cite the problem of doubling the install size as their reason for streaming the textures, but don’t address why they’re not stored in the game’s install directory, nor do the elaborate on why 20 or so GB would be so unacceptable when newer titles are starting to double even that.

Firefallinsert1Surprisingly for a game with so many classes on offer, they are all varied and interesting enough to be justified, each having their own selection of core abilities and signature weapons. Unfortunately, for all but the Recon types with their powerful rifles and the Engineer types with their supporting turrets, the different primary weapons suffer such extreme drawbacks that it’s almost always preferable to use the game’s secondary weapons with their significant damage, accuracy and infinite ammo instead. This is a saddening realization to come to, as the signature weapons of the different Frames are quite satisfying to use. Shame, then, that most of them are hopelessly impractical for use against most of the PvE enemies in the game, and the PvP for which they were balanced is no longer present.
[pullquote align=”right” class=”blue”]”..while the shooting and gameplay is fluid and responsive, it’s not actually engaging.”[/pullquote]As far as the gameplay itself is concerned, Firefall offers up some mediocre third-person-shooting. The game handles what little latency it has so well that at no point did I feel like my missing targets was to do with anything other than intended weapon inaccuracy or my own blunders. This is no small feat for any MMO to achieve and a point of praise for Red 5’s technical wizards. Unfortunately, while the shooting and gameplay is fluid and responsive, it’s not actually engaging. Melee enemies move so erratically that they’re frustratingly difficult to hit until they’re chomping your face, and ranged enemies are frighteningly accurate to the point of encouraging exploitation of line-of-sight using the game’s jetpack mechanics. The game features various random events that are constantly popping up around the world with varying objectives from holdout missions and quickfire gather missions made for less than a hand full of players, all the way up to full-scale invasion events that require every able body you can muster. The reality though, is that these are so common they can often overlap on the zone map, meaning they certainly don’t feel special when you stumble upon them, and there’s so little variety that they quickly become stale and rarely are they what I would call “fun”. The overall scope of the game leaves players with little more than a linear grindfest paired with a story told in snippets through tasks seemingly randomly chosen from the game’s mission boards.

Even the game’s resource gathering for its rather two-dimensional crafting system is nothing more than holdout missions on mineral veins sussed out with a giant hammer. To top it all off, Firefall‘s point of pride, it’s competitive PvP was removed for reworking just before launch, leaving players with only a poorly tacked on PvE aspect to occupy them until it returns at an unknown date. All of this is in tragic contrast to the game’s earlier iterations which, while not having the most intense PvP, at least had fantastic balancing methods for character loadouts that forced players to choose their strengths and weaknesses within a series of constraints, rather than the current model of newer and higher level is always better. The sad truth is that in listening to the demands of everyone in their community, rather than just those who understood their vision, Red 5 have diluted a beautiful world with excellent potential into a muddled mess of a game without its flagship PvP and little to justify the headache of managing those wonderful textures, even at the free-to-play price point.

Firefall Review

For all the mess that it is, I actually like Firefall, and truly hope the game can be redeemed. Everyone has a guilty pleasure game that they are embarrassed to be caught playing. One that they stick with in the hopes that the developer may one day come upon the right formula to shape it into the game it deserves to be. For me, that game is Firefall. By nearly every measure, there’s nothing Firefall does that some other title doesn’t do much better, but I keep looking optimistically towards the future. Sadly, the type of major system reworks the game would need are almost never seen post-launch. That being said, Red 5 is already attempting just that with their PvP reimagining, so there may be hope yet. For the time being though,

Gamescom 2014: Videogames Are Going to Be All Right - 2014-08-26 11:54:18

Gamescom 2014: Videogames Are Going to Be All Right

I wasn’t sure what to expect from last week’s Gamescom 2014, an event that saw the games industry congregating in Cologne, Germany to either report on or demonstrate upcoming titles. While Gamescom may not have the clout of something like E3, it’s still a massive show that provides a glimpse at the future of mainstream games. If this year was any indication of what we can expect, it seems like videogames are healthier than ever before.

