EGX 2014 – Highlights

posted in: Games | 0

Another year, another games expo at Earls Court.

Many games this year as usual, in particular a massive booths from both microsoft and sony trying to demo their new gen exclusives, many of the big games had ridiculous queue times as usual – the CoD AW line went up to 90 minutes apparently, no idea who would want to queue that long for CoD, but I guess there are people out there.

Of the big games I played, here are my thoughts:

Alien Isolation – Amazing, somewhat similar to Amnesia conceptually, but the demo area we were given was a small maze of corridors and rooms, with the objective being to escape from the area. Right from the get go though, the alien was out on the loose, his skeletal silhouette creeping about the dark interiors of the ship. Fighting the alien is impossible, even with the flamethrower we were given – instead, the emphasis is on sneaking and using the motion tracker to discern it’s position and keep out of sight, almost more stealth horror than survival considering the alien murders you in one hit. Though somewhat detailed in the game footage already found online, the depth of field (focus) effects used are impressive, holding RB brings up the motion tracker but doing so will focus your vision on the tracker and blur the world, pressing the other trigger will refocus on the world – it was really interesting and pretty well done, only thing that would be better is some sort of eye tracking where it does the refocusing automatically, but we all know that’s a long way off. The sound design and atmosphere is the real star of the game, with some horrific sounds which really induce fear, the razer headsets we were given seemed to vibrate with the bass when the alien drew near, and having the alien itself start clambering around next to whatever it is you’re hiding behind is seriously terrifying.

Bloodborne – The demo booth was operating a rather harsh, but fitting ‘queue for a life’. The queue moved swiftly because of this, players were brought in and basically got to play until you beat the boss or until you die. Bloodborne, is fucking. badass.
Personally I was terrified when I heard they had basically removed the shield, the slow but steady approach is what got me through both dark souls games – the sword and board with heavy armor which let me shrug off majority of attacks, that’s gone. Now, you get a shotgun or a pistol which of course has it’s own ammo supply. Combat is fairly familiar dark souls fare, however the default weapon (the folding scythe thing) can be toggled for short/fast and long/slow attacks, and then there’s hard attacks on top of that, the ranged weapon seems to mostly work as a reset/stagger move, dealing low damage but causing hitstun for enemies. The biggest change in bloodborne is the roll – it’s now a dash/sidestep, your character seems much more agile as a result, able to sidestep dodge behind enemies with relative ease, or quickstep forward to land a quick attack before the enemy can ready. The demo was a reasonable length and featured a small variety of enemies, the graphics were nice (as you’ve probably seen) but didn’t quite run at the promised 60fps I was hoping for, instead mingling somewhere around the high 30’s or mid 40’s if I were to guess. Upon completing the demo, I was congratulated by the staff and given a handshake and pat on the back, I guess not many people make it that far.

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Dying Light – Seemed solid but somewhat uninspired, it felt very much like the game that Dead Island should have been, a gritty zombie action survival game with open world elements and a variety of weapons and stuff. Really nothing too special here (similar to Dead Island 2, which I didn’t play but watched for a little while, really seemed like more of the same. After all, there’s only so many ways you can hit a zombie in the first person)

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Splatoon – Ah splatoon, the game I was really looking forward to. It was great fun, a kind of competitive multiplayer paint em up where you can hide in the floor and stuff. The problem however, comes from the fact it’s on the wii U… The game’s controls default to using the wii U pad to aim, you have to rotate the pad to turn your view… of course, when you can only twist it so far before it starts to sketch out, there were many times when I just could not physically get my character to turn the way I wanted him to, it suffers from almost exactly the same problems that Red Steel did back on the Wii, except that was BETTER. Instead here you’ll be put into scenarios where you can be stuck facing a wall for 5s or so and be unable to turn around because the wii U gamepad is being uncooperative. What a terrible shame. The game itself really was great fun, but it felt like trying to play a competitive shooter with a broken mouse/stick.

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The Evil Within – I remain cautiously optimistic for the Evil Within, I felt like the demo showed some really promising gameplay, and the game had some great atmosphere along with few but dangerous enemies and a sparse amount of ammo, making it feel like a true survival horror game and not the Gears of War style Resi games of late. My main worries with this game are on the console, the framerate for starters is absolutely abysmal, and then the FOV is really bad too and similar to the latest Resi games, the player model takes up way too much screen space and is too zoomed in, which causes some real nausea. To make matters worse, trying to aim at an enemy seems to give the main character eyes of a hawk, zooming in to a ridiculous extent with just the standard pistol, further reducing your FOV. Hopefully when this game makes it out on PC, a good rig will resolve the framerate issues, and some enterprising modders will fix the issues with the ingame camera. Fingers crossed.

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Now, of the smaller games, there were also some really interesting ones..

Boid – a small boothed manned by a pretty young girl, an RTS game which has basically been stripped down to it’s bare elements and set to a pretty artstyle similar to that of ‘Flow’. Maps are small and contain multiple spawn points which have to be captured, and then from there you can move your units onto pads to transform them into specialized units (heavy, fast, etc). It was pretty interesting, the lady gracefully held back for a few minutes as I got used to the game, and then eventually I think she had enough of me and just demolished me from 3 fronts at once with armies of heavy units. It was brutal, but I almost appreciate her for doing so. – http://tinybuild.com/boid

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Kingdoms – I really really enjoyed this one, it was basically a digital board game, featuring a 5×5 grid of squares, you can capture X squares per turn, cutting off your opponents trail of squares will capture their squares… Hard to explain, but really easy to learn and immensely satisfying to play. I played 3 rounds with one of the developers who, similar to Mrs Boid, didn’t show any mercy at all. I somehow managed to win the third game, but given that he took about a minute on the last move he certainly didn’t let me win intentionally. Coming soon only to iOS sadly – http://www.kingdomsgame.fr/

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A light in Chorus – Holy graphics. This was actually the most visually impressive game of the show for me, despite being an indie game by 2 people, the graphical beauty in A light in Chorus was incredible, a world painted out of the darkness purely by glowing particles… Has to be seen to be fully understood. http://vimeo.com/97512210 – They don’t have much footage of it up at the moment presumedly because it’s so alpha, but imagine that teaser, but… better. Gameplay wise it seems to be somewhat similar to ‘Dream’ in that it is an exploration game with some light puzzle elements.

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That more or less wraps up the highlights of the show for me this year. There were of course tons of other games on display, and I played loads of small indie games, but other than those listed, the others didn’t stand out too much, didn’t present anything particularly noteworthy, or just had queues which were too long for me to justify waiting for (Evolve, Order 1866, Big Pharma)

 

The Vanishing of Ethan Carter (PC) Review

posted in: Games, Games Review | 0

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Went in completely blind to this one, had no idea what the game was about, and even after finishing the majority of it, i’m still not entirely sure I know.

However, after my time with the game, im fairly certain it’s the type of game that is better the less you know about it, so if you have any intention of playing it (it’s a first person adventure game similar to Dream or Dear Esther), I would recommend closing the page now and going in blind.

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Vanishing of Ethan is, at it’s heart, an exploration adventure game, from the start you are dropped into a breathtaking natural world and completely left to your own devices. The world kind of opens itself up to you as you explore it, and the ‘puzzles’ will reveal itself as you do.

The majority of the puzzles involve uncovering the details of murders which have taken place across the environment – done by finding and interacting with objects scattered around. Once you have interacted with all the items needed you are transported to the past, and have the opportunity to piece together the murder and discover what happened.

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As previously mentioned, the graphics are lovely, lots of light rays, water reflections and greenery. Similar to other games of this type, the music is also great – I wouldn’t say it’s as memorable as… say… ‘dear esther’s soundtrack, but the piano melodies and ambient noises certainly work well and help give even more atmosphere.