The most exciting aspect of Gamescom 2014 was the sheer variety of projects announced during the event’s many press conferences. The interesting games we’ve already heard about continue to look promising (Bloodborne, The Witcher 3, Quantum Break, and The Order: 1886 in particular), but it was the number of previously unknown titles that makes me most optimistic about the future. Confirmation of Activision’s plan to resurrect beloved adventure game studio Sierra as an imprint of the former company may not lead to much of anything, but it’s still a sign that the most risk-averse publishers are willing to try new things. I mean, the business that bases itself almost entirely around annualized Call of Duty releases is now attempting to bring out a new King’s Quest entry, developed by the relatively unproven The Odd Gentlemen. Similarly, Dontnod Entertainment, the developer of the flawed but ambitious Remember Me, are launching an episodic game called Life is Strange that apparently takes cues from Telltale’s The Walking Dead and The Fullbright Company’s Gone Home. That this is being bankrolled by Square Enix is a sign that even the biggest publishers have realized the value of fostering creativity in place of endless sequels and high-profile series reboots.

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Shadow Realms

Life is Strange wasn’t the only wholly original game to be debuted at Gamescom either. Bioware’s Shadow Realms—which looks to be taking at least a few notes from Mass Effect 3’s surprisingly fun co-op multiplayer mode—dispenses with the developer’s far-flung science fiction and pseudo-medieval fantasy settings for a strange version of our real world. Better yet, this universe is a completely new one. Ninja Theory’s Hellblade (which is a new tie with Bloodborne for my personal Most Hilarious Game Name award) may be strangely branded as an “independent” production despite major publisher backing, but the developer’s recent work on Enslaved and DmC make me excited for the release of another original title from a talented studio. Lastly, Michel Ancel/Wild Sheep Studios’ WiLD, a game that we were only given a brief look at through some (admittedly lovely) pre-rendered footage. The imaginative scope of world displayed—giant underwater statues and enormous people living inside skyscraper-sized tree trunks— and the promise that players will be able to take control of the game’s population of skeletons, wolves, and other creatures makes for an exciting—and novel—pitch.

[pullquote align=”right” class=”blue”]”The most exciting aspect of Gamescom 2014 was the sheer variety of projects announced during the event’s many press conferences”[/pullquote]Though not every reveal was original, it was also heartening to see Sony and Microsoft devote a good bit of their conferences to less orthodox games. Sony’s showcase of weird, non-traditional titles (like the Soviet-style dystopia of The Tomorrow Children and Ico-inspired Rime) and Microsoft’s ID @ Xbox program (with strategy-game Massive Chalice and, uh, goat simulator Goat Simulator) were both welcome signs of a continued commitment to experimentation.

And, despite it being the reveal of a series reboot—something that usually doesn’t illicit a ton of excitement—probably my favourite single thing to come out of Gamescom 2014 was the sneaky announcement of Silent Hills. The game—which will be overseen by Pan’s Labyrinth director Guillermo del Toro and Metal Gear Solid creator Hideo Kojima—wasn’t revealed with the typical fanfare of a major press conference debut. Instead, Sony screened a brief clip from a horror game titled P.T. and urged viewers to download its “interactive teaser” from the PlayStation Store. Committed players quickly discovered that P.T. was something other than a genuinely terrifying release from a newly formed developer. The final moments of the demo revealed the names of the game’s creative collaborators and the Silent Hills title card. It was a wonderful surprise, and something that was made more special by the fact that videogames—especially big budget reboots—are more typically announced through trailers and carefully controlled gameplay demonstrations.

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Silent Hills’ bizarre reveal summed up the tone of the latest Gamescom as a whole. In place of the calculated marketing approach that has defined the games industry in recent years, there was surprise and creativity. For such a large, corporate-dominated event, the entire affair felt remarkably vital. While this year’s E3 mostly came across as a confirmation of the industry status quo, Gamescom 2014 demonstrated the health of the medium in a different way: confirming that new and strange ideas still have a place in mainstream videogames.



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