Verdict:

The Vanishing of Ethan Carter is an interesting but short adventure in a foreign world – almost like ‘European countryside simulator 2014’. The puzzle elements work, but aren’t the highlight of the game at all. Simply walking around and taking in the sights is worth your time, but possibly not your money.

Approximate Game Length : ~3 Hours
Actual Worth / Steam Price: £6 / £15 = 0.26
Should you play it : Could easily be skipped due to the genre of the game, but worth playing.

Rating: 4/5

“Can we be friends?” – The day Meng got reverse psychology’d

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So went to the arcade today as I had some spare time from work, playing IIDX when one of the local passes by and stops to watch. After I finish playing he comes up and says something to the effect of…

“That was amazing, can we be friends?”

I thought he was joking.

M: “uh, yeah, sure I guess.”

R: “Can I have your number then so we can talk later?”

UHHHHH. What is happening to me right now. I dont even. This would have been a prime time to pickpocket me because I was so fucking confused as to what was happening.

M: “uh.. you can have my skype?”

Oh god what the fuck am I even saying. I just got played. This is like when you go to the market and they say £10, you say £5 and they agree to give it to you for £7 when the item only costs £2. It was like being assaulted by Derren Brown doing a documentary on psychology. I’ve definitely seen this shit somewhere in a textbook, ask something so ridiculous that they try to compromise by giving what you actually want. Goddamnit.

R: “Yeah cool, whats your name”

< gives stranger skype name >

R: “Do you play league of legends?”

WELL THAT WAS A TANGENT.

M: “yeah, I used to play a lot, not so much now though”

R: “Can you carry me? Im bronze 3”

Who even announces that? If i was bronze 3 i’d be like ‘NAW I AINT EVEN PLAY LEAGUE, FUCK THAT GAME’

 

And so, here I am, with some guy called Ace on my skype friends list. I’m still not entirely sure what happened.

Silent Hill 2 complete!

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Been wanting to play through Silent HIll 2 for a fair while, with it being supposedly one of the best horror games of all time.
I would say this statement is perhaps a little exaggerated, and I think the horror genre has kind of moved forward since, however Silent Hill 2 holds up surprisingly well to this day, and probably IS one of the scarier games out there for sure.

While the graphics leave much to be desired, the atmosphere created solely by the incredible audio and claustrophobic camera angles is enough to really keep you on edge throughout. I do think there are maybe too many enemies which makes them lose their scare factor a little, but after playing a little of Silent hill 3, maybe SH2 is actually tame in this aspect, still though, less enemies but more danger would have been better imo.

Through the magic of modern technology, I streamed the entire playthrough, and hitbox are good enough to actually archive all streamed footage – which means that for a while at least, the entire playthrough is available online for viewing. I am tempted to make a best of collection of scary moments but at the same time, kind of a lot of effort.

If you are interesting in watching a little – though be warned I feel like majority of the game is spent just looking at my map screen – http://www.hitbox.tv/mengplex that link, and then ‘videos’ will bring up all the saved vids. The playthrough is actually around 9 hours long D:

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Hatoful Boyfriend (PC) Review

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I wasn’t entirely sure what to expect from Hatoful boyfriend, a dating sim involving a human girl in a high school filled with talking pigeons. Half of me went in expecting something retarded, and yet after playing the brilliant Katawa Shoujo (which I also assumed to be a joke game at the time) I thought Hatoful Boyfriend might be a genuine game at heart with a silly exterior.

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And then before I knew it, I was getting harassed by pigeons with mohawks.

Hatoful Boyfriend then, plays almost exactly as you would expect it to at first glance, a ridiculous visual novel filled with nonsensical plot and characters, and a handful of bird puns. The characters are all pretty individual with their own personalities, some more lovable than others, and the dialogue is quirky and funny (despite being absurd most of the time). There is music, but it is fairly spartan and not worth mentioning, sounding like some sort of midi from a geocities website back from back in the day (and not a particularly good midi either).

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I was admittedly enjoying the game a fair bit, until things started to get interesting and the game decided I had seen enough, and rolled the credits.
What the hell?
I started again and tried a different route to make sure I hadn’t picked some sort of dud route with no end, but alas, the second ending rolled just as the characters were starting to get close again.

And therein lies Hatoful Boyfriend’s main problem, a route is maybe 45 to 60 minutes long, and bare in mind that once you’ve played through once, much of the text becomes skippable the second time round. That’s the full route we’re talking about, HB feels like a teaser to the full game, the introduction chapter for a more interesting game, and yet the game is already finished and complete. As a comparison, I turn to Katawa Shoujo, the first act in that is a few hours long, at the end of which you become close with 1 girl and then the game progresses to act 2 through 4, where you learn more about that girl and build your relationship, the first act is literally just the opening of the game, yet hatoful boyfriend feels that it’s done enough, and ends things there and then.

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Hatoful boyfriend’s second largest problem is the lack of a skip unread text option, given that you’ll blow through a whole route in under an hour, the option to stop skipping when you get to new text would be great, but bizarrely HB omits this important feature, rendering subsequent playthroughs a chore.

Verdict:

Hatoful Boyfriend is overpriced, essentially a flash game in terms of content, it’s funny for an hour or so, but don’t be expecting a proper game out of it.

Approximate Game Length : < 3 Hours
Actual Worth / Steam Price: £1.50 / £7 = 0.21
Should you play it : Probably not? Watching a let’s play is probably cheaper and easier.

Rating: 2/5

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The great anime crisis of 2014

posted in: Anime | 0

Regular animewatchers will likely have noticed by now that nyaatorrents (arguably the most well known anime torrent site) has been up and down recently (but mostly down). Supposedly they are being DDOS’s from Japan, or at least that was the case last I checked. A week or two ago multiple other fansub sites were also down, forcing many to resort to the dark ages of XDCC’ing from IRC bots to get their anime fix.

It’s easier to find light in the darkness however, and as such many people have been enlightened into other avenues to which they can download.

My personal find was the kind of amazing ‘Shana Project’ – http://www.shanaproject.com/

For the most part, it works like a conventional torrent website, however it’s ability to sort files by series or subtitle group means it is much easier to find what you want. Then there is the most powerful function, the RSS feature – Say you follow 7 live shows, you can basically ‘follow’ these shows on the website, designating what subtitling group you prefer, and what quality you want it in. From here, all you need to do is set up the RSS in your torrent client, and the website will basically automatically send all of the new files released matching your criteria straight into your client. No more ‘I wonder if X is out yet’, if it’s out, your torrent client will receive it and automatically start downloading it for you (assuming you set it up that).

It’s AMAZING, and I can’t believe i’ve been doing it the old fashioned way for so long – I thought I was already ahead of the curve when I started using anidb’s notification system to tell me when files are out, but this is basically the next level of that.

Anime Spotlight : Senyuu

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Relatively unheard of anime that I personally had no idea existed. 26 episodes, however each episode is about 3 minutes long. senyuu Senyuu is a show detailing a hero’s quest to defeat the demon lord, however the show is so incredibly tongue in cheek that it’s incredible. The entire show is basically a giant parody on stereotypical anime and video game concepts, and it’s done pretty damn well.
Mileage with this one way vary, the more anime you’ve watched the more you’ll probably get out of it, but there is certainly something for everyone here, and at 3mins an episode it’s not hard to watch an episode or two to gauge whether or not you are on the same page as the show’s humour. Evidently by the low anidb rating, not many people were, but i’ve been finding it one of the funniest shows in a long time.

Torrents for both seasons are in this rar. – http://www.mengsbizarreadventure.com/uploads/senyuutorrents.rar And here’s a very short preview if you fancy it